the pendulum has swung back to graphics
I’ve realized recently that Scourge’s client has many layers, and jotting down a list of those layers helps maintain my perspective of the work yet to do. Distinguishing layers is an easy activity – if System A connects to System B, and A can invalidate B, but B cannot invalidate A, then A is a layer above B. That’s helped me identify the following layers, each of which has its own problem space:
- Server connection – are we online? (HTTP/UDP comms)
- Session – are we authenticated and up to date? (user object)
- Battle – who are we fighting and what actions can we take? (the ROPES)
- UI Narrative – what action/data is the player considering? (narrative tree nodes)
- View – What does each button and view component look like? (view objects)
- Renderer – What does each particle look like? (glyph objects, model arrays)
- Graphics – What does each pixel look like? (GPU buffers, write-only)
And that’s only the stuff that’s going into the demo! I left out the AI stuff from this list, because like the state of the human player, it interacts with this layer cake at some level. It’s just a higher level than the one human beings interact with.
Anyway, while I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the Session and Battle layers in the past, for this post I will focus on the Renderer and Graphics layers, which I’ve been working on for the past three months. They’re only a piece of the puzzle, and currently the Graphics layer is dependent on Flash and Stage3D, but that’s a small price to pay for the ability to work this stuff out while I wait for Haxe 3, H3D and NME’s OpenGL features to stabilize. (As I’ve previously mentioned, Scourge should be able to target every platform that one can target through NME, which is quite a lot. The graphics pipeline just needs to mature a little. I will color your pixels!) [ More ]
new opportunities present new challenges
So Scourge had this hiatus, during which I just didn’t have the chutzpah to tackle the problem of designing a game with AI and network play features. Briefly in late 2011 I looked into writing a new View for the prototype, which simplified the GUI considerably and made interaction on touch devices more straightforward, but I put that work on hold as I started to scope out the rest of the project. Let’s face it– views are interesting, but for a game like Scourge, their design needs to take a back seat to the core functionality. I’d have plenty of time to design a view later, when the rest of the game was functional.
So I started asking some deep questions. Why was I even doing this project? Obviously it’s one of those side projects I regularly work on for the sake of revitalizing an old idea; some pretty game or application from a simpler time is no longer widely available, and I have the skills to bring it back. Classic Jeremian time-waster.
Aside from that, though, Scourge is a chance for me to build something new and creative on top of something familiar. Even if you’ve never played Fungus before, I have faith that you’ll like the core gameplay, once there are opponents to play against. That gives me a platform to propose further design challenges and to pursue really ambitious goals, which I can learn a lot from. [ More ]
Let's pretend I haven't neglected the blog for a year. There's important stuff to talk about.
In September 2010, I was on a late-night train from Manhattan back to my parents’ home in Westchester, when I decided to open SheepShaver and play an old game to pass the time. The game was called Byte Me!, released by Freeverse Software twelve years ago. Relying on the classic Mac OS and burdened by a once impressive OpenGL-rendered game board, Byte Me! is nearly impossible to play nowadays, let alone enjoy– but the game’s unique mechanics make it an all-time favorite of mine.
Byte Me! was itself a remake of the game Fungus by Ryan Koopmans. That was a school project back in ’92, but by then the basic game principles were already in place:
- Two to four players are given “heads” that are placed in a circle on a square board.
- Players take turns growing their bodies out from their heads by attaching shapes to themselves.
- Players who touch can bite one another; biting a player can divide their body, and the portions disconnected from their head wither and die.
- If attaching a shape to yourself causes your body to envelop a region of an opponent’s body, you seize that region.
You win by growing your body to be the largest, or, ideally, by destroying your opponents’ bodies.
That’s the Fungus game variety in a nutshell. There can be variations, but the core is the same; you grow as big as you can, gobbling up your opponents and conquering the board. This is how Fungus and its various clones have been played for the past twenty years. [ More ]