Monday, 27 January 2014

Fog & War

I did a little fog of war implementation that also entailed a little refactoring.  Right now I reproduce a similar mesh shell that's slightly large and wraps around the main map.  Rather than rebuild the entire mesh every time a piece is made visible I instead just alter the indices.  Until I start working more on the graphics this is fine.  Behold!

Fog of war / eggshell simulator

Related to last weeks post I've been thinking about the overall game and particularly the battle structure as that's going to be the springboard for much of the game design. Questions like, what are the units that can be built? Are they individual units like in Civ, or part of a larger army like Total War?  If they are an army what happens when they meet?  I'm cautious too as it has to be something I can realistically build.

Looking at some of those title mentioned one thing I can pick from them is I much prefer moving a few large armies around rather than individual units like Civ.  That should hopefully make the enemy AI a little easier to build too if it doesn't have a hundred movement considerations to make.  So I'm building out a little battle prototype.  My thinking right now is a battle front of X slots depending on the location, and you take turns to place units into battle, and you play them blind.  Kind of like have three rounds of rock/paper/scissors.  Ain't much to look at yet...but even in this crude state it's being quite helpful as a petri dish of death.

War is ugly. 

Monday, 20 January 2014

Sources of inspiration.

I don't have any progress to report so instead I thought I do a little post on which games inspire and influence what I'm working on.  It's a turn based strategy so there are some obvious ones like the amazing Civilization series.  I'm a hug fan in particular of Civ IV, partly as  Leonard Nimoy recites the tech tree entries.  Civilization is a helluva of a great game so if I could brew even thimble full of it's quality I'd be over the moon.  Another Sid Meier one, I only very recently picked up Alpha Centauri from and played a little bit of it as I knew it was held in high regard.  The story/setting was really interesting and the more pick n mix style for creating units from technology was neat.

The Great Civ IV

There are a couple of lesser known titles that are always in the back of my mind though.  First up isn't even a full game, it's a mini game within  "James Cameron's Avatar: The Game" which is a 3rd person action game.  It's called Conquest mode and it's this neat little strategy where you use points from the main game to build your army and then you simply go and try and take over the planet.  It's really simple and neat, very few people will have played it as the mode itself is kind of optional and hidden away if I remember.  The UI, or more generally the sphere as the basis of the map is really cool.

conquest mode in Avatar

Next up is Defender of the Crown, the original and the rather brilliant sequel.  You build castles and head out with one army only to conquer England.  There are these kind of broken mini games where you have to rescue princesses and joust in tournaments.  Not a great strategy game really, but I like it as there's a certain something about setting that makes it kind of magical.

I love Defender of the Crown.
to Battle!

Lastly an old Star Wars game called Supremacy (or Rebellion in the US).  Again, not a game that set the world on fire when it came out, it got middling reviews, but I really enjoyed parts of it.  It had Star Wars as a setting which was of course exciting, and more importantly let you build your own Death Star.  It had this cool build up, where you where recruiting characters and researching new technologies.  In turn planets would go from being good at general production of a couple of things but by the end you had dedicated planets for knocking out star destroyers in 8 turns.

Rebel scum.

That move from bases having a good general output to being able to specialise, be it economic, military or research is definitely something I would to try and create.  Final thoughts...oh gosh oh gosh oh gosh there's so much left to do.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Creating a mesh or 3d model skybox in Unity

Happy new year, I recently returned from holidays with the family so no game progress to speak of.  Instead I'd thought I do a little walk through on creating the sky sphere drawing I used for the previous build.  This is not the same as the normal unity skybox which uses images to fill the screen.  What I wanted was some mesh line drawing in the sky much like the skysphere I used in 'Last Chapter'.  Useful if you want to render a mountain range or a city skyline, something like that.

You could draw what you need positioned really far away but you'd have to set the camera far clip plane to an equally large distance and that's possibly going to cause depth flickering (z fighting) from the reduced depth buffer accuracy.

A much better way is to use a little camera trick.  You draw the background scene in any scale but you move its position to wherever the game camera is. Then you clear the depth buffer which means anything drawn after will be on top, and draw the rest of your game as normal.  I actually talk through the method in the Last Chapter documentary at 8m50s where you can see the effect in action.

In XNA I had good setup for the drawing order and I could clear depth buffer as needed, in Unity I needed to setup a second camera and layer for just the background scene and set a number of little things to make it work.


First, create a new layer to hold the backgound objects.  "Edit > Project Settings > Tags & Layers".  Add a new one and I called mine 'skysphere'.  Anything you want to draw in the background should be placed in this layer.  If you're using code to do that you use the number (gameobject.layer = 8;)

add a layer for our background scene objects

Now let's set up the second camera.  ... "GameObject > Create Other > Camera." and I called mine skySphereCamera.  We want the following settings from top to bottom.

Fig 1 - skybox camera settings

a1) Tag - should be untagged.  Layer - we can leave this as default but let's move it to skysphere for neatness.

b1) Clear flags - solid color.  We want to clear the scene with a solid color before we start our drawing for a frame, I've chosen a dark gray.

c1) Culling mask - open the list and select ONLY the 'skysphere' layer.   Here we're telling the camera to only draw objects placed in this layer.

d1) Projection & field of view - these settings should be the same as the main game camera.

e1) Clipping planes - near 0.1 & far 20.  My background objects are quite small and should happily fit within this range nicely.

f1) Depth - 0.  We want to draw this camera first, so set depth to zero.

g1) Audio Listener - toggle off.  If you compiled with this on it would throw an error about having two audio listeners, one on each camera, so we toggle this one off.

Now back to our main game camera.

fig 2 - main game camera settings

a2) Tag - MainCamera. Layer - default.  Make sure that your main game camera is tagged as MainCamera as we can use this later in code.

b2) Clear flags - depth only.  We've drawn the background, so we only want to clear the depth buffer before drawing the rest of the game.

c2) Culling mask - open the list and we want to have every layer ticked except the skysphere.

d2) Projection & field of view - match these settings to the background camera.

e2) Clipping planes - near 0.1 & far 20.  My game is mostly drawing a small unit sphere so these settings are fine for me.  You may need a further far clip plane, and you don't need to have the same values as the other camera.

f2) Depth - 1.  We want this camera to draw after the background so set this to 1.

g2) Audio listener - on.  This camera is going to handle audio.

Almost there, we have our two cameras set up so we're clearing the right buffers in the right order.  Now we need to do a couple of other things.  Whenever we move our game camera we simply need to also move the other camera with it.  Any little script will do, I created a simple CameraManager that takes the two cameras as gameobjects.  In the update loop I just copy the values across.

SkyCamera.transform.position = ArcBallCamera.transform.position;
SkyCamera.transform.rotation = ArcBallCamera.transform.rotation;

drag & drop camera objects
to the script in Unity editor.

The cameras are now in sync.  We lastly need to move the background objects along with the camera for the illusion to work.  That's simply done in the Update loop again, but we only match position not rotation.  This is where the MainCamera tag comes into play.

backgroundGameObject.transform.localPosition = Camera.main.transform.position;


Hopefully that was reasonably clear any questions give me an email.  I guess I have to get back to making this game then, hmmmm, 2014 ... here...we...go.