Archive for the 'Touch and Go' Category

Mutators

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

James is finishing up the auto-updater and the first update.  We’ve fixed quite a few problems and we’re also launching the new Open Challenge system – I hope you guys will be pleased.

 

This week I’ve been working on the new unit (which I’ll talk about soon), but what I’ve started on today is Mutators – a medium-sized part of the DLC.

 

One of the things I really want to do with FS now is to subvert some of the rules and see how it impacts the play of the game as a whole.  Today I’m implementing “Double Kill”, which when activated will remove the only vaguely luck-based element of the game.  When two units engage eath other with *exactly* the same situation, currently a slightly arcane process chooses who dies.  With the Double Kill mutator enabled both units will die.

Here are the other mutators I have planned for the DLC:

– Focus Aim – when move-aiming, if you round a corner and engage someone very close to where you set the target, you are said to be “focus aiming”, and would have a big advantage over that enemy.  This would lead to less camping, as camping units would be killable by moving units if you can predict exactly where they are.

– Move-and-shoot: You continue moving on your plan while targetting and firing at the enemy.

Mutators are enabled from within the Advanced Creation editor, and if you load a game with mutators enabled you will be informed in a very clear way.  They are not allowed in standard match-making.  The new Open Challenge system should work really well with this functionality.  Mutators will be available for AI skirmish games (no guarantees the AI will use them effectively though.)

Let me know what you think.

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Touch and Go – Frozen Synapse iPad Devblog – Progress

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Touch and Go - Frozen Synapse iPad Devblog - Progress

 

We’ve just talked through some of the test systems we’ll be implementing for the iPad interface.

The point of this is to allow us to:

1.)  Check out a bunch of different styles and ideas

2.)  Provide enough workarounds for current problems that we can get more into the meat of the UI than we can at present.

I really like this approach because it’s about preventing arguments – many, many UI issues are extremely subjective and easy to misunderstand in abstract.  If one person says, “I want a button” and the other says, “I want a slider” , it may actually take less time to implement both and try them than it will to try and thrash that out with a multi-week long argument…although I assume your mileage may vary depending on what your GUI system is like!

Here are some of the things we are thinking of doing:

Tap to select, THEN drag to move

This was Ian’s suggestion to eradicate confusion between objects – this could be a good direction

Keep map movement and unit selection together

I’m very keen on the idea that you can quickly scroll the map around, then choose the unit for which you want to make a plan seamlessly and without modifiers, so we are going to aim for that

“New Waypoint” Handle and Button

We’re going to try two different ways of adding waypoints to a plan.

Orders buttons

The Orders Menu may turn into a more permanent “Xcom-style” set of buttons at the bottom of the screen

Delete button!

There will be a big, prominent button that allows you to delete WP’s and orders  – we have this in our current build but it’s a bit hidden.

Time + / – buttons

We won’t be using the time handle system in quite the same way as we do on the PC – there will be a new system for waiting

Playback vs. Planning

As some games do, we may remove the UI during the first run of a turn’s playback so that you can see everything better.

Help overlay

Owing to the lack of screen space we will probably have to break one of my rules about always having descriptive text available within easy reach for a pictorial button – instead of that, we’ll probably have a “question mark icon” help overlay which can pop up over the screen to explain what the hell all the buttons do.

Temporal slider for orders movement

Physically dragging orders around the screen may be too onerous, so we’ll probably have a new UI element which allows you to just move them along a plan using a slider.

Eradicate double-tap

Double tap is currently quite annoying and happens a lot by mistake – hopefully we will get rid of it.

All of that stuff is totally up in the air currently – just thought I would let you know our thinking.  I’m really looking forward to actually being able to play the iPad build properly as a game – at the moment it’s kind of impossible.

People have asked me if any UI changes will make it into the PC version – I will be looking at people’s UI issues from the Hotline, Bugs and Wishlist threads at some point next year to see if we want to make any PC-specific changes.  Also, if there’s a UI element on iPad that people love, I can’t see why we wouldn’t want to integrate that back into the PC version.

This kind of stage is fairly difficult – you don’t want to under- or over-commit to specific methods, just try to be as objective as possible about potential solutions.  Anyway, confidence that we can make a nice robust UI is still high, so we will see how things progress.

Touch and Go – Frozen Synapse iPad – Early Days

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Touch and Go - Frozen Synapse iPad - Early Days

We continue our blog series about bringing a popular PC/Mac/Linux indie game to the iPad…

I’ve just had my first couple of days with the “raw” build of FS iPad and I’ve been working on going through the entire UI making notes of conflicts and problems.

I feel reasonably positive at this point that some of the fundamental UI structures in the game will remain in-tact, but also that there are a lot of challenges.

At the moment, we’re using “hold down one finger” to open the orders menu – this is basically not working at all, so we’ll need an entirely different system.

