Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Exo miner progress

Last week, we posted the first video of our game on to our steam greenlight page to try and drum up some more interest.  That involved the small matter of writing the code needed to output video from our engine. Fraps is OK and all but couldn't show the game off as well I wanted. First,  I had to write a system to first record user input and play it back reliably. Writing a system like this is fairly straight forward if all of the user input interaction between the OS and your framework happens in one place - you just pick off the events, add a time-stamp and save them off to a file.

  However, you have to be careful that there aren't any factors that could change the way the game plays on playback as things tend to desynchronise really easily and you'll find yourself with a video of a spaceship spasmodically twitching around, which doesn't make for very interesting viewing.  I had to go through the engine purging any references to system time, making sure all time-based calculations went through a managed 'game time' and lots of other annoying little things that were causing chaotic butterfly effects in the playback.

  Once the playback feature was working, then it was just a case of spitting out a stream of images which I could paste together in to a video. However,  there were quite a few graphical loose ends - little things that were too small to merit much attention when there were more important game-play issues to attend to but which suddenly because much more important now that we were actually going to show things off.  I get a kick out of graphics work so not spending all my time tweaking the visuals is an attempt at professionally disciplined time management.  It's been rather nice to have the excuse to make things as pretty as possible and I had a busy, productive week.

  Now we're on to the next video which will show some of the deeper game play that we're eager to show off. Again, this gives me the excuse to make things pretty and I've been replacing place-holders and polishing the textures (actually, more time was spent un-polishing them - scuffed gloss maps look nice). I've worked out a pretty good pipeline for creating assets quickly and I've added a bunch of new UV editing tools to Clayworks to help me do this - these are tasks that I've wanted to get on with for a long time but couldn't spare the time. I usually have to justify doing things I want to do to myself, like some sort of annoying internal schizophrenic producer alter-ego.
Refinery being modelled in ClayWorks
This was a lot of fun to model and texture.  I'm really looking forward to showing this bad boy off in the game. It's going to form part of the mining and refining mechanic in the game but more on that when we release the new video - which, now that I've got all that fiddly recording and playback code written, should be along soon!