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With Fire and Axe

With Fire and Axe

By on Aug 4, 2015 | 1 comment

As promised I’ll try to keep a more regular posting schedule, with a goal of at least once post a month, and maybe more  depending on progress. As I mentioned last time, the objective on the roadmap is currently to get all the different modules of the engine up and running. In the past month, I started by taking care of the user interface for spells, which led to refactoring the spells system, and as spells cast had to look the part, it led to fixing the old particleSystem component I had, and then as a ball of flame which doesn’t illuminate the surroundings looks kind of awkward, I had to code in a light component.  Of course, casting spells in the void is boring, so I had to essentially get all the combat & AI engine up and running together with the rest of the engine to be able to set some enemies on fire. Finally, fighting without risk isn’t going to make a fun challenge, so I also put in the basic framework that handles conditions that can befall champions such as, you know, death. The result of all this can be seen in this short gameplay video, and then you’re welcome to read on for a few additional details: Let’s make some magic! Aaaah, spellcasting. One of the backbones of any decent RPG. You can read more about the magic system in the old Magic in DarkDale (Part 1) and Magic in DarkDale (Part 2) posts, and although the UI has changed since, the basic game design principles are still the same. This month I focused on getting spells to function right, and it started with a UI redesign, which went through many iterations. Part of the problem is that spells are separated by magic schools and then by rank (Apprentice, Expert, Master…), which led me to initially design a kind of two-dimensional interface which had tabs for magic schools and tabs for ranks. But then spells could belong to more than one school simultaneously (what in-game lore calls “high” magic), which added a third dimension and things were getting out of control. So I backed down to a much more immediate and cleaner interface where there...

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Back on track!

Back on track!

By on Jun 26, 2015 | 5 comments

Hello everybody! It’s been a long time, as I haven’t posted in about 8 months, but don’t worry, DarkDale is not dead, quite the opposite. The winter months have been really busy for me and I couldn’t unfortunately dedicate much serious time to game development between January and April. With May came the end of the school year and I could finally get back working on the project, which has been steadily advancing in the last two months. This break led me however to think some more about the projected timeline and how I was planning to get the game done. First of all, I’m realizing that despite all good will, I won’t be able to do it all alone, or at least not in a decent amount of time. As I don’t want to release the game 3-4 years from now, I will most certainly need some help in the asset creation department, essentially for models (environments or items), creature animations and character portraits. This means some expenses, which naturally leads to the idea of crowdfunding, something I was planning for anyway : but instead of simply trying to cover some of my own expenses, the campaign will try to raise enough to purchase assets and hire some freelancers. Before committing to a Kickstarter campaign and the ensuing challenges and deadlines, I want however to advance further in the development of the game, as to be able to assess precisely my needs, what I can do myself and what needs to be contracted. So, what’s the new plan then? First, I’ll finish the game engine in its basic state over the next 3-4 months, which essentially means to have a completely playable experience, even if it’s only 1 level. Most of the major elements are already in place, and meeting this target shouldn’t be a problem. Of course, as development goes on, I’ll keep adding more components and functionalities, but these will be easy to implement on top of the existing framework. Then, over the course of the school year, I’ll work on writing, quest and level design prototypes, so as to have a good general skeleton of the game by the spring. Run a Kickstarter campaign somewhere in...

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Legend of Grimrock 2 released!

Legend of Grimrock 2 released!

By on Oct 15, 2014 | 6 comments

Big news today in the dungeon crawler world, as the follow up to Legend of Grimrock hits the numeric shelves… News from development have been very encouraging and I cannot wait to play the game, as should anyone into the genre! Obviously, DarkDale is far from ready, so while you wait for our game to be developed, you should join in the Grimrock fest. As for DarkDale, I haven’t posted in a while as life has been busy and I couldn’t devote as much time as I wish to the project these last 2 months. The game is progressing at a good pace however and many many details are fixed as it moves along. Here’s what is new since June: New GUI framework Since August, Unity has released a beta of its 4.6 version, which finally brings developers the long-due new GUI system. The new framework is so much better than the previous solutions, both in terms of ease of use and performance, that making the switch was an obvious decision, as the shipping date for the game is still far away. While redoing the GUI, I’m refactoring the UI systems of the game, basically rewriting them from scratch, in order to make them more performant and adaptable/extendable. Before, making even the smallest change to the UI, due to a change in design or after playtesting, was long and complicated, which is obviously not a good thing for a department which will still have many iterations until release. The GUI rewrite is still in process, but I hope to finish that work soon. Along the way, there were some changes to the layout, the major one being the addition of a permanent console at the bottom of the screen. Although this reduces the viewport area a bit, compared to Legend of Grimrock which is full screen, the additional reliance of the game on text to convey mood, gameplay info about combat or other encounters, and pc/npc dialogue, made it the best solution. It also guarantees a widescreen ratio for the game view, which will make it easier to adapt the game to 4:3 resolutions. You can see the new layout in the window below. Human enemies and combat Is...

