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About this blog

This journal is about the game I'm making, MAU Invasion, a 3D, turn based strategy mecha game.

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Not exactly directly related to my game making project, MAU Invasion, but I've been hearing a bit about Windows Live Space lately, and thought I would check it out. It's sort of like My Space, for those who know of that web service. Basically, lets you create your own free web page, and add sections to it, such as lists of things you think people should check out (your favourite books or computer games, for example), and slideshow photo galleries (I've got pictures of my game modding experiments, games I'm making, and things relating to my miniatures game map products I sell, and because I was feeling rather corny at the time, some star wars characters with my face on them), add-ons such as a calender, or GMT clock, and a Blog. It displays a number of Blog entries on the page, and archives the rest for people to browse through. You can categorise things as well. I've even got it showing the weather report for where I live. I found it handy and customisable enough to make it my new homepage, so I can see the day, time and weather just by opening a web page now, as well as be entertained by my own slideshow picture galleries.

For those who don't have online blogs/galleries/etc on another website, have a browse of Windows Live Space, as it has some good features, and a nice customisable layout.

As for my mecha strategy game, "MAU Invasion", I've been tinkering a little with it, but haven't gone back into 'hard working' mode yet. Real Life is still intruding on my game developing time. It would have been nice to have a demo out at the end of August, but I think it probably won't be out until next year now.

Anyhow, for anyone interested in my Live Space site, it's at http://tsmpaul.spaces.live.com
I took a break from programming my game, and decided to create a card game. It was a lot of fun putting it together, drawing on ideas from the computer game I'm making. It's not a computer card game, but a play on a large table-top game. Anyone who's interested in checking it out, I've made it a digital purchase, so people can download, print-out, cut-out and play! (Rules download for free)

http://www.pjtgames.com/mau/ccgpages.htm

I've decided that the M.A.U. Invasion game will be in a number of game-formats, from the computer game (I'm still hoping to have a playable working level demo by the end of August) to boardgames and card games. I might make a computer version of the card games as well at some point.

Making the card game also gave me lots of new ideas for features in my computer game. One of my favourite cards is the STOMP card that lets an M.A.U. step on infantry, in addition to any weapon attacks that turn. I think I'll definitely add that to the game, so M.A.U.'s can walk through squares where infantry are, and the infantry are squished :) Of course, people's infantry should be inside an APC when they're outside buildings, on the battlefield. Perhaps I should let Heavy M.A.U.'s squish little vehicles too :)

Anyhow, the next week or so I won't be working much on any of my games, as I'm moving house. I tend to get rather unorganised when moving all my stuff to a new place :)
Well, I've toyed around with a few different screen menus and ways to interact with units in my game. Some, like radial menus brought up by right clicking on units, drop and drag pop-up information displays, etc, sounded good to me, but when I put them into practice, it didn't really work out very well. I've finally settled on a static gui like this:

The new terrain system for the game

Basically, it's got:
Bottom left (top) five phase markers, showing which phase of the Game Round the player is currently in. This determines which units can have a turn at that time.
Bottom Left (bottom) are the portrait icons of the player's Officers who are in the current battle. Clicking on them selects and centers the screen on the officer. Right clicking on them does the same, but also automatically brings up the Give Orders display for that Officer.
Bottom Middle is the Menu. This determines what is shown in the information display window, or what types of actions you want the currently selected unit to be performing.
Bottom Middle (Right) is the information display window. This shows different things depending on meny selections, but is where you can read about the current status of units, change their ECM/ECCM settings, select scanner options, select weapons to fire, read about modifiers currently applied to units, see what rank, skills and abilities the pilot/soldier has, and all sorts of things like that.
Bottom Right (lower) is the mini map.
Bottom Right (upper) is the undecided. It will probably say what turn it is, or give some mini map viewing options, or something like that.
Well, two days ago I was getting annoyed with the load times for maps in my game. Basically, it was simplest for me to make a tile based map, where each 'tile' on the map was its own 3D textured object representing a type of terrain, ie, a square of grass, a square of forest, a square of concrete, etc.

However, loading each tile on a map as its own individual entity was taking a long time, and using up a lot of memory. To make a 100 x 100 tile map took around two minutes to load, and I've got a good machine, so I finally decided it wasn't reasonable performance.

So, I've sacrificed complete tile by tile customisation, and gone the easy way, making the entire level map a single heightmapped mesh. It certainly gives it a better 3D appearance, but it means that rather than easily point and click designing the ground grid, with high texture detail on each 8 x 8 meter square, I now have a single 128 x 128 'tile' sized map, that has a single texture map stretched across it.

Anyhow, I've still made it so units, structures, and terrain objects are plotted to a defined grid, ensuring distance, movement, etc, still follow my turn based tile-movement style of rules system.

Now I'm finding ways of hiding the blurred/pixelated texture map of the ground by enhancing the terrain features that can be plotted on top of it. I've also let the player zoom out much further now, and that makes the terrain look more detailed too. Zooming in close doesn't have such a good look though, so I'll probably limit how close up the player can get to things..

These screenshots show my new forests, some MAU's and vehicles, and also a look at the new graphical user interface I'm working on. I'm thinking of 'radial icons and menus', where the player right clicks on something, and a menu display circles the selected object. That way, the screen won't be cluttered up with status displays and action toolbars.

The new terrain system for the game

Some Vehicles

Designing a new User Interface
Well, been having a lot of fun so far. Came across my first annoyance bug today. I saved a test map I was working on in my map editor, and when I went to load it, the program crashed :(

Turns out the problem is something to do with multi-tile buildings, such as the 2x2 tile Sentry Tower. When it goes to load a multi-tile building, it crashes and says that the object it was trying to plot on the map doesn't even exist... Well, nothing another cup of coffee and staring at code won't eventually fix...

Here's two pics. One's a screenshot from my game, showing some infantry and two vehicles I've just added to my game (with a Wildfire MAU behind them just because I like seeing how big they are next to people!).

The other is one of the computer generated artworks I'm using as loadscreens between levels in the game. Basically, I've been rendering 3D scenes, then applying different Art Effects to the bitmaps in Corel Photopaint to give them an arty look. The effects add lots of details to the picture that make the MAUs looks much more interesting than the original 3D renders.

A Screenshot of MAU Invasion


A Loading Screen of MAU Invasion

I also added a mobile ECM truck to the game today. Basically, you park them somewhere, and the closer an enemy units gets to the truck, the worse their targeting computers behave, and the harder it is for them to detect your units with their sensors. Of course, it doesn't effect visual unit detection, only electronic sensors, and it wouldn't have an effect on units that don't use targeting computers, ie, infantry who just point their rifles and fire, or some highly skilled MAU pilots who can manually target enemies without needing the aid of a targeting computer.
I've been toying around with programming languages, game making programs, etc, for years now, and have after lots of tinkering and false starts, I've set about making the sort of game I'd enjoy playing, a turn based strategy game centered around giant mecha, vehicles and infantry, at various interstellar locations in the far future.

I'm using the game programming language Blitz Basic 3D (Blitz3d), since I've always been more familiar with Basic than C, and it seems to run well enough with my creations.

The game is still in early stages, though I've got a working 3D tiled map editor for placement of terrain, strutures and units. Anyhow, feel free to check out my game-in-development website at:

http://www.pjtgames.com/mau/

Feel free to tell me what you think, here on GameDev.Net, and I'd love to hear suggestions from people who are interested in playing Mecha themed games as to features they would love a turn based mecha strategy game to have. I might even implement such good ideas into my finished product :)
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