Similarly, double-tapping to make a waypoint is pretty cool, but it’s very easy to accidentally double-tap when you’re either moving an existing waypoint, or scrolling the map around.

At the moment, we’re using “pinch-to-zoom” and “drag an empty piece of map” to do map control – as I’ve just told Ian I love the way both of these are working and I want to preserve them, even if we need something like a separate “I am moving the map around now” mode to do so.  It just feels really natural, as that’s the way you interact with a map intuitively on the device.

It’s interesting how some small UI elements (like the aim handle) actually work reasonably well on the ‘pad.  Obviously, they still do have conflicts and we need to work on those, but it seems like size / distance apart aren’t the only thing that matter with UI’s on the device.

It’s too early to suggest proper solutions to everything at this point, because every solution will have to be a compromise / balance with something else.  The process of getting into the game a bit is productive though, and I hope to have most of my notes finished tomorrow.

The next stage is for Ian and I to figure out exactly what initial changes we want to make so that we can continue testing and iterating.

Touch and Go – Launching an iPad Indie Game

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Touch and Go - Launching an iPad Indie Game

I’ve decided to attempt a series of regular posts to go behind-the-scenes a little bit on the iPad launch of Frozen Synapse. In an ideal world, I’ll be doing a more significant post every week, with a lot of little updates in between.

State of the Game

If you’ve heard me talk recently, or seen anything about how FS has been doing, you’ll know that we have over 300k users now. Sales continue to be good, even with the massive numbers of discounted copies which were sold during the Humble Indie Bundle and we’re confident that we’ll have a good Christmas. I’m a huge gamer now, but I started getting experience on video games with games I found on the Android store. The very best Android games picked by our experts, including shooters, adventure games, arcade games and much more.

We have some challenges still to overcome: as Ian mentioned, we’re taking on a new person to help us provide better support and updates for the existing version; at the same time we’re pushing forward with the iPad build.

Thoughts on iPad

I’m a very recent convert to the iPad and I absolutely love it. Here’s why in a nutshell:

– It’s much faster to do certain things than an equivalent device or netbook

The combination of portability with a very effective “sleep” mode make it the thing I reach for when I want to check something or look something up.

As a musician, I’m very keen to try out things like Touchable which look like they could transform some of the stuff I do.

In terms of games, I just whipped through Scribblenauts (which is just pure unashamed silliness) and I am being entertained by Infinity Blade right now. Ian is a 100 Rogues fan so I probably will pick that up too.

Will it work?

FS is a complicated game and it’s not for everyone; much of the iPad market is casual. However, we’re starting to see people hankering for deeper games. Here are the conditions in my mind for FS performing well:

– Great interface

– Great press / feature by Apple

Not easy!

Press

We’re quite lucky in that FS’s existing performance means that iOS sites are willing to talk to us and take us seriously. I’ve had mails from quite a few indie devs recently along the lines of “journalists don’t reply to my mails”.

The sad fact is that there has to be SOME kind of story behind what you’re doing. “Unknown dev announces unknown new IP with generic-looking gameplay and not-very-good-art” is not a story, and it’s hard to make it one.

I think with FS that getting the attention of the media will be easier than for some other projects, that just leads to…

Jabbing My Fat Finger At the Screen

How are we going to make the interface good?

The PC interface for FS is far from perfect, I will admit that freely. It’s massively improved from what we started with way back during the early days of development, and for the majority of play it works very well. There are specific situations though, where it can still be a nightmare, and I wish we could solve all of those problems. If you love mobile games, there is an amazing shooting game called Free Fire, that is also free to download. Also, we recommend these tips and tricks for you to level up faster.

I think we can solve SOME of them, and I hope to do so, but how will this translate to the iPad?

I think one of the core issues is differentiation – it’s very hard to know what you are selecting at any one time, especially in a cluttered view. I have some thoughts on this which are germinating, and I hope to try out our existing build of the game (which is basically vanilla – i.e. your finger is the mouse right now) seriously very soon and start making a list of interface problems we need to solve.

Hopefully I’ll be able to talk through those on here at some point.

I’m away next week (and I don’t currently have clearance to tell you why!) and I will keep you updated on my…movements.

Let’s take this wonderful journey into the world of touch together…ugh. Better end there.

Skirmish

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Of all the features I’ve ever been excited about in a forthcoming game, Red Alert’s “Skirmish Mode” ranks number one.  The idea of being able to play multiplayer C&C – of which I was a humongous fan – against the computer… frankly, I dreamt about it.  And when it came around, it didn’t dissapoint either.  Skirmish modes and bots are slightly less important nowadays that it’s so easy to get games online, but back then I could only host a LAN party once a week, and needed something to do the other six days.