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Developer Update #6

Developer Update #6

By on Jul 8, 2014 | 4 comments

Hello dear followers of the DarkDale project… It’s been two months since the last post, but don’t worry, these two months have been really productive! If I didn’t post earlier, it is because I wanted to get a fun gameplay video to show the progress made. So, check out the video… and read the news! Let’s save the day! First thing’s first, I’ve finished refactoring the component system to make it more modular. As per the roadmap, this allowed me in turn to implement serialization, or, in more common terms, save and load functions. So yes, you can now save and reload! But more interesting is that the actual saved game is not a simple dump of all the component data, but a Lua script that reconstructs the game state based on the game object definition files and the player’s progress. What’s the difference? Well, this system means that you can update definition files and reload, and the game world will include the update. This will prove invaluable for: Speeding up development where item or monster statistics can be adjusted on the fly for balancing purposes, dialogue typos corrected and visual glitches adjusted with models/textures. Making issuing patches to the game once released compatible with games players already started. Allow for mods to also issue patches/updates without compromising savegames. Of course, not everything in the game will support this hot-reloading, but enough to make it worthwhile and fun to work with. Is that a main menu? Yes! With the rewritten code, the actual “game” and the editor are now separate structures (before, the development build was always running as the “editor”, and playing was made through the editor’s preview function). This was more complex than it sounds to make sure memory was properly cleaned between game sessions. So you can now switch between modes, enter/exit gameplay, save/load, with progress bars… just like a real game! A staircase! Another big development push was getting multi-level environments working. The city was already built in multiple levels, or horizontal slices; however, the party could not travel up or down. This is now fixed by the addition of stairs, as well as all the code to manage them. How does it work? Every level has...

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Developer’s Update #5

Developer’s Update #5

By on May 9, 2014 | 2 comments

It’s been a month since last post, so I guess it’s time for some news on how work is progressing. If I haven’t posted much info lately, it’s because I have been rewriting and refactoring an important part of the codebase, and while that’s very important work for the continuation of the project, there’s not much to show unfortunately. But here’s a quick summary of why this is happening, for those readers who are interested in the more technical problems of game development behind the scenes. Refactor This Of course, getting back to programming DarkDale after a few months spent on the One Room Round Robin 2 mod for Legend of Grimrock, I was bound to find incoherencies here and there in the code, and clean things up a bit. But what’s going on is actually a bit more major. It all started when I sat down to consider how to implement saving and loading, or in programming terminology, “serialization”. In the case of DarkDale, it meant not only implementing save and load functions for the player, but also internally, as the game world will be divided in “scenes” that can be modularly constructed and added/removed. A modder for example could build a dark tower “scene”, sort of a self-contained dungeon, and just plug it in on top of the regular campaign. This modular approach will also give great flexibility to the development of the game itself. Not all scenes will be loaded at the same time however, so the engine must be able to instantly save/load scene states, for example when you exit a city scene and move onwards to the wilderness adjacent scene. Thinking about how to save data meant thinking about how the data is structured. Then, reading a bit more on the subject of data management in Entity-Component-System (ECS) frameworks, I realized… that my implementation was not ideal, and it was Unity3D’s fault. How? Well, Unity itself has a system which revolves around game objects to which are attached components which add functionality. But these components are not pure data objects, but somehow hybrid structures incorporating data and logic. While there’s not “right” or “wrong” way to things, certain are less flexible than others… I worked on...

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Grimrock mod released!

Grimrock mod released!

By on Apr 4, 2014 | 1 comment

Hello dear readers! If I haven’t posted lately on the DarkDale blog, it is because I was busy completing another project, which finally came to an end and was released this Monday. If you remember, the idea of developing a new role-playing game started out of my implication in the modding community for Legend of Grimrock. Well, I undertook a year ago to lead a massive modding project which ended up involving twenty-two modders in what is probably one of the biggest and most complex dungeons released for the engine. The Rooms Go Round and Round The basic premise of the One Room Round Robin 2, which is the sequel to the first mod of the same name, is that everyone had to create an original room/puzzle in a limited space, which was a maximum of 9×9 tiles, on three floors. Limitations fuel creativity, and everyone came up with fantastic ideas. But I wanted this to feel like a coherent experience beyond a collection of individual elements, and went on designing and building a complex dungeon superstructure to glue all of this together. Wow, what a job it is to manage a team of 22, from getting everyone’s submission in reasonable delays, to merging everything together, adding all the scripts to manage the players’ progression through the dungeon, and overseeing the testing team, which started its work in December and went through 3 betas and 4 release candidates. Of course, I had a lot of help and support from wonderful people who allowed me to get it through to the end. Yes, this has forced me to postpone DarkDale development for about two-three months, but I couldn’t back up on what I engaged myself to complete and let everyone down, nor could I wrap it up half-baked in a hurry under the pretext that it was “just a mod”. It is a project I am proud to have led, and I urge all rpg/dungeon crawler fans in the room to rush and download it right away, I promise you won’t be disappointed. Besides, I acquired a lot of experience about game development that I promise will be put to good use on DarkDale. To read all about the project,...

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