September in Review
In-case you weren't already aware, the front page of the site, News Board on the forums, and the Twitter feed are the go-to sources for daily progress reports on BR's development. There I post the daily Twitter log, as well as our (community suggested!) random development snapshots!
Be sure to check the links to see each day's daily progress report!
Tidbits from September Week 1
In Brief: We determine it's time to switch out of our custom font builder and utilize the awesome BMFont font generator by AngelCode, as well as completely rebuild the state manager to support better menu and window behavior. Old text arrays are replaced, Micah finishes a second character model face (a female this time), and Nathan gets most of BMFont integrated by the end of the week.
Tidbits from September Week 2
In Brief: Zack streamlines the clunky old entity hierarchy, Micah makes some menu 'woop' noises while Nathan completes the integration of BMFont. Gabe runs the new state manager through its paces, and while waiting for Gabe, Nathan starts work on a simplified 2D surface system to combine UI elements to reduce overhead. Micah rounds out the week by experimenting with block placement animations in 3dsmax!
Tidbits from September Week 3
In Brief: Gabe restores dialog window functionality using the newly built state manager, Nathan and Zack begin a new sprite batcher to vastly improve 2D performance, Zack finally creates a proper splash loading window, and a coder merger between all three coders is commenced inflicting over 500 errors. By Friday, all 500 errors are eliminated and Gabe sweeps away 2/3rds of the unnecessarily UI files.
Tidbits from September Week 4
In Brief: Micah experiments with a constructor bot, Nathan builds a unified 2D shader to maximize rendering efficiency, Gabe gets to work on restoring server listing capability, while Zack experiments with a physics upgrade for the engine.
Gabe's held back a bit mid-week and works on the FMOD sound system in the interim, and finally Zack and Nathan get the unified 2D shader working, bringing the wasted 2D render calls down to some ~2-3% of what they were. By Friday Gabe's back on track for restoring the game interface!
Bullet Points for September
+ New robust State Manager to handle UI menus/windows.
+ Dramatically improved 2D performance and accessibility.
+ Font appearance and functionality greatly enhanced.
+ Miscellaneous polish works, splash loading screen, physics adjustments
- 2D improvements push launch window back to "Q4 2013" for time to restore interface.
- Physics engine may need to be replaced before release, possible 1-2 week bump.
August saw massive refactors to the chunks handlers for entities, improvements to thruster net-code, cleanups on rendering (including finishing the long-worked on 3D Pipeline project) -- overall things were starting to come together to where we could play the game again. There was a heavy concentration to clear out the 'black screens of death' to get the game in a playable state by the end of September.
Unfortunately, once we got to work with the old state manager we realized it would have to be brought to 'standards'. Without a proper state manager things like menus and pop-ups become a cluttered mess in-game, and wasting hours every day with the state manager is the last thing we need to be doing when we're pushing the bi-weekly releases.
We knew replacing the state manager would make the game unplayable again for a few weeks, so we split Zack Nathan and Gabe onto each of the longstanding 2D overhauls to get it all done now. Gabe rebuilt the state manager, Zack and Nathan revised things like support for a proper font generator to draw paragraphs of text properly, sprite batching to bring the 2D render calls down, and overall completed the code friendliness for the 2D portions of the engine.
By the end of September the work was a stellar success with most everything 2D-related performing incredibly well, and hand-crafted for Blockade Runner purposes! In plain English, Gabe and I won't break a sweat handling 2D UI elements, and neither will the game. ^^
We cannot foresee at this time anything as dramatic as September's 2D overhaul, yet we'll be painting a broad "Q4 2013" target window considering we need to field test the "new equipment" and restore the interface again.
Once more we have to thank you all for your patience! It may seem like there's a never-ending supply of 'overhauls' to be done, but keep in mind Blockade Runner is a game we are supporting and developing for years. This kind of low-level work cannot be done later and so must be done now, and does not need to be done again for years afterward. Our skills have grown tremendously since last year with W71, and thanks to the past year's work the game's foundation is reflecting this.
As always, we'll be Tweeting the daily development progress so you can follow along as things come together. The key indication that we're 'rounding the corner' are Tweets on six-player ZanMgt LAN tests, as it'll mean the game engine is in a state sufficient enough to be playable. At that point there's no real loss on our part to get the supporters back in on the action.
To follow the daily development resource postings, head to the forum, follow the Twitter, or check out the Facebook page! We're also on the Dev Chat from 9:00am-5:00pm (EST) almost every day, so if you've got a question or comment fire away!