Monday, May 27, 2013

Thunder Moon is finally in peer review!

It's been a long haul, but Thunder Moon is finally in peer review on XBox Live Indie Games!

If you have an XBLIG dev account, and wouldn't mind doing me a huge favor, please take a little time to review the game and help us get it that much closer to the marketplace. I'd be very grateful!


While the build going through review is stable and complete, there are of course a lot of things that I'd like to improve. Few games ship with everything we'd like in there, or with everything as polished as it could be so I'm looking forward to tuning up the game some more over the next couple weeks while I work towards the first update. I'm still sorting out what I'd like to add for the first update, but some of thing things I'd like to do include new items, new random encounters and improvements to the UI. Hopefully the players will give me some feedback about what can make the game more fun!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Time Dilation Crystal + FX

Here's a clip showing the crafting of a Time Dilation Crystal and using it combat to get the upper hand against a few critters.

The item system in Thunder Moon is one of my favorite systems. The tools behind it make it very easy to add new items, icons, effects and set them all up with cooldown timer groups and that other various things that make items tick. While the items in the first release are done at this point, I plan for content patches to include new & interesting items that build on what is already in place. Going to be fun!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

New box cover art!

Here's the latest version of the box cover for Thunder Moon. Hopefully it will help catch the player's attention when they see it in the XBox Marketplace!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Thunder Moon - XBLIG playtest 5/21

It's been a very busy time since the last playtest build was put out there. This version has more improvements, bugfixes, and changes than I can possibly list here but many of them were topics of earlier blog posts.

After 1.5 years of effort, I'm very excited to say the game is nearly ready for peer review. It's been quite a crunch for longer than I care to think about but it's looking pretty good to me at this point. It's almost time to get this thing out there!

Here is a copy of the playtest post on the xblig forum:

Here are some highlights of the changes since the last play test build: 
* Huge improvements to voxel system performance. It should be much more difficult to get to the edge of the world now, and if you manage to do it, the game handles that situation much more nicely.
* All story missions in place. With the "testcraft" command line parameter to allow free crafting, the game takes around 45 minutes to an hour to play through the storyline, depending on play style.
* The lore of the world has been finalized, along with name changes to items and characters.
* The story intro sequence has some dialog shown during the descent to explain what is going on and to set the story in motion.
* There are several new special encounters in story mode.
* Story mode difficulty ramps up as the game progresses.
* All crafting recipes have been reviewed and built in game using harvested resources.
* Many new items with active and passive effects.
* The Lander now has a very powerful terrain destroying weapon.
* The cargo pod missions now have NPC attacks triggered. There are a lot more items at the cargo pods, the idea is that it should be easy to get make to at least one of the cooler items just by playing the story.
* You can now trigger your backpacks and aux items while driving the Lander or Hoverbike. This is especially useful in one of the story missions later in the game.
* You can trigger generic items from any slot.
* All the help text now uses a larger font. The text itself is less verbose to fit in the same space, but I expect this will do the trick for readability. I've compared with several other games at this point, and the text size is larger than many of them so I expect this isn't a problem any more.
* The item inspection features of the inventory have been improved and include helpful information explaining what each slot of the item panel is for.
Here are some issues you may notice which I'll be working on:
* There are occasionally framerate slowdowns. It's not too common, and not game breaking IMHO, but I do plan to fix them. The game should generally run at better than 30FPS.
* The flying NPCs don't move around so well. Most of the time they behave well enough, but once in a while they don't. I am going to be working on this some more.
* The final mission is a bit wacky with the spawns, there are a little too many.
* When you respawn the world is not obscured, so you can see the geometry getting built.
* The front end of the game needs a little polish.
There are a number of minor things I would like to improve that I won't flood this post with, but if there is anything that jumps out at you as needing help please let me know.
At this point the plan is to fix any major new bugs that show up and try to address any major feedback people might have.
I really would like to hear anything you have to say, positive or negative, about the state of the game, how fun it is for you and what I could do to make it better.
Thanks very much for any play testing and your feedback.

Hopefully this playtest will go smoothly and I can wrap this thing up soon!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Character & terrain destruction tests

Here are a few videos related to some things I've been working on lately.

