IndieDB page is up

DataJack

Click that icon to check out the DataJack IndieDB entry. This is the first step to getting set up on Desura where DJ will be made available. The IndieDB entry has a bunch of screenshots, some not seen before, and both of the good youtube videos I put up. The videos are old, from before the AI and LOS overhaul, so they’re not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.

In other news, balance is tough. I’m rejiggering the damage calculation algorithms to make the enemies a bit more challenging. All actors have health and armor ratings, and all weapons have damage and armor-piercing ratings, a system I modeled on the original Fallout. Making it work in a reasonable fashion is another thing entirely.

In the end, I’d much rather have people complain that it’s too hard rather than too easy. The full-on playthough testing will begin shortly… I’m running out of bugs to fix.

Another level down, AI overhaul project begins

Having completed the structure of my latest level (a three-part open-air complex design) I’m ready to really sit down and think hard about the A.I. This has probably been the most difficult part of designing this game due to the constraints of my tools and the requirement that it should not significantly slow down the runtime which is already pushing the limits of multimedia fusion.

I recently uncovered this early design document sketching out the run cycle for the cyborg guards

I recently uncovered this early design document sketching out the run cycle for the cyborg guards

I handle collisions and interactions with the environment via a 256-color 640×480 bitmap wherein different colors signify different types of terrain: windows, walls, half-height walls, etc. This works quite well for testing if a character is running into a wall or off a cliff, but the A.I. will need to sort of generalize outward and reason about the global structure of the map to some extent. Sampling colors at various points seems insufficient.

It would be pretty easy to write this sort of A.I. if the levels were all open fields. It’s when the guard hears the player on the other side of a wall, or sees him duck around a corner that things get a little tricky. Some sort of pathfinding is indicated here, but I can’t do full-blown pathfinding without grinding the engine to a halt. A reasonable approximation is needed.

The A.I. as it stands right now is servicable– it will run after you, shoots at you and will mostly behave as expected- but it isn’t smart enough. It’ll work itself into corners or sometimes fail to notice the player in situations where it should be quite able. Part of this comes from the final stages of tweaking variables like footstep and gunshot noises or shadow visibilities, which I intend to get to during this overhaul.

Work Continues!

 

A page from the project notebook

A page from the project notebook

The intensity of the holidays and my qualifying exams has passed, and I’ve resumed working on DataJack again in earnest. Only two main things remain to be done:

1. Completing the rest of the missions (about five to go)

2. Balancing the mission rewards and item costs

There are a few minor things here and there that I’m tweaking, like flavor text, some graphical updates, fleshing out the world, etc. I’m also starting to think that a guard A.I. overhaul / updating needs to be done. This could be somewhat of a pain but I think it’d be worth it. Bad A.I. could drag the whole project down, and I hate for that to happen after all this work.

After various updates to the software and talking with the Multimedia Fusion devs, I found the hardware-accelerated display modes have matured quite a bit and I’ve switched DataJack over to full Direct3D 9 with incredible improvements in framerate. This is also now why I think I have some breathing room to make the A.I. a little smarter.

I hope to update more frequently as I push for the finish line here. When it’s ready, DataJack will be published on Desura. Stay tuned!