Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Progress Update 23rd September 2017

Hello everyone,

The reason for the title of this post being what it is - is that sometimes progress is more general, and less specific. Truth be told - it can be an intimidating feeling when you feel as though you haven't really progressed in a specific project, sometimes even when you attempt to objectively look at the progress you've made recent, it can also feel as though you could have done more. Which isn't a bad thing - critically looking at yourself, reflecting and thinking about how you can do better is good - but crediting yourself when it's due and also doing so can be a difficult balance. I digress - the general progress updates will likely be used on days where progress was more general rather than project specific.

My progress with the introduction to digital art course is going fairly well. Much of what's being taught is still fairly basic - however, strengthening basic concepts is definitely key to improving a skill which one feels less proficient at. I am quite anxious to return to work on Foundation of Civilisation, however. I am holding off as I continue work on this digital arts course; and also add more focus towards my Master Dissertation.



My Masters research will be occupying a fair portion of my time the coming 6 months at the very least - this will mean that work on Foundation of Civilisation will be slowed down. That being said - I do plan to continue working on the project throughout the 6 months. I will most likely be dedicating a day or so during the week to working on Foundation of Civilisation, but ensuring that the Dissertation receives priority. 

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Game Maker Progress 51: Exporting Game Data to Text File

Hello everyone,

As I continue the Udemy Digital Arts course - with not much to show for at the moment as the course does start off fairly basic with concepts such as line work and line weight, I decided to bring forward a system I have implemented into the game to later on help with balancing and gathering game-play data.



The system as it is at the moment simply saves specific data from the game session to an external text file - which can then be imported to a spreadsheet software to help with interpreting the data itself. At the moment - the data gathered is simple, population growth, decline and immigration during a specific turn. However eventually I hope to add other data points that could help with balancing; including resource production, amount of workers at various workposts, and so on.


Needless to say - balancing is not the highest priority for the moment; although having this system in place, together with the insights it could help provide, might help make design decisions later on. Plus due to the simplicity of implementing the system itself [less than to around an hour's work], I decided it would be best to just implement it whilst the idea was fresh in memory, and I had some time to spare. The information is also gather un-intrusively - which will definitely aid in play-tests later on - to help figure out what numbers to adjust during game-play and so on.

Until next time,
Dylan 

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Game Maker Progress 50: This Month's Plan

Hello everyone,

As I have mentioned in a previous post - this month will be focusing primarily on improving the project aesthetically - and aiming to improve on this aspect both in relation to making changes, as well as making the graphics more appealing.

Much - if not all - of the game's current graphical assets were always intended to be placeholders. I do have a vision for how the game would aesthetically look at completion - however, between now and then lies a few obstacles. Depending on whether I decide to forgo bringing in digital artists to create assets for the game, or simply create them myself - will have a major impact on the project. Whilst the biggest barrier to bringing in digital artists to create assets is primarily financial, as well as finding the artist with the style that can fit the game itself; the biggest barrier when creating the assets myself is a mixture between my skill-set and the time-investment. 

As such - the first thing I am will be working on this month - is taking a digital arts course; with the aim to improve my drawing abilities, both digitally and non-digitally. This will likely take up a large part of the month, and will also likely take more time even after - however the intention is to begin improving my artistic abilities in digital arts, and keep moving forward from there. 

Following this - there are two aspects of the aesthetic of the game that will require improvement. First of which is not visual per se - but will help with implementing and modifying graphical assets - that is standardising and improving the way graphical assets are handled in the project. This can be as simple as making sure that all icons are the same size, and making sure that each icon defaults to the default zoom level to allow for maximum detail, to improving the way code modifies the graphical elements for effect. The other visual aspect - is simply to improve the graphical assets. 'Improve' being a very general term - however moving towards what I have in mind, whilst also making sure that the graphical assets are both recognisable and appealing are a major part of this aspect.

I may do a few touches to the code itself this month - however, primarily this month I will solely be focusing on the graphical and aesthetic aspect of the project itself.

Until next time,
Dylan

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Game Maker Progress 49: Minor Additions

Hello everyone,

I apologise for the slight delay in posting this article. During the last week I have been busy with other work - which has resulted in me not achieving much in terms of Foundation of Civilisation. However, I have been able to find time to replace some placeholder graphical assets with more relevant ones. 



