April Technical Status Update

It’s April! There is a Technical Status Update. You know the drill.

When last we left the programming team, I think I mentioned that Chris Whitman was working on Animals. Well, we now have Animals. The Common Aurochs wanders the fields and streams alongside its more robust wooly cousin and the occasional family of plump deer.

Shadow Aurochs brood mooily in darker portions of the landscape.

Aurochs and deer travel about in herds, and will look for food. A large part of their behaviour comes from ‘not wanting to move to new areas where there are things that they don’t like, namely humans’; by default, wild aurochs and deer will attempt to avoid humans and civilization. Since animals do ‘Animal Jobs’, or as Mr. Whitman put it, ‘Animal… Jobs?’, we extended this system to provide a preference for, or against, things that your in-game population may like or may not like. For instance, it is possible that a work crew’s overseer does not like aurochs all that much, and therefore will look less favourably on jobs that will put him near the smelly things.

Characters also got the start of rudimentary steering functions. Here we see forty characters aimlessly wandering around without tasks:

Here is a scene consisting of one hundred and fifty characters, moving from place to place, at about twenty frames per second:

I’ve turned on character steering debugging mode, which shows velocities (cyan), paths (green), and collision spheres (green, or red if colliding). Characters forward project their velocities using swept spheres to try and evaluate if there is a collision; if so, they will attempt to move away from things. They also try to maintain good separation from each other in general, similar to standard flocking algorithms. Right now things still need tuning, but characters in general make a pretty good attempt at steering around each other when they are about to collide. I expect I will end up spending more time on it as the game progresses.

It is worth noting that the 150 characters are all fully simulated, and will do things like feed themselves, perform tasks such as tree chopping and building creation, and generally bumble about from place to place. We are far from done optimizing – in particular, character skinning still occurs on the CPU – but this makes me feel pretty good about the game’s eventual performance.

Mr. Whitman has also been busy working on what we should call ‘dependency resolution’ – making characters smart enough to put things in stockpiles if stockpiles exist, putting things not in stockpiles if there are no stockpiles or no full stockpiles, and generally knowing what to do with themselves when they’ve picked up something. Jobs now have requirements blocks, and lists of requirements that they fill; if a character wants to do a job, but has to do another job to fill a requirement of their first job, they will now do so.

We now support Fog of War, like your favourite RTS games:

“We really need you to find that rock.”

Here we see a naturalist attempting to reach a pre-determined exploration point, designated by the small rock in the corner. (We’re using rocks to represent order points as a placeholder.) Orders are a new type of command you can issue to specify that you want somebody to do something at a certain geographical location that is not tied to an object, a building, or a person; examples of orders include “Explore”, “Flatten Terrain”, “Perform Geological Survey” and “Search for Nature”. Quite likely this will expand to include certain types of military operations, and other things.

We also put in some things from Creepy Week… but we’re not ready to show them to you yet.

The rest of the month looks to be occupied with workshops, building, and events. Exciting times! We’ll keep you posted.

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23 Responses to “April Technical Status Update”

  1. SangerZonvolt says:

    Well, it´s finally looking more and more like a game! Good Job. Kinda sad that we´ll have to wait till 2014 for it, but I was expecting it. A game like this needs a lot more work than DoD, escpeacily in the AI department. But I have faith that you manage this.

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  2. Daniel says:

    I’ve got to say I’m concerned about the very abrupt desert.

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    • Xyvik says:

      While I definitely think it will be more aesthetically pleasing to fix such problem, I actually have seen something very similar. I live in the bloody desert and there are places around here where the desert suddenly appears and disappears because of the presence of underground water springs. So that is actually not that far off from what I’ve seen

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  3. Brian says:

    I am looking forward to the PC release, then the 5 month later Mac port, then an election cycle, and finally a port to the online servers needed to run the game at all.

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  4. The biome transitions haven’t received much love from us lately. Don’t worry, they’re far from finished!

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    • Robert Tseng says:

      Biomes? Why, my first job was working with binary load lifters! Similar to your biomes in most respects.

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  5. Ray says:

    I have no idea how you have the funding to accomplish a game like this, but I hope there’s enough in the bank to finish the game! Many RTS games get cancelled, unfortunately, because of the pure amount of work required.

    Idea: Sell the engine you’ve built for this game, like the Unreal Engine, or Unity.

    In any case, I love the progress you all are making. These updates are fantastic.

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    • Bluerps says:

      I think they simply made enough money with Dredmor. That and they are probably funded by one or more Elder Gods.

      (That’s what Elder Gods do, fund video games, right?)

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      • AdminDavid Baumgart says:

        The Canadian government is not unlike an elder god in many respects.

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      • I’ve actually done some talks at local indie meetups about our funding. We are getting financial help from the Canada Media Fund, an awesome government-supervised financing group that is letting us retain full creative control of the project (which is extremely important to us).

        Beyond that, there are some tax breaks for making games in BC but mostly it’s earnings from Dungeons of Dredmor and CMF.

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  6. Kamisma says:

    In the planetary annihilation video logs, they demonstrated their pathfinding technology based on flow fields which was really impressive.
    It looked like a pretty efficient way to handle the tricky issue of movement and pathfinding of bunch of units you don’t want to micromanage individually.

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    • We actually looked at that, but I don’t think we’re likely to pass the volume of units that the system they use starts making a lot of sense. Really cool tech though 🙂

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  7. Scott says:

    In the tradition of Dwarf Fortress, I’m hoping there is only a single save slot per campaign, to get rid of the option of save/reloading if something goes horribly wrong. It adds a whole new level of tension and *fun* when you know you can’t just reload and fix a mistake you made.

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  8. Bluerps says:

    What I love is that, based on what I know about this game, I can’t tell if a Shadow Aurochs is just an Aurochs that has momentarily walked out of the light, or an actual creature that can be hunted and butchered to make Very Nutritional and Perfectly Safe Shadow Steaks that have never been proven to drive anyone mad.

    (I do suspect it’s the former, but I’m not entirely sure)

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  9. Bropocalypse says:

    The titular Clockwork in this game is a red herring: This game is based on an empire of berry collectors.

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  10. Zentay says:

    Speaking of one hundred and fifty characters moving around, how many inhabitants will a well developed colony have? 50, 100, 200, 400?

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  11. tentacled-godqueen says:

    I’m noticing your current paths are very short and that people seem to be congregating in rivers and on steep mountainsides; and there doesn’t seem to be any large obstacles; should I take this to mean the pathfinding is still in more a ‘avoid this small obstacle’ and less a ‘find a route through this literal maze of streets that the player built just to be mean to the AI’?

    Will we even be able to build elaborate mazes without the AI getting lost? (or the pathfinding getting so slow the game starts visibly lagging; that could be another problem >.<)

    (Hey, it has practical applications in city defense! It's not JUST to do Perfectly Safe Science to the AI!)

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  12. Looking veryyyyyy nice. 🙂

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  13. kikito says:

    This looks great. I’m happy that you finally decided to include “orders” in the game. Clearly the military will need some of those. Looking forward to “explore”, “fortify position”, “release the cracken” and “zergling rush” 😀

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