Back from vacation for three weeks now, productivity hasn't quite returned to normal levels. I'm used to having several uninterrupted hours every day, but with the family home that hasn't been happening. I think I've figured it out now though. Anything big or complicated that I've tackled has gone poorly, but a couple little features have come out just perfect.
The main feature I've been working on this summer is vehicle movement and pathfinding. I decided my original plan to replace the navmesh
with a grid based on the terrain mesh wasn't going to work. Instead I have done some work on my original navmesh implementation and am working towards adding a steering system for units based on the collision data.
So there's been a lot going on, but nothing interesting has been complete and ready to talk about.
An RTS staple feature which is new is building placement. Buildings render as transparent until they are placed, and they use the collision data, terrain incline, and distance from other buildings to determine if building placement is legal (with a red/green indicator.) Using red/green is a risk because some people can't tell the difference, and maybe I'll add an additional rendering indicator later, but for now I cheated a bit and made the green a little blue (the same trick used on traffic lights.)
[If you're color-blind, do me a favour and tell me in the comments if you can tell which of the squares under the building are red and which are green.]
I've also been thinking a lot about business models and how to monetize Miranda. I read this super-interesting piece in Wired on A/B testing a couple days ago (my stack of unread magazines has gotten a little unruly the last while.) If you have a website that gets any volume of traffic at all, and given how seemingly minor and arbitrary changes to a page can hugely affect the outcome, I can't understand why anyone wouldn't implement A/B testing. I'm going to be getting out my statistics books pretty soon.
I think Microsoft's mistake with the XBOX One is that they didn't go far enough. They should have gone full-Steam and gotten rid of game disks entirely. And if they really wanted people to love them (and leverage their massive PC market dominance,) they'd make it so that you could play your games both on XBOX and on Windows if the game has a PC version. Or they could make the PC version (or the XBOX version depending on your gaming system of choice) a cheap extra like the blu-ray sets that come with a DVD version for an extra $3.
I was off my game on Friday - completely wiped out, so rather than struggle on with collision detection, I decided to watch "Despicable Me" (which is awesome) and add achievements to Miranda. Looking for a feature set, I checked out achievements on Steam, Xbox and PS3 which are all pretty similar.
[The Achievements screen with placeholder art.]
Whenever I tell someone in the games industry what I'm doing, they give me a look. A whole lot of information is packed in that expression: you're crazy, it's never going to work, try something easier, you're wasting your time. Non compos mentis.
This experience doesn't seem to be unique. A couple days ago Dave Toulouse said
, "When you have no experience making games and you work on an MMO you avoid telling too many people what you are doing because nobody believe you can pull it off and many will make sure to discourage you from doing it."
After spending so long on the patcher, I decided I wanted to cherry-pick a few small items off of the todo list this week, knock a bunch of 'em out and have a good sense of accomplishment. That was Monday.
I attended the Full Indie Summit
today along with 399 other indie developers at the Rio theatre in Vancouver. With a mere $10 admission for 12 talks ranging from 5 minutes to 30 and including snacks, it put those other big name developer conferences to shame.
I needed a way to deliver my game to players, but I have a fundamental problem: the game is really, really big. That means that it is completely impractical for players to download the whole thing in one go, it needs to have a streaming installer.
I did a lot of research on patching and installers over quite a few months. There are so, so many approaches you can take. Windows installer is a great tool, use it if you can. I tried really hard to find an existing solution, but I'm sad to say, I didn't find a solution that would suit my game.
The biggest roadblock to using an existing solution was that I have a lot of files. My test world has around 18,000 files and the full dataset will have many, many more. With that many files, a regular single-file self-installer would be gigantic.
You wouldn't believe how much work adding this one progress bar was!
I was listening to Chris Hecker's talk No One Knows About Your Game
this week and he makes a good point. It is a big risk to not talk about what you're working on and then hope that your press strategy all comes together for the game's release. I haven't talked about my game because I don't like to talk about things that aren't done yet, but that changes today.
I was hugely disappointed when I learned that the developers of Natural Selection 2
lost $30,000 in credit card charge-back fees on 1,341 Steam keys bought fraudulently via the Humble Store. I had a bit of a warm spot in my heart for The Humble Bundle, but indie devs can't afford to take that kind of hit.
I don't know what sort of arrangement there is between The Humble Bundle guys and the developers, but The Humble Bundle is making good money, I'm really shocked that they haven't spent some of that money on effective fraud prevention.
When choosing a payment processing service
for your game, don't just look at the discount rate, make sure you look at what they do to prevent fraud and read the service agreement carefully. Credit card fees can bankrupt you if you aren't careful.
"So when are you planning to open it up a little more?"
"So the answer is fairly soon. With a lot of change. I kind of suck at estimating when things are going to happen."
Fairly soon is sooner than the last estimate :D
Well, I'll see you in-game ...
When I say iconography I think I'd include art styles like FTL and other reusable component based artwork. i.e. I really mean non realistic representative artwork. I think people forgive less advanced art design (and some cases love it with the ...
Thanks for the suggestions, but even iconography would only get me so far given that units are made of 6 different components and each of those components can vary in power and effects. One day I will have an art team!
Players killing less-useful units is what I would expect, and since when you dispose of a unit you only get a fraction of its original cost back, that also works as a money sink.
The plan is that players will want to use more exotic units as they ...
This might be a little radical for this stage of the project, but have you considered having iconography for units instead of actual models?
It might detract somewhat from the atmosphere. However if you don't have the time/skills to create a lot of ...