Anyway, today I put the Skirmish mode into Frozen Synapse.  We have a big single player with a big story, but of course people are going to want to design their own games against the AI easily.  Here’s the Skirmish Generator screen (click to enbiggen):

Please note that the layout is not final – these are simply programmer art windows.

This allows you to set up pretty much any Extermination match you can think of.  A couple of notes:

– Our AI is infinitely scalable.  For the single player, and by default in the Skirmish Generator, it is set at “Level 2” which tends to get turns calculated in about 5 – 20 seconds – we’ve found that to be an acceptable wait for most people on most computers.  However, if you’re running some kind of super computer from the future or are very patient you can crank it up to 5, which may take a few minutes on modern hardware to run.

– You can choose to have the units deployed near each other (“Situation”) or at opposite ends of the map for a more traditional form.

– There’s a little indicator at the bottom which warns you if you’re setting up a match your computer may have trouble with.  Get many more than 16 units and AI calcs are extremely slow, and very very large maps can have similar problems.  But I wanted to make it available anyway – so we just warn you if we think you’re going to have problems.

So that’s all pretty cool, but I actually wanted to go further and give players control over the map generator.  Here’s the map generator screen:

Map generators tend to be highly eccentric things which only work the exact way the developer has set them up – and of course the “default” settings are what I think gives the best FS experience.  However, my map generator is pretty good and by changing most of those numbers within the limits you’ll get very different but still very playable maps.  The headline settings are:

– “Stop zone side”: Set this low and you’ll get completely dense maps, like the inside of a massive office block.  Set it large and you’ll get something more akin to a village, with lots of open space.

– “Max zone side”: You can get massively bigger rooms by increasing this.

– “Outside wall delete chance”: Crank this up and you’ll have a much more “ruined” feel to the map, with lots of free standing walls and half destroyed buildings.

I hope some players have some fun making different map gens for different experiences.

With this kind of stuff, players will always want to share their settings, so I’ve made it as easy as possible to do that.  Click on “Share These Settings” and you get a piece of text which you can copy and paste to a forum or an email:


If someone wants to try your settings, all they have to do is load up FS and paste the text into a box – easy as that, no messing around with files.

Finally, here’s a map produced by the newly-tuned map generator:

At the top is a “Regenerate” button which allows you to keep generating maps with your given settings until you see something you like.

Let me know what you guys think.

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Pathfinding

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

I’m rather pleased with myself this morning.

The pathfinding in FS has always been atrocious – experienced players pretty much have to use shift all the time to bypass it.  It’s a pain in the ass.  Here’s a great example of it going wrong:

The reason pathfinding sucks so much is that my algorithm for it is terrible – it splits the levels up into a grid, each square about the size of a unit.  It then checks each square for obstacles.  It’s a really innaccurate representation of the level.

This weekend I was reading up on advanced pathfinding stuff, and considering using some kind of Navmesh with movement polygons.  Then I was hit by a flash of inspiration – the only thing that matters in FS is corners.  If you ever want to make a path in FS, you only ever use the corners to get there – the only points I need in my nav-graph are the corners!  Here’s my code for identifying the corners in action:

As you’ll know if you’ve written A* before, the algorithm needs to know how all the navigation nodes are connected.  Here’s the same level with that info:

The nav-graph for this level is pretty simple – here’s a more normal one:

Yikes.  Lucky computers are fast at this sort of thing!  Here’s the same level that the initial algorithm got wrong, but with the new algo I knocked up this morning:

Perfect.  You guys can play around with this pathfinding right now – the download is here.

Lots more UI improvements to come.

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Flooded

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

My village, which houses our office, is pretty badly flooded.  Every eight years or so you get flooding so bad that you can’t drive to my house but you can canoe around the village on the flooded roads.  I have to park at the other side of the village and climb accross a load of fences to get to work O_o.  Here I am though!

Exciting times for Synapse this week, as I finally get the SENSATION I’ve been looking for from it.  I’m very much hoping the beta will relaunch soon so you guys can play against me.  I have to fix this annoying bug first though…

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Crapple

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Today I was having some issues syncing my iTouch 2nd gen iPod, so I decided I might as well do the paid os upgrade.  It costs £2.99, and I don’t really agree with it, but “sod it” I thought – if it fixes my problem then fine.

I don’t like Apple.  I have an iTouch mainly because of the podcasting support – I have an iPod compatible car stereo and being able to listen to my favorite shows when I’m driving is actually a serious upgrade to my life.

So let me tell you what this paid for, 270 megabyte OS upgrade (whose main feature as far as I can tell is to allow you to buy movies from Apple) did:

First, it stopped my iPod being able to connect to the internet through my router.  I checked the forums and this is a very common problem.  People advise replacing the router (!) or firmware upgrading the router.

Second, it broke compatibility with my car stereo.

