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Journal of Danny Green

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Another 3:00AM entry

I've been putting in 15-20 hours a day *gasp* on this game...it's really my only purpose for existance in the next few months...so I don't have any problems spending that much time working on it. It is tough though.

I'm currently working on a lot of the gameplay features as opposed to the graphics...which I prefer working on. I've designed the diplomacy window recently which allows the player to propose alliances, declare war, send/demand tributes, get basic info on other gangs, also set the default reaction upon sight of 'gang X' in 'territory y'. So you can say you only want to attack a gang within your territory (defensive stance), or only to attack them in their territory (offensve stance)...and you can set the reaction state for all other territory.

Right now the player can give orders to his gangsters...then take control of any one of them...once they take control they're presented with a standard "shooting game" GUI that shows health, inventory, etc. In the bottom of the screen it shows their current order ie: "The boss wants you to move to this location"...I then display the point on the GUI with a label, and the distance in meters. So it would display "Move here (35m)" over the point, so the player can navigate there and complete his own orders from the perspective of the henchman. It seems to work well.

I tried to make some good videos of the game...with not much success....I need a faster computer to capture at a decent framerate :-( Or maybe I'm not using the right software...I really need to try the full spectrum.

I've also been working a lot on creating a speech/conversation system...this is a picture of how the speech bubbles are looking...

I got an idea of how to do the voices after seeing a cartoon on tv earlier, there was a robot character that spoke with a "sped up human voice", almost like the effect of fast forwarding somebody talking on a tape recorder, so I'm going to try that tommorow (actually this is the tecnique used in the first GTA game :-0). I just need something that resembles human speech to match up with the text, when characters are talking via speech bubbles in the game.

I'm, also working on adding curved roads ;-) and overpasses into the game.

Here's some pictures of how it's looking...

Ugh...so much work still left to do, I hope I don't go crazy before this thing's done...heh...eh...uh...*nervous laugh*....*slowly backs out of the room*...*runs*




Vehicles :-)

I'm still putting in hours on these vehicles...it's worth it though...I now have a fully simulated gear gox, transmission, drivetrain, engine, and brakes on all of the cars. Right now I'm just using a linear torque curve with the maximum torque value for each vehicle to look up the torque at each RPM...simulating the actual torque curves of each vehicle is a little out of the scope of this game ;-).

I'm plugging in realistic values for the mass, max torque, redline, differential and the gear ratios, so the cars accelerate through the gears very realisticly. I've got 3 different drivetrains simulated (4 wheel drive, Front wheel drive, rear wheel drive). I use all this to figure the exact torque values to plug into Newton, it really works out great. Here's a image of how the cars are looking so far...I'll have more pictures soon, and a video showing a car chase hopefully...

- Dan





I've very excited about these images of some of the cars that will be in the game, I'll post a collection of images down below...there will be 30 different cars in the final product :-D

There will be a "dealership window" in the game, that you can use to purchase cars for your gang. You'll need to own territory that has a parking lot though, that will be the limiting factor as to how many cars you can purchase for your gang. Of course you can also go around stealing cars for your gang...this will really help your gang members get away from a robbery (for instance) without connecting your gang to it...but the longer you're in the car the more attention will be drawn to it, and they run the risk of being pulled over/caught after the fact. Also armoured cars will make scheduled delieverys to banks throughout the city, and the player can order their gang to ambush them.

I realllly can't wait to get these cars in the game, each with unique physics, handling, and transmission...mmmmm. I'm so happy with the way these car models are looking (remember they all have full damage modeling too!), he really did an amazing job on them. I should post some high res renders, but I'll just wait 'til in get them into the game.

Also I've added skidmarks and smoke and stuff into the game...it looks awesome, there's no smoke in this image though. It does show what the dirt clouds look like....I think I need to make them more prominent, right now I'm just additvly blending smoke/dirt which looks great for the smoke...this is the best I could do brown dirt using an additive blending mode. I'll probably change it around later though to look a little thicker :-) Also I'm working on adding the particle system, it will shoot up dirt particles as the car drives through grass/dirt, I'll also have sparks flying everywhere on collisions, as well as a lot of blood spurts to compliment the ragdoll physics ;-).

