Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Game Maker Progress 46: Zooming, Tile Up-Scaled and UI Scaling

Hello everyone,

The last week has been focused on something which I've been meaning to do for a while. Previously the sizes of the map tiles were around 200 x 200 pixels. As such - all UI elements were designed with this in mind. This size made it difficult to put certain detail into the art of the game, and as such - I've been meaning to scale it up to a larger amount - a tile is now 800 x 800 pixels. This has meant that the UI needs to also be scaled up in size, to match the new tile sizes as the camera is further zoomed outward. 

Since I was working with the scaling - I decided to put in Zooming once more; since this feature was planned to be in the game - which I decided to put on the backlog for a while. Now re-added - my goal the past week was to ensure that if I decided to scale up the tiles once more - I wouldn't have the issue to re-adjust the size of the UI again. 

After a few days of working out the mathematics of it - it's working quite well! The system essentially increases the scale of the sprite of the UI element, whilst also maintaining it's position on the screen. This was done by using variables containing the distance from the centre of the screen where the camera is centred, and then using percentages to position the elements on the screen. As long as the scale of the image was correct - the element will remain in place whenever you zoom out.

This has - of course - meant that I have a day or two of going through various UI elements and adjusting the code that positions and determines their scale. However once that's done, everything should be in working order and future proofed to deal with this automatically if I decided to upscale the tiles again!

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Game Maker Progress 45: What's next?

Hello everyone,

The next development cycle is under-way - the next play-test currently planned for the end of August. Due to the shorter cycle this time around - the feature list includes far less time-heavy work; and will instead of focus on fine-tuning the issues with the core game-play loop. 

One of the major changes will be moving towards a new way to build your nation - starting with villages, and expanding into larger cities with districts. This has a two-pronged benefit - the first being it eases the player into the growth, requirements and expansion of larger cities, and it also provides a more believable feel to the way the nation expands and grows. Together with this - new structures will be added, together with new resources, all to help encourage a different approach to solving various problems faced within the game, and also tackle new obstacles.



Warmth and health are both planned to be within this next build. Simplistic versions of the larger systems - but it will help gauge the effect of these systems on the game itself, until slowly expanding them to become more enticing and engaging, in relation to planning and consequence. Nation Traits - one of the features which has been planned from the very start - will also begin to be implemented. Nation Traits can be seen as the nation's general understanding of a particular field. As Farming is done more and more in the nation, your people will learn more about farming - unlocking new benefits, structures and ideas. This will help give both a feeling of progression - as well as an indication that the new budding nation is finding it's footing in it's new land.

That more or less tackles the more in-depth and complicated features that might give rise to unexpected issues. Some are prioritised over others - however, they should all fit within the allotted time-frame. Finally - a number of less work-load intensive, more convenient features are planned - such as the ability to view the composition of the workforce in a menu to know how many people are doing what - to an event tracker which will help inform the player of any issues that might be arising, or any events of note.

Much of what's been decided has been based on the feedback generated from the play-test - it was both a motivating and highly insightful experience, which I plan on hopefully replicating more and more as the game progresses forward. 

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Game Maker Progress 44: Play-Test Update and Planning the Next Step

Hello everyone,

Yesterday - the first group play-test of Foundation of Civilisation took place. Whilst the game is still heavily in development, the first feedback was both promising and insightful! I was a little bit nervous - as I think many people tend to be when showing of their new work; especially when it is of personal importance. The overall response to the game was positive - the game in it's limited state shows promise to being a fairly enjoyable game to play. 

Before-hand, I'd like to take this opportunity to, again, thank the play-testers for their support and willingness to help try the game at this incomplete state - which I am confident will help make it a far better experience as a game!

A small informal survey at the end of the play-test helps shed some light on how the play-test went. The results will now be used to help plan what needs to improve, what needs to change, what is highly requested to be added next, and where there is interest. Needless to say - this was a small play-test of around 6 individuals, so the size of the sample is limited - but it remains useful none-the-less.

When asked what should be prioritised for the next build of the game - the average responses were as follow;

========================================================================

Higher variety of resources and approaches to fulfilling different needs and tasks: --------------2.16
More structures to build that perform different tasks: -------------------------------------------------2.3
More depth to the population: ----------------------------------------------------------------------------2.83
More depth to the environment [By environment - it is referred to the tiles which structures occupy]: -------3.16
Better reasons to explore the world itself: ---------------------------------------------------------------4.6
Better authentic-feel to tiles: -------------------------------------------------------------------------------4.6

========================================================================

At it's current state - there is also a major need towards giving players a reason to plan ahead, and perhaps even the tools to plan ahead better. When asked how much did you plan ahead when placing your structures, players responses average was as follows;

========================================================================

How much did you plan ahead when placing your structures? [1 not a lot, to 10 a lot]: -------------- 5

========================================================================

When asked about what they'd like to see in the game, the suggestions and ideas were highly varied. Ideas ranging from different types of events to help cause disruptions to the game, which would make planning more critical, to tools that would aid in planning, and controlling the nation itself. Many of these suggestions will likely find themselves in the already planned out systems, to perhaps even being added to the list of features to be added in the future!

The next week will involve planning what to add and test in the next prototype build - which I am hoping to schedule at the end of August. Needless to say, due to the shorter cycle [For the first prototype, it was a 2 month cycle] - less features will be added, and the focus will likely be on both refining what already exists, and adding new features that are planned out for testing.

