New blog for Grand Fantasy

I’m progressing fairly decently on my new project, which is dubbed Grand Fantasy. I’ve made a new blog (which looks remarkably similar to this blog) and I’ll be making weekly blog posts there. Go here to check it out: http://grandfantasygame.tumblr.com/

Tangent project

The past week I’ve been working on a tangent project. While I’m learning a lot with Antstation, networking code is not one of them. So I’ve been tackling that.

What I’m trying to build is an engine for a turn-based strategy game. This engine should be able to process local and internet plays, as well as support play-by-email and hotseat modes, next to single-player. The graphics are isometric.

I’m just going to work on this project for a while and see where it goes. Once I have something substantial I will definitely post about it. Progress on Antstation will be minimal for a while.

Unfortunately I’m still not able to work a lot on Antstation. I’m not sure whether next week will be better, but afterwards I expect to be able to continue as before.

Due to circumstances at work I made very little progress this week. I hope this improves next week.

Till then, the demo is still available from the post below. I haven’t received much feedback, but it’s still very welcome. Please leave it in the comments of this post (click the post date) or go to indieDB forum.

Here’s a bit of fanart somebody anonymous made for me:

Monkeys cycling, solar power, steering the station and a new demo

I decided to start implementing the different power sources. The power dispenser as is currently in the game is just a placeholder for actual power generators. I plan to implement quite a number of them. Some of them will be staple sci-fi sources, but I started with a more exotic drive.

The monkey-paddle-power-drive (in short, monkeydrive) will be the most mundane source of power in the game. It’ll probably be the most silly one as well. You basically have an army of monkeys cycling their asses off to power your station. The gif belows doesn’t need much explanation.



The monkeydrive is fueled by bananas (no surprise I guess). Monkeys need to sleep and eat. When doing either, they don’t generate power. The gif shows the monkeys eating (for this time in unison, but that’s not necessarily so). The power shuts down while they’re eating.



Finally, if the monkeys go sufficiently long without eating they’ll start rampaging. A rampaging monkey will throw whatever object it can find towards an ant or otherwise towards a larger object. They’ll keep doing this till they’re fed. Below you can see an army of rampaging monkeys. I probably need to tone down their rate of destruction.



The next power source, and the last one for this week, is solar power. The game features solar panels which capture the sunlight. Pretty straightforward. However, to facilitate this, there’s now the concept of ‘station location’. The games features six solar exposure directions (e.g. North, East, Zenith, etc). You move the station in that direction such that the solar panels pointed in that direction provide power (as long as they have a clear way towards the edge of the game map in their pointed direction).

In order to move your station to a certain location, you need a helm console and a soldier ant with the command job to operate it. I might add propulsion later, but for now the station magically moves.

The gif below shows the whole progress. The soldier ant moves to the command station after I insert a new station destination. The background moves to indicate the station is traveling. Once it arrives at the location (with southern solar exposure) I shut down the power dispensers and hook up the solar panels, which can now provide power, since they have both the right station location and a clear way towards the southern edge on the map.



I took the opportunity to implement meteor storms how I imagined them. You can now steer your station into a meteor storm the same way you change its location for solar exposure, so the meteor storm can come form six directions. The tricky part is that it will take time to steer out of a meteor storm. So, if shit hits the fan, you won’t immediately be able to stop the meteors from coming.

The gif below shows the station first flying into a northern meteor storm, then relocating to an eastern meteor storm. The lag in the gif is due to ants searching for water where there is none, by the way. It’s taxing the pathfinding a bit.



For the coming week I’ll keep working on different power sources, which will move into the more common scifi area.

Demo

In addition, I managed to prepare a new demo. I didn’t update the playguide, but you can find it still here:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/6vyui3kgkwt2cp2/antstationdemoguide.pdf

There’s two ways of installing
1) Download the rar, no installing necessary. (Includes a basic station save!)
For this you need:
    -The XNA framework redistributable (not necessary if you installed the first demo)
        http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=20914
    -The rar’d installation
        https://www.dropbox.com/s/okb0przvlu0kq3l/AntStation_Demo0161zip.rar
2) Download the installer (also in a rar though). No need to uninstall the previous demo installation.
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/w7yxfw5zo0fa9si/Antstation_Demo0161installer.rar

I couldn’t test the first method myself, but I’m pretty sure it should work. Otherwise, just use the second method.

Here’s how to change the settings if you use the installer (thanks to rsdworker)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1HH2-ajD-s
And here are the two how-to-play videos by rsdworker:
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xz1Jtgn5Vkw
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alIGc841xws

For questions, feedback and other things, go to:
http://www.indiedb.com/games/antstation/forum

I’ll be interested whether the first installation method works. Let me know! (Also let me know whether you installed previous week’s demo or used the redistributable).

