Archive for July, 2007

I’m getting better.

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

I don’t want to go on the cart so I’m improving the game as efficiently as I can.  I just released update 1.03a.  Over the past 10 days or so I have added fast dice rolls, an info pad for the cards in the hand, hot key support, and some other minor UI improvements.  I’ve also fixed a host of bugs.  Many of them have been pretty arcane but they still ruin any given gamers experience so QA on the next project will get a re-examination.  Some people seem to just be having problems running Adobe Director applications.  In some cases running the game in compatibility mode has corrected the problem.  There is still a lot of quirkyness with the UI and a lot of it is just not going to go away.  The game requires some effort to learn as well and that is going to be a barrier to entry.  I knew that going in so I’m not surprised.  My hope is that people who went WTF might hit a dry spot in their gaming and decide to come back and give it a little work with their sleaves rolled up.  I think there is a freshness to every session I’ve played and if anybody living in the “Brane” should be sick of it then that anybody would be me.  I still get a thrill discovering the specials scattered around the map.  My favorite experience is still losing.  Yep, for me it means that the AI is worth its salt.  I also love reading peoples summaries of their games and the animosity they have for some of the factions and units.  Bringing down a Colossus is exhilarating!  My favorite part of the game is getting nuked.  I once got nuked twice in the same game by Mutant Long Lance missiles…..made my day.


It must not fail

Friday, July 20th, 2007

A few months before the launch of operation Zitadelle that saw two colossal tank armies collide on the Russian steppes at Kursk, the Fuhrer is said to have commented to his generals that the offensive “must not fail.”  So far so good for Armageddon Empires.  Strategy gamers seem to generally like it despite some valid reservations about the user interface and the apparent complexity of the game.  I’ve fixed a handful of bugs that have caused some problems and have been updating the program as I go.  There will be a patch published Monday or Tuesday (my webmaster is out of town) and it will be version 1.2 bringing anything from 1.1a to 1.1c up to snuff.  I’m getting a lot of good feedback about changes to the UI.  Things like faster dice rolls and info on the cards in the hand.  I’m going to take a serious look at these and see about the feasability of implementing some of them in a version 1.3 or 1.4.  It will depend a lot on how much testing is involved and how my code base wants to cooperate.  I already have 200k+ lines without comments so some things have gotten a little unwieldy despite my impeccable software engineering habits.  Anyway, thanks to anyone who has tried the demo and even more thanks to anybody who has ponied up for the game. I really appreciate the support.  If you do encounter a bug please send me a save game file if you can.


Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Launch, Fire For Effect, Twilight’s Last Gleaming.  Elvis has left the building.  Well it took me almost three years but my first indie title is out.  There is a demo up on the website so give it a spin.  I’ll be working on an After Action Report with screen shots next.  One of the great things about Armageddon Empires and these types of games in particular is the stories that they tell. 

The Best Laid Plans

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Well, I actually have release candidates for both the PC Demo and Full Game.  I was going to put the shingle out today but then I went to browse some games news sites and lo and behold the new and improved E3 is going on right now.  Trying to release right this moment would be silly since any press release that I could muster would almost certainly get lost in the din.  Not that I planed on being the mouse that roared even at an off peak time but by waiting until next week I think the stars will be much more favorable.  I’ll continue testing for the next couple of days and do some tweaking.  The Mac version is definately going to have to follow at the end of the month.  I have a lot more testing to do on that version than I had originally thought.


Hidden History

Saturday, July 7th, 2007

There is a lot of hidden information in “Armageddon Empires.”  That’s a design decision that is a double edged blade.  On the positive side, the computer is great at enabling hidden information in a way that a board game simply can’t without some type of record keeping gimmick that more often than not proves akward to implement and execute.  Not seeing every army on the board brings a great sense of tension to the game.  You know you should be looking for the enemy or picketing a flank but you also have other things to do.  So you take a risk and hope to god that nothing too awful wanders in from out of the desert to capture that thinly defended outpost.  You can also use the lack of omniscience to your advantage.  There is nothing more fustrating than trying to orchestrate a “sneak attack” that is doomed from the beginning because the enemy automatically sees it coming. 

From a programmer’s perspective it’s also a bit of a mixed bag.  If an AI can’t see into a particular hex then it can often be left out of an algorithm. Unfortunately, implementing the observation mechanics in computer code can be a real pain.  And the consequences often cascade down into other areas.  Adding something like a stealth mode for an army means a whole new set of rules and mechanics.  The complexity can snowball quickly.

Finally, I soon discovered that a game framework with a lot of hidden information can make the AI players look dumb, diabolically genius or just crooked cheating.  I built the game mechanics, interface and AI architecture from the ground up to avoid a cheating AI. Each AI player keeps a completely seperate copy of the game space and what it knows about it. It updates according to the same observation rules that the human player must work under.  Sometimes an AI army waltzes right past an easy target on its way to accomplish some goal and I have to stop and figure out why. Often the answer is that it simply just didn’t see it.  Coming up with good strategies for the AI to use its recce assets helps things out but in the end observation is about chance and sometimes the dice aren’t nice.

I’ve been doing a lot of testing in 4 player games (3 AI’s and a human) to watch the AI’s perform in a target rich environment and look for ways to fine tune their actions.  I play with a “switch” flipped that allows me to see everybody perfectly (i.e. everything is observed).  Normally a player will only ever see a tiny fraction of this….maybe he has a recce unit next to an enemy outpost when it is attacked by another enemey AI for example.  The AI’s are built to win so they try to gather information on who the best target is for focusing their offensive operations on.  They also keep track of animosity levels.  If an AI starts capturing outposts, destroying resource collectors, bombing armies then animosity builds up and it’s taken into account when deciding who is the biggest threat.  Often I’ll watch the AI’s tear each other to shreds.  Sometimes they are both gimped.  Sometimes one conquers the other and emerges with a better resource base and supply position.  This can be difficult from a game design view because it’s no fun for the human player to waltz right over two punch drunk fighters who have been savaging each other for the last 20 rounds.  All the human player notices is two wimpy opponents that don’t put up much of a fight.  The epic back and forth is never observed or appreciated.  Here is a screenshot of an instance where the Xenopods and Machine Empire found themselves fairly close to each other and with a lot of open terrain to manuever.  Between the two of them was a key special….an abandoned ICBM silo complex that acted as a free outpost. 


After the outpost changed hands several times the Machines eventually came out on top.  The Xenopods had been mauled pretty badly so when the Machine army assaulted the Mother Hive it was a quick affair.  Now the Machines are probing for another conquest………me.


A New Beginning

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

June blew right by without an entry because the end is near.  Cryptic Comet now has a new website thanks to my super sis Katie.  She also did most of the UI interface art or at least made a handsome template that I could riff off of.  D-day is July 16. I’ll post some more info in a couple of days as July 16th approaches.  I’m doing a final round of intense testing watching the AI’s battle it out amongst themselves.  I’m also getting the demo version ready.  If everything goes well I will also be able to get the Mac version out the door on the 16th as well.  Sadly, once my shingle is out and the product is ready the easy part is over.  Marketing the game will be a whole new adventure.