Category Archives: Volo

The Aurora Wager V4 (And What’s Next?)

Download The Aurora Wager V4

Changes

Features

  • Split-screen multiplayer support (just technically though, no real gameplay changes yet)
  • In-game graphics and input configuration screens
  • Overhauled wind field system (smoother, more variation, some interesting anomalies, less prone to crashing the physics engine)
  • Overhauled wind graphics (More particles, longer trails, wider range, optimized performance)
  • Linux version now comes with both 32-bit and 64-bit binaries

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Site Update

I finally updated the site to the latest, fixed version of WordPress. Welcome back to hyperlinks and media embeds! I also organized the header so downloads for both Aurora and Volo are now easier to find. Those download pages will always point to the files you need.

Below all posts you will now find that Disqus is used to handle all our discourse. If you’re wondering where all the old comments have gone: They’re still here, just hidden. I’ll try and import them into Disqus in the next week.

I’ve set up a Feedback and Feature Request Page using Uservoice. I’m using their free plan just to see if I like it, and it only supports The Aurora Wager right now. The idea is that you can submit ideas for both games, or vote on existing ones. Popular ideas bubble to the top, and if we like an idea enough we can commit to putting it into the game. Keep in mind that this is just an experiment for now, but if you have some feedback for us please take a look there! It also has a knowledge base on which I posted a guide on reporting crashes and bugs)

An avid Aurora Wager player called Sam created a Wikia page for The Aurora Wager, check it out!

In typical Tinus fashion The Aurora Wager V4 took longer to create than promised, but it’s pretty much done. Some highlights:

  • Split-screen multiplayer support (just technically though, no real gameplay changes yet)
  • In-game graphics and control configuration screens
  • Improved wind field system (more variation, anomalies, less prone to crashing)
  • Improved wind graphics (More, longer trails, optimized performance)
  • Fixes to grappling hook physics
  • Flag now rotates with wind direction
  • Fuel amount per canister cut in half

Look for it this week! (Yes, definitely.)

After V4 is out I’m back on Volo Airsport for a bit. It needs love, and I have love to give.

Oculus Rift

I received my Rift developer kit this weekend! I’ve played around with it a bit, and have started adapting the code for integration into Volo and Aurora. First impressions: moments of intense wonder mixed with moments of intense seasickness. I’m excited, but there’s lots and lots of caveats. More detailed post coming next week!

Still working on dull but important things

So yeah, I’m still slogging through the implementation of the Split Screen Audio system I detailed last post. It’s boring, it’s a total bitch to get right, and once done it will merely enable functionality that you would consider standard in any other context; but it’s important and like me many developers have use for it.

Unity has been a right pain all the way through, too. (What happened Unity, I thought we were friends?)

“Did you know I actually wasn’t serializing your Dictionary.”
“Err, no you can’t extend GameObject. Why would you want to?”
“I’ve secretly overridden the Equals operator so your null-checks are bogus.”
“No, you can’t control order of instantiation, and no, I will not tell you when it happens.”
“This field value only exists in unmanaged code, good luck if you want to manipulate it!”

It’s not so much extending Unity’s functionality, it’s fighting against its functionality.

I chose Unity so I wouldn’t have to develop my own game engine and could immediately start building my game. It turns out that for anything other than a mini-game or a tech-demo you still need to do lots of non-trivial ground work. This seems logical to me now, but I didn’t realize this when I started.

Anyway, I keep telling myself that Volo will need a strong foundation, and that these features need to be in place before I can start creating the game properly. Whether that’s correct I don’t know, but it’s a way to get there, I suppose. Actually, you could argue that I should work these big frameworks into the game gradually, and you would be right. But at the same time I want to finish up these frameworks, start selling them to other developers, and actually earn some money off the work I put in the game.

I know you are anxious to play new, better Volo. Heck, you might be someone who pre-ordered (thanks!), in which case you’re definitely expecting more bang for your buck. I’m committed to making Volo Airsport into all that it can be. To you I say: I’m not going anywhere! I’ve refused jobs in the triple-A industry and stuck to freelancing specifically so I can do this, and while I may dabble with other game concepts from time to time (game jams) I never intend to work on those for more than just study. That said, Volo Airsport is a multi-year project and there’s no way around that. ūüôā

You’ll have noticed: I suffer from a character flaw: I hate to disappoint other people, so when I inevitable get myself in a situation where that can’t be avoided, I tend to stop communicating. When I asked you to demand frequent updates at the start of this year it was precisely with regards to that. Thank you for demanding!

