Progress report, August 28th, 2014
Playtesting and tweaking continues. As they say "God is in the details!" Adjusting: collision radii, clip radii, research times and chances, gathering times and chances, etc. The Avian AI is still exhibiting odd behavior at times. Bandmember AI (AI that runs a PC when the human player is not controlling them) needs a number of minor adjustments.
Along with the usual "how things are going" info, i'd like to touch on a few ganmedev related topics that have come up since the last progress report.
Project size and scope:
Caveman 3.0 is big. Probably the biggest game i've ever made. Probably bigger than one person ought to try to do by themselves. I'm not saying it can't be done, its just a HUGE time investment for one person. If you're a lone wolf or small team, think long and hard before you take on a big project. If you do decide to go for it, it might be a good idea to build and release in stages. Start with the core game, then expand in future versions. Big projects that take a long time can lead to my next topic...
Procrastination and burnout:
About 2 years into the project, i found my productivity dropping. Team burnout was the cause. In my case, i reached my limit at 27 months of continuous maximum effort. So i'd take a break. But even after extended breaks, i was still not motivated. While surfing the web i came across "7 causes of procrastination and what to do about them". Turns out my cause was #2, burnout. So i switched gears a bit and spent some time evaluating other games, and watching tv and movies related to games i'm working on. I continued to work on Caveman, but not every waking moment. Sure enough, after a while, i was thinking about the project again while playing another game or watching tv or a movie, and soon after that i was motivated to get back to it fulltime. lessons learned: you gotta take a break every once in a while, and don't be in too much of a hurry to get back to work, wait until once again its what you really WANT to do. Spending time watching tv and movies and evaluating other games leads to my next topics...
WARNING: if you have never seen korean dramas or korean historical dramas, they are quite addictive, if you get hooked, don't blame me!
One of the things i did while taking a break was i watched "Faith" for the second time all the way through. Its a korean historical fantasy drama set in the 14th century. A big budget production. And its got it all: action, martial arts, intrigue, drama, medical drama, fantasy, time travel, romance, comedy, you name it! All the production values are top notch: writing, costumes and props, sets, settings, special effects, anamie, subtle incorpration of fantasy elements in a beliveable way, casting, and acting (from what i can tell, i don't speak korean). The entire story is told in a one year long series, 24 one hour episodes, about the same as a long mini-series in the US. I can not recommend it highly enough if it sounds like your cup of tea. goto hulu.com and do a search on "Faith"
A lot of my time playing games is spent waiting...
The Sims: you queue up a bunch of actions, then you wait. or you wait while your sim sleeps or is at work. dont even get me started on the 4 minute load times for a small savegame file! And you can't speed up the game by much. normal speed appears to be something like 1 second of real time = 1 minute of game time. fastest speed is perhaps at most two or three times that.
Skyrim: not so bad, since its basically a big shooter. travelling to undiscovered locations for a quest. turn on continuous move and wait. and then there's the load screens. i actually find myself deciding what to do based on the fewest loadscreens required. IE i might sell or store an item at one location vs another because its 4 vs 6 loadscreens to get there. when loadscreens affect player gameplay decisions in this manner, it CAN'T be a good thing.
Rome II Total War: much of my time is spent waiting for other factions to take their turn, or waiting for troops in battle to march across the field to the enemy. And like the sims, the battles cant be sped up by much more than 2x.
Simcity: waiting for time to pass. again, you can't speed up the game by much.
I was shocked to find out how low the framerates were for some games on my PC. The SIMs 3 in native resolution and lowest graphics settings clocks in at a whopping 9 to 12 fps! The graphics benchmark from Rome II Total War at lowest resolution and graphics setting can only manage 12 FPS. And this is on a PC that came out at the same time as these games. By comparison, Caveman 3.0 can do 15,000+ non-instanced meshes at 15 PFS all day long. And it can do over 100 animated charaters at once onscreen at 15 FPS. A typical complex scene (~10,000 meshes, perhaps 20 animated charaters) runs at about 20FPS with the framerate limiter turned off.
