Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Hitting The Ground Running


Was so absorbed with the schedule, emails, tasks and delegation on Tuesday I completely forgot about blogging. I am here to rectify that a little and list out the stuff we have done in the last two days.

Changing the grass in Test Level is now instant, and no longer takes an absolute age. Added a MEDIUM technique to the entities to allow cheaper shadows along with the flash light effect. We extended the grass drawing range and made the grass fade out better so no more grass popping out of nowhere. The superflat terrain flag now handles the cheap shadow system properly allowing this method to be used for levels where terrain is not needed. It remains to be seen if we promote this feature to a slider/tickbox or keep it hidden in the SETUP.INI. The aspect ratio is now respected no matter what resolution you are running when in edit mode, which means perfectly circular cursors and scopes on rifles :)  Fixed the issue of collectible weapons in standalone games not showing the guns when collected.  The download system can now determine if an entity has been updated by the artist, and trigger the update to download automatically. Just log in each day, click download and if your purchased items have an improvement, they will be downloaded automatically.  Added better interaction between water and entities so they bob about on the surface or sink to the bottom, no more jiggling about erratically. Added F10 reminder on the start-up prompt to show new users how to grab a screen shot from the Test Level session.  The engine can automatically detect if an X file is NEWER than the DBO that represents it, and if so, replace it with a new one. This ensures the best performance via DBO and no further need to keep deleting DBO files after each update.  Save standalone now remembers all settings in the root SETUP.INI allowing your executables to be exported just how you want them, no more manual editing each time.  Skies, terrain and vegetation grasses lists now update each time you run Test Level which means you can buy a sky or grass choice, download it and then run the level immediately to try out your new item without needing to reset the software.

I also did half an hour looking into why the old DBP Free Version suddenly stopped allowing activation, which turned out to be a decent PHP version upgrade which messed up the security at our end. Paul came to the rescue and solved it in short order.  New DBP users are happy once more!

Had a meeting today and refined the final list for the next version even further. We have isolated the most important features that the engine sorely needs and are working hard to get them working quickly. To give you a hint, it involves heavy coding of the AI, scripting, Windows 7/8 compatibility and a myriad of tiny yet essential tweaks to make the editing and playing of games enjoyable.  Now we have a good upload system and a Game Creator Store administrator in place, expect to see items appear on the store in the coming weeks so don't be afraid to click the FPSCREATOR button in the bottom left of the IDE and visit our digital shop front, and keep an eye out for the free stuff!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

The Last Dev Day Before Easter


The final day of development before the long awaited Easter holiday weekend (well not really long awaited, I only found out about it two days ago). Basically means the team will disperse for a few days after today so I am looking to spend less time on blitzing features and more time ensuring we have a solid build so when we return all the code makes sense.

Dave surprised me this morning with a rather funny video, and represents his first day working on new scripting commands:

One issue experienced in the current beta is the slow 'top down editor' part which is using the HIGHEST shader settings. The latest one now migrates the shader settings, and I have just fixed the 'cheap shadow' system so it works in this editor too. Took a few hours, and I still need to increase the texture quality, but it works and any shadow will create a sense of depth which is useful for editing. The cool thing is that because I am now using LOWEST settings, the editor feels much faster, especially when lots of animations and things are placed down in close proximity.

Spent the rest of the battling with the combination of LOWEST settings in the editor, cheap shadows and SUPERFLATMODE=1 which produced a number of very irritating results. Ran out of time to find the cause, but have made a note and will resume the battle in the near future.

New internal build sent to Rick for testing, SVN cleaned up and the team wrapping up their respective offices. Been a good few weeks development and I am looking forward to a chill now, and even more cool development on my return.  I will be sure to pop in from time to time on the forums however to see what's happening with the continuing saga of BETA 1.006.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Plenty V1 Tweaks Tweaked


A good day today with plenty small fixes made which just polish the edges and make the software feel a little more compact and friendly.  As this is a quick blog I will just reel off the stuff I did which includes a new superflat mode of 2 which will completely remove the terrain from the engine (entirely) so you can import your own ground or other floor surface. Added in some static floor entities and it worked a treat (and gave a monster speed up). Improved FPS Warning so it only strikes once the game loop is well established. Deleting zone entities in zoomed mode no longer leaves area zone marker in map. FPSCR will now only accept and load levels created exclusively in Reloaded, and will produce a warning for Classic FPM files. Flash light now works for LOWEST and MEDIUM shader techniques, and I have added a new MEDIUM shader technique for entities to allow a cheap flash light and a real flash light effect to be chosen. Amazingly, FALLOUT3 only used a proximity flash light rather than conical one!  Ambient settings no longer lost when loading, saving and creating new terrains. When setting low shader techniques in test game, this choice is carried back to the editor so you can have faster editing experience (though it does not look as good from high up).

