Aside 65: Re4ged

So, did you hear that Warcraft III is getting a big fancy-pants HD remaster? No, I’m not remastering my maps, but I do want them to remain functional. Maybe I also kinda want to make something new, or finish off something old? Either way, there are some fixes that need to be done to things that did make it out into the sunshine.

I’ve been told that in recent patches, Henrik’s backpack attachment (of all things) has started wigging out. Luckily, I still remember my MDL mad skillz and took a look — turns out, the model is utterly broken and really should never have worked in the old world, let alone the new one (all its vertices were assigned to a group that didn’t exist — top marks if you know what those words mean!). A simple fix, but one that will require me to replay the entirety of both WtFSA and This Wreckage to make sure there aren’t any other bad models that have slipped through the cracks. (And yes, I’ll literally have to buy and wear every single item at least once to confirm any issues. Guess I’ll be heading for grindy-town!)

In the mean time, Jayborino had some fun playing When the Freedom Slips Away and highlighted… a couple of things I might… make slightly less obtuse… in any patch release… If you can’t be bothered playing, why not watch him do it instead?

(Not gonna lie, these videos have given this site the biggest spike in activity for a long time! Thanks, dawg!)


Aside 64: What Wreckage?

It has come to my attention that This Wreckage might be having some problems under the new 1.29 patch for Warcraft III — namely, that it becomes utterly unplayable due to some odd hostile behaviour (likely stemming from the 12 new player slots shuffling my alliance settings).

Unfortunately I’m having more than a little trouble patching the game to have a proper look; and when I did for five minutes get it running, the game was grinding along at 30fps (when 1.26 stayed strong at the maximum of 64fps). Something is rotten at the heart of WC3, alas.

So for now I’m going to have to hang fire a bit on fixes until things settle down again. Rest assured — when the game is stable again I will be making the necessary upgrades! But in the mean time, if This Wreckage is giving you trouble, you might need to downgrade to a fresh install then grab patch 1.26 (official-but-hidden Blizzard FTP link)…


Aside 62: Why Have I Not Released Anything Yet?

To me, game development is an intensely personal activity; it’s art, it’s the purest form of self-expression. I have poured my heart and soul into this game for more than three years now, much as I poured my heart and soul into all the intermediate projects that came before. But people keep saying, “why have you not released anything yet?”

The answer is complex.

First, and probably foremost, as game development is so intensely personal, so I have an intense fear of giving it to other people — because to do so is to give myself to other people. What will they think? What if — and this is very likely, given my understanding of the successes of similar and not-so-similar games — they don’t like it? Ultimately, I would rather the mere potential that my friends will dislike it than the actuality of such, because to dislike or even be indifferent towards this thing into which I have put my life is to dislike or be indifferent towards me. That is how important it is, rightly or wrongly.

Second, as game development to me is Art, so it is bound up in the vision of what I want to create. To give that to people before it is right is to risk that vision being corrupted. Is the game in a good state right now? Yes, yes it is. Does it match the minimum of what I consider to be a coherent and cohesive unit? No, it does not. The game I have planned is large and detailed; while many of the broad strokes and foundations are now in place for the earliest piece of that vision, many more are not.

Third, although it may not be obvious now, there is a heavy narrative component. I have plans for this mythos and I intend to develop it over many different scenarios over many years using the same base engine and materials. Once I release a single thing, then that narrative will no longer be fluid — it will become concrete. Much as I rail against retcons and ass pulls in other media, I do not want to put myself in a position where I will be forced to undo previous work that should be set in stone because I made a hasty choice for the sake of releasing something. Whose deadline am I working to anyway?

Fourth, I am a lone developer, and as I want to develop this single thing over many years after its initial burst, so I only have one shot at making a first impression. I fully intend to spend some money on marketing when the time is right, but I absolutely cannot afford to have that undermined by jumping the gun and starting the ball rolling too soon. I announced enough WC3 map projects Too Soon back in the day to be able to afford to do it to something genuinely important. Triple-A game developers can rely on a buggy first release and promises of massive overhaul patches, but a nobody like me cannot.