- Dan




Vehicle physics

So in order to have the game ready for the initial round of the Independent Games Festival I've created a itemized list of everything I need to do to get the game where it needs to be in the next 2 months. I've alloted myself a few days to get the vehicle physics up to par, and tommorow is my last day. Thankfully it came together quicker than I expected...the vehicles look amazing in motion, hopefully I'll have some videos or something of them in a little while.

Tommorow I'm going to add all the flashy stuff to the vehicles...skid marks, smoke clouds/dirt clouds depending on what material the vehicle's wheels are over...also I'm planning on getting the particle system started, and emitting sparks when a vehicle collides with another object, just to test the system. Also I'm going to simulate a gearbox/transmission which is always fun. I think I'll give the player the option to shift gears manually....so they can rev the engine up, and throw it in 1st and do a nasty burnout ;-)

I've already got screech sounds playing when the car looses traction....it sounds pretty cool, and isn't annoying...it fades in/out based on the lateral speed of the vehicle.

Here's some images of the police car turning sharply....I've still got some tweeking to do in terms of the suspension stiffness and things like that...this is the 3rd (and hopefully final) time I'll have to integrate a physics engine into the game...it takes so much damn tweaking to get it looking right, I hope this one works out. I've heard that they're overhauling the vehicle functionality in the next release of Newton and it's supposedly going to be much better, so I'm looking forward to that.

- Dan




2006 Independent Games Festival

I'm shooting to enter the game into the 2006 Independent Games Festival ( http://www.igf.com ), the deadline for the initial round is September 6, 2005...and I guess the game needs to have completed gameplay to be considered. This means an insane amount of work for me in the next 2 months...but I'm up for it :-)

If the game gets accepted as a finalist (*crosses fingers*) I can submit another version before January 16, 2006 for the Game Developers Conference in San Jose :-) Hopefully I'll have the game completly finished by then.

I'll post updates every few days with my progress. I'm hoping to detail most of the development process in this journal.




Gang War

Recently I've been getting the gameplay taken care of...the gangsters can now move intelligently throughout the environment, and the player can order them around. If the gangsters see an enemy they will engage them for a certain amount of time depending on the situation, while still making their way to their goal.

The enemy boss AI is very basic at this point...there isn't much "strategery" in the game yet, the enemy gangs just throw all their guys at you ;-)

I've added a message system to the game, the player will get updates from the game through this system. Little envelopes queue up in the corner of the screen. There can be different priority messages, urgent ones will show up blinking and red. Alerts about your gang members being attacked, or enemy gangsters entering your territory, etc.

I'm still in the process of integrating Newton into the game to take care of the physics. I've got it applied to objects, and characters, but not vehicles. I'm going to get the vehicles taken care of in the next week, as well as put ragdoll physics on the characters :-)

I've been toying with the idea of making videos of the game for sometime now. I'm finding it difficult to record 25 frame per second of 800x600 video in real time (or even 640x480), while keeping the game at a decent framerate. A few solutions are to drop down the quality of the video, or to record at a lower framerate...either way it's hard to get smooth framerates ingame while recording a video...I'm going to keep trying/looking into it though.

I'll post links to 2 3:00ish long videos of game footage, this is the best I could do so far in terms of keeping the framerates high while recording. If you got the bandwidth to spare (I think they're like 33MB each) I'd appreciate some input on these. You could think of them as animated slide-shows ;-)

By the way...this footage is pretty raw, I guess I coulda taken some time to edit it, the first like 20 seconds are of windows explorer :-0

The videos are of different game sessions, the first is recorded at 640x480, the second at 800x600 so you can see the difference in quality.

