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Moonpod Homepage Starscape Information Mr. Robot Information Free Game Downloads Starscape Highscore Table
Sep-05: Mapmipulator
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Fost
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Joined: 14 Oct 2002
Posts: 3734



PostPosted: Fri Sep 23, 2005 10:55 pm    Post subject: Sep-05: Mapmipulator Reply with quote

Dastardly Doors

It's always the simple things that turn out to be hard to implement. This month we came up with a problem with doors. We've had an animating door in the game for a long time - the doors were modelled and moved apart with an animation script. We only had one door in the game however, and I had yet to make the stand-alone door frames that are used on the near sides of a room (where no walls are seen). This, of course, presented a problem; we still needed to show locked free standing doors, but when you unlock them, the doors have no walls to hide behind when they slide apart Sad.
We tried using multi-part shutters to make the collapsed doors thin enough to be hidden, but the whole thing shimmered badly because of the number of parts, and still didn't quite fit. Then we tried morphing the doors apart, but I couldn't put enough vertices in to stop the texture from warping. Whilst toying with the idea of dropping door animations altogether and just having the doors pop open (not our favourite solution, but time is always pressing as an indie developer, so you have to think about such things), we came up with the idea of sliding the doors apart using texture animation. One edge of the door texture uses texture alpha to go transparent and the material is clamped (which stops tiling, so you don't end up just scrolling on more doors Smile ).
It actually ended up looking as good as the original doors - I'd been convinced it would look rubbish so at least there was a happy end to the problem.

Mr Robot: Backface Doors Test Room
Door Types - Open+Free Standing(Bottom Left), Open(Top Left), Locked(Central), Free Standing+Locked(Right)


X-Rated

TIGRs Beta Rating
Tigrs in beta state.
(much has changed).
In the future, and particularly with War Angels (which is shaping up to be deliciously gory Smile ) we want to put an age rating onto our games. Indie games are already moving forward with this and have set up tigrs. I applaud the efforts made here, however the system is not currently complete and doesn't look like it will be ready before I need to send our box art to the printers, so I have had to come up with our own system for Moonpod. I also am not entirely sure that tigrs has the same goal as we have with age ratings. Tigrs is striving to make a standardised content rating system that can be applied (voluntarily) to any indie games sold online. The tigrs system in its current beta form is turning away from age based ratings because everyone has their own opinion of what age different types of content are acceptable. It makes a lot of sense, and I hope it can become a good standard for indies to use.

We, on the other hand, have one goal in mind - a warning flag to parents browsing our site, that says 'this may have content you do not want your children to see, so do a bit more research before buying'. For that reason, we've gone with age ratings. We feel that parents are already familiar with numbers as an age rating and so it's better to use them than require customers learn another age ratings system. We also don't have a lot of screen space to devote to content ratings, and a number, even when small, should be prominent enough to people who need it. There won't be any hard and fast rules about what gets what rating - we'll rate each product, and if you click on the age rating we'll supply a description of everything in the game a parent might need to be aware of.

Moonpod Age Rated - AllMoonpod Age Rated - 7 plusMoonpod Age Rated - 11 plusMoonpod Age Rated - 15 plusMoonpod Age Rated - 18 plus
Moonpod Age Ratings
Starscape Age Rating
Age Rating Information Popup


The Legend Of...

Meet Zelda - the Eidolon repair droid. She's the robot equivalent of a nurse - although I suppose that's more of a mechanic or a technician. Zelda is an important character in the game, as due to circumstances you will encounter early on, Zelda will be available via comm link to help you on your adventure.

Whilst last month's Raistlin robot proved to be a quick design job, Zelda presented me with a few problems at the concept stage. We wanted Zelda to be a fembot, and so vaguely feminine yet still be in keeping with the design of the other robots (Which are anthropoidal, but not of human proportion). I tried to find as many pictures of female robots as I could (google image search is a research godsend!) but they all seemed to just recreate women in metal form - pretty just making a picture of a sexy lady but with silver skin and a few bolts poking out in the right places Smile. I didn't want to make Zelda into a Sorayama style sexy robot, (she's a functional working robot, she just happens to have a feminine personality programmed in), so I had to come up with a new idea of what would make her look feminine.

After lots and lots of doodles, The key seemed to be her proportions - pushed out chest, slim waist, wide hips (Zelda has a big booty!). On top of that, I added knee boot shaped lower legs, and some pigtail-esque head antenna. Hopefully the end result has an air of feminity about it, although I realise it is still not blatantly 'fembot'.

