Weekly Development Report

Prior to the past two weeks the Slug Disco team were mostly out of the ofifce, with John on an extended holiday in South America and Liam travelling around North America fulfilling tasks relating to his academic research work.

Meanwhile, I was largely focussing on creating the artwork for all the units to feature in the game. Two weeks ago, I wanted to start work on the environments. Very little, if any of the environment artwork you’ve been seeing on the site or on our twitter feeds is meant to make it to the final game.  Especially the tile-sets.

Following a lengthy discussion over Stomt, it was decided that our surface environment would involve  a layered-texture approach similar to that used in Blizzard’s Warcraft III. Before I jumped into this task, it was important to me that I have somewhere to easily try out my new environment artwork, without having to modify the engine or a human-readable level descriptor (our approach at this point).

It was time to build a Level Editor! Over the past week I’ve busied myself with this task, heavily inspired by the Warcraft III editor (the power of the Starcraft II editor might be just too ambitious!).

Screenshot of the level editor for EotU.

Undergrowth Gardner, the in-development level editor for EotU with new wall geometry being tested in it.

At some point during this past week, I was made aware that the low-poly nature of our underground walls were being noticed by visitors to the site. These were the result of an extremely stringent set of hardware constraints chosen in 2013, some of which we are beginning to relax.

With the underground portion of the editor finished, I decided to perform the upgrade sooner rather than later. In the above still taken from the EotU editor, you can see the current state of the upgrade: I’ve changed the way underground geometry was being generated significantly, leading to a smoother scene. For now I have removed random perturbations from the generation of geometry, although I have left scope for it to be easily reintroduced later if wanted.

Next week I will continue working on the editor, with even bigger changes planned for the way surface geometry and it’s textures are displayed!

John

John has been working extremely hard on the EotU website since his return. Liam and myself are extremely pleased with the result -we hope you are too.

With that finally out of the way John has been able to return to what he truly loves: working on the game! He started the programming portion of the week by returning to the director class. As EotU is a story driven game, the director performs the job of event management. This mostly involves monitoring events and changing entities/variables of the game world in order to bring about the desired change.

His other major programming love is Artificial Intelligence. Today he has been working on enhancements to the soldier ant AI to make them look more ‘sentient’.

Soldier ants, when not in battle, wait around the nest ‘wandering’. To date, this wandering was very basic: soldier ants would spawn and walk in random directions, hit a wall, pause, then go in another direction. The effect of this would be large clusters of Wood Ants (formica rufa) in the Wood Ant chamber, clusters of Leaf Cutter Ants (atta cephalotes) in the Leaf Cutter chamber, and so on.

Soldier AI in action: these three leaf cutter ants are heading somewhere with a purpose!

Soldier AI in action: these three leaf cutter ants are heading somewhere with a purpose!

To that end John has augmented the soldier ant AI so that when underground they actively patrol the nest, heading from chamber to chamber as if to check for intrusion. The result look great!

Liam

Liam sends his love. He is writing his thesis, and not having a whole heap of fun with it!

Next meeting

The Slug Disco team are meeting for a hardcore session in Liverpool next weekend, Friday through Sunday. The aim is to design and prototype a system of over-arching battle management in EotU. With its tug-or-war style combat involving many units on a 2D plane, it is common for battles in EotU to look quite chaotic when they have been raging for more than a few minutes.

The overarching system we develop (which will no doubt get an appropriate name!) will be tasked with managing target-selection for the ants in a fair, but beautiful and effective manner that makes the battles always pleasing to watch. Even if they’ve been raging for 20 minutes already! 

Till next Friday! I’m off to the Slug Disco.