In-game Test Video 1

In-game Test Video 2

And here's another screenshot to check out...The big part shows the Fog of War system...nothing outsite your territory is visible unless you have a gangster in the area. The little picture shows some gangstas walking in-step ;-)




Cars and Newton Physics

I've recently contracted an artist to make 15 cars for Gang War. The interiors/trunks are fully modeled, the doors/trunk is animated, there is damage....and I told him to keep it under 1500 triangles. I got the first one (Police Car/Taxi) the other day and I'm very happy with the way it looks, I really can't wait to get them all into the game. I'll post a screenshot at the bottom of how it's lookin'.

When I first started making the game, I went with ODE for the game physics....a few months ago I switched to Tokamak, and was a lot happier. Now, I'm moving on to the "Newton Game Dynamics" library ( http://www.physicsengine.com ). It looks so much better than both of the other libs I used. I've just yanked Tokamak out of the game, and I'm just starting to put Newton in.

I'll be able to do so much more with this library, including...yes...ragdolls. I'm hoping to have ragdoll physics on all of the characters in a couple of days. I was playing HL2 recently and I really noticed how much the physics added to the gameplay/funfactor and I decided to go all out on my game...I'll have an update on this in a few days :-)

- Dan

[Edit] - Posted a screenshot of the taxi cab, which is a re-texture of the policecar model.




Interior Lighting

I stumbled upon this program today, it's called Light Map Maker.

I've been trying to figure out the best way to handle lighting in the interiors of the buildings...and this little $39 dollar program was the solution to my problem.

It's very easy to use, and does it's job well...it supports lightmaps, radiosity, and all kinds of other cool stuff.

After a few hours of playing around I was able to generate lightmaps for all the interiors of the buildings I have in the game right now...here's some screens of how it's looking.

So I guess I'm gonna go with static lightmaps on the interiors of the buildings, and use my little shadow hack for the dynamic shadows on the outside of the buildings. For the shadowing of the people/cars/objects I'm just using a quad with a alpha blended shadow texture directly under the character...pretty standard.

I should have some really cool stuff later this week...

- Dan




Gang War Stuff

Got some more pictures of the game. I've been 'stress testing' the engine lately (ie: spawning 100s of gangsters in a field and letting them blindly kill each other). The AI is coming along nicely, I've got the pathfinding working perfectly as far as I can tell. Also, I added a cool little debug window, and node diagnostic ability to the game...I'll put a screenshot down below of it :-) It's really cool to see them all moving at once in the game. Next up on the chopping block is to make them able to recognize friend/foe and react accordingly, they need to recognize cover (crouching behind cars/objects, and returning fire), also the ability to know when they are outnumbered and should retreat. I should have this behavior in the game in a few days.

I almost had a potential bottleneck in the game, seeing as the character models are approximatly 1100 triangles each in their highest LOD form, and there can be up to 50 members in each gang. That means there's the potential for 100s of high LOD gangsters to be in a very close area. Basicly I had to come up with this dynamic LOD system that detects high concentrations of characters in a small area, and scales the LOD accordingly so the game runs at a pretty constant speed. This is in addition to the standard LOD system I use, that displays progressivly lower quality versions of the model as the character's distance from the camera increases.

In the game worlds right now there's 3200 dynamic, moving, thinking citizens...up to 150 gangsters...2400 moving vehicles...and 19000+ objects like newspaper dispensers,pay phones, etc. All of these entities have a Tokamak physics representation that I basicly put into a sleeping state when they excede a certain distance from the camera, or enter an idle state, or meet some other restrictions. I havn't really run into any problems yet with this system, though there is a barely noticable "hop" of the object as it's reinserted into the simulation from a sleeping state.

One other thing I'm working on now is the conversation system in the game. The player will have the ability to have somewhat freeflowing conversations with other characters (think The Sims level of interaction, where you bascily pick from a list of possible actions/things to perform/say on/to an object/civilian/car/etc.)

This poses some problems for the voices associated with the conversations. I really don't want to have to pay for every possible word/sentence in the game to be recorded by a voice actor. This would make it nearly impossible to add new sounds/conversations to the game, and it'd be rather expensive.

