Weaggles – The fancy graphics update

Last week (or two) I’ve been working on various aspects of the tank game. There have been quite a few changes and here’s a quick run down:

Awesome graphics

Unity 5 came with loads of goodies I didn’t have back when I started the project. One of them is the improvement of the graphics engine and the addition of physically based shading (and global illumination). Others are the availability of image effects and reflection probes in the free edition of the engine.

An image showing the differences between the legacy shaders and the new physically based shaders and image effects in Unity.

After tweaking materials, sky-boxes and lighting settings a little the effect was mind blowing. The second image is a bit of an oversell as Unity 4 did have reflective shaders (but it wasn’t that easy to set up, and also they didn’t blend reflections from different cube maps).

Among everything else I made the water look nice. By using both the main and secondary normal maps on the standard shader and animating the two offsets to go in different directions you can achieve this effect:

Animated water

…which is pretty much what the legacy “basic water” does, but better as it works with the standard shader instead (C# code here).

I wanted to keep the toony look so I went ahead and added a few fake image effects on top of everything :

  • an exaggerated ambient occlusion to increase the presence of blackness (and the contrast a bit).
  • a bloom effect that makes bright areas look even brighter;
  • anti-aliasing; and
  • a bunch of different blurs… just because

Exploding Weaggles

With the new terrain and revamped physics movement it becomes easy to get stuck in a hole (which is far worse than getting destroyed). To fix that weaggles can now get angry and explode in rage, destroying everything nearby… just like bombs (they even get the same red coloring). The explosion doesn’t happen instantaneously, you have to charge it for 3 seconds by holding a button, and you can cancel it at any time by releasing the button. You can’t take the enemy with you on reflex right before they shoot you, but you also won’t explode by accident. Despite the charging time, it’s a great utility that’s always available when you want to blow things up.

A Short animation of a weaggle getting angry and expliding.


Another gameplay change is with the bullets. They are now truly physical (and along with them pick-ups became rigid bodies as well). What this means is that bullets are controlled by forces and also upon collision apply force to other rigid bodies they come in contact with.

Pushing a cog by firing bullets

This new mechanic allows you to push object from distance, ones you cannot reach otherwise or ones you don’t want to approach (such as bombs). When first shot bullets are unaffected by gravity (and behave like they used to), when they hit something they apply damage, ricochet in a random direction, fall to the ground, and remain as harmless rigid bodies for a while. This is interesting because for example you wouldn’t be able to push a crate by shooting directly at it (as that would break it), but if there’s a convenient wall next to it you can bounce bullets off it to make the crate move.

Did I mention that bullets now have a new model, leave a trail and create sparks when they hit something?

Screenshot showing the new bullet model and the trails they leave


Last but not least I managed to get it running on Android. I tried building the game on Android right after I applied all the fancy graphics… big mistake. It was running with a frame rate of about 3 FPS. After reverting all that and reducing the terrain quality (as its resolution is pretty high) it was still performing poorly. Profiling showed that physics was eating the CPU, after reducing the quality of the physics simulation it now runs at 20 FPS and it looks something like this:

Mobile mock screenshots of landscape and portrait

At first neither portrait nor landscape looked right on my device, the camera was positioned wrongly. As a generic solution I animated the camera with the aspect ratio as a control variable so it should now look right on any aspect ratio (regardless of the device).

Another thing I did in relation to mobile was to atlas the textures and start putting everything into a single material for which the new rendering engine proved again ingenious. Just by using the new standard shader and a single material you can render all diversely shaded objects in the scene which was not possible with the many families of shaders in Unity 4. When switching to mobile you can now simply change the shader of a single material, which is amazing.

Coming up

I plan to dig into multiplayer again sometime soon, the new networking API solves a lot of obstacles I had stumble the last time I tried it. It is now quite easy to make mixed local-network multiplayer and also quite easy to allow players to join at any time.

Late Update (v0.0.2)

v0.0.2 is out you can play it here:

Play button image

I have not posted anything in over a week, so to avoid falling back any further here is a historically ordered summary of the progress since the last post.

Meet the Weaggles

First and foremost we have the weaggles now – small purple creatures that pilot the tanks and love destroying things. A name born by to unmatched creativity or simply lack of imagination (…cuz they have no arms, they can only wiggle).

