A gameplay screenshot from untitled tank game v0.0.3

Six weeks in the making (v0.0.3) …

I was supposed to release a version last week (I’m really sorry to those who’ve been awaiting it). Instead I’m releasing it today, and I promise I’ll try to release something every 2 weeks (1 week is way too short to achieve something of reasonable size given the amount of spare time I have).

Now lets get to the point – version 0.0.3. Unfortunately the web player won’t work anymore. I upgraded to Unity 4.6 beta version which is not yet officially supported, instead here are binaries downloads:

So, what has changed since the last release? Oh boy, where do I begin…

Bombs!

An animation of a bomb that explodes

We had exploding tanks last time, it was only logical to add even more explosions this release (and keep the trend in future until the game can’t possibly handle any more explosions). Bombs are great, they are physics controlled rigid bodies, which wobble around and eventually detonate and go BOOOM, causing massive amounts of damage to anything that’s close to them. Bombs can destroys tanks and other bricks, but what they are really good for is damaging bases. The reason why they are so great (especially in PvP) is because, once someone plots a bomb the other players will see it and try to push it away from its target, before it goes off, but the player who put it there is not going to be standing still either.

Power-ups & Items

the 5 power ups in line

Three  more power-ups and new graphics. From left to right the current power ups are:

  • Speed-boost – on pick-up doubles the tank speed
  • Bomb – Adds 3 bombs to the player’s item slot (which can later be dropped with the “use item” button)
  • Two types of shields – the good old blue shield which protects against a single bullet but last forever and a new yellow shield which blocks every bullet, but has expiration time. When a tank spawns it get a short duration yellow shield this is to prevent spawn camping and give players the chance to react to the spawn. The pickup grants more time.
  • Last but not least – the gear. Gears “heal” the player’s base when picked up, but since they are the only way to increase it’s health they turn out quite valuable, especially that’s the only resource at the moment. They are dropped every now and then from the sky and there is 1 in 4 chance that a normal crate (but not a [?] crate) will drop a gear. Later on, I’ll make gears even more useful, collecting a number of them (5 or 10) and not dying will grant an upgrade… but that’s for later.

Since the addition of bombs it is now possible for tanks to hold items (one of a type, but they can stack) and if it’s a player it will appear as an icon with a number in one of the 4 corners.

Bomb item icon in the lower left corner of the screen

Allies

Yey! Friends!!! Never gonna be lonely again. You can now spawn up to 2 AI controlled ally units using the “unit” button. They can do pretty much everything the enemies units can, except they are on your team and are just slightly smarter. You should use them with care though as they cost resource to spawn.

An ally unit surrounded by enemies

One thing interesting thing that’s worth mentioning is – since the allies are on your team the game does not end if you are unable to spawn as long as at least one ally unit is on the map. This could be a little frustrating as you have to rely on that unit to win… but there is always the “Pause Menu -> Retry” option.

Other mechanics

No grid, more physics. I completely removed the grid mechanics and made the movement completely free and physics based. As a consequence there is no more snapping to angles or positions which not only looks and feels more natural, but also requires more skillz (I find it more engaging this way :3). Another interesting side effect is that tanks can rotate and push other tanks by bumping into them.

Water collider fixed. The water used to be an invisible box with a square in the middle. Then things (especially crates) could fall on top of it and look as if they are floating in the air. That has been fixed – the water is no longer a true collider in the physics sense, and everything could fall into it. Tanks will refuse to fall, but not because they collide with something, instead their motor will “break” just as the tanks start entering an empty cell with water underneath. The resulting behavior is pretty much the same except for a two things:

  •  it is possible to fall into the water if forces other than the motor push you there (say gravity makes you fall from a height, or a tank pushes you), and that’s causing a few bugs at the moment, which should be fixed next time (you can get stuck)
  • The other more interesting thing is – if you push something that can be stepped on (e.g. a crate), into the water, you can make a bridge and use it to cross over to the other side, here’s a short animation that illustrates it:

A short animation illustrating the bridge mechanic

GUI

I spent a lot of time working on the game ui, using the new GUI system in Unity 4.6 beta (which is the reason I upgraded and consequently broke the web-player). Personally, I find the new GUI system the most intuitive and well design framework for game UI I have ever used. It has many features but here are the ones I find most relevant:

  • Keyboard/Joystick navigation – you can go to and click any button without having to use a mouse. Since my goal is to make a console-like game that can be played in Big Picture mode that’s a major plus that really saved me a lot of effort.
  • Fluid(-ish) layout – the GUI can be designed to scale and adjust according to the screen size, which makes supporting different resolutions, aspect ratios and what not so much easier for me
  • Graphics design and animation – so much easier with the new GUI. And who doesn’t like animated windows and dialog boxes :)

In short summary, I remade the old GUI stuff (main menu and win/lose dialogs) and added a level selection screen and a pause menu (which, imagine that, pauses the game).

While on the subject of better usability – I realized that it very easy to get killed, simply because enemy tanks and bullets are somewhat hard to notice and keep track of, when they should really stand out more because they signify danger. So now tanks now have team circles which apart from indicating their team allegiance also improve the visual size and contrast of each tank. Bullets are also slightly larger and brighter.

Aesthetics

First and foremost sound effects – loads of them. Most actions and interactions produce sound effects which make the game sound interesting and cartoony. Although that’s not a purely aesthetic change as sound is a very powerful feedback tool (back to the subject of usability :D).

I also added two more audio tracks. All the game music so far has been generated with  cgMusic – a ingenious tool by Maciej Biedrzycki. I haven’t given it the proper credits in the game yet, so I should mention it here, at least :)

And one last point, I optimized the level rendering by combining all similar static meshes into a bigger one (kudos to Alex for this script). This in turn sped up the dynamic shadow rendering, which make the game look so much nicer, so shadows are now on by default. One other optimization I could do (later on, when the time comes) is to combine all textures into a single texture atlas and render all blocks with a single material as described here.

That is it for now.

3 thoughts on “Six weeks in the making (v0.0.3) …

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