This one has some variations of the main character with some very simple motion logic hooked up.

This one shows the characters getting taken out by turrets, showing how they break into parts that bounce around the terrain.

This one shows some tests with the new lander weapon system. It's able to destroy terrain, which is nice when you are flying around in a cave and its a little too tight to get where you want to go. The rate of fire is much higher than it will be in the actual game, I was just stress testing the system.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

#screenshotsaturday Thunder Moon portal & lander weapon FX

Another week, another #ScreenshotSaturday! Lots of tuning, mission work and a few new assets were added this week.

Here's a quick clip of the new portal effect in action:

 Here's the screenshots:
The portal fx
A boss encounter
Random shot from later in the encounter

A shader bug that turned magical. Maybe I'll use it for something!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

#screenshotsaturday Thunder Moon pics & notes

Here's a few shots taken during the week of work on Thunder Moon.

Here's a portal that is used in one of the missions.

Here are some neat looking beam effects. The still picture doesn't really do it justice.

This week has been a crazy one with a large amount of time spent going through all the missions, tuning them, making sure mid-mission saves work correctly, and working towards finishing the remaining few missions that are just stubbed out right now. I'm actually on the second to last mission now which is pretty exciting and I hope all these special encounters are fun for people. Of course, if missions & story isn't your thing, there is also Survival mode, which is pretty much the world without the missions to guide the gameplay, and Explore mode, which is an empty world that is designed for non-threatening exploration & construction.

I also spent a fair amount of time troubleshooting some very difficult problems with the low level serialization system. The game is an open world, with the ability for NPCs and other game units to be added and saved in the world, allowing you to return to a spot and have not only the modified world geometry but also any NPCs or special units that may have been placed there. Missions rely on the persistence to set up encounter areas. There were some problems related to units not always being deserialized correctly, which I am glad to have finally fixed and the game is more stable than ever now. I'm a big believer in good systems to build upon, and the efforts put into serialization system have really paid themselves off not only for tracking the world state, but also for all the not so obvious state data required by the inventory, missions, and character stat systems. Perhaps the best part of all is that it works with reasonable performance on the XBox, which has a notoriously slow file system that requires a specialized solution like this in order to avoid major performance problems when storing this much data.

Monday, May 6, 2013

A little AI work

Over the past few days much of my time has been spent improving NPC movement behavior. Here is a video showing a flying NPC that is forced to navigate around some blocks in order to get somewhere it could attack the player.
This video also shows a few problems with the way the character is moving around, which have since been fixed as part of this work. I like to show the buggy stuff sometimes so people can get a sense of the kinds of weird things we have to deal with when making games. It doesn't generally just show up on screen working as we would like it to, usually it's an iterative process as we figure out why our first take on sometime only got us part of the way (hopefully most of the way) there.

This next video shows a bunch of ground NPCs trying to get into melee range of the player. It's a bit of a load test where I just spammed the debug key to spawn a bunch of them. The main thing I was testing was how they behave with some new code that causes them to separate instead of overlapping the same space.

Prior to this change, a swarm like this would pretty much stand right next to the player with so much overlap going on it would look like one giant unbelievably buggy mess.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Screenshot Saturday!

Here's a few pics from the week.

The comm dish appears in a few missions as part of the storyline. Here is a shot where I was testing them to see how many I could draw. Because of the instanced model rendering, it could actually render quite a lot before having any real impact to performance.
Communication Dish
I have to say, I'm pretty happy with the instanced rendering tech in Thunder Moon engine. Being able to author rigid body or skinned models and with any number of bones, shaders and integrated lights and then having the pipeline cook everything so it just appears on screen with environmental lighting and other localized effects is really useful.

Here are some dishes as seen in a mission:

Earlier this week I added colorization features to the renderer. Here's a before & after of the same creature with different tunings:
Xeno Crab, original color

Xeno Crab, alternate color
Check out the previous blog post for a video showing more about the color features.

Here's just a fun shot of trying to get away from a large flyer.
Trying to escape a large flyer

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thunder Moon - NPC Color variations

Here's a quick clip showing a few color variations of one of the NPCs of Thunder Moon. After months of looking at the same characters, it's pretty nice to see some new varieties.