Spawning objects and manufacturing mechanics

First big progress post in a month! The past week was very productive. I started with fixing feedback from the demo, and then rolled on to new features. I don’t promise anything, but I will try to release another build next week.

I implemented two new ways of spawning items, based on feedback from the demo. First of all, you can now drag a rectangular area of an item. This is especially handy for large areas such as floors. You can drag it across Z-levels as well to make a cube area. In addition, you can make a ‘hollow rectangle’, which is especially handy for walls. Again, you can drag it across Z-levels to make it a hollow cube. Which is, in the case of walls, automatically airtight. Besides walls and floors, I noticed I use them a lot for cables as well. And they work for every spawn mechanic in the game, so not only for every object, but also for assigning rooms and areas.

This gif shows only 2D spawning.



And here you see the basic 3D spawning.



Afterwards I devoted this week to the manufactury system. This entails the production of goods by ants. It’s small in scope, but the basics are done. The rest will be variations on these mechanics.

Earlier I covered the catching of meteors. These meteors contain ore (iron ore, copper ore, etc). Ants with the manufactury job mine this ore from meteors using a ‘cutter’ (not scientifically accurate tool). Meteors devoid of ore are removed. The gif below shows the mining process.



The next step is refining the ore to a bar of the material. This is done in an ore refiner by a manufactury ant. You throw ore in, manufactury ant operates machine, bar pops out. This gif below shows this process for copper and iron ore.



Finally, these bars are processed into complete fabricates. The current processes are:
Iron Bar —> Steel sheet press —> Steel sheet
Copper Bar —> Cable spinner —> Cable coils
Glass Bar —> Glass sheet forge —> Glass sheet
I’m aware the processes are not very accurate, but it works and the rest is tweaking or reflavoring. The gifs below shows all thee processes mentioned above.





I also made a small tweak to the settings.txt file. You can now enter the dimensions of the map yourself. No limit, so don’t be surprised if the game runs out of memory if you enter large dimensions. The default is 50 wide by 50 heigh by 20 deep.

Finally, I want to mention that all new art is by myself, trying to copy the earlier heartvine style, so it doesn’t turn out particularly good. It’s also very gray. It will do for placeholders, though.

Next week, I’ll work on implementing, yet to be determined, new features and hopefully finish with releasing a new build. Rsdworker has made some additional videos which I’ll add to the post when releasing the new build.

Video - how to build a station

User rsdworker made two videos of building a station in Antstation. Awesome, thanks rsdworker!

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xz1Jtgn5Vkw
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alIGc841xws

He builds a fully functional station and it’s basically a how-to guide of building a station.
There’s a few things in the video which I failed to explain in my guide
-To activate a powerdispenser, click it again while in spawnmode powerdispenser
-Utility going in the Zenith or Nadir (across Z-levels) directions, needs to go via walls
-There’s no atmospherics mapmode, so you can right-click a tile, and then click the gass to view the spread of the gas across the station

In addition to how the station is build in the video, it’s recommendable to build a layer of wall both above and below your station to prevent the leakage of precious atmosphere.

I also see plenty of bugs (including the wall heater not going on, but rsdworker manages to work around that). So expect that kind of thing while playing.

First Antstation demo

The first demo for Antstation.  It’s not much of a game yet, but it’s more than a tech demo now. I spent the past week polishing, and it’s much more playable now.

The installer is the default one, which doesn’t let you choose a path. I’ll look into that for the next release.

Questions welcome on the indieDB Antstation forum! I imagine there to be plenty. Please go to:
http://www.indiedb.com/games/antstation/forum

Any feedback or issues can be left on the forum as well.

Download the play guide from the url below:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/6vyui3kgkwt2cp2/antstationdemoguide.pdf

Download the demo from here:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/ysxy9piuttvq4lr/Antstation_Demo0147.rar

Polishing the game for a demo

I’m back from holiday. I’m not really in the rhythm yet of making a lot of progress, though.

The past week I’ve been doing polishing and other preparation work in order to put out an early alpha demo. Especially the user interface needed some work. The system was already in place, but I didn’t bother to implement it, mostly due to laziness and my own tolerance of working with a clunky UI. It wasn’t acceptable for a demo though, so I’m fixing that.

In addition, I might need a small starting level. This would make it easier to actually get started on your station. Since it’s tricky to get an airtight, powered and atmospheric station. Though, technically, a player could just build it himself. Especially with the right instructions. Which brings me to the next point.

