Imagine a world where the villages of humans were scattered along mountaintops, and the world below was completely blocked off by an impassible wall of clouds. In a world like that, advancements in air travel would precede both land and sea. This is the kind of world that Aero Empire is set in. In this world, the player can rise through the ranks, from a lowly gunner manning a turret aboard an airship to the commander of several airships, ordering the crew of your own airship and the captains of the airships in your squad. Aero Empire is a cross-genre game, incorporating elements of role-playing games, shooters, flight simulators, and squad combat. Production on the game started November 25th, 2008, and is scheduled to release by the end of 2010, and a potential sequel focusing on nation management may come later. The single player version will be free to download and play, with no restrictions.

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Major changes and lots of progress going on at Aero Empire.

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I would like to apologize for not explaining anything for so long, and for not releasing the demo game. A lot has happened here at Aero Empire, but the project is not dead, we have kicked into gear, starting a large project revitalization. First, let me explain what happened and the major changes, and then I will show all the progress we have done.

The problems started as we got close to completing the demo game. It's like the 90/10 rule, which states that 50% of your time is spent on the first 90% of the project, and 50% of your time is spent on the last 10% of the project. The final 10% is the integration of everything, which includes debugging, last minute fixes, minor pieces that no one wants to do, and plenty of unexpected problems. We were close, but at the same time far from the completion of the demo, and team motivation was at an all time low. I realized that if this continued, not only would the demo fail, but perhaps even the whole project. So, we started a large project revitalization, to restore team motivation, make changes to the project, and plan things out better so we wouldn't get stuck the same way again.

The first major change is that instead of releasing Aero Empire as one huge insurmountable project all at once, we're going to break it up into small sections, and finish one piece at a time. This way, we can clearly document everything needed for the scope of a single piece, and then we can start releasing games, getting feedback and a sense of completion at the end of each piece. Each piece will cover a single stage, have a small campaign showcasing that stage, and a skirmish mode where you can set up and play custom battles in that stage. This will start with the Gyro stage, and then we will complete the other stages. Each game campaign will have its own complete story focusing on a single event in the Aero Empire world. Eventually, we will release linking programs that link multiple of these individual games together, allowing the player to rise through the stages as was planned for the original Aero Empire - the only difference is that it will be broken into bite sized pieces.

The second major change is that I decided to change Aero Empire's game engine. The Cumulonimbus engine was a failure by my standards, it was the first large game engine I had made from scratch, and so it was not well designed. Some parts of the engine were rushed through, and some parts skipped completely. The engine was just not flexible, not well optimized, and was one of the problems with finishing the game demo. I realized that it would be more work to fix the Cumulonimbus engine than to integrate Aero Empire's effects into a well designed and stable open source engine. After fiddling with several open source game engines, I decided to go with Irrlicht because the API was simple and clean, the program was robust to failure and easy to compile and run on all computers, and even though it didn't have as many features and effects as other game engines, I was going to be porting custom features from the old engine anyways.

One other interesting thing that came about from this switch is that Aero Empire will now run on older graphics cards. We had been thinking for a while that Aero Empire is not really a high end graphics game, and so it was not good that Aero Empire would only run on high end graphics cards. So, as I ported the effects to the Irrlicht engine, I also cleaned them up, optimized them, and added lower quality versions of them that would run on older graphics cards. In higher quality settings, the game should look as good and artistic as it does now. However, there are now settings which will allow the game to run on cards with only OpenGL 1.1 support. To test this, I successfully ran all of the currently ported effects in low quality mode on my Asus Eee Pc which has an Integrated Intel 915GM graphics card and RedOwl's laptop, which has an ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 graphics card. While the game might not look as good depending on your graphics card, it should run on most computers now. Additionally, the cleaning up and optimization made the game run faster on all computers, and there are no longer any problems with the game running on ATI cards (whereas there were some glitches on ATI cards before). It will probably be another two weeks until all the features are ported, but already the results are quite nice even running on old computers.


Aero Empire running on ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 - Running 20 fps at 1440x900 resolution with 4x MSAA, stencil shadows and LDR atmospheric scattering. The model shown has not been updated yet for the new system, which causes the missing triangle problems.