Ok, any more of this and this website will be more LiveJournal than development blog. I’ll finish these damn input and audio frameworks and get to the real meat of the game. Then we can have fun times!

Technical: Split Screen Audio

As I mentioned last time I’ve been creating a plugin for split-screen audio in Unity. I can demonstrate the basics now, so here’s a video:

The plugin will be sold on the Unity Asset Store once finished, so if you’re interested in testing it or using it for your own games let me know!

Edit:

I uploaded simple a webplayer demonstration for you to check out: http://www.ramjetanvil.com/games/multiaudio_demo/WebPlayer.html

The Beta package is now ready for testing. Again, if you want to participate, contact me through email, or post in the Unity forum thread: http://forum.unity3d.com/threads/165694-Multi-Audio-Split-Screen-Audio-Plugin-Beta

What’s Happening: End of the Year

Hey everyone!¬†Hope you’re all enjoying the festivities. ūüôā

Thank You!

Thanks to everyone for playing! It’s heartwarming that so many people like the game so much, even though it’s in such a raw state. And thanks again to the people who’ve purchased the game. While I certainly can’t make a living out of the earnings yet, it does let me purchase¬†things like¬†a license for a multiplayer networking package. Everything is being put right back into development.

Back in October I wanted to do a quiet release, just something to keep folks happy while I worked on a first ‘proper’ release. Of course, there’s no such thing as quiet on the internet, and the game got way more attention than planned.¬†Rock Paper Shotgun¬†and¬†PC Gamer US¬†both picked up on it for example, and many people enthusiastically shared the game with their friends.

While this was all very flattering, it also caused some pressure. Everyone was trying to play, but without configurable controls and a boatload of performance problems the game left a lot of people wanting. I thought I’d get some essential features done in about a week, which turned out to be a preposterous assumption.

Read what’s been happening since October below the jump.

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Alpha 0.02 Release – Improvements and Mac Support

Here’s a quick update to yesterday’s release.

Download Volo Airsport Alpha 0.02 Win

Download Volo Airsport Alpha 0.02 Mac

Changes for 0.02

  • Mac version released
  • Lowered Joint Iteration Count for player ragdoll to increase performance at the cost of slight loss of joint stability
  • Created a lower-resolution terrain to increase performance

Let me know what you guys think! Specifically, I want to know if this increases performance for anyone.

Happy flying!

 

Useful info from the previous post:

 

The game can be played with an Xbox 360 pad. For other controllers you’ll have to remap the configuration in the launcher window.¬†Here’s the controls:

Back:               Reset/Respawn
Start:               Pause
Left stick:         Pitch/Roll
Right stick:      Camera
Triggers:          Yaw
A:                     Close Leg wing
B:                     Close Right Arm Wing
X:                     Close Left Arm Wing
Y:                     Close Both Arm Wings

The first times you play you’ll find yourself tumbling down and crashing. This is perfectly normal. The control scheme is complex and gives you a lot of control; but it expects a lot of finesse.

Some tips:

  • A gentle touch is key
  • Pull back on the pitch control slightly maintain an even glide angle
  • Banking turns usually require simultaneous use of the pitch, roll and yaw controls to find the right balance
  • Close wings temporarily for fast manoeuvring
  • Crashing lots is fine

Please send me any feedback you have. Feel free to share the game with friends. And if you think you’ve gotten the hang of it, record your runs and share ’em on Youtube! I’m really curious to see what kind of lines you can pull off.

— Updates —

Donations

By popular demand I’ve set up a quick¬†Donation¬†page. If you donate $15 or more you are entitled to all future releases of the game!

Issues

Controls Configuration

Some folks are having trouble setting up their own gamepads and joysticks. The most common problem is that Unity’s button numbers start from 0, not from 1. So your joystick’s button 3 should be entered as button 2 in the configuration panel. Future versions of the game will have an in-game configuration screen for all this.

Playstation 3 Controller users can use MotionInJoy to map their controls to the game.

Performance

Performance on older or lower-end systems can be bad. If you experience framedrop, shakey bodyparts or stuttering camera motion you are most likely affected by performance problems. Don’t fret about having to upgrade your system just yet! I have lots of optimizing to do, and future versions of the game will likely run both faster¬†and¬†prettier.

Mac & Linux Support

Mac and Linux (ubuntu) versions of the game are on their way. A Mac version of the the first alpha release should be out within the week, but the linux version will have to wait a little longer (have to bring the game up to Unity 4 Beta release for that).

