Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Thunder Moon Crafting simpified in the coming update

I simplified the crafting interface in Thunder Moon based on feedback from testers & players. There are now just 4 item filters to flip through: Equipment, Supplies, Buildable and Terrain Blocks. Previously there were 9 (!) filters, and objects could appear in multiple sections based on meeting the filtering criteria. It was just too confusing, and too much to take in. This should help a lot with finding what you are looking for amongst the hundreds of items you can create in this game.

Items will appear in only one section, unless it's Buildable then it will show there also. The Custom filter used by "Find Related" feature is still there and behaves the same.

The Equipment filter is for things you wear or activate. Items that do things.

The Supplies filter is for all those items that are only used as crafting components. These items are not equippable or activatable.

The Buildable filter shows only those items you can build right now.

Previously, there were filters for each equipment slot (Held, Worn, Aux), and one for items that were activatable or had some passive effect (such as a heal kit, or persistent shield buff). These are all consolidated into the Equipment filter. There was also a filter for "Partially buildable" (meaning you had some of the parts required to build) which was redundant because the items already indicate if they are partially buildable by being yellow instead of red background.

In all, I am pretty happy with this change. The original crafting UI didn't turn out as user friendly as I wanted and this is a good improvement.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thunder Moon Multiplayer Update & new box cover art.

Over the past several weeks I've been working through the very difficult task of rewriting the way game units are saved to make it work properly with multiplayer. As a bonus, I expect this will fix the sporadic bugs people have reported about certain mission-critical NPCs not being where they should be for missions later in the game.

One big challenge was to make NPCs work in a way that didn't kill performance on the host while properly tracking all the units that might be around each player, where each player could be at very different parts of the world. When the old system was used with the new multiplayer games, there were lots of problems that never happened in single-player games. Unit duplication, lost units, misplaced units.. these are all problems the old system wasn't able to deal with and these should all be fixed with the rewrite. There were actually a whole host of difficult problems that had to be solved to make this work, but after a lot of head banging and keyboard pounding I wound up with something that I think does the trick pretty well.

The new multiplayer-friendly unit management system is all up and running and so far it seems to be working. This is the last major barrier I know of for getting this next update out, and it's the reason why it's taken longer than I expected. I still have a lot of testing of the new system and some UI stuff to deal with but seeing this new unit manager work for the first time is a big relief. It was a really complicated solution! Often that's a sign of bad planning or sometimes just me trying to do something "the cool way", but sometimes a complicated solution is the only way to solve a complicated problem.

I'll be continuing the push hard to get this out as soon as it is safely possible. I never want to publish buggy code and since there were a lot of low level changes since the last update this will have to get a lot of testing. Hoping it goes well!

While working on the multiplayer has been a priority, I did take some time to update the box cover art. I hope you like it.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Thunder Moon multiplayer dev update

Wow, it's already been a month and a half since the last blog post on this. Time for an update!

Multiplayer has been coming along pretty well! One of the biggest challenges was to get the world map data to sync up and cache efficiently, but after a several weeks of long days that system finally came together and has been behaving properly for a while now. A few days ago the final planned features were wrapped up and now we are testing. As was expected, some bugs and unexpected feature requirements have come up along the way and I've been working through them as fast as I can.

Multiplayer supports both XBox Live and System Link. There is full support for game invites, both friend and party, which I hope you will find makes it very easy to bring your friends into your game. It also supports private slots, so if you want an invite-only game you can just reserve all the slots and others won't be able to join. These can be changed on the fly, too. The number of players the game will support is still up in the air and the final number will be decided on after I do some load testing and optimizing.

In addition to the world state, all of the characters, vehicles, weapons and their corresponding animations are all synchronized over the network. It's pretty neat to see the backpacks animate, or weapon aiming, and all the other animations working across the network the same way they do when playing local. I paid careful attention to the bandwidth for all these things and made sure the code doesn't cause needless latency.

Multiplayer is supported for Survival and Explore modes. It won't be enabled for story mode in this chapter of Thunder Moon because that wouldn't fit the storyline since, as you will know if you have played it, chapter one is all about being stranded by yourself. Chapter two, however, is planned to work with multiplayer as natural progression of the story and I look forward to seeing how that turns out.

I am hoping to be ready for peer review soon. It feels nearly ready, but there are a number of issues that I have to wrap up still so stay tuned for more info.

Thanks for playing!