November in Review
November was another big month for Blockade Runner! Along with development timeline infographics to help put the development in perspective, November put a big re-scheduled focus into a new-and-improved system for managing voxel meshes and texture atlases (which had their roots in everything entity/ship-related).
Read all about it below!
Tidbits from November Week 1
In Brief: Nathan begins on the new texture atlas system, Gabe works on an improved way of handling combo boxes, Nathan also starts his new dynamic shader pipeline, Gabe learns a bag of new tricks from Zack, and while Nathan gets the new texture atlas system to work, Zack takes the new voxelmesh system from 1500 errors down to 33 in the same day.
Tidbits from November Week 2
In Brief: Zack brings the voxelmesh errors down to 22 really tough ones, Zack then gets the voxelmesh system to compile by the next day while Gabe furthers his upgrades to the way UI respond to the event manager. Nathan's dynamic shader gets close to integration, Zack refactors a bunch of bulk (things like thruster code and center of mass), and we release a development timeline infographic!
Tidbits from November Week 3
In Brief: Nathan is pleased with the new shader pipeline tests and resumes finishing the texture atlas, Zack refactors block data code to better work with the new voxelmesh system, Zack transitions us from SVN to GIT and SourceTree, allowing us to make game-breaking changes without hurting the stable branch of the game. Gabe plays catchup fixing errors with UI as Nathan and Zack continue to refactor code, and the voxelmesh and textureatlas begin to be merged.
Tidbits from November Week 4
In Brief: Gabe starts on the options menu screen while Nathan fixes clamping/wrapping issues with some textures, Zack cleans up netcode with the new voxelmesh system and we release a visual representation of the past 2 1/2 years of work (including two code-rewrites) via the Gource repository visualization tool. Zack's almost able to render the new voxelmeshes, and Thanksgiving with the family, Nathan and Gabe go straight back to work on shaders / UI!
Bullet Points for November
+ New voxel mesh / texture atlas system almost completed
+ 2D Menus being restored and steadily debugged
+ New dynamic shader system to enable external & improved shader control
+ Development Timeline infographic released, Development Timeline video released
+ GIT and Source Tree transition providing more reliable & regular builds in the future
- The voxel mesh / texture atlas upgrade pushes release window into Q1 2014.
- 2D pipeline still needing some debug work (much less by December)
This November we've presented two separate development timeline visualizations to help give a birds-eye perspective on Blockade Runner's development. We might do some more of these as we progress through the year with added detail.
Live Gameplay Videos / GIFS
For the longest time it has been impossible to take direct footage of Blockade Runner simply because there was nothing to see while the engine was being overhauled. Every once in a while there'd be glimmers of light as Nathan and Zack would draw something for testing purposes, but it'd be surrounded by debug messages and be disabled just as quickly.
Well after a long (long, long) wait we're at the point where live gameplay can be taken once again! No foolin'! Y'all just have to bare with us as we take the new pipelines through their growing pains!
Expect to see steady progress as we take it from the utter blackness of bugginess, to a release worthy of 5,000 update-starved debuggers supporters!
November Upgrade / Release Window
As we'd stated back in October, all of this November had been re-scheduled from cleaning up for release to implementing the new voxel mesh / texture atlas upgrade. The decision was not made lightly, as it was an opportunity to implement powerful capabilities that may have taken upwards to three months to accomplish if we held it off, whereas if we did it now while the necessary components were exposed we could get it done in less than half the time. It's painful, but with an indie situation like ours we'll take a 3:1 turnaround wherever possible.
A month or so later, and the new system for voxels is integrated, but at the unfortunate cost of almost any chance at a December release. We're still working hard to try and get BR into the supporter's hands as soon as possible, but we want to make sure everyone's not holding out for that Q4 2013 release, and have adjusted the release window to reflect the current scheduling:
What does this upgrade do? Well as we described it in October, this upgrade is to... "improve the way textures are handled by entities, and wraps voxel rendering up a big dynamic ball of gooey awesome!".
And so it does! It allows us to use voxels whenever and wherever we need to in a seamless fashion. Big improvements to texture handling, and a lot of potential uses for modders in the future. We've been waiting to do this one for a long time and are glad to finally have it in the rear-view mirror!
It also wraps up a bunch of mod-friendly work we really expected we'd be doing this Spring, so we're feeling like we have some extra room now for 'other' fun things in the months ahead.
The voxel upgrade in November was a doozy for the schedule, and as depicted pushes the safe ETA for a release into January. If we're really really lucky we can possibly get a severely buggy version available to the diehard supporters by the end of December.
The next phase for this Spring will be to maintain the bi-weekly releases as we're stabilizing BR's shiney new engine and working with the community on extending certain modding capabilities (it must be done early or not at all!). We're taking this one step at a time, and so it's best to only expect a multiplayer W71 "editor-like" experience (no pew pews or powerlines) throughout Q1 of 2014. And, with that, I've now tried my hand at some expectations management. =P
We set out initially to make a simpler XNA "Infiniminer in Space", and by building a custom game engine to realize the game's full potential we've taken quite the unexpected journey. Had we really known that it does indeed take several years to build an engine from scratch, we might have made some "other" choices (hint: sequels).
In the end though, we're quite happy with where this hand-crafted beast can take Blockade Runner, and how it allows us to pursue the game we've envisioned from the get-go. Once again we have your early support and patience to thank for this opportunity, and extend a deeply appreciative thank you!
With the brunt of the uglier low-level development done, we look forward to getting this wagon trail a'movin all through 2014!
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