Aside from providing graphics to the Housing and Traveler's Lodge upgrades within the Residential District; I've also given a graphic to the Event notifications to help the user tell what type of notification it is, at a glance. 

I hope to spend the next month focusing more on the graphical side of the project - and begin to change some of the placeholder graphical assets with more fitting ones. Whilst those would more likely not be the final graphical assets, it will help give the project a better appearance during play-testing, and will also help to begin dialling down on the art-style which I have planned. 

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Game Maker Progress 48: Added Structures, Upgrades and Event Notification System

Hello everyone,
After a few considerations - I decided to delay the Village to Town system for later on - most likely October. The reason for this decision was that implementing the up-scaled graphics, together with a few other related features; much of the game's code has to be modified to ensure it functions with the larger tile size. For this choice - I decided before moving onto another major feature that would require essentially braking down the game's functionality again until implemented - I would like to have another play-test to ensure that most of the game's systems remain functional; and no hidden bugs crop up.

That being said - with the end of the month nearing - I decided to focus on adding more content to the game itself. Based on the feedback from the first play-test - there was a high request for more approaches to deal with issues in-game, be they resources or structures. Whilst the game is early on - and content is a relatively low in importance compared to getting the game's functionality down - with around a week left in this development cycle, I decided it would be worth dedicating some more time to adding this content to begin trying it out and testing it. 



Balancing will definitely be a continuous process - as will be changing around structures until they both fit in a logical manner - and fit with the still-evolving game's functionality. It is - needless to say - imperative to maintain a type of general approach to various game systems, to allow room for changes in the way the game works. Such as making sure that if down the road - structures do need to be placed adjacent to one another - the code to build structures is easily modified to allow for this restriction. 

Another system being added is an Event Notification system. Players during the play-test of the Pre-Alpha 0.1 Build expressed their wishes to be notified of certain events; and this feature had already been planned to be implemented - and it has found it's way into this build. At this stage - the system is very much a place-holder in terms of it's graphical and also in terms of it's ability to convey information. Players receive a weekly report of Growths, Immigration, Decline in the Population, and also the change in season. Aside from this - players are also notified if a Residential District is running low on food - and they also can move the camera to the related district by simply clicking on the notification. For the moment - a small icon falls from the top right of the screen - and the player can hover over the icon to display the related information. It is, needless to say, planned to ensure each icon is distinguishable for various events - and also allow for a cleaner and quicker way to relay the information within the tool-tip.

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Game Maker Progress 47: Designing the new Village to Town System

Hello everyone,

The last week has not been very productive for a number of reasons - between other obligations and similar reasons; as such I used it to stream-line a few processes to make future work simpler and easier. For example - I organised the sprite and image files I use for the tiles and structures within Krita - the software I am currently trying out to use for graphic creation - in layers in a way that will make it easier to create new structures, export it's relevant images, and import them into Game Maker Studio in as few steps as possible.

I have been thinking a lot about a major change I want to implement in the way that towns are built. Previously - players simply built districts that perform various functionality such as housing the population or refining material into other resources. This was always meant to change - and I have been taking steps into figuring out how to implement the early stages of the player's civilisation building with village, that will eventually lead to the creation of towns, and their subsequent expansion using districts.

As it stands - players will begin by constructing villages which will be a amalgamation of the current existing Residential, Mercantile and Artisan districts. Once a village reaches around 100 population - it can expand into a town. Expanding into a town changes the village tile into a Capital District - and also unlocks the ability to build the various other districts adjacent to it. In a way - this gives towns a more later game feel, and also provide a more authentic way of growing and developing - rather than what is usually done where the player creates the structures when, and where they might fit. This will require more planning by the player - since the districts will need to be built adjacent to one another - and it is a possibility that a bad placement in the early game of a village could mean that the town will be smaller in size, and will require the player to build an extra village to expand instead. On that note - it is worth mentioning that the player will be able to build more villages which themselves will expand into other towns - I have yet to decide how to handle interaction between the various towns that a player might possibly decide to create. 

This will be a fairly major feature of the next test-build, which I hope to have completed before the planned play-test date. 

Until next time,
Dylan

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