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Summer Burnout!

Progress on my usual projects has been slow this month, my computer was suffering from severe slow down and a couple of times even shut down with a CPU overheat error.
Korea can be a very hot country, and a lot of expats who come and live here aren't used to all that entails. I'm from the UK where temperatures rarely get above 23°C (73°F) in the summer. Here temperatures above 30°C (86°F) are common, and the humidity can make that even harder to endure. It's not just humans and animals which have trouble in that weather, computer hardware can suffer performance reduction and quickly degrade if it's running at a high temperature for a long time.
If you're running an expensive gaming rig it might already have a state of the art cooling system, but the vast majority of expats won't want to invest in this kind of set-up. The computer I use the most is actually the one in my classroom, which is an ancient Windows 7 machine with an integrated graphics card. It'…
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Bombs away!

You can see the latest progress on the project in the most recent video diary here.
A lot of work has been going on trying to get the AI to work well, without causing too much drain on computational resources. Trying to get AI states to be more flexible so that an artillery weapon might use normal attacks if the enemy gets too close, instead of trying to do long ranged attacks on a target the other side of the map. And so on.

I also finally got around to adding an effect to the air support actions so they have an actual aircraft fly in and drop bombs or reveal the map.

It's a bi-plane because the current version of the game is set in 1936, with early war technology. The current plan is to get this one finished with a basic set of game-play options and then produce expansions or sequels with all the other great stuff I want to do; custom vehicles, procedurally generated missions and so on.

The tactical side of the game is maturing right now, with the introduction of four different …


Ok, so it's not exactly skynet, but I have got my first AI state working, kind of.

The first state is "HOLD" in which case the agent stays in place where they are and shoots at any unit that comes in range. When I started writing this module, I found that the existing method of triggering actions wasn't good enough to allow the AI to choose the best weapon or target. It worked by simply sending a command to the unit to trigger the currently selected action.

If the action is valid, it triggered, if not it didn't.
That's fine for play controlled units, as that's all they need to do. But AI needs to know in advance if the action is valid. The player can get that info from UI feedback, but that wasn't available to the AI player.

There were three problems:

1. The UI feedback duplicated code in the action trigger function. These  two sets of code could get out of phase so that UI feedback was wrong.

2. The action trigger didn't give enough feedback for …


After some testing, I decided to rework the radio contact rules described in the previous post. I've been playing a lot of RPG and Strategy games lately and one thing I don't really enjoy is the micromanaging aspect of buffing and de-buffing.

Rather than force the player to make hard decisions on where to allocate their buffs, it just ends up with them having to devote too many resources to support. You end up having at least one team member out of four doing nothing but support.
It also wastes a lot of time clicking and selecting and so on.

So, I want support actions to offer a significant bonus when active, but most should be passive. They should have specific utility too, not a general buff which you simply apply to your best unit. If your tanks are getting swarmed with infantry, then rapid fire will help you clear them out. If there's an enemy who is well dug in behind cover, you can use steady aim or mark target to get a bead on them.

In the end I just made special ac…

Radio Contact!

In any RPG or turn strategy game you'll find special roles for special characters. There's the tank, whose job is to absorb damage, and the DPS whose role is to do a lot of damage per second. You might find other roles like glass-cannon, but the one you can't do without is a healer.

Of course a healer isn't only supposed to heal, they also have the ability to put buffs or de-buffs on other characters. At this point you can split in to a further specialized role, the support character. They might not be able to heal at all, but they can buff or de-buff and perhaps summon allies.

Once I made the decision to switch Vinland: 1936 over to a turn based strategy game, I had to think about how roles were going to work out. Tanks are obvious, and DPS is more complex. But today I want to talk support.

In the above picture you can see that a lot of the selected unit's abilities and actions are grayed out. It can't currently use them because they are restricted. The usual …

Combat: Cover and flanking system.

This week I've been slogging slowly through the code to integrate combat in to the game. It's different to the way I did it when the game was real-time, but also kind of similar. A command is sent from the turn manager (a sub process of the main environment which has different functions behavior depending on whether it's the player or enemy turn) to an agent to fire its weapon.

That weapon then checks if the target is valid and if it is ready to fire, and then it sends a message to the target with some stats so that the target can process the hits.

Of course, the messages aren't really sent, they are just dumped in to a list in the main environment, and then agents pull out those relevant to themselves using their unique id.

Each stage is separate from each other. Each process can fail without collapsing the whole game loop. For example if you fired a burst of shots at a target and the very first shot killed the target, the others simply won't be processed. The sho…

How to... build a strong art concept.

So you want to make some art assets for your game. The first on the list is a Steampunk Revolver for your main character to shoot up Cthulhu with. Quickly opening your internet browser you start with a Google image search. Ah, there is is!

It might be a good idea to find a few influences so you don't accidentally end up copying a famous design.

Just mash them up and you're ready to go! Off to your favorite modeling program.
But wait! isn't there more to building a strong design concept than that?

Of course there is.
One of the diseases of modern design is that of recursion. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy. This is especially a problem with "historical" concepts. Over the course of that recursive process the concept becomes infected with modern design elements, and ends up looking very similar to everything else that anyone else has ever made.
If you want to come up with a really fresh idea, you have to get beyond secondary references and go look at real …