The summer of 0 A.D. has come, and it kicks off the block with a strong start with the release of screenshot glimpses into the desert biome. Our desert biome preview is kicked off with the completion of the Date Palm Tree. Usually between 15-25m in height, the date palm is native to the desert oases of northern Africa, long cultivated for its fruit, the date.
The date palm can be seen in released action in the June 2008 monthly screenshot, depicting our two resident desert civilizations in bloodthirsty battle - Carthage and Persia. No one knows who will come out on top, but at least the victors will have plenty of ripe fruit for afterwards.
Also released at the beginning of our summer is a brand new showcase exclusive to ModDB readers, featuring the game's attention to detail in the form of unit variation. An essential aspect to the creation of a realistic environment is variation. In 0 A.D., we will be making extended use of the alpha channel to determine randomized hair color, display of player color and even the color of various animals, including horses and dogs. All randomization is controlled by a powerful yet user-friendly application dubbed the 'Actor Editor'.
The Actor Editor is responsible for linking together each and every sword, shield, spear, helmet and head, allowing easy randomization of props to ensue. It will also improve the workflow of a 0 A.D. modder, avoiding toiling through lines of code by using our developmental tool.
Aside from alpha channel randomization, the team has gone to extra efforts to create numerous different versions of helmets, clothing and faces to ensure that even units of the same type will look different. Variation is made use of in many aspects of the game:
- Actors vary ranging from head to full body variation, ensuring that not only will units look different, but will be shaped differently in terms of size and muscle accumulation. Everything from weaponry to scarves and capes can be varied. Our unique variance actor system will allow for hundreds of different combinations for both developers and modders.
- Meshes as demonstrated in the showcase itself, many helmet choices and sizes are available for each unit, some based on upgrade status, others purely aesthetic.
- Textures are often recreated to give the same unit a different appearance. Various examples exist in 0 A.D., including our Hellenic Hoplite and the Spartan Hoplite. Shields are one major variant, some units possessing even 10 different possibilities, ensuring that no unit will look too much alike. Textures will continue to vary as a unit is upgraded, unlocking additional uniforms, helmets and attire.
- Animations are nearly always created in several different ways so the unit doesn't end up falling into a boring loop, but gives the illusion of a living being with a few different ways of performing the same action that can be backed up against one another in a seamless loop.
- Object Color is made use of in nearly every unit, varying hair, clothing, weaponry and crests, sometimes based on player color to help the player identify which units belong to him.
Variation is a key aspect in the game that enhances gameplay, helps identify your troops and cater to the overall realistic appeal by setting units apart from one another. Even if you have two of the same unit, it is highly unlikely that they'll be identical due to the extensive effort put forth for a more enjoyable environment.
Finally, the beginning of our summer is launched by the announcing of a public alpha release in the coming months. With no exact date in mind, the community will at that point be given a chance to test the game for bugs and get a feel for the engine first hand. There is no absolute guarantee that a copy will be distributed for Windows Vista users, but Windows XP and Ubuntu are our most easily supported platforms, and will be released during the alpha release period.
The game will be distributed using torrents, select game hosting sites and of course, ModDB. Adequate documentation will be provided with the game's beta release, as expected. It is confirmed that multiplayer will be prepared for the beta release, and at least one civilization will be represented in its fully balanced state. A few maps will be released, along with our map editor, allowing designers to get a head start on maps in Atlas, our scenario editor. There is small chance that a rudimentary matchmaking system will be included, but no promises in that category just yet.
Enjoy the summer to come!
Rob Kimball, WFG Texture Artist