 

Small edit: The early preorder price is $15, not ‚ā¨15 as I previously wrote. Sorry for the confusion!

Volo Airsport Public Alpha 0.01

Today I’m releasing a first playable version of the game for you, which is something I should have done absolutely ages ago.

Download Volo Airsport Alpha 0.01

You’ll recognize the build from last year’s videos. This version is the old prototype I’ve had lying around since that time.

The game can be played with an Xbox 360 pad. For other controllers you’ll have to remap the configuration in the launcher window.¬†Here’s the controls:

Back:               Reset/Respawn
Start:               Pause
Left stick:         Pitch/Roll
Right stick:      Camera
Triggers:          Yaw
A:                     Close Leg wing
B:                     Close Right Arm Wing
X:                     Close Left Arm Wing
Y:                     Close Both Arm Wings

The first times you play you’ll find yourself tumbling down and crashing. This is perfectly normal. The control scheme is complex and gives you a lot of control; but it expects a lot of finesse.

Some tips:

  • A gentle touch is key
  • Pull back on the pitch control slightly maintain an even glide angle
  • Banking turns usually require simultaneous use of the pitch, roll and yaw controls to find the right balance
  • Close wings temporarily for fast manoeuvring
  • Crashing lots is fine

Please send me any feedback you have. Feel free to share the game with friends. And if you think you’ve gotten the hang of it, record your runs and share ’em on Youtube! I’m really curious to see what kind of lines you can pull off.

— Updates —

Donations

By popular demand I’ve set up a quick Donation page. If you donate ‚ā¨15 or more you are entitled to all future releases of the game!

Issues

Controls Configuration

Some folks are having trouble setting up their own gamepads and joysticks. The most common problem is that Unity’s button numbers start from 0, not from 1. So your joystick’s button 3 should be entered as button 2 in the configuration panel. Future versions of the game will have an in-game configuration screen for all this.

Playstation 3 Controller users can use MotionInJoy to map their controls to the game.

Performance

Performance on older or lower-end systems can be bad. If you experience framedrop, shakey bodyparts or stuttering camera motion you are most likely affected by performance problems. Don’t fret about having to upgrade your system just yet! I have lots of optimizing to do, and future versions of the game will likely run both faster¬†and prettier.

Mac & Linux Support

Mac and Linux (ubuntu) versions of the game are on their way. A Mac version of the the first alpha release should be out within the week, but the linux version will have to wait a little longer (have to bring the game up to Unity 4 Beta release for that).

Aircraft Design

This is work in progress, but she’s airbourne now.

To aid wingman in moving around the world I’m adding vehicles. Having controllable airplanes to skydive from is a feature I really wanted to add, and besides: you don’t want to walk everywhere do you?

I’m creating a modular set of mechanical parts and aerodynamic tools with which vehicles can be created. I’m keeping them all the components quite simple so that it it’s a snap to create a new airplane.

Once that’s done I’m getting my feet wet in networking this stuff so it can be enjoyed over multiplayer. Then the wingsuit goes back in.

Let me know what you think!

Shall We Try This Again?

Hey Everyone! Err, this is a little awkward after all this time…


First, here’s something fun. Last year I worked with a couple of guys from Koelstof (some of you may know Jarno Cordia, who works with Phoenix Fly) to produce a prototype for an arcade wingsuit game. We put something together in a couple of days, and the result looked like this:

You can try out a webplayer version as well! (Requires Unity browser plugin)

This thing has been lying around for a year, and none of us were really doing anything with it. Recently some kind folks contacted me to ask if I would help them build their game, or if they could use parts of the source code for it. The game has a different theme, but shares some of the core mechanics. I’m working out a deal with them right now, so with any luck you will see this thing come to life soon.

(Just to be clear, this is not Volo, nor is it related to it. Volo is very much on the simulation side of the spectrum, while this game is distinctly on the arcade side.)

 

So what about Volo?

I have spent the last year setting up my freelancing business. I started out as a complete newbie, and have been stumbling my way towards a vague sense of competence ever since. I’ve been meeting a lot of interesting people, and have been learning a lot. Scoping projects, not not biting of much more than I can chew, and getting work done in time. I renamed my business to Ramjet Anvil (an almost-anagram of my name), and I am looking forward to working under that banner.

But crucially, I burnt out on Volo big time last year. It’s very ambitious for a first game, and to think I could pull it off was at least a little naive. Perhaps I should have done a 2D platformer first, heh.

