Monthly Archives: May 2010

Playtests, Networking and Logo Design

I’ve been a little too quiet lately! Here’s a collection of Volo-related tidbits that have been going on.

Playtesting

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve put the game in the hands of a bunch of friends. They played a slightly more updated version of this:

In short, they loved it! This is the first version that really engaged them in a just-one-more-go kind of way. This means that the game is intuitive enough to pick up, deep enough to provide a lot of choices and room for skill development, and contains enough feedback for people to identify things they are doing right or wrong.

Feedback

Amongst all the feedback I’ve gathered several things were key:

  • While control feels smooth and fairly intuitive, precision is often either too coarse of too fine. This depends on what they wanted to do of course. When you are performance flying you want to use the full range of your input device for generating very small but very precise moves. Coarse input here means that your movements get¬†exaggerated, which can throw you off course and make you lose altitude fast. I had added some tricks to dynamically alter your precision, but apparently I’ll need a more rigorous solution.
  • Gametypes, ranging from real-world (think proximity flight, formations) to very game-like mechanics (think James Bond action scenes). Many people would also like to see the game’s scope include normal skydiving and basejumping. I’m aiming for the game to be flexible enough to allow all kinds of game types, created either by me or by modders. By keeping my code well-organised and by paying special attention to possibilities for code reuse, hopefully you will even be able to do some hanggliding or skysurfing.
  • Multiplayer! This is by far the most requested feature. As well it should be; skydiving is hardly a solo activity, right? Since this feature is so important it has become a top priority to get some netcode fixed.
  • A replay/ghost racing system. This will get in right after the netcode is done, as it will use a great deal of its functionality.

Some of these features are also based on discussions on the community forum. Check out the Ask The Developers and Wishlist threads to see all the features that the forumites have come up with so far, they’re all very good food for thought. And while you’re there, why not drop in some of your own ideas; we can always use more!

Logo

In other news, a couple of graphic-design buddies have started brainstorming about Volo’s graphical style. The logo is their first point of interest and I’m very curious to see what they’ll come up with. Many thanks, and good luck to them!

That’s it for now. I’ve got some course-work related deadlines this week, so I’m not sure how much work I can get done, but we’ll see. ūüôā

Volo Community Forum

The kind folks at www.flokas.de/baseforum/ have set up a forum section dedicated to Volo! Originally covering discussion on the open source release of D3’s B.A.S.E., they were very glad to see a new skydiving simulator is slowly shaping up.

I’m very grateful for their early support, and I have decided to let their place become the primary place for all Volo discussion for now. So, go to the Volo Forum Section if you feel like discussing the game itself or anything related to it.

Hope to see you there!

Open Development

I’ve been thinking about switching to open development for Volo. Open development, in short, means that you make the development process very transparent. There are several things you can do, including:

  • Maintain a publicly available, detailed log of all important developments.
  • Keep in close contact with the community, by all means available.
  • Make some or all of your game’s ¬†assets (code, models, textures, etc.) available online. (Under GPL licence, and for preorderers. People still have to pay for the actual game.)

By doing this you sacrifice privacy for exposure, which is something any small-time developer can always use more of. By being so open you can maximise the chances of serendipitous events happening. You can make a lot of friends, grow a community before the game is out, and people can support the project in all kinds of ways. For example, people can create their own modifications, and fix bugs that you’ve missed.

Anyway, Wolfire (developers of Lugaru and the upcoming sequel Overgrowth) have a more detailed post about this, so I’ll let them explain it: Wolfire’s PR Tips.

The reasons I’ve started thinking about opening up Volo’s development process are numerous. Here’s some of the important ones:

  • The game needs to grow a lot if it is going to survive. And it will not do that as long as it stays within the confines of my bedroom.
  • Some prominent indie developers have succesfully used open development to make a name for themselves. Look at the Humble Bundle to see what I’m talking about.
  • I like sharing. If people can learn from my work then let them. If people can contribute to my work then let them.
  • Unity does not support an easy way to facility game modification, even though it should. This means you cannot, for example, use the Unity Basic edition to write a new multiplayer mode for the finished game using Unity script. This limits my options for allowing mods, unless I integrate my own scripting tools, or go open source.

