Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Zero-Time Programming

Welcome to a description of my new programming paradigm: zero-time programming.  Being a busy family dad, I've got no time for programming.  I've got no time for even reading blogs, never mind actually writing one.  Or that's what I thought until I developed zero-time-programming, for people who have zero spare time but still want to create and release something.

The principle behind zero-time programming is to write code, run it yourself (if you've got time) and then release it.  The main requirement is that you have the facility in your released software to inform you immediately if there's a problem; my usual choice is by email, so I get an email every time there is an error.

"But this is crazy" I hear you say.  Sorry, I've got no time to discuss it.  I will concede that this is not the best method for writing mission-critical code for NASA, but if you're a hobby programmer like me who just wants to get games out there while also having family life, there's no better choice.

Here's the main bullet points to help you out though:-
 
* Wrap all your new code in a try/catch, and in the catch, send yourself the error.  That way, the whole program won't grind to a halt.
* Make a note of any thoughts you have about what to code, immediately.  Whether in the shower, on the toilet etc.., your subconscious will do a lot of the thinking for you, so don't ignore it or forget what it's telling you.  I've "found" plenty of bugs whilst sitting on the toilet.
* Use your own code, and make other code your own.  Avoid moving ground.  Who's got time to refactor code when your favourite library decides to change their method signatures?
* Send yourself a message from your software when something you need to check for happens, so you know it is happening (or not).
* Sanity checks - for example check variables aren't null.
* Ensure your error messages state which version has the error, so you can ignore old errors that have already been fixed.

All this will save you loads of time.  How long does it take to go through a testing plan?  Too long.  Of course, this method of programming may mean you get a stream of messages informing you of bugs, but that just means you can fix them as soon as you have a spare couple of minutes, and then upload the next version.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Announcing Ares:Dogfighter

My "very early space game demo" has transmogrified into a game!  Although still very early in development, there is now something to download and play.  It's called Ares: Dogfighter, and you take control of a spaceship and can fight enemy ships using lasers and missiles.

Here's a brief gameplay video:-


The game is uses the excellent JMonkeyEngine for the 3D, and lots of complicated Java code for the rest of it.  Getting the AI to fly realistically was a challenge; the standard response for a pilot, whether AI or human, is to try and point their ship at the enemy ship in order to shoot them.  However, this has a tendency to result in both ships flying around in circles until someone dies of boredom.  I've made the AI check for this, and if things aren't happening then the AI will react with some random evasive manoeuvres.

The game is free to download and there are versions for Windows and Linux.  Please let me know what you think!  (Or at least whether it works).

Monday, April 25, 2016

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Loading a texture from a file in JMonkeyEngine

It's taken me over an hour to work out how to load a simple .png file and use it as a texture on a box.  To help prevent anyone else who might be having the same problem from tearing all their hair out, you need to ensure two things:-

* Your files must be in a directory off your main directory called "assets/Textures/[png file]".  You must conform!

* Add the line "assetManager.registerLocator("assets/", FileLocator.class);".  Despite what the documentation says, this isn't added internally by default!

Also, when adding the texture to the material, the String parameter isn't your own name as you might first assume, but must be the text "ColorMap".

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Java Voxel Engines with Source

I recently carried out a trawl of the internet to find all the open-source Java Voxel Engines I could.  My intention is to use one of them as a foundation to write my own voxel-based game (which is still a long way off).  I didn't spend too long on each one; I simply checked that they worked and that they included all relevant code.  Here are my results which others may find useful.

Firstly, the best ones I found.  (As an aside, one of my general requirement is that an open-source project should work, once all dependencies have been resolved, and these should be resolvable easily.  What's the point of releasing source code that doesn't work?)  These all worked:-

* https://github.com/MovingBlocks/Terasology - You could say this was the best of the lot.  It worked first time and looks amazing.  The only drawback is its complexity; there's loads of code and loads of dependencies and libraries.

* https://github.com/mk12/mycraft - This is a great simple engine.  It's only about 8 classes big but provides a nice simple voxel engine in Java.

* http://borderterrierart.weebly.com/programming.html (BlockWorld) - This one seemed to fit my requirements best.  It's got lots of features including .obj model loading, and worked first time.  The only drawback is that the source is a bit messy (formatting, unused vars etc..)

* https://github.com/Zaneris/Tranquil - This worked well, and since it uses LibGDX could work on mobile devices as well as PCs.


Other Mentions:-

* https://github.com/aaasen/voxel-party - This worked, although it didn't have any textures.