A sketch and an in-game screenshot of the weaggle character

Left – a weaggle design sketch (pro art skillz),  Right – a 3D weaggle riding a tank in-game

Lights and Shadows

The next modification was rather minor, but made a huge impact. Making the light brighter changed the gloomy look of the game into a full of color bright and happy toon (which is what we want :)). Dynamic shadows contribute even further, however they come with a big performance hit (my rendering isn’t exceptionally optimal).screenshots of the game with low light, brighter light and shadows enablesOne thing that’s worth mentioning is the color ramp. There is a rule in art/color theory that states shadows are blue… so our ambient light is not the default unity gray, but rather dark blue. Likewise our sun (directional light) is not white, but soft yellow.Unity ambient light and directional light color settings

Spawn Mechanics

Kudos to Yani Genev for helping out on this. The original spawn mechanic was based on an abstract resource that was hidden somewhere, the player had 3 resource points (which are equivalent to 3 lives) and the enemy tanks had 20. If you broke the enemy bases, before the spawn resources were depleted you would be able to achieve victory (which was my way of making the bases an alternative target). The system worked, but it wasn’t as elegant as the one Yani suggested i.e. removing the abstract resource and making spawners pay with their hit points. The reason the new system is better is simple – there are less numbers for the players to keep track of. But there is more, destroying an enemy base or even just damaging it, has a more direct impact on the game (the more damage the less tanks). On the other hand having your base shot at isn’t as punishing – it used to take only 1 hit (and you lose all of your lives), now it drains your lives gradually.

The player base with its hp

Wiser AI

Now that they have someone controlling them it was expected of enemy tanks to become smarter. The AI now targets both the player’s tank and his/her base (as opposed to moving and shooting randomly). See above screenshot :)

Special Effects

EXLOSIONS and brick shattering all over the place, destroying things is now even more fun. When a tank is destroyed it explodes and bricks shatter creating physical particles. Here’s a screenshot showcasing both effects:An explosion and brick shards

WIP tank game screenshot

3 days in…

Well technically 3 and a half. I started this project on Sunday (15th of September). Lest see if we can finish it in one month :) I’ve been wanting to learn Unity for quite a while now, especially because every client seems to demand it nowadays (so many people develop games for the Android). Usually I would go around and try to get inspiration from a number of games, movies, books or plain concepts, then try to blend them and try to get something original. This time around though I decided simply to make a clone of an old Nintendo classic (clones are something I generally despise). No, it’s not Mario.

It’s BattleCity

BattleCity screenshot One of the greatest things about NES games is that they are inherently simple (due to hardware limitations), a tiny set of rules with small number of objects and simple interactions between them. With such constraints it is hard to make something monstrous which goes out of control and never sees the light of day.

Lets see if we can pull this off with Unity.

Up until now I had only launched Unity a couple of times, just to test the waters, but never done anything serious with it.

Mind you, I have been crating games since I was 15, every experienced software developer would say, once you’ve learned a couple of languages it no longer matters what you write code in, C# is no exception (it’s essentially “C++ meets Java”). The user interface and Unity’s API and features was something I had to get more familiar with, so half of the time I spent in tutorials. My impression of Unity is that it’s one of the most powerful RAD tools for game development. Seriously, for a person who’s never used a professional editor with a powerful engine it’s just mind-blowing, and that wasn’t one of the things they thought at my uni.

What used to baffle me about it was the component based architecture, normally I would wrinkle and try to figure out how to make best use of a tool, so that my code can be reused later on (I tend to over-think software design and obsess with quality), this time I decided to just go with it and optimize, redesign and generalize later. After all the generally accepted right way to get things done is the lazy way – YAGNI and “don’t fix it if it ain’t broken”.

Mah game

Surprisingly I was able to prototype a somewhat complete 3D clone in those three days (in terms of mechanics anyways). But why not, if I can make a Ludum Dare game in a weekend using Game Maker Studio, why should I not be able to create a complete game in the same amount of time with Unity.WIP tank game screenshotI decided not to deviate from the original game too much, at least at first with an imposed constraint that I can remove features, but not add new ones, so that I can keep the number under control while learning. That turned out to be a little harder than I though (and my game is already starting to differ from its ancestor), but I’m trying to tame my imagination and get to a finish point this week. The current feature set includes:

  • Indestructible blocks (steel) and destructible blocks (brick blocks made out of 8 bricks)
  • Bush blocks – hide tanks
  • Holes – tanks cannot pass through them (like the water in the original)
  • Enemy and Player tank spawners (each being able to spawn and upkeep a limited amount of tanks)
  • Simple enemy AI – enemy tanks just go around and shoot randomly… like cockroaches with shotguns


  • Tanks are able to move and shoot in 8 directions
  • Provisions have been made for multiple teams (can you feel the PvP :))
  • Some work has been made to support Z layers (Y in unity), so that the gameplay is actually 3D (and not just the graphics)

Besides this I have a growing number of features I want to add, but I’m cautious not to start on them too early. There are no power-ups yet and I may or may not add them in the first version.