So what do you think? I know that you like to know what’s going on in my¬†work-shed, I know that you really want mods,, and I know that some of you would be delighted to contribute some content to the game. Also, would you consider paying for a game that’s not nearly finished for a chance to play with the source code, or just to support a smalltime developer?

Rock Paper ShotgUnity – Rigid Body FPS Controller

(By request: This is a repost from my old blog)

Rock Paper Shotgun is an excellent PC gaming blog, maintained by some of the UK’s coolest gaming journalists. Recently I’ve done some programming for their community effort to create a game in Unity. It is an implementation of ¬†a first person shooter movement system that utilises a rigidbody, so that it can be influenced by physics.

Some features:

  • Slope limiting
  • Movers (elevators, escalators, etc.)
  • Climbable surfaces (ladders, vines, etc.)
  • Air control (not finished)

Here’s the script: Clicketyclick

And here’s an in-game preview:

[WP_UnityObject src=”http://www.volo-airsport.net/games/rps/rps_game_mover.unity3d” width=”720″ height=”391″ altimage=”http://www.volo-airsport.net/games/rps/rps_game_preview.jpg”/]

Volo – The Story So Far

In this post I’ll detail the work I’ve done on the game so far.

When I started building this game about 8 months ago I had a couple of years of programming experience, but no extensive knowledge of physics or specific game-related technologies. Thus so far the development process has mostly consisted of learning a whole lot by study, and trial and error.

This is where I am right now:

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Volo – Introduction

Volo is a work-in-progress game about winguit flight. The word Volo means ‘I Fly’ in latin, which I’ve found to be a good working title.

Anyway, never seen or heard of a wingsuit? Then check out these videos:

Basically, a wingsuit allows you to glide graciously (read: shoot recklessly) through the air and cover considerable horizontal distance.  Better than falling straight down, no?

When wingsuits first entered the scene people used them to quickly move as far away from any obstacles as they could. Today though, thrill-seekers are attempting to hug mountains as close as they can. This discipline is called proximity flying, and it is currently the first focus of the game.

So far there have been few attempts to digitise base jumping and wingsuit flight. For me, the results either come short in an aesthetic sense (look and feel) or a severe lack of realism and depth. With this project I aim to make a sizeable step forward.

On this blog I will detail the design and development of the game and its technology. Stay tuned for updates!

Singularity – Introduction

Here’s a post I’ve written some time ago on the Unity forums, detailing my ideas for Singularity. In it I make some generalisations and definitely leave out a lot of details and subtleties, but it makes a nice introduction to what I’m doing.

The State of Game Audio

The traditional sample-based approach to game audio is old and dated.

Over the course of the last two decades, game graphics have evolved from bitmap sprites to near photo-realistic imagery running at a solid 60 frames per second. We have shaders, massively parallel calculations running on dedicated hardware, and much more. With today’s and tomorrow’s hardware you can literally trace a ray of light as it bounces from surface to surface (and even through them!) towards the camera, creating crystal clear pictures with ever-increasing fidelity.

Some of these developments are slowly starting to transfer to game audio, but not nearly enough! Games across the entire spectrum, from AAA to Indie, still resort to using ancient sample-based approaches for audio. Middleware packages such as¬†WWise or¬†FMOD offer real-time effects processing, which is a step forward, but they don’t offer you the possibility to create your own synthesis model and generate sound from scratch on-the-fly. Furthermore, these packages seem to be mostly aimed at AAA first-person-shooter titles, making it difficult to do something radically different with them. And lastly, only the latter of those packages is available for use if you are a small-time developer.

This inhibits development of game audio as a more integral part of game design. The result is that audio in most games is still mostly, and sometimes even literally, an afterthought. In my opinion game audio is at least 10 years behind on game graphics, both in terms of technological capabilities and their usage.

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