Archive for February, 2010

A New Direction …

I have been thinking quite a lot recently about some of the upcoming aspects of Britonia, and some of the decisions I made at the beginning of the project.  For a long time I’ve wanted to create a game with a sense of depth and emersion, somewhere you could go and play open-endedly, without a sense of the end of the game drawing nearer the more you unraveled the story or progressed through a dungeon.  Obviously, this is not as easy a task as it sounds, but thanks to procedural content, it is not totally out of the question.

I set myself no time limit for finishing the development of the game, piling on the features.  I knew it would take a long time, but that didn’t bother me and indeed it still doesn’t; after all what is the point of making a game if you don’t enjoy it? 

I spend quite a lot of my free time working on Britonia (or at least XNA related projects), but there are still a great many things required to get a full game working which I haven’t even started, and I think it would be better ( or faster) in the long run if I change the theme of the game before I get into the actual in-game content creation.

Therefore I am considering to change the theme / genre to a Space trading simulation, just like the old classic Elite by David Braben and Ian Bell. 

Luckily though, changing to a space sim wouldn’t require me to re-write reems of code, so everything I have done thus far will remain largely unchanged.  Of course the ‘new’ space game will have you landing in ground ports and/or flying around the surface of the planet looking for minerals and artefacts.

So why the change?

Simply put, after comparing the content required (models / textures / environments) for both a space sim and fantasy RPG, I think I have a much better chance of creating believable content for a space sim as opposed to the likes of human NPCs and monsters.  Some of the other considerations are :

Medieval RPG Space RPG
Planets Travel at low altitudes along the surface causes the planet quadtree to update often, and subdivision for quad nodes are always x4. Furthermore, because of the detph of the quadtree, a lot of memory is needed for the heightmaps/normal maps etc.

Adding to this, trees, npcs, towns and ground clutter ….

Planet based RPG’s don’t require realistic distances or accurate planetary movements (orbits/rotations).

NPCs / Monsters Modeling of NPC’s and Monsters is very complex, requiring many different animations (skinning).
Creating AI to mimick human behaviour is even more difficult.

I don’t do faces – creating a good looking one would take me hell of a long time 😦

Modelling Spaceships is conderably easier than organic lifeforms.  AI is still a challenge, but that’s AI.

Animations can be done using rigid bodies, and is typically turret points and/or landing gears. 

Towns / Communities A high level of unique geometry (models) would be required to create believable variation in different towns.  Each individual building of a town in a medieval RPG would have to exist in full with all expected functions.  (A tavern would need a bar, tables chairs etc. etc.) Cities can be represented with one (or a few) larger city meshes.  Which means getting away with considerly less geometry.

One central spaceport UI screen contains all the different ammenities / services, once the player has ‘entered’ the city.

Travel / Distances Travel between planets is achived via ‘stargates’.  I do still very much like this idea.

Travel on the surface is slow and takes a long time. 

Dude – Spaceships!
Textures Buildings are constructed from different materials each requiring a unique texture.  Also different altitudes affect the colour of the texture (white of mountains etc.) It’s common knowlede that all spaces are grey with yellow windows.  Easy

I just wrote these off the top of my head, and I must admit it is hard to remain impartial after convincing myself a change is needed, but even looking at the above table I think the space sim would generally be faster and easier to implement.  Although I made a few less-than-serious remarks above, some of the areas such as travel / distances are obviously made easier with the concept of space flight.

Well, please let me know what you think because I still haven’t fully made up my mind yet.  You have until the website theme changes to a space scene to leave me your comments 🙂

-John

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Depth (Z-) Buffers

As with all games, Z-buffering plays an important part when rendering the pixels to the screen. During the development of Britonia I have often run into a problems related to the Z-Buffer, so I thought it would be nice to share what I have learned about them and how to avoid these issues.

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Procedural Generation – Textures on the GPU

This small tutorial is really just an extension of the first article I wrote on 3d improved noise on the CPU. More specifically we’ll be getting it to work on the GPU this time.
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