Category: Planning and Schedules

Whatever happened to that Chris Park guy?

Right – so I took a 90ish day sabbatical from work. What the heck was that all about? I said I’d update you guys on that (and be coming back to work properly) in January, so here we are. This was a really tough video to make, but overall I’m doing well these days.

There is a new release that also just came out today, so things are getting back into gear production-wise, which is good.  That release is the cumulative work of the volunteers over the last month, they’ve been amazing.  Coming up this next week I will be able to actually get cracking on some creative work of my own, for the first time in basically a quarter.

Thanks again for your patience with me during this, everybody.  It really has meant a lot.

AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News

Please see our latest update on Kickstarter for all the details.

What’s The TLDR?

1. We’re going to delay the actual Early Access launch on Steam until something like late June or early July. Previously it was intended to be May 29th.

2. BUT, for all the “Early Access” level backers from Kickstarter and BackerKit, we’re going to give you your keys on May 29th anyway, as promised.

Seriously, there’s a lot of details there, and if you have any questions please let us know.  Thank you so much for your continued support as we take this game to bigger and better places than we had anticipated.  Speaking of, we just dropped a massive new release an hour or so ago. :)

Next release likely on Monday — but check this out!

Hey all, Chris here.  As I wrote earlier today, I’ve taken a tangent into some other work.  This was work that was on my todo list anyhow, but it’s stuff that is coming up much earlier than I had expected because Cinth thought of a few things and I then wanted to try those out sooner than later (to avoid later rework).

It’s been a lot of shader-writing today, as well as a lot of experimentation and post-image-processing work in general, and profiling the GPU pipeline, and so on.  The result, so far, is something that I think should be about equal load to the prior version of the game, but which looks far better.

But the tricky bit is that now this is bottlenecking everything else; I have to finish this before I can even check in my current batch of work, and it touches a great many things.  So no release today, but I think I’ll have it fully sorted out for one on Monday.

Here are some screenshots of how things look at the moment in my little testing scene for all the various ships:

The image above shows the forcefield generator transitioned over to using the Standard shader in unity (and thus the PBR — Physically Based Rendering — pipeline).  Previously this was all using custom shaders by me, and using lots of rim lighting and such.

But now it is keeping the painted look from Blue, mixed with the metallic look that is very modern, mixed with the existing emission maps.  The result is something hybrid, as you can see with the forcefield generator, above.  I’m really excited about it.

You can also see one of the new space skyboxes that I’m working on.  These look more modern and are more gradient-based, as well.  More stylized and less perlin-looking noise and gaussian effects in the nebulae.

Oh, also, you can see how the warp gate is looking now.  It’s vastly more metallic in most of its parts, except where it has emissions.  The purply look was rubbing me the wrong way the longer it stayed, and I wanted something simpler while still keeping the emission maps and the LINES that go into the normal maps (bumps on there).  This hits a good middle-ground.

This next one, above, shows a different space skybox scene.  And then it also shows a view of the converted bomber and fighter.  Those are using the PBR shading, as well as the existing paint style from Blue.

With the bomber I actually made a metallic map for it so that the really pretty painted areas of orange on it (barely visible in this one) would stay very matte-feeling.

The fighter will need one of those also, and/or some lighting adjustments in general; but that one already had some texture checkup work scheduled.

In the very far bottom area, you can catch a glimpse of some of Cinth’s derelict alien husk models that got all this started. ;)  They aren’t done, but they’re coming along well.

This last one, above, shows a bottom view of the space dock (why not).  This gives a good view of some of the metallic effects and how that changes it to not look matte, mixed with the existing emission maps and so on.  I think it works out as a really nice hybrid.

And then there’s the background sky, which is yet another of the new ones.

Meanwhile, Blue has been working on the icon rework process with a lot of forumites, and I’m pleased with how that is progressing as well.  Hopefully on Monday this feels like a pretty complete revamp in some ways, although her new icons stuff won’t be in until later next week even if she finishes it this instant, because there’s some coding on my end I need to do to handle the different style of icons.

Anyhow — happy weekend!

Sometimes you just gotta ignore the priority list.

One of the things that will become apparent for those in the alpha is that I don’t really work in a linear fashion. ;)

I have a todo list of things that is long, and there are things of relative priority in there even within priority categories.

One of the things that is funny about todo lists like that is that if you never take time off from the highest-priority category, often the lower-priority ones don’t get done at all.  The highest-priority one just fills up again and again, etc.

At any rate, the other comment I have is that typically you have to seize upon inspiration when it strikes.  Sometimes I look at a piece of code or other work and just think “oh man that’s going to be a slog,” but I’m excited about something else on the list.

In those circumstances, unless the house will burn down if I change items, I switch to the item that I’m excited about.  That gets that item off my list, and I’ll wind up doing it faster because I’m more excited about it.

