Since the pre-alpha of the station generator (I probably won’t call it Generaty Station) came out in late February, and despite more than a few interruptions, setbacks and other projects, I’ve managed to release a new version of the tool every month which is a rate of progress I’m pretty happy with.
The first pre-alpha, of which there would be three, only had the most basic controls, station width, height and density (as seen in the random walk mode) but also included the rudimentary flight mode with gamepad only controls at the time. It was pretty stable and a solid base to work from. Though solid as it was looking back a heck of a lot has changed since then.
Fight mode received a fair bit of refinement. The controls were tightened and keyboard controls were added. Visual and audio effects were added. The camera was smoothed and the shield mechanic was added and refined and flight mode was turned into a race to escape the asteroid field. But flight mode was always a secondary concern, so much so that it no longer features in the tool. I haven’t forgotten about it however, it will be the basis of the full game when I’m finished working on the generator.
The generator has of course received the lions share of my attention, and after six iterations (and a seventh releasing in August) I have made a huge amount of progress.
Most importantly the biggest changes have been to the rendering engine. It has gone through 3 significant versions, each almost an entire rewrite of the rendering code itself. This has been hugely beneficial and I’m now at a point where I feel the rendering technique I use is fast and responsive while the textures for saving as a .png still render in the background not slowing things down too much. The result is that stations renders almost immediately and if the user doesn’t like the station the can create another station or start exploring the current one straight away without having to wait for the texture to render. A handy progress bar will tell the user how far away the station is from being able to be saved.
Speaking of which another very useful function on the back of the rendering engine is being able to save stations in different sizes. Due to the nature of what needs to be done it’s very intensive at the bigger sizes and can slow things down a lot, but I have a few ideas to improve on that as well, hopefully they’ll work out.
More obvious to the user the tool is now more of a product, it loads to a splash screen and goes to a nice menu with credits which I think gives the tool more of an official feel. It’s now no longer just some generator. More importantly the UI has been iterated on a lot. There have been a lot of additions as new features have gone in and been refined. The UI is pretty usable I think but still needs a bit of work to be done around friendliness.
Users now have more options in the tool than they ever have, and they all work pretty well, and I’m happy enough with where I am right now with it. That said, I have a lot of ambitions for this tool and I want to add a lot more features. For the next version I just want to add another station type, maybe two and I can publish.
Going forward there are a lot of features I want to add and refinements I’d like to make, some of the bigger ones are creating save states, more save options, a low ink/black and white mode for making it easier to print the .png’s, and even a lite version of the tool and a demo version. Other stuff I’d like to look at in the future would be better sound effects and maybe some music for the background, possibly a player that could get songs directly from your own music library. Mouse over text for each room, instructions/tutorial build directly into the game, improved tile graphics, more variations on the tiles and lots, lots more.
Even though my scope is pretty big, I feel it’s manageable and really does add a lot to the tool so I’m not too worried about it. That said I’d also like to be finished it by the end of the year, or maybe the start of next year. Within 6 months at any rate, but it depends on what I need to do for the final version.
The biggest hope I have for this is to get it on Steam. And to that end I will be running a Greenlight campaign. I’m not going to wait for the game to be finished either, I think I’m now at a place where I can confidently show off the tool and people will get it, and get where I’m going with it. As well as it being decent enough quality that people will like it, I hope. To that end, once this alpha goes out and I get some feedback on it, I’m going to work on a slightly cut down demo of it to go alongside the campaign, but that’s something I’ll have to think long and hard about, just how much should I cut it down by, if at all. More on that as it happens, after all I’m still running The Willow Effect campaign!