At around 1 AM, with a solid two hours to go before the jam deadline, I uploaded and published Dryad, my 3rd Ludum Dare entry.
It's a platformer about a forest creature wishing to become human, and, uh, killing a whole bunch of humans in the process. As you become more human, your magical powers wane, and you become slower, weaker, less perceptive, making each successive level harder. You can choose the order in which you lose your powers, and some orders are easier than others.
Alongside small flying units like planes and air hussars, I originally planned to add small ground troops capable of directly attacking things. It would be the obvious final recombination: there are flying units that directly shoot targets (planes), flying units that board targets (air dragoons), and ground units that board targets (marines). But there are no land troops that shoot targets.
During development of dev 9.2, I realised that there were major obstacles to making ground troops work, which is why I dropped them. Here is why:
After a record number of beta iterations, Airships v9.2 is out! It introduces small flying units and troops:
The giant bee is a prime example of the influence that Suspendium can have on nature. Most bees are small, fairly harmless animals, but this particular species has learned how to incorporate Suspendium in its shell. As a result, these creatures can grow to massive size.
A bestiary entry about giant bees.
Their floating hives appear seemingly overnight. A floating bronze capsule with a giant mainspring in its centre. Man-sized mechanical wasps issue forth from it, harassing people and livestock, dismantling machinery where they find it. Each wasp is its own intricate clockwork held aloft by suspendium, powered by a spring that takes up most of its central body. Even so, the wasps have to frequently return to their hive to be re-wound by the mainspring, or they risk becoming sluggish and eventually inert.
A bestiary entry about clockwork wasps.
Apart from improving boarders, Airships 9.2 also adds flying troops. This dev blog entry is about about the details of their code.
In Annulus, you guide a stone-age tribe living on a ring-shaped space station. Apart from hunting and gathering, there are strange technological artefacts to study, and on occasion, there's an opportunity to shape the culture of your tribe.
The next version of Airships will focus on improvements to troops. In this post, I'm going to write about the performance and pathfinding problems that large numbers of boarding troops face, and how they have been resolved for the next version.
I live in Zurich with my partner and two cats. My main current project is Airships: Conquer the Skies, a Steampunk shipbuilding RTS. I also do smaller prototypes and games on occasion, as well as maintaining Selenium Builder, participating in Open Data work, and doing freelance software development.
If you're looking for game development advice or feedback, I'm happy to help.
My free time is largely spent playing board and computer games and cuddling the aforementioned partner and cats. I also organize game development meetups, do talks, fiddle with various art styles, and write about stuff. I have a morbid fascination with all the bits of history that get left out in school. I'd like to believe that rationality and kindness are not opposed.
Airships now includes instructions on how to set up your own multiplayer server. Here's why this matters:
I was recently thinking about just how satisfying fancy-looking progress bars in games are. When you've got a nice, swirly XP bar, and it fills up, and you gain a level, that feels viscerally great. Meanwhile, progress bars on the web tend to be minimalist. So I decided to make some decidedly fancy progress bars using CSS.
When you're creating a new ship design, it's nice to be able to work quickly. Having to scroll through the list of modules is pretty tedious, which is why Airships has long had search for modules. In version 9.1, I've improved the search system, allowing you to get the exact module you want with very few keystrokes.
A quick pixel piece from this photo reference.
I've been thinking about the different kinds of grids of tiles and blocks used in games, which come in a variety of scales and shapes.
The HMS Sojourner was an experimental airship from some years back. A huge Suspendium crystal had been found in a deep mine, and the kingdom's best scientists had examined it and found it to be flawless. A crystal of this size, powered up, could lift a ship to unprecedented heights.
The Sojourner was built around the crystal, carefully cradling it in a giant frame of shock absorbers. Huge boilers and generators provided the power to energise the crystal. A team of experienced engineers tended to the engines. The captain was a steadfast veteran.
I realised that I was sick of futzing around with Google Slides for simple presentations, so I made a plain text to HTML slides compiler. There are many like it, but this is mine. I called it Talkify.
I like writing about bugs in Airships. I don't want to present myself as some infallible rock-star Indie developer, because I'm anything but. Airships is a game for builders and tinkerers, and I have seen again and again that you like reading about its creation, warts and all.
So today we delve into The Mystery of HMS Longcat.
A lot of the work I'm putting in for the next version of Airships relates to its interface. Be that improved module search in the editor, or the ability to mod in new map sizes and difficulty levels. One particular improvement that's long overdue is the ability to scale the user interface elements depending on the screen size.
I just bought and played Voyageur, a science fiction story game for mobile. It's one of the games supported through Failbetter's Fundbetter programme, and since I'm mildly obsessed with Sunless Sea, I thought I'd give it a try. I was largely disappointed, though.
I won't bore you with explaining how my own unreleased SF story game would be totally superior. You've read it here before, and comparing a real and finished game with a set of ideas is hardly fair. Instead, let's dig into what makes Voyageur unsatisfying.
I've been ill over the last few days, probably as an inevitable consequence of doing so many events in January. So I've been playing a fair amount of Sunless Sea, a great game if you're ill, because it's quite soothing in a "dark sea filled with monsters" kind of way.
And as always when I play Sunless Sea, my thoughts turn back to Space Exploration: Serpens Sector, my old game project that got backburnered hard when Airships: Conquer the Skies took off. The two games are in the same "go from port to port in your ship and do stuff" genre, after all.
You are in a spaceport, and your Mars rocket is ready to board.
This game is dedicated to Elon Musk, who very much wants to go to Mars, but won't stand up for people just trying to get home.
This is an in-depth tutorial for newcomers to modding. We are going to make a simple mod that adds a new kind of enemy to spawn in strategic mode, a peasant uprising. You need no graphical skills for this one.
As the rather stuffy writer of the Bestiary states, "Pirates have their own crude tradition of flags and symbols." This is true in the real world as well, though I actually think that pirate flags are a rather fascinating topic. And given just how blood-drenched some real-world lords and knights were, I'd accord their heraldry the same amount of respect as I would a pirate flag. That is no actual respect at all, just a healthy dose of terror.
I've been devouring Geek Sublime by Vikram Chandra, which I was given as a Christmas present. The book ties together foundations of computer science, Sanskrit, and the writer's own life experiences. It does not stay up in the clouds creating clever equivalences and brain porn moments but also examines the relationship between the powerful and the powerless, the remembered and the forgotten.
And so Sanskrit is a beautiful language with a rich legacy, but it's also a tedious rote subject inflicted on countless students in the name of shoring up social ideas of purity and hierarchy. Code is amazing, but much of it is promulgated by strutting jerks who see themselves as the new masters of the universe.
One thing the book mentions that I particularly like is the Indian aesthetic theory of rasas. Originally formulated in the context of theatre about two millennia ago, the idea is applicable to all forms of art and literature.
Why do I like it so much? Because it describes a precise mechanism by which art and literature actually work.
2016 was a perfectly decent year for me, my friends and family, and you already know the ways in which it was awful.
So let's skip the summarizing and let us cast our eyes to 2017.