Saturday, March 7, 2015

Thunder Moon Post Mortem: Early voxel lighting tests

Before there was Enzo (the red robot in Thunder Moon), the animation system, before there was much of anything, I was working mainly on the voxel system to make sure I was going to be able to make a voxel world work on the XBox with XNA. When I started this project in 2011, there weren't yet very many voxel games on XBLIG and none of them seemed to have the features I was hoping to implement so I was pretty optimistic about doing something new & cool.

These screenshots come from when I was working on the multithreaded lighting system. I could click with the mouse and carve tunnels with giant spheres out of the ground and then WASD around to see lighting and triangulation artifacts. Other keys would create or remove various patterns in the voxel world to more easily test problematic situations.

I had a lot of fun just flying around at this point, carving tunnels like a sandworm through the underworld.






Thursday, February 26, 2015

3D fractal fun

I wish I had more screenshots of this phase of development. I was doing a lot of experiments with the fractal terrain generator at this time, and I was still in Squad Miner mode so I was trying to come up with interesting procedural map generators and game rule-sets that would be fun (capture the flag, etc) in these worlds. The world was a limited size at this time, it wasn't until quite a bit later it became (virtually) infinite in all directions. The textures on the voxels were all placeholders, I didn't really have much artwork to work with at the time. The biggest challenge came from the fact that suddenly fractal costs were exponentially more expensive because instead of a 2D height field controlling the world generation, the logic was fully 3D. This meant the CPU costs were literally the same as the 2D mode, except multiplied by each and every vertical row of blocks. This is when I began to realize what a deeply complicated and fascinating problem creating an unlimited voxel world was going to be.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Squad Miner, the dawn of Thunder Moon

Thunder Moon was originally going to be a multiplayer voxel shooter called Squad Miner. At some point, I thought it would be easier to make a single player game since I was always getting reminded by people how hard network game programming is. The thing I forgot was these were usually people who haven't worked on MMO and other multiplayer server tech like myself for much of my game industry career. I probably should have stuck with this plan, because making the game support all the things that story driven content requires turned out to be much, much harder than I expected.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A long overdue update!

Hello!

It's been an interesting year. Last fall, after Thunder Moon Online came out I was gratified to see how many players got it and were having fun. Sales were pretty good by XBLIG standards, but unfortunately after over three years of self-funded low budget game dev, I had to make the tough call and head back to the game industry.

I was very fortunate to land a job in San Francisco with a company making mobile games. They needed someone with my skills, and I was keen to learn about mobile games. A major factor in my decision to come here was the company was very reasonable about my indie game dev life and they were fine with me continuing to spend my free time on my own projects so long as they weren't competing with the company. This is a very fair thing for any employer to ask, and bodes well for the company culture in that they see the benefit of employees working to improve their skills on their own time. Because of this, I am able to keep the business active, keep the games on the market, and do my own thing so long as it doesn't impact work. With that in mind, I took the job, made the long distance move with my family and rebooted life in the heart of San Francisco.

To be perfectly honest, I haven't been able to spend much time on my indie projects this past year. Between work, the long distance move and settling down in an unfamiliar city it's been hard to find much time for anything other than a bit of research here and there. Finally, as I approach my one year anniversary here I have begun to sense a certain routine that I hope means I will be able to find more time for my indie goals.

The renewed spark happened when I was doing the most mundane of things, cleaning up a disk that was a bit full of redundant backups. As I started sorting through the screenshots and videos I began to panic when I realized some videos I had captured hadn't survived a main system crash that had occurred about a month after the last XBLIG update. I still have all my projects and important stuff, no worries there, but I did lose a folder of videos I had accumulated during development. That saddened me a bit, but in my search I found a fair bit of material which I plan to post in the near future a little bit at a time with some comments about the context.

The next thing I did was boot up the Xbox 360 and play Thunder Moon for a while. I was reminded of how satisfying it was to have created all that. I felt the fun, saw the (glaring!) flaws and thought about the future of my free time. Who knows what the future holds! Well.. I do have some ideas :)