* https://github.com/matortheeternal/JVoxelEngine - This uses raycasting.  Seemed very slow and simple, and although it worked, it was very bare-bones.


I couldn't get these to work:-

* https://github.com/SpoutDev/Spout - Seems very worthy, but I couldn't get it to work as the Maven build fails.

* https://github.com/afaulconbridge/ArdorCraft - Couldn't get this to work due to missing source.


The following are JMonkeyEngine "add-ons" which I haven't tried:-

* https://github.com/Sleaker/Cubed
* https://github.com/TheWiseLion/VoxelTerrain
* https://github.com/jMonkeyEngine-Contributions/voxel
* https://github.com/melsov/JMonkeyVoxel
* https://github.com/boogie666/Blocky
* https://github.com/roboleary/GreedyMesh


And I also found these two projects which are not voxels, but rather "traditional" 3D but still worked very well:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBcGrLGAbQ0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IXFUflNZJs


That's pretty much all I could find. I hope you find it useful.  I'd be interested to know if anyone has found any more, and which one's they found the best?


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Team Tactics

Team Tactics is a new realtime action multiplayer tactical strategy game that I'm currently developing.  You could probably label it as a MOBA or an ARTS.  Whatever the label, the game works like this: each player controls a single unit, which is on one of two sides (although in the future I might expand this to 3 or 4).  Depending on the mission (or "game mode"), each side has an objective, and the winner is the first to complete this is the winner.


ANOTHER MOBA-STYLE GAME?

Technically yes, but you could probably say something similar about any game since the 1980's.  This is how games progress; almost all games are very similar to what came out before.  But hey, let's not argue about that here - I'm developing this game for several reasons:-

* I like multiplayer games more than single player games.  It's far more fun to play against someone else where you can see their reaction and gain pleasure from their pain (and vice versa of course).

* I like to add new features to games, and this game will have features that no other MOBA has.  Whenever I'm playing a game I always wish I could tweak this or that.  If I have my own MOBA, I can do that.  In addition, if any players request a feature, it's always a pleasure to be able to do that.

* I think true "tactical" MOBA's are a bit thin.  I'm not a gamer, but I can't actually think of another multiplayer tactical game where working as a team is paramount.

* I like developing games, and the best way for me to maintain interest in whatever game I'm currently developing is to have something to aim for, i.e. similar game(s) that I want to reproduce and hopefully improve upon.


WHAT FEATURES WILL IT HAVE?

This is just a brief summary of the main features.  I'll blog about new ideas as I have them:-

* Multiple unit types - this is a no-brainer of course.  They will be different in that some move faster than others or shoot more accurately, but some will have specific skills required for missions.

* Multiple missions - There are currently two missions, The Assassins and Moonbase Assault, more about which I'll do another post.  I might also transpose some of the more interesting missions from Stellar Forces.

* Map editor and easy customisation - I want people to be able to easily customize this game (in so far without affecting balance), e.g. adding their own graphics and sounds, maps etc...

* Different weapons and equipment as well as the usual guns - smoke grenades, nerve gas, ammo packs, gas masks, incendiary grenades.  Grenades mean destructable maps!

* All the usual features like fog of war, line of sight, unit stats, chat, voting etc...


SUMMARY

I'm really excited about this, and really looking forward to playing it.  I enjoy a game of TF2 as much as the next person, but sometimes it lacks enough depth for me.  This should address that, and also be fun to write.  I've never written a realtime multiplayer game before (more than 2 players, anyway), so looking into all the technical aspects will be very interesting.

UPDATE:

Wiki: http://team-tactics.wikia.com/
Blog: http://team-tactics.blogspot.co.uk
Download:  http://teamtactics.penultimateapps.com/teamtactics.zip

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Outpost Omega

I've used the same graphics engine I used for Stellar Forces and Assault Squad to make another new Android game: Outpost Omega.  In this realtime strategy game you must defend and maintain a moonbase for as long as possible against a range of problems, including meteors and invading armies.

You start with 6 armed units and some medibays.  These used power, and over time resources are dropped that must be collected to maintain the power levels.  There are also other factors that make life harder: meteors will randomly crash into the moon starting fires which must be extinguished.  In addition, enemy invaders will attack your base and must be repelled.


The layout of the moonbase is randomly generated each time to give each game variety, and there's loads of tension as you send out a unit to collect resources outside where they are exposed to attack.  It's a great game if you've got a spare 5 minutes, and completely free!