Finally, I am changing the cloud simulation and cloud rendering. I don't think I posted my cloud rant here, but I've been fairly disappointed with Aero Empire's current cloud rendering - while they have some benefits over particle clouds, they are expensive, static and all merge into one gray blob at some angles. So, I already implemented this cloud simulation algorithm: Nis-lab.is.s.u-tokyo.ac.jp , which gives good results and is pretty fast since it uses bitwise operations to run 32 voxel simulations at the same time. I will include several particle cloud rendering techniques for the different quality levels of Aero Empire (and the lowest quality level will work on old graphics cards). Once I finish porting features, I will implement the particle cloud rendering and post some screenshots.


In addition to all of the changes in the project and the game engine, we've had a lot of progress on the game assets, which I would like to showcase here:


Test of the Female Character model rig.


In game rendering (old engine) of the preliminary Female Character texture.


Preliminary Male Character model.


In-progress model of the Small Carrier airship.


In-progress model and concept of the Medium Carrier airship.


Model, in game rendering (old engine) and concept of the Skirmisher airship.

Look forward to more updates!

- David

Comments
archkyrie
archkyrie

Great stuff, really looking forward to this.

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Desertfox287
Desertfox287

keepin me interested, looks good

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Mr.Walrus
Mr.Walrus

Looking good as always :)

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Mularac
Mularac

Excellent! now the game will run on my laptop! love you guys! and, as always, god-speed with this project!
A question, though. Are you guys looking for voice actors?

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terra0nova Author
terra0nova

Haha, yea, I think a lot of people wouldn't have been able to play the game before, so it's definitely good that Aero Empire has a mode which will run on old graphics cards and integrated laptop cards.

As for voice actors, we are not currently looking for voice actors, as we don't have all the dialog written. However, as we get close to completion, we're either going to need to display dialog as text or bring on voice actors, so if you're still interested then, we'll send you a message.

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archkyrie
archkyrie

If you need Voice actors, you can' probably call on me too, although i'v never done this sort of thing before.

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aerozol
aerozol

If you're working on displaying dialogue as text anyway, I'm available to translate to German. Mail me if you need me (:

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terra0nova Author
terra0nova

You could certainly help translate each game into German as we release them. Having translations to different languages is always good and allows many people to play and enjoy the game who couldn't have otherwise.

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AdiJager
AdiJager

so if the Cumulonimbus engine is abandoned maybe u will realease its source? Maybe someone will find it usefull

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terra0nova Author
terra0nova

The cumulonimbus engine as a whole isn't that great, but snippets of it might be useful for learning and figuring out how to write a game engine. It's not documented, but I might release some or all of it, I just probably wont have the time to explain it and document it.

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Wolfhound3596
Wolfhound3596

So later you'll pretty much be releasing the whole thing, but for now, your going to separate it into different parts?

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terra0nova Author
terra0nova

We'll release each part as an individual game, and then release programs that link the games into larger games. When everything is done, we can release all of the individual games and link programs as one bundled release that would be the same as the whole game. So eventually yes, the whole game will be released, and pieces of it will be released in the meantime.

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tschery Creator
tschery

thx for the good feedback ^^

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romanius24
romanius24

nice update

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Err_T1n
Err_T1n

Wow, this looks really good. I Don't think anyone has ever done this before. I wish you good luck with this.

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AnarchyDom
AnarchyDom

I always thought this was an ambitious project, I'm glad it was pulled from the brink of death though and look forward to seeing more. Good luck and all the best.

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terra0nova Author
terra0nova

Yea, we were probably a little too ambitious and tried to do too much at once, but this is an interesting project and I'm glad we're back from the brink of death. It might take a while to finish the entire game, but we'll get there, releasing one game at a time!

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booman
booman

Keep up the work! I am looking forward to flying an airship and battling it out. Don't give up! We are all here to support you!

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terra0nova Author
terra0nova

Thanks booman! Support from fans always helps keep up motivation, and we're not giving up yet :) .

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Imp0815
Imp0815

Win game looks awnsome

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Samuk
Samuk

Awesome news :)

If you expect me to understand

Img683.imageshack.us

You must be smoking something, that is some serious maths mate.

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terra0nova Author
terra0nova

Haha yea, it is very dense, especially when you first look at it. Once you work through it though, it's really not that hard to implement - not including the simulation of air parcels, the actual cellular automaton simulation is only 13 lines of code.

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