Monday 19 February 2018

Where we are ...

Last post was more about the technology behind game, this one will be almost exclusively about the game. I will cover changes that happened, happening and will happen before you will get TD3 to play around.

You guys probably remember  this one screenshot form last post:

I don't know about you but I kind of like this interface. It give me a lot of freedom in term of the creation and nice user experience:
  • I can have up to 6 different answers in the same screen. 
  • I can specify where on wheel I want to put each of the answers.
  • I can easily reveal new answer when player gain more information.
  • Answers can be pretty long.
  • Selecting any of the answer have the same speed.
  • There is no way to select answer by mistake (by default none of them is active). 
Only thing that is problematic with it is that it don't cover all conversation cases. This is the reason why I also added this simple view:

I won't claim that this is final state of conversations but this is really good start especially that not only UI work was done. In shadow of nice graphical frontend we have running pretty interesting backend which allow me to quickly script new conversations, change existing ones and generally affect all the important stuff like: quests.

Quests ... Ah it was funny trying to figure out how quest system would work in Little Big Adventure Remake. As you remember original game never had proper quest window. You could see where you need to go at holo map but thats all. I decided to add proper view so players never really lost track where they are in story.

This may sound like small thing but I think it is really important especially that I plan to add more content to the game. Thanks to that game will deliver additional experience for players that finished original game hundred of times. 

.. Uf this was a lot of text. So lets take break for some more visual stuff:

This view is really memorable for me. Thanks to it I realise how slow and painful designing UI is in engine :/ Some may think that suffering is part of creating stuff... Well I kind of prefers different approach: "don't like it ? change it". 

That is why I added scriptable UI where you can describe how UI looks using text. This is not perfect solution and still would love to have visual designing but for now I'm satisfied with it. In around 2 hours I switch to this new system: main menu, inventory menu and quest system.

If you curious, old way of changing UI would look like this way:
  1. Change code
  2. Save & Compile changes
  3. Start game
  4. See result in game
  5. If needed more iteration start from 1.
New way for comparison looks this way:
  1. Start game.
  2. Change script.
  3. Save.
  4. See result in game.
  5. If need more iteration start from 2.
Even with my pretty quick compilations this is still nice improvement in iteration speed.

After this interruption of technology details lets returning to game. Behind this view you also can find whole Quest Management System backend. It is fully integrated with dialog system and allow already on some flexibility but we will see how it will work in practice. 

This covering what was done. Now moving to stuff that happening currently we have Load/Save system which will sadly require some additional changes in engine design. I could of course quickly hack solution for it but I would prefer to do one that will be more elegant. For now I'm not really sure how to do it this way so I moved to some code cleanup and fixing bugs.

Except Load/Save only bigger thing that we missing for TD3 are notification in game (Opened Quest, Completed Quest, New Item and so on). The rest is just bug fixes and verifying that everything works.

Uff... And with that we got to end of yet another long post :) I'm would really love to hear yours opinion about this changes :) Would also be interesting to hear which other part of game you are also interested into.

Monday 5 February 2018

Few words of explanation ....

So here we are month delay on Tech Demo 3 and not too much news ...  but for me this was rather long January where a lot happening in project and outside of it. I need to say that I'm a little bit overwhelmed by all of this but in the same time getting more and more excited about stuff that coming. 

Project size

Whole project grown over the years and this days there is a lot to handle for single person. At this point of time code that I maintaining have:
Language filesblankcommentcode
Python 8320055879177

From what I talk with other people hardly ever you deal with this size project the way I do: alone. Sadly even for me maintaining this code is almost impossible:/ I started to experience a lot of bugs and regressions in features. All of that was slowing down my progress. But then I joined Unity ...

Unity Technologies is really unique place to work in and I personally love it. First great thing it is that I'm openly doing my own project and company is OK with this. Second thing is that people are open on new ideas and challenges. This approach resulting in great tools for game development. Third one is that even if Unity is this creative place we never forgot that we are developing software. This mean that all standards of software development apply to it: We have continuous integration, code review process and requirement of creating tests.  
This approach not coming from nowhere. Discussing with people that are here for long time source of it is the same as my problem: even when there was 50 of them there were to many stability issues and regressions to handle. They spend then more time patching stuff than creating new things testing changed a lot in this matter.