So please, do not ask me why I have not released this yet. I am acutely aware of all that I have done so far, all that I have not released versus all that I want to build, and this is incredibly difficult in so many ways. Please, trust me.


Aside 60: Ludicrous Mech Games

I was recently reminded of the classic third-person shooter Lost Planet and its hilariously overblown mech sections. I replayed it but had no new thoughts to add to my original review; it’s beautifully optimised, hilariously explosive fun, but suffers from low manoeuvrability. Maybe one thought — I do really love its vehicle art style, which is a perfect blend of rule-of-cool design features and plausible industrial sci-fi (i.e. what I’m aiming for).

Then that put me in mind of Shogo: Mobile Armor Division (spelling aside), another game with overblown giant mech action mixed with on-foot meanderings. I didn’t have any new thoughts about that either, but I had a total blast replaying it — the mech levels are pretty much the best thing since sliced bread.

Basically, I want more of this — so does anybody have any recommendations for other “ludicrous mech games” that I might enjoy? Not simulation-heavy MechWarrior-likes, but silly, large-scale, over-the-top first/third-person shooters. Mmmm.


Aside 59: The Shape and the Power of the Voice

So I finally bought myself a proper microphone, a half-decent mid-range one with a good balance of affordability, versatility, n00b-friendliness and recording quality. This is most likely an investment in being able to do high-quality announcer voices for my game, but according to the manual it’s good for pretty much anything — voices, musical instruments, sound effects and more — so who knows where it’ll end up?

I gave it a test run with a bit of a demo reel, where I said many silly things in silly voices:

I reckon, however, for my upcoming exposé about Nox, I’m going to give it a real stress run. Rather than doing a straight blog, I’m thinking I’ll do me talking over videos of me playing the game, so you can get a better feel for it than you can from silly captioned pictures. You can tell me this is a terrible idea right now and I’ll fall back to the written version, or we can see how it goes…


Aside 58: Procedural Drama

I am starting to feel like procedural generation is a very selfish way to build a game.

Think about it. The algorithms are devilishly fun and satisfying to implement, for the creator, and the resulting game can surprise that creator with unanticipated combinations.

But a procedurally generated level cannot deliver the same level of depth as a hand-crafted one, or at least, not with humanity’s current level of technology and algorithmic understanding.

Plus, adding permadeath to that means you don’t need a saving system at all — no death and reload, but death and set the generator going again. Easier for the developer, because state saving and loading is Hard.

Which is fine until you start asking people to give you money for your game, which is when you probably need to focus more on their experiences as players than your own as a developer.

Having said that, my level design skills and technological capabilities are extremely rusty, so my first forays into singleplayer dungeon crawling are almost certainly going to be procedural — since I have already done a heap of procedural work for other shits and giggles and I love building interlocking modular props. But rest assured, no matter how much effort I pour into making the computer generate endless time-sinking but ultimately hollow missinos, my heart lies in my hands.


Aside 57: Mind Expanding

I’ve been working on the ammunition system for my game recently. You know, weapon ammo consumption and reloading and different ammo types and whatnot. I started with one approach but have had to change direction, because the initial idea didn’t pan out — but in the switch, I want to preserve many of the outward aspects of it, just not the underlying implementations and attendant badness — and I start to worry that I’ve got to hold so many moving parts in my mind to keep it balancing oh-so-precariously in the realm of the specification, and I start to worry that it’s beyond me, that my brain doesn’t have enough capacity to contain all of this at once, that I just can’t do it and I’m getting old because couldn’t I do this before?

Then I realise that, actually, no, I couldn’t do this before — I have literally never done anything in my life that is so complex as building an entire fucking computer game by myself. Even at their worst, Warcraft III maps didn’t have shit on… all of this.

Have I bitten off more than I can chew?

… Well, I’m not dead yet.