Thank you for reading through this if you have, and thank you for the play-testers who participated in this play-test!

Until next time,
Dylan


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Game Maker Progress 43: Project Update Prior to First Group Play-test

Hello everyone,

Preparations are more or less complete for the group play-test which is scheduled for next Saturday (29th July 2017). I feel both excited, and nervous; as the project makes it's first step towards being tried by players as a game. 

The last few days have been quite the joy when it comes to Foundation of Civilisation. The project has made huge strides since it's planning, concept, and the hours of work that have been put into it until this point. There are still hours, days, if not months of work left before the game can be anywhere near what I believe it could be ready for public release - however progress is being made. The most exciting feeling from play-testing the game came from it actually feeling like a game - like a game I would play. 


With so many ideas still left to be tried and tested, both exciting ones, and ones focused on making the project just that little bit better of an experience; in terms of optimisation, and in terms of game-play. 

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Game Maker Progress 42: Preparations for Play-Test and Next Step

Hello everyone,

As I begin preparations to have some play-testers try out the project - I started working more towards usability by fixing the tool-tips and working on the interface. The play-test will help offer a few insights on what's already been done and what can be improved, and changed. Aside from a few parameters being tuned, and fixing a few basic bugs - the game for the initial play-test. At the moment - most of the parameters have been set with testing in-mind; as such they need to be adjusted to what they could be for game-play purposes.


I have a number of ideas on what to change, add and remove that could help the game's experience. Thinking on how to go from the early-game to the late-game and ensuring the game remains compelling was one of the more important considerations as I continued thinking on could be added next, after the play-test.

Two ideas that came to mind is to have an underground-map which the player can dig-out to create underground structures. The second idea is to allow the player to have certain decisions and choices that will influence their nation. These can range from trade deals, to large immigration, to dealing with issues and so on. Following the play-tests - I will begin planning out the next build, plan out what features to implement, fix issues, and adjust elements based on feedback!



Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Game Maker Progress 41: District and Workpost Upgrade Plots and the Production Menu

Hello everyone,

This week I worked on two fairly work-load heavy elements. Both still have work that need to be done beyond simply tuning - however, since one depended on the other; it meant that I could not focus on one to completion before moving onto the other. The most work-load heavy is the new Upgrade System for the various Districts and Work-posts. 


Plots represent a space in which a structure that has a certain functionality can be built within a district or work-post. Previously - the Artisan District was the only structure that would have had these types of structures - the sawmill for instance, refined logs into timber. However, moving forward each structure will have plots where upgrade structures can be built with functionality ranging from increased efficiency and productive, to different resource production and a number of other ideas. The idea of 'Plots' came as I intend to make the menu as shown above, a small map of the area - with plots of land along roads being available for structures. This helps give a more tangible feel to the districts and work-posts as being actual places within your civilisation. 


The production menu - the more incomplete of the two systems listed here - will be able to show the amount of resources being produced 'per game tick' so to speak. Each tick - represented by the temporary clock-like indicator above the season and weather indicator - represents around a week for instance within the game world. So based on the production rate - we can see that 9 logs are being cut per week for instance. The production limit listed here will be adjustable by the player to limit production of resources. This is mostly important based on feedback of previous play-testers about artisan structures using so much raw material to produce refined resources, that it became difficult to have enough raw resources to do other actions. 

I have also replaced a few of the UI backdrops - in particular the ones used for both menus - the plan in this account is to have these menus appear on paper-like material; that you as the leader of these people are looking at whilst making your decisions on a day-to-day basis so to speak.

Until next time,
Dylan 



Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Game Maker Progress 40: Workers and Real-Time Game-Play

Hello everyone,

This week - two more critical components of the project have been implemented. These being the ability to add and remove workers to and from work-posts, together with the relevant code to ensure that if a population loses a member who contributing as a worker - the working population reduces; and the second component is that of real-time game-play. 




The ability to add and remove workers has been a major element of the project which has now been taken care of. Ensuring that the player does not somehow end up with a large amount of workers, when residential districts only have a few workers, as well as ensuring all the correct figures are shown, was a small head-ache. Thankfully - much of the work to ensure the system works was done with the concept build, which now only meant I needed to refine it and re-implement a new version. 

There does need to be a lot of adjustments to parameters based on the fact that game now operates in real-time. The real-time element in essence functions by having an 'Alarm' on-going during game-play which triggers a set of functions and resets the alarm; to signify time passing by. The way this has been implemented allows for a fairly simple way of allowing the player to choose speed - be it slow, normal and fast - which will be implemented along the line. This is a major change from the concept build - but a necessary one based on the type of game-play I am offering. Some of the feedback on the concept build described the game-play to be too slow; this might be the solution for this, this remains to be seen with play-testing however. 

There remains a few other tasks before I can begin refining the current build to a form to allow play-testers to test the game. More specifically is adding the Artisan District's functionality, possibly add the ability to save and load, and add the Production Menu to allow for better management of resources. Following this - I will be focusing my attention on the User Interface and the place-holder graphic elements. I will be keeping most of my efforts on the UI and the place-holder graphics in a more general form - for instance - attempt to have a single button graphic that can be modified using code and scaling to perform multiple tasks. 

Until next time,
Dylan