Posts Tagged history

Design! From the Past!

aka. Requiem of a crappy blogger.

Geez, I really suck at this “blogging” thing don’t I? “You’re supposed to leave something here more than once a month, dumbass!”

Okay, rivival time. I’ll throw up another cheatpost-from-the-past for today and work on having something actually worth reading here for every weekend from now on with more links and maybe something else, at least until the world ends in 2012. No promises, though: I have it on good authority that the world might definately totally end in October, this time for realz, and if that happens I won’t be able to keep up the once-a-week schedule until the world ends in 2012. In fact, the schedule is already on thin ice, what with the world ending two months ago in May and what-not. But I’ll try to keep up with it anyway.

In the meantime, enjoy your cheatpost:

Written September 2008, prior to the billboard vegetation system

The next step will be vegetation. Trees in species will be edible to creatures with herbivorous and omnivorous mouths: how much energy they get out of it will depend on the type of tree and their (mutable) digestive system.

One of the major features of Species will be the mutability of the organisms, and the complex effects of natural selection that result. As an example, the tree-nutrition system (as currently envisaged) will work like this: Each tree type has an nutrient value, and a digestibility value, and each species has an acid value. High acid levels would allow the creature to digest the indigestible, like bark or cacti, but would mean fewer nutrients could be converted to energy. In comparison, low acid would make it only able to survive on easily digestible vegetation, like fruit or green grass, but the creature would be able to take full advantage of the nutrients.

[Present me says: Okay, this requires comment. This sort of complexity does not exist in the vegetation or digestion systems. It was planned, but like many similar features, it was removed from the design prior to being implemented. The primary reason for this is extremely simple: Species is about seeing evolution happen. Features like this are invisible. End of story]

This level of complexity applies to all the organisms traits, but I’m trying to make it intuitive and visible. For example, Shoulder muscle, Arm muscle, Arm length, Hand type and hand size would all affect that arms damage levels (which is complex), but in an intuitive manner: if you see a huge creature with massive, muscular arms and giant claws, you can instantly identify that it’s dangerous. In addition, since it will have formed by natural selection, you can make other conclusions: the species has to fight fairly often with its arms in order to reproduce. If this conclusion turns out to be right, I’ll know I’ll have set up the statistics system properly.

[Present me says: this is still mostly accurate, with one exception: combat is no longer limb-specific. It was getting too confusing and arbitrary to have creatures with 5 different damage values depending on what limb they used to attack (for example, a big muscley creature with spikes and claws and teeth could be killed by a far inferior opponent if it decided to attack said opponent with it’s tail), so this has been streamlined into a single value which takes modifiers from the limbs, head, tail and features]

It’s not only the physical traits that will be mutable – behaviour will also be dictated by natural selection. All creatures will have one or two fixed behaviours (eat and mate are the obvious ones), but other behaviour will be dictated by a special AI system. Of course, these behavioral traits will be genetic (instinct): I had considered making individuals capable of ‘learning’ behaviours, but I suspect that would be both rediculously complex and entirely useless: individual creatures don’t live very long, so learning wouldn’t do them much good. The species can learn, but not the individual. A larger brain size would allow more instinctual behaviours.

[Present me says: That wasn’t so bad. I was expecting a whole load of completely wrong detail on the behavioral system, but it’s vague enough to be fairly… well, vague. And eat and mate have been made mutable since then too!]

I could keep going on and on, but I won’t. You get the idea. I don’t really expect to appeal to a wide audience with this project, but it’s captured my imagination and I fully intend to follow it through. I’ll try to keep this blog up to date.

[Present me says: Hah! I said that back then too? I really wasn’t kidding when I said I suck at this blogging stuff, was I?]

… [/end cheatpost]

Please excuse me while I murder “Present Qu”s face until he gives me my job back. Thank you for you continuing patience.
Qu

PS: [Present me says: OW! AAARRRGH! NOT THE FACE, NOT THE FACE! OKAY OKAY NO MORE CHEATPOSTS, I PROMISE! PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS SHINY, STOP DOING THAT!]

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Getting into 3D

Late 2007

So here’s me, late 2007. University wasn’t going well, and I was beginning to suspect I had chosen the wrong career path. On the other hand, my programming skills had been improving, and I had finally gone looking for a 3D game engine.

I found Blitz3D.

Blitz’s simple interface and use of the BASIC programming language lightened the learning curve going from 2D to 3D graphics, but it also removed from me some area’s of complexity, like collision managment, basic drawing concepts and terrain rendering. In hindsight, I really can’t tell if this was a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, it allowed me to build a few projects to near-completion very quickly: on the other, I only had a very shallow understanding of what it was I was actually doing. I remained enthused, but it slowly began to dawn on me that Blitz simply wasn’t powerful enough for my needs.

Losing interest in one project and looking for something else to occupy myself, I decided that I needed a different, more powerful engine. I found something even more powerful than that: the XNA framework.

According to a definition I found on the internet, which means it is absolutely infallible and anyone using any other definition is a blasphemer and a heretic, a game framework is a step above raw DirectX but a step below an actual game engine: it’s used to build the engine, which in turn is used to build the game. I had no idea at the time what this meant, but I saw normal mapping and bloom effects in an XNA project and, eyes shining with innocence, I happily ran after the graphical candy.

Sold his soul for Parallax Mapping,
Qu

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Waning Poetic: Back to reality….

Early 2006

Buuuuut at the time I was thinking the above (err… below?), my programming experiences were limited.

It was my first year out of school and I was still programming odd little games in Adobe Flash in between University studies. I hadn’t even started with three-dimensional games, and had only just awakened an interest in evolution (which at that stage was less “biology is interesting” and more “annoying religous nuts* on the internet is interesting”). So Species sat in the back of my mind for a while, slowly fermenting (Idea’s are like alcohol: the longer you leave them, the better they get. Also, have too many and you start acting flamboyantly immature), first as a possible flash project, later as a 3D game. It would be two whole years before I took any of those idea’s and began to action them.

So let’s skip ahead a bit…

Someone told him idea’s make you drunk. He’s been this way ever since.
Qu

*footnote: For the record, most religous people are not nuts, and many nuts are not religous. There is however, a strong correlation between evolution denialism (a subset of “being nuts”) and religousity, hense my use of the term “religous nuts”. If you do not deny basic science, no offense was intended or directed towards you or your beliefs. If you do deny basic science… well, okay, you’re a nutter, but that’s okay! We’d love to hear your nutty opinions anyway!

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