New Meklar screenshots

All of the new artwork  for the Meklar race is done and (mostly) integrated into the game. All that’s left is for the diplomat image to be integrated but that needs to wait until I have the UIs for the races done.

This week I mainly finished up the basic AI responsible for managing colonies, doing research, building ships, managing fleets and generally expanding out into the galaxy to build an empire. This was a necessary prerequisite before I start creating galaxies with multiple competing races.

In addition, I wrote some code infrastructure to support the new artwork and the asychronous animations within them. Here are in-game examples of the new Meklar scientist and soldier artwork. Silicoids are next on the list!

Please note that new technology graphics are not in the game yet. The plan is to have them show up as holograms in the attached images.

The Meklar soldier:

MeklarScout

 

The Meklar scientist:

MeklarScientist

 

Phase 3 – AI work in progress

Phase 3 has started, wherein the player will be able to play against multiple AI opponents. But before they can be added, I need to work on the AI to instruct the computer on how to explore, defend and colonize systems. Fortunately, a tremendous amount of this work was done in an earlier Java MOO attempt so this portion consists of mainly integrating, testing and improving upon that code.

This is well underway. I’ve created an “Auto-Play” difficulty mode in which the AI will play the player’s race. This allows me to easily watch the AI at work and address any problems I’ve seen.  I expect to be doing this most of the week, but should get the AI to the point where it efficiently expands throughout the galaxy and develops its colonies.

Think about what this entails:

— an AI “scientist” to select technologies to research that best benefit the current needs of the empire

— an AI “ship designer” to keep ship designs up-to-date with current technologies

— an AI “fleet commander” to prioritize what kind of fleets should be stationed at which systems, and then direct existing ships to those areas or colonies to build ships for that purpose

— an AI “governor” to manage colonies and develop them efficiently and build ships as requested

These are all currently working decently, but I need to test them a bit more.

Other AI personalities will eventually be needed, such as a “diplomat” for managing relations with other races, a “general” for determining attack targets during war, and a “ship captain” for managing ships in combat. All of these except the latter should be functional by the end of Phase 3.

Alpha test – complete

It’s been a full week of alpha testing and fixes, so it’s time for me to call it done and move onto work for the Alpha 2. This next version will include all of the races and various interactions with them, as well as a lot of new artwork. Of course, other changes will sneak in as time permits.

Here’s the final change list from the original alpha released late last week:

 

Alpha 1 issues fixed
 
Critical – Game Crashes
1. Game gets progressively more sluggish over time, then crashes. Fixed.
2. Game freezing when learning a technology: fixed
3. game suddenly freezing: fixed.
Gameplay bugs
1. Initial designs were using randomized names: proper names are now assigned to initial ships
2. Initial Destroyer design not being created: fixed
3. able to decrement research categories already at 0: fixed
4. No habitable planet in starting range: players will now start with at least 2 systems within colony ship range; only 1 is guaranteed to be habitable. Send scouts first!
5. incorrect distance reported when fleet is attempting to travel to out of range
system: fixed
6. extended ship ranged seems to be doubled the normal range, not +3: fixed
UI bugs
1. Colony display getting stuck on planet view: fixed
2. Could hover over and see flight paths that were hidden: fixed
3. Labels flickering on Setup screen when mousing over them: fixed
4. Sounds not playing on Linux: fixed, pending confirmation from Linux tester
5. Fleet deployment not recalculating range properly when adjusting fleets: fixed
6. bug: Galaxy snaps when zooming out
Useability enhancements
1. Clicking issues on upscaled displays: Game now auto-sizes to match display resolution
2. Flags are too shiny: replaced with configurable animated flags
3. Button should give visual indication when pressed: fixed.
4. Need better indication of available design slot: now displays “Available” in empty slots
5. Set limit on maximum zoom in: zooming in stops at about a 4 parsec range
6. Increased size of selection box for ship fleets on map: fixed
7. Colonization prompt answers should be YES/NO, not NO/YES: changed
8. Stardate hard to see on map: brightened and now with a subtle shadow
9. Slider titles should change color when hovering to give indication they can be clicked: they now highlight when hovered.
10. blue ships hard to see on map: the blue color for ships has been lightened noticeably.
11. zooming is choppy: sped up zooming.
12. need hovering feedback at mouse cursor – when hovering over a system, fleet or transport on the galaxy map, a thinner version of the select box will appear over the item as the preview is being displayed
 
Issues deferred until later release
1. No visual indication of zoom level: out of time… scheduled for alpha 2
2. Planet rotations need to be smoother on colony/scout screens: visual performance issues to be addressed when higher-resolution images are added
3. When scouting planets, no indication of planet location on map: will try to address as screen is updated with new images
4. No ship landing animation when colonizing: needs new artwork; planned by beta
5. Retro fonts can be difficult to read: will look for a clearer, but similar, font

Issues not being worked
1. Game will not start: Java 8 is required. Per Oracle, the oldest supported Windows OS is Vista.
2. Clouds need to rotate faster than planets: no plans to support. This optical illusion does not occur when viewing planets from space!
3. Silicoid aspect ratio not the same: these are placeholder graphics from the original game and will be replaced by beta

Alpha test – closed

I am still getting requests to join the alpha test, so I guess I should post here and let everyone know that it is closed. I am actively working on the feedback and want to finish things up so that I can start work on the Alpha 2 feature set.

Feel free to email me at ray.fowler@protonmail.com and sign up for that, but it is expected to be about 3 months away.

Alpha feedback – better flags

One of the alpha testers accurately reported, “the flag on the setup screen is too shiny”.  Yes, yes it was. That was originally just a placeholder image until I could do the flags properly, so thanks for reminding me! The player flags are now much more interesting… 8 different patterns with multiple color settings. Below is an example flag choice. Also, the flag is animated now.

FlagSetup

And here’s how it looks on the galaxy map (not nearly as impressive, lol):

FlagSetup2

 

Alpha feedback – Hi-Res now supported

I’m getting great feedback from many of the alpha testers and it’s greatly appreciated. The most important issue has been fixed… Java MOO will now scale properly based on your display resolution. This means that if you have a high-resolution display, you will not need to upscale the pixels to play the game.

Now, it just so happens that my new laptop arrived on Thursday, a Dell touchscreen with a 3200×1800 display. This was intended to replace the 1366×768 display that I was developing the game on.

Below you can see that Java MOO now plays properly scaled on both displays. This took about 5-6 hours of refactoring code to work, but I think it is well worth it.

AutoSizing

 

Yee ha! I’ve got about a dozen other issues to address from the alpha test feedback before I can start on Phase 3. Most are very minor and some are annoying (but easy to fix). All in all, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that there haven’t been very many complaints!