I'm really leaning towards creating some sort of fake language I could play to cover all voice interactions between characters...I guess like they did in The Sims, but they didn't have speech bubbles in The Sims, I'm going to have them transcribing every conversation in the game.

The other thing is I've already had order confirmation voiceovers made for each gang type (Aight boss!, "Yo this punk is dead!", etc.) as well as generic male/female civilian voices, and some cop stuff ("Freeze scumbag!..."Drop the gun!", etc.) It'd be rather inconsistant to have those voices in plain english, and the other ingame conversations facilitated through a fake voice & speech bubbles. I hope I can figure this one out.

*end 3:00 AM ramblings*

- Dan




Another screenshot

I've been making this gas station all day long, I think it's looking pretty good. I've also been adding animated flocks of birds, and news choppers which will be used as a camera angle.

- Dan




Gang War Update

Recently I've made it so the player can enter any building in the city. Over the last week it's been an ungodly amount of work, but I've got it in the game and there's really no performance hit, even on my Radeon 9200 ;-)

It was necessary to model the interiors of every building in order to facilitate all aspects of the gameplay that I want to get into the game.

If the player orders one of the their gangsters to extort a business, for instance, I think it would be lame to just have a window pop up saying "You've just extorted John Doe for $200". Now the gangster (or gangsters) actually walks into the business and interacts with the store owner, the player can see this happening. Also, the player can control a gangster and enter a shop and engage in conversation with the owner, or any civilian on the street and get the same results.

I've recently added banks throughout the cities, the player's gang can rob these banks (or any other business) at any time. The skill level of the gangsters, their weapons, numbers, and driving ability of the getaway car driver (if necessary) will all have an effect on the outcome of the robbery. It's a pretty big risk, as in reality...you could earn $100,000s instantly for your gang...but you could also loose a number of gangsters/weapons/vehicles which could potentially ruin a gang's chance for supremecy.

The player can increase the chance for success/a clean getaway by controlling the gangsters that are actually performing the robbery.

Below is an early composite screenshot of some scenes in the game with the interiors modelled. At this point in time I've only got about 15% of the buildings in the city converted to have interiors, so there's not much variety in the city at the moment, once I get more building types into the city, I'll have some real juicy screenshots ;-)

- Dan




Gang War Update

I've updated my website with some screeshots of my RTS/Action hybrid "Gang War". I'll just put the thumbnails at the bottom for you guys though ;-)

I just got the shadows and the guns into the game over the last week, and I've recently optimized the engine to get about a 30% performance gain, so I'm very happy about that. The game runs at about a constant 25 fps @ 1024x768 on the minimum 1.8 ghz, 32MB video, and 256 RAM with these view distances shown below.

The shadows are completly dynamic as are the clouds/time of day. You can actually speed up time and see the shadows moving and the clouds flying by...the people move very fast too...it looks awesome. I still have a little work to do on the shadows, in terms of darkening the objects that fall under the building shadows.

I've got about 12 guns in the game now,I'm adding a couple each day and I'll have around 50 weapons in the final game muahhaa. I've got machine guns, shotguns, pistols, knives, bats...all that good stuff, and more! ;-) Of course I've still got a lot of effects to add...smoke, dust, muzzle flashes, shell casings, etc. it should look pretty good when I'm done with it.

In the game you can also purchase "bags" for your gangsters to transport drugs/guns/money whatever. I have all kinds of objects you can use to transport stuff...guitar cases, luggage bags, briefcases, etc.

I basicly work on the game 24/7, it's a lot of effort but I'm really giving it my all to see how good I can get the game looking/playing.

These images don't really do the game justice, I'm going to post a video on my site in a week or so once I get everythin' all polished up, maybe put some badass music to clips of people getting raked down ;-) Tarantino style haha.

- Dan




Anyone can be a gangster...


Just having some fun with the game - Radioactive-Software

[EDIT]...wait, new caption..."Damn it feels good to be a gangster" haha



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