I need to write some play guide. This will probably be a long png to get the players started. Later it would probably be a good idea to do an instruction video. (Or have a player do it). Ultimately, the game might need a wiki. But, for now, a png should do the trick.

So, when I finish these points, I’ll be putting out a demo. And then continue adding features. My intention is to present the demo next week.

The core gameplay of Antstation

Here’s the promised extra post, where I ramble about my plans with Antstation. The images are fanart, some of it older, when ants looked like little stickmen.

With Antstation I’ve got a fairly clear idea of the features I want it to ultimately include. While the overview below is not comprehensive, I wanted to give an overview what the player will be dealing with to keep the game interesting. There’ll be more features, and many features I mention I only describe briefly because I might not be clear on the details just yet. Nonetheless, what I’m describing here will serve to function as the core gameplay of the final game.

In general I’m afraid of the temptation of feature bloat, so I’m quite dedicated to implement the core elements first. For example, I would like there to be a bar where a barman ant serves drinks to other ants, which will hang around and socialize. But that’s something for near the end of the process, implemented after everything mentioned below. I recognize it’s stuff which will make the game appealing, but Antstation will feel pointless without the core. So, for now, ants will just have to satisfy themselves with drinking fountains.



Antstation will keep the player busy with four primary activities:
-Building your station
-Managing your ants
-Dealing with threats
-Conducting research

»Building your station«

I think the activity of building your station is fairly quickly really fulfilling for the player. You have a lot of freedom how to design it, and most designs will be viable. Since there’s a lot going on at the station, putting thought in your design will keep you busy and can really pay off.

Additionally, you’ll need to manage the maintenance of your station. Since specific parts of the station will cease to function and ultimately disintegrate over time, you want to have construction workers to maintain what you’ve build.



»Managing your ants«

Managing your ants involves the following:
-Fulfilling their needs
-Managing their reproduction
-Managing their productive activities

I’ve already touched on their productive activities with station maintenance. But worker ants will also need to mine resources, manufacture goods, grow foodstuff and process those for consumption (and some ants will only be hauling stuff from A to B all day). This will involve extensive production chains, which could go awry when one link breaks.

Soldier ants and thinker ants have their own activities, but they’re more ‘support’ with tasks such as station defense, policing, research and medical care. The worker ants will perform the core of the production activities.

These production activities ultimately serve two purposes:
-Expanding your station with resources
-Fulfilling the need of your ants

Fulfilling ants’ needs is not only to ensure their survival, but to keep them from turning anarchic as well. This is touching on the ‘threats’ area, but one which comes from the inside. Anarchic ants will purposely destroy and deconstruct stuff or refuse to do their work. You can train policing soldier-caste ants to deal with them.

Managing their reproduction involves both managing the offspring and the queens producing the offspring. The player does this partially to expand the station, partially because ants will be unhappy if too many of the young die (again going towards anarchic ants).



»Dealing with threats«

Then there’s the dealing with threats. Besides the mentioned ants turning anarchic, this will involve the obvious dealing with invaders. They’ll board your station by shooting shuttles into it (so strong walls can help) and you fend them off by having well trained soldier-caste ants.

But, you’ll need to steer the station into meteor storms in order to acquire mineable meteors. Any power failure due to lack of maintenance or anarchic ants could turn into disaster when meteors start punching holes in your hull.



»Conducting research«

Finally, there’s conducting research. This will primarily be an indulgence for the player, what you’ll do once you got the basics up and running. The idea is that it opens up new gameplay options for the player. For example, I could imagine that players will initially just have stairs for Z-level transportation, but later they’ll be able to add tube lifts and finally teleporters.

But, ongoing research should both be able to go awry and pose a threat to your station. When the geneticists try cloning monkeys for your monkey-banana drive, you might end up with an hostile army of angry primates. Or a scientist forgets he carries a very contagious disease in a vial which accidentally breaks in the station cafeteria. I’m not clear yet on the details, but this is the kind of stuff which should happen if the player is not careful.

I hope this hints in the direction of the gameplay once the game is finished. Each of these activities should keep the player busy, and each of these activities has their own catch. A player will be rewarded with a increasingly large and productive station, if he manages to introduce order while the game introduces chaos. And when your station falls apart in an unexpected way, I expect the most memorable moments.

I’ll not be posting progress for a while till I’m back, but still feel free to ask any question! I’ll try to reply as quick as possible. You can get to the comments section by clicking on the post date, or push the ‘ask question’ button on the top left of this page.