So yeah, at this point I’m pretty pissed off.  This is actually the worst consumer experience I’ve ever had, and the only thing that mitigates the situation is that it’s Apple, and I’m highly glad I now have this story to tell.  It’s like catching sypholis from someone you hate.

So, I post on their forums a fairly rude “Apple, wtf are you doing” thread.  It was fairly rude, but it didn’t have any swearing in it, and did involve an actual question.

I had thought this situation couldn’t make me more angry.  I was wrong.  Apple went ahead and violated about the only ethic I really strongly believe in: free speech.  They removed my post.

This whole situation got me to thinking about Apple.  I know a lot of people who really evangelize apple.  I have always hated them.  I’m going to try and explore why.

Let’s start off by comparing Apple and Microsoft.  Here are the core aims of the two companies when it comes to their customers:

Microsoft want a monopoly.
Apple want to make money.

Let me rephrase that:

Microsoft want you to be addicted to their software.
Apple want to sell you more things.

Here’s another one:

Apple has a customer base which largely loves it.
Microsoft is at war with its customer base.

Do you think that really favors Apple?  Because I don’t.  Apple can do whatever the hell it likes and still be loved, whereas Microsoft actually has to please people.

Now don’t get me wrong: Microsoft is evil.  But the crucial difference here is that Microsoft is evil to companies.  Not to you.  To companies.  It buys companies and kills them, or kills them by obscufating supposed standards.  It does this so it doesn’t have worthy competition.  But it also understands that part of having a monopoly in a software business is to have good software.

Microsoft buys companies with good products, consumes what’s good about them so it can give it to you, then throws away the husk.

Apple does something much, much worse.

It buys companies with good products so that they can’t release them on Windows; uses them as a selling point for OSX, and then ignores them.  Case in point: Logic.

Exploring Apple’s forums is a really, really shocking experience.  I advise you to try it.  The forums are full of complaints about how this or that or the other has broken on someone’s ipod.  And no answers. Apple never reply.  The only replies that aren’t “I had this same problem and I just had to buy a new iPod” (translation: result for Apple) are idiot Apple fanboys basically pretending the problem doesn’t exist.

This has been a bit of a badly structured rant, and I apologise for that.  But I’ll just finish by saying that the bug list of the new iPod OS appears to be longer than the feature list.  And this is an update you have to pay for.

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Reprint

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Here’s a recent comment I made on Blues’ News which may be of interest:

“I am the person responsible for getting Puppy Games’ link wrong and I would like to apologise. It is http://www.puppygames.net and has some extremely high-quality indie games…not what you might expect from the name. This has now been fixed on the petition so that massively judgmental people aren’t suddenly thwarted by something that, at first glance, appears to confirm their ignorant preconceptions. Joking.

I think that pretty much everyone can agree on the fact that Valve need to be more open and sensible about their acceptance criteria for Steam. They need to at least provide a sensible contact for submissions, for a start.

The petition is now essentially saying that developers need a real dialogue with Valve about these issues and that is the core of what I hope to achieve.

I’m best qualified to talk about Determinance in the context of Steam, as I worked on it. Determinance is a game that some people genuinely love, send us fan mail about, beg us to do updates etc. etc. and some people despise with the very totality of their being. It is not perfect by a long stretch – it was a low-budget over-ambitious experiment just like an indie title should be. We believe that it should be possible to distribute it on Steam because *customers and potential customers keep telling us that we should do this*, and not for any other reason. The petition started as a way of formalising this desire amongst people to have the game on Steam; we then found that other devs were having the same issue, and some wanted to get involved to help open up the dialogue with Valve, rather than campaign to get specific titles on there.

It’s delightfully simple to say, “ALL THESE GAMES ARE CRAP LOL” but that is part of the point. Games that some people think are crap should reach the widest audience possible so that people who might love them can find them. If you’re a hunchback with one eye looking for a date, you need to get yourself out there to increase the probability of meeting someone with a cycloptic posturual deficiency fetish. ”

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Prototyping

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Prototyping on Frozen Synapse continues.  At this early stage I really can’t talk about the game itself very much, but I thought I’d give you guys an insight into some of our prototyping process.

I’m using an older version of Torque Game Builder from GarageGames as the prototype engine.  TGB is a bit bloated and kind of aimed at the old Click-N-Play market now, but it renders things, takes keyboard input, has a good ui system, and does collision.  The last thing I want to do is write those things at this stage.
I find it pretty difficult to show the prototype to people, even people in the team.  I keep worrying that they’ll misinterpret it or that it’s nowhere near showing my actual gameplay vision.  But at the moment I tend to lock myself up for a week, then show it to someone, get a lot of feedback, lock myself up for a week… rinse and repeat.

Just a bit of an insight there for you guys.

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