... I followed my work experience and started creating more tests. At the beginning it was tough to follow this routine in home but with time it became more natural and at this point I kind of have hard time to not do tests. So at this point I have:
Low level811
After adding all this test code I can catch a lot of regression early in development and always try to expand my library of test. 

Simplicity of complex system

This may not be visible but under the hood this project is pretty complex. This is just loading of world inside editor:

And this is running game:

As you may notice I run a lot of stuff parallel on multiple threads. I really like this way of design because it is challenging to write code that do complicated stuff but in the same time it is easy to maintain.

And here starting stairs :/ As I mentioned before I work alone and if I have idea that I want to do I doing (even if this is bad idea) and there is no person that can save me from doing it. I often implement it and then figuring out that it is not exactly what I was looking for. So I rewriting whole thing once again with different approach. 

This days I got really tired of it ... so often before starting something bigger I first discuss my ideas with some friends programmer. Then I wait for it for some time then ask another friend programmer and then decide to do big change. One of such a changes were current world changes: I waited three months processing if I really want to do it and I finally decided to start it in December.

We are now 2 months later and some things are still broken because of whole transition :) There are some systems that are still not prepare for new way of handling levels and there are a lot of old code that waiting to being removed or cleaned up. But if you asked me if I regretting I will say without hesitation: NO. 

Whole change brought a lot of interesting stuff and if everything will go how I want I should be able to make stuff like seamless traveling between islands - so no loading when you play. Nice vision right ? The best thing is that I think it is not so faraway from us :)

For now as you can see in above image I can load multiple levels into world and change they orientation freely. This result in some pretty cool effects sometimes. 

Developer tools

If we talking about features we cannot skip topic of tools. They are integral part of complicated systems that I creating. I try to make them simple, intuitive to use but also verbose when something is wrong. 

Recently I also added point have automated tests. When I create new stuff all this requirements not making my life easier but for sure helping with development stuff one top of them later.  Generally thanks to this push to have better tools this days I have nice graph editor:

GUI resources editor:

Profiling tool ( Generate *.json files that you can open in chrome://tracing )

Debugging tools inside game (it partially also works in tools):

And a lot more of them here and there. Whole point is that the better tools I have the more I can do and if not them I would probably never got so far. Now thanks to test I believe they will also lasting longer and create less issues in long run.

Where is game ?

Probably curious where in that all is game you all waiting for ... and in my opinion everywhere.

As you noticed probably my ambitions were always very high. Vision changed already so many time: 

Each time because my tech could do more and I know that this may sounds like excuses but I really want to make this game awesome.
My dream is not to just recreate game. I want old and new player to experience completely new unknown world. I want whole story to be more complex, want them to feel oppressed by FunFrock regime, I want them to feel danger when they are followed by enemies.
But in the same time I want them to find world of wonders and full of life. I want them to want explore offered Islands and always find something interesting there to do. There should be always something more to see and explore.
In the end it would be great if some people after finishing game would thought: this is the way how LBA should look it it was done this days.
I think that White Rabbit Engine slowly maturing and soon will achieve level where I will be able to do all the stuff I want. Then I will start adding more content and whole thing will become awesome game which will be nice add on to whole Little Big Adventure Universe.

Tech Demo 3 

If you found yourself so far in this post you are probably curious what about promised TD3 and it is hard not to mention in. I need here to apologies because it became delay and I'm still didn't finished all the stuff that were on list.

I work on it and I'm having already prototype of:

  • Conversations, 
  • Story progress,
  • Quests.
Sadly they still don't feel quiet right where I want them to be :/ so work still in progress over them.

  • Save/Loading
Is still not touched at all.

From other stuff I experimenting with user interface for conversation and quests. There are some nice results like you could see above in one of screens shoots but there are also some issues. I don't have right now clean vision how I want to visualize quests. There are also missing notifications which are crucial so you know that there is new mission or new item was added to your inventory.

Last words

Whole delay in conversion to new world system and Christmas break resulted in delay that we have. In theory I could release some Tech Demo but I wouldn't be satisfy with it so I don't want to do it :/ 

I want to believe that you will forgive me all that and still follow progress of project.