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In Hades, All the Programmers Use VBA

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Wavinator

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Not much time this eve because I've been studying MS Access and VBA. From a C++ programmer's point of view, VBA is purgatory, let me tell you (and I know that Beezebub is laughing his forked tail off at me). Writing code with it is a little like trying to compose the Illiad in Notepad (or Edlin, if you're that old school).

Anyways...



Straylight Update

Not a tonn to report, unfortunately. I had to fly to LA to do training for my new job and that really ate up my time. I have, however, been thinking intently on how to merge map-based empire gameplay with RPG gameplay.

The most vexxing challenge is not how you make it work (I think I know the gameplay for that), but how to show it to players. Civ players are used to looking at an iconic tile map. Old-school RPG players are also used to looking at handpainted maps. But the two display drastically different information.

I've been wondering if a slow-time version of Civ on a 3D scale with true 3D movement would work for this? Because of time and difficulty, I don't want to wade into the realm of procedurally generated planets. I have a deep suspicion that as soon as you raise the visual bar that high, all content must match it. That would kill a lot of the VR gameplay I have in mind and help create a disasterously expensive expectation for realism across the board.

So I've been thinking of a VR mode that's summarizes important details without getting bogged down in visual detail. For some reason I have this thing for 3D terrain tiles, even though that might be ridiculously cumbersome. I likely won't do it, but I really like the idea of a grid of tiles, each tile which can be zoomed into an actual map. (Maybe I just like the idea of tons of maps to play on)

I've been using Wings3D to create mockups of what this might look like (with connecting roads and mountains and such) but haven't gotten anything yet that I'm happy with. There are plenty of issues to deal with when not using the fully procedural approach. For instance, how are distant objects that should be visible (like mountains) handled? How are changes to the map reflected in the RPG viewpoint (creating a crater, for example).

I've not yet had a chance to really dig down into the Torque engine or talk with the community to see how this might be dealt with, so I'll have to post more on this later.
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It sounds like we're doing something similar - though happily I'm only attempting this in 2D. I have a set of shell maps - these are arranged in a grid like fashion ala Civ or Master of Magic.

Each Shell Map can hold one Tile map - the tile maps are the kind of maps you'd see in legend of Zelda or similar.

ShellMaps keep world data type info - the type of map grass | sea | city ..., how many units that sort of thing. Tile maps keep local stuff like NPCs, trees, houses etc.

As the player moves through the shell map, tile maps are buffered and unbuffered. Seems to work okay but only now am I really adding the "Civ" layer ... well Master of Magic layer anyway.

Anyhoo good luck!

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It sounds like we're doing something similar - though happily I'm only attempting this in 2D. I have a set of shell maps - these are arranged in a grid like fashion ala Civ or Master of Magic.

Each Shell Map can hold one Tile map - the tile maps are the kind of maps you'd see in legend of Zelda or similar.

ShellMaps keep world data type info - the type of map grass | sea | city ..., how many units that sort of thing. Tile maps keep local stuff like NPCs, trees, houses etc.

As the player moves through the shell map, tile maps are buffered and unbuffered. Seems to work okay but only now am I really adding the "Civ" layer ... well Master of Magic layer anyway.

Anyhoo good luck!

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Remember, procedural generation does not mandate a specify level of detail or visual fidelity. You can still procedurally generate content that is consistent with your desired aesthetic, simply by tweaking the algorithms and parameters employed.

VBA, by the way, is purgatory whenever you need to exceed the boundaries of simple Office application automation. I'm really looking forward to Visual Studio Tools for Office for that reason. (Though I suppose that, instead of "looking forward," I should be playing with the beta [Outlook].)

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The scariest part of implimentation is not the procedural generation of detail (this isn't all that hard if you've had enough calculus/linear to get the average siggraph paper), or finding appropriate algorithims for realistic representation (these can be had in much variety on both NVidia's and ATi's website); the real issue imho is going to be connecting the disparate gameplay elements. The issue of connecting RPG-play to Empire-play is difficult, period.

This may have changed since I last looked, and even though I have a Torque SDK license I haven't kept abreast of all it's developments over the past 12 months- Torque is really, really good at doing large, attractive outdoor environments. It can also mix indoor environments in these locales well, and do this whilst supporting a large number of players in network play. I do believe that the power and elegance of Torque is reduced when you move towards anything that doesn't amount to some form of a Tribes 2 total conversion.

Early on, this was a fact of the technical design of the engine. When they started to integrate a modern backend rendering architecture, many of the rendering reasons for this problem were fixed. The fact is that the tool chain for Torque is biased towards creating Tribes (Torque got its start with the last Starsiege game before the original Tribes), and thus the tools get less and less helpful the further you move from that model.

Don't take this as a reason not to use Torque, just accept that you might have to do more toolchain programming (or repetitive brute work) in order to move content into the engine.

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