Responding to input immediately:
I've noticed a number of places in a number of games where the only response to input is a momentary or extended freeze or lockup. Saving in Rome II comes to mind. You click the OK button, and the game frezees. No "Saving game..." message or anything. The only signs of life are the hard drive light blinking. After some number of seconds, it comes back with a game saved message. I've also noticed a number of games are rather sluggish in response to input, as though clicks are being sent to some messaging system for processing by other components, instead of being handled immediately upon detection. Obviously i'm not privvy to the inner working of these games, and can only guess that its some morass of message queuing, multithreading with stalls, unoptimized middleware, and slow garbage collectors that causes this. divvying things up and passing messages everywhere may be a neat way to organize code, but it also adds overhead. i'm of the old school when it comes to how responsive software is: "If the task is not completed by the time i lift my finger from the key or button, its too slow!" perhaps this should be modified to "if it doesn't at least respond somehow by then, its too slow".
The fastest code:
"The fastest code is code that never gets executed". We've all heard it. Sure, it sounds great, but turning off code usually isn't a practical speedup. While playtesting, I've constantly been plagued by the fact that the simulation simlpy can't run blazingly fast and do complex AI for lots of targets all at once. Because of this, when i get an encounter, i usually move on until the animals are removed from the simulation due to distance. Then i get back to making a spear or whatever, once the simulation is running blazingly fast again. The obvious answer was further optimization of the AI. But i'd already been there and done that. Iterating through the list of active entities to select a combat target is the bottleneck, with no obvious solution in sight. Nothing less than a pardigm shift would change things. So i changed the rules! You can now only accelerate the game faster than 128x if there are no hostiles around. and at speeds above 128x it doesn't update non-hostiles at all (the AI code doesn't run at all). This simple rule change makes all the difference in the world. Now you can fast forward through actions with non-hostiles nearby at blazing speeds, and you still get full tilt AI when hostiles are around - having your cake and eating it too, very WITH my religion (as opposed to being against my religion).
We now return you to your regularly scheduled progress report:
* increased sleep time by about 10%
* gifts to cavemen increase relations by twice as much.
* fixed: cant rest & heal in temp shelter w/ bedding when sick but not injured.
all rest and heal action triggers now use a single generic try_rest_heal() routine that lets you rest and heal if you have damage or are sick.
* fixed: getting encumbrance fatigue when not moving or engaged in sedentary activities
* added button graphics to view inventory and view help
* rest and heal now shows damage as well as progress
* added eat/drink actions inside shelters
* find reeds: doubled time required, cut chance in half
* fixed: doesn't moves followers when cross-country movement stopped due to encounters, etc
* fixed: companion's model and textures not copied to new bandmember when they join your band
* fixed: companion's 3rd interest not copied to new bandmember when they join your band
* fixed: companion's social not set when they join your band. now set to 100.
* turned off damage display over bandmembers
* added "add companion" to playtest menu
* added "add lean-to" to playtest menu
* AI recalcs best tgt every 2 secs, not every 5.
* fixed: doesn't draw rain/snow outside temp shelters
* fixed: new bm not set to alive when companion joins band
* fixed: not loading and saving cm.alive
* increased MAX_RESOURCES in a map sq from 1000 to 2000
* cut crh resource reduction chance by 50%
* fixed: added renew_resources() to change_the_map(). 10% chance per day for depleted map sq to renew back to MAX_RESOURCES.
* added "issue orders". remapable "o" key input. orders menu: follow me, attack, and as you were.
* added "make sacrifice to earth godess gah" to rocks menu. volcanos only was too hard.
* sucessful sacrifice actions now boost god relations by 30. was 5 for fire, and 20 for all others.
* increased local automap range from just the players current local map sqaure (100 foot) to a radius of 2 local map squares around
the player's local map sq. range before: 0-100 feet. range now: 200-300 feet.
* game now runs fast with non-hostiles nearby! wont go faster than 128x with hostiles alive. doesnt run animals at speeds above 128x.
* button graphics for select_object screen
* button graphics for shift_select_object screen
* button graphics for trade screen
* increased collision rad: mixotoxodon
* increased collision rad: gt ground sloth
* increased collision rad: short faced bear
* fixed: animal encounters: start location not normalized
* fixed: caveman encounters: start location not normalized
* make bedding: shows progress %
* make bedding in shelter: shows progress %
* fixed: draws plants over bedding
* fixed: regen terrain chunks when build temp shelter
* fixed: regen terrain chunks when build bedding
* fixed: search dead CM: take one: doesn't remove item from list!
* fixed: action msg for making fire is messed up
* increased clip rad: world objects (due to temp wood shelter).
* increased action area for selecting temp shelter.
* 1 hand stone hammer: doubled time to find, cut chance to find in half.
* added /d command line switch: enables display of debugging messages as the program starts up.
beta 11 has been posted.
Download and play it right now for free!
Thats all for now!