On top of this, usual forum checking and delegating and testing tasks for Dave and Simon which are making good progress in their own right. Dave just fixed the download system so it now uses a cool check-sum feature to ensure the download is 100% successful and also allows us to detect when an entity has been modified by the original artist and the software automatically updates it for you. Simon has solved the floating grass issues and made some performance improvements which he was in there :)

Thursday is the last official work day in the UK, so our combined plan is to crack on with our list of super-A critical items and giving us enough time to check in and test what we have before the Easter break.  We've all worked like crazy people these last weeks and the break will do everyone some good, recharge those batteries and come back stronger (at which point we have to remember what exactly it was we we're coding) ;)

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

BETA Launch Day


After many weeks tweaking and testing, we released the new 1.006 beta onto the unsuspecting public, and the feedback so far is very good. We did a good job testing for stability and the performance improvements are experienced by almost everyone. Those still on HIGHEST settings will see the smallest benefit as we focused on LOWEST for the lower end systems.

Here is a shot of something I was messing with, getting the sky, fog and land color tint to match to create a different feel and style even though it's just plane old LUSH style.

I was planning dive straight into the remaining features of the software, but it was brought to my attention that a better strategy was to stick around the forums and assist in the early feedback of the BETA and help out where I can. I have decided this is a good policy and will continue this until Thursday PM. Friday through Monday is a bank holiday here in the UK, which means my team downs tools and runs for the hills for a much needed recharge.  I also plan to see a few castles over the brief holiday, but will be back every evening to play FALLOUT3 and a few other games I have to catch up with, and of course checking into the forums and maybe doing some more tweaks.

All in all, the teams dedication to focusing on core issues and then PLENTY of testing has produced a solid version which I am happy to release today, and if we spend the next six weeks with the same laser sharp attitude to completing this product in a timely fashion, we'll be in a great place to then add all the cool features you have been voting for on the Vote Board.  Once again thanks to all our pledgers for making this software possible, and we hope you've enjoyed the journey so far.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Almost Last Day Of Testing


I get the impression that the version we are testing is also the version the 'everyone else' will be getting and I must say it's holding up to tests. Over 50 sequential clicks at Test Game button without crashing, no memory issues, faster performance across the board, many small tweak conveniently squashed, and who know what other small benefits. I think our trio did quite well this last few weeks, and a good formula for the future.  

I 'could' list all the small tweaks, but as half of them where fixes for things that formerly worked, it's not going to make much sense as an isolated list.  I can report general improvements across the board, and certainly some improvements in performance when you set the shaders to LOWEST. 

I am most pleased with the stability and memory activity of the software however, which allows extremely prolonged sessions without worrying about memory fragmentation. Of course, plenty of more opportunities for optimization but as far as final builds go, I think this one is pretty special. The internal and core teams will be testing this for some of Tuesday AM and with a little luck we can release to the whole pledged world very soon after that. Wish I could provide some nice screenshots for you, but truth be told, the community are producing some awesome shots already I dare not attempt to challenge their authority in this matter.  

Beyond the beta release, we make our plans to improve the next 'most needed' feature which is scripting and AI. We have a little of both right now, but we want to inject super-powers into both systems and get the game play as stellar as possible for FPSC Reloaded. In additional to the myriad of minor tweaks and fixes, our big feature for the next release will be A.I so place your characters in your levels now in anticipation of the hideously smart intelligence we will bestow on them in the next major release. 

The whole team are pretty buzzed with the current beta and we hope you enjoy it too. If you have any comments on the version, you know where to post it.  Until the next blog post, enjoy!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Thank Almighty Bob It's Friday


Another good day, filled with a notable success. Not only have more fine tweaks gone in, but the best news of the day is that we managed to locate and plug a 40MB leak, which happened each time you click TEST GAME.  It basically means your editing sessions got substantially longer!

As the monsters lurking inside the engine begin to get thinned out, we start to catch a glimpse of the game creator we all want.  I am now assigning the whole team the challenge of locating and eradicating any remaining memory leaks over a double of Kb.  Anything smaller will not harm you, but we will eventually get to them all, so we are focusing on the ones that cause your system memory to run out.

The internal plan is to release something next week, but this is not confirmed and it all depends on the results of the larger internal test we are conducting on the new version.  We realize you have been very patient, and so we want to give you something worthwhile (and hopefully worth the wait).

My trilogy of coders are getting 'very' familiar with the whole engine, from the IDE, the DBP code through to the C++ modules that make it fast. We're almost at the point where anyone can jump in and code any part, which makes for a devastating core team on Reloaded.  I am personally looking forward to the post BETA development when we get to have fun with LUA and AI, but focus will remain on this version and the mission is to ensure it's a solid and reliable version you can continue to create your levels with while we work on the logic side of things for you.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Thursday Triumphs


Another good day so far of testing and tweaking, mostly playing detective with some rogue memory leaks. The biggest and best news from me is that I managed to reduce the start-up system memory usage by 190MB bringing it down to just 430MB with full terrain system.  We also made some good strides on the store and also some key crash fixes which we found during extensive testing.  Cannot do a big blog as I need to get right back in it. I am currently stepping through the test game in/out process to find out why it can leak anything from 500Kb to 65MB after a single test game session.  This work has already yielded a fix which prevents anything greater than 4MB from being allocated during the test game set-up (at least the DIM stuff), and is just a case of tracking as much of this stuff as possible in the time remaining. All in all, progress goes well!