Progress ground to a halt. I kept staring at the Unity project for days on end until I was banging my head against the monitor in frustration (no joke there). It got to the point where I figured I should cut my losses and move on to a completely different project; something a little more suited to my skill level. I thought I couldn’t realize this game, and I did not want to make promises to you guys that I would not be able to keep.

Meanwhile, every day I received youtube and facebook comments along these lines: “Holy shit! I’m throwing money at the screen but nothing is happening!“, as well as: “Hey man, are you still working on this game? It’s so sad to not see any updates…” These comments are very heartwarming, and they slowly made me realize that I was onto something too big to just throw away.

So now I want to try it again!

The biggest problem that I faced was that I wasn’t able to handle the sheer complexity of the physical simulation. With so many moving (body-)parts, and without adequate tools, it took weeks to understand the consequences of even the tiniest gameplay tweak. Not instantly seeing the effect of your changes has a devastating effect on your productivity. Imagine trying to draw a picture, but you only see the lines you draw appear half an hour after you’ve drawn them! It’s not impossible to work that way, but it is extremely difficult. I only really realized this after watching this wonderful talk by Bret Victor, a designer/engineer with a resume so impressive you’ll fall of your chair. If you’re at all interested in the fields of design and engineering I highly encourage you to check this talk out:

(And read his article on the Ladder of Abstraction; it applies so much to my Volo troubles I almost cried.)

So, I’m picking things up again, but taking a different approach.

First, the focus is not on realism, but on gameplay. This is to avoid the pitfall of adding lots of complex stuff even though it isn’t needed for the play experience. For example, most players think there is a very complex wind model in the game. There isn’t; so why would I focus a lot of time on putting one in, at least early on? It’s good enough as it is.) I’m also looking for a stylized look for the graphics. Something simpler to produce, better at communicating the simulation state, and something that will not look old and ugly the day the game comes out. A stylized and slightly fictional look would also enable me to get away with not simulating some things. Just boring things though. ūüėČ

Second, I need to build adequate tools to deal with each bit of complexity I add to the simulation. Unity’s default tool set is great, but it will need significant additions if I am to tweak aerodynamics with it. I need wind tunnel testing with exquisite graphical readouts, and I need it now.

Third, multiplayer code needs to be in there right from the start.

With those things in mind I first plan to get some basic aircraft flyable on a multiplayer server. Once that is up and running add first/third person walking, getting in and out of vehicles, switching a character’s gear, and then finally wingsuit flight.

 

As always, let me know what you think!

And thank you for staying interested, it means much to me.

 

Level Design for Wingsuit BASE

After a bunch of play-testing I’ve gathered some notes on what works in the current level and what doesn’t. Eventually these notes should turn into a sophisticated set of guidelines for Volo levels, but right now they are just little scribbles.

Here’s a shot of the island geometry used in the latest playtests:

Perspective view of the island. All atmospheric effects are turned off for clarity.

Graphing flight paths over a top-down map of the island and rating them based on enjoyment helps. Nothing fancy, I just take a rough note of the path taken and whether it was a fun flight or not. This is all manually done in a photoshop file for now, but it’s already clear that an automated tool would be of great use here.

'Fun' map. Green lines represent interesting flight paths, red ones represent boring ones.

Some early conclusions:

  • Long slopes that roughly match your glide ratio provide an engaging flight.
  • Ridged terrain that presents you with all manner of creases and canyons to traverse are by far the most engaging.
  • Short sections of really steep terrain, really flat terrain, or valleys can provide interesting contrast. When these sections get too long they quickly become boring. The give you a relatively calm flight, and because of the limitations of the terrain system they contain very little interesting detail to look at or fly through.
  • There’s a huge steep cliff face and a prominent valley right in the middle of the island. While the valley is interesting enough in a visual sense, the cliff isn’t, and neither are particularly fun to actually fly near.
  • There are additional cliffs that lack visual appeal, and are cast in way too much shadow to boot.
  • Player’s usually to fly in parts of the island that are well-lit, avoiding the side of the island cast in shadow.
  • The ocean sucks, but I knew this already. It’s not interactive in the way you would expect, and it reveals itself to be quite ugly when you get close.

Most of this common sense, but if I can formulate these rules clearly I might be able to bring them straight into World Machine. ūüôā

 

P.S. The earlier title, “Level Design for Proximity Flight”, might’ve made it seem like this post discussed level design for Skydive: Proximity Flight. Sorry about that.