Later I’ll revisit the thing that I had been dreading, and one or more of three things will now be true:

  • I’ll be excited about that now; or
  • I’ll have at least had an epiphany about it so it doesn’t feel so bad; or
  • I’ll feel so guilty for “slacking off” that the energy from that will propel me through.

Sometimes people comment on how darn fast Keith and I are at doing various things.  I don’t know what Keith’s methods are, but I tend to use various tricks to get myself to work harder than my natural inclinations.  “Slack off” by doing a lot of little things, then tackle the big thing out of guilt, etc.  It’s surprisingly effective at chewing through large todo lists.

The last couple of days I’ve felt particularly slack because there’s been so much OS-specific stuff that I haven’t been able to really focus much on my todo list at all.  I’ve gotten a few things done, maybe a dozen at most, but it’s not what I’d prefer.  A lot of the other things I got done never made it onto that todo list at all.

Today is another funky day for me, in that regard.  Cinth made some mockup derelict ships that look amazing, but are very metallic and thus PBR-lighting-model-based.  I told him I’d have to redo that of course, which he knew going in, but dang if we both didn’t really love the look.

Soooo… I thought about the performance gains that we’ve unexpectedly had with the game thus far, and started wondering about going with a PBR pipeline approach with the main game ships themselves.  It means throwing away my rim lighting shaders and a variety of other things, but it could be awesome, right?

Turns out: yes.

So I’ve been working on a hybrid style that gives those homeworld-2-looking flat shaded models a more modern metallic styling to go with them.  The approach actually works really well!

But it does make the ships a little bit darker, which fits with another issue I have in general, which is to do with the space backgrounds for the game.  It was way down on my list, but I had already noted I hate the backgrounds for the skyboxes, and wanted to change them.

So that’s also happening.  We’ll see where performance winds up, but this is all GPU-side stuff.  It’s possible that my Mac will have some sort of issue with this on the GPU side, but somehow I suspect not.  I have some more shader work to do with the lower LODs than 0, but I think that I can get some really interesting things going there.

Also of note, on windows in particular it was using DirectX9 in builds up until now, which means that the BC7 compression format was being uncompressed and then sent to your GPU in an uncompressed format, wasting a lot of bandwidth on the GPU bus as well as VRAM.  I’m switching over windows to primarily use OpenGLCore, since that can use BC7, near as I can tell.

I could just make it use DX11 on windows, but I have endless problems with the unity editor itself bugging out on me in DX11 for some reason.  On like 5 computers with fresh installs on 3 different windows versions (7, 8.1, 10), over multiple years, on many different unity versions (4.x to 5.x).  Curiously, almost nobody else has this problem, so I guess I just have some sort of strange DX11 Editor curse.  Actually running DX11 in the standalone player works fantastically.

Anyhow, that’s yet another aside.  But basically I’m now finding that I want to toy with a few more styles and options now that we have all these different machines with different performance coming back to us.  Almost all the machines are running at 60fps+, and I’m wondering if I can keep that happening while also sliding in a few more advanced bits.

I’m betting so, but we’ll see for sure when the next build comes out tonight.  That’s what I’m working on today, anyhow.

Cheers!

Thanks, Amazon…

We’ve been using repositoryhosting.com for years (since 2011 I think), and I can count the number of times they’ve had downtime on one hand…ish.

But today, the day after our alpha starts… naturally we get this:

Keith notes: “I’m particularly fond of We have now repaired the ability to update the service health dashboard.” From the AWS side.

Not sure how that’s going to impact our ability to get a new build out today; we’re still working away at things, but we can’t check in code or share it between us as of about 3 hours ago, and this outage is lasting longer than usual.

Definitely having to prioritize my time.

If you’ve looked at my todo list, you’ll see why.  There are so many things that I want do do, where I just think “oh, but I could get that done in just a couple of hours at most!”

And it’s true in each instance, but there’s a very real additive cost to all that.

I know that I can make the background starfields, which I’m growing tired of already from a visual sense, look a lot better and more stylized.  But is that more important than bugfixes?  No… sigh.

I want to get MasterAudio set up so that I can go ahead and have music ducking and so forth in place when I get to that point… but is that more important than just getting uAudio out and thus the game working on OSX properly, and then back to those bugfixes?  Again… no… sigh.

And so it goes.  Things move fast with Arcen, but there’s still just never enough hours in a day.  I’ve had a very unhealthy work/life balance for years, and in the last year or so I’ve been trying to get that more under control.

So… priorities.  Making sure I can load music in a cross-platform way and play it efficiently.  We’ll worry about audio ducking later when we’d even be doing that at all.

Among other things that will just have to wait.  At least with the todo list, you alpha folks can see where my head is at and what I am valuing over what in the short and middle term.

Hopefully everything on that entire list is done within the next month, knock on wood.  I have three in which to do it, but I’d rather be done in one.

To-Do List

Figured you might like to be able to see my todo list.  I just moved it out of my notepad file and into trello, so everything is listed as just being added.