Despite being a little padded out in certain areas Wink Zelda is extremely light-weight chassis, and part of the tutorial will be Asimov helping her out with some heavy duty work she can't take care of.

Mr. Robot - Zelda Game Model
Zelda Game Model Render.

Mr. Robot - Zelda Concept ArtMr. Robot - Zelda Concept Art
Final approved Zelda concept design.Zelda Roughs: All those years at school doodling in my maths book when
I should have been working were useful training after all!


Centerfold

We need to get the box cover art sent to the printers as soon as we can. Most print works are inundated with corporate holiday season cards at this time of year, and so there can be big delays on anything sent in. I've just started initial design work, although I still need to finish some of the key characters in the game so they can be included in the cover art.
We also need to get some new Starscape box covers printed out as they've run out much faster than we anticipated. Certain places we advertise with seem to generate a higher than average CD/download sales ratio. Still haven't quite worked out that one, but I can't argue with the figures - some sites definitely attract a crowd of people who love their hard copies! I'll be changing the existing box design for Starscape - I'd like to put the characters onto the cover, and also have both boxes styled in a similar fashion, so I'm trying to develop a layout we can use for all our box covers. I'm a big fan of box covers from the 8-Bit gaming era, and in particular, I loved the later big box designs that Ultimate put out. They all followed a basic layout, yet looked really individual.
Ultimate: Atic AtacUltimate: Alien8Ultimate: Sabre WulfUltimate: Knight Lore
Classic box designs from the 8-Bit era by Ultimate.


Mr. Robot - Cover Layout Version 1 width=
Rough layout, cover image still to be decided.

Next Month:

Mr Robot: Express Elevator to HEL


Last edited by Fost on Mon Oct 17, 2005 12:31 pm; edited 23 times in total
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Poo Bear
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Pod Team


Joined: 14 Oct 2002
Posts: 4121
Location: Sheffield, UK



PostPosted: Mon Oct 17, 2005 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Design by Wiki
On a whim, and inspired by the work Starscape players have already put into the wikipedia entry for Starscape, I installed mediawiki. It has turned out to be a really cool way to explore game ideas. Any ideas that we discuss, no matter how small can get their own page. This might start off with a one sentence description, but grow into a full design doc, even with multiple variants of the same design.

Since it's also accessible from both work and home, it allows one to quickly add ideas as they pop into your head. Works much better than using a private area of the forum too, since you can lay everything out with contents pages/upload images much easier, and the whole thing seems to have a development friendly layout.

We are building up a nice little repository of game designs and ideas, and are even moving over some of our old design work as it's nice to have all our plans collated into one interlinked space. Sometimes, it's worth the effort to try out new ways of working, the wiki immediately felt like the right way to do things and within a few days has really taken off. If you are working on any game project, and especially one where the design is a collaborative effort, I strongly recommend trying out a wiki system and seeing if it is of any benefit.

Textures Too Good for the Game

Something which rarely crops up with modern games is having textures which are higher resolution than can actually be seen in the game. We had to put mipmaps in quite late due to some scheduling wrangles, but when they went in, we noticed they were a little bit blurry. Fost creates all his artwork at a higher resolution than is needed (we've worked on several projects where the artists were asked to produce higher resolution versions of the artwork towards the end of the project, which left most of them mentally scarred Smile ), so it was likely the textures were never being displayed at anything other than their second mipmap level. To test this, we run the game at 1600X1200 (the greater the screen size, the more likely the game will show top level textures) and fill the mipmaps with flat colours. So if you can see the original texture, then it is being displayed at its best, red is the next level down, blue the second mipmap, and so on.

If you look at the following comparison image, you can see that only the walls are showing some of the original texture though, and even then it is only when they are very close. The floors will need their texture sizes halving, and the player model looks like it will need the texture size quartering. Whilst this might sound like you will be missing out on the best textures, you would never have seen them anyway. It will in fact improve image quality throughout the scene - allowing the higher resolution maps to come to the fore more often.

Mr Robot: MipMap Display Levels Test.

Online update
I finished adding the code to let the game communicate with our website which allows the player to unlock the demo version and check for updates with just the click of a button. Most games communicate via TCP/IP or UDP, but when such a connection is first established it will cause the WindowsXP firewall to pop up and making alarming comments. So instead we are using standard web page style requests via port 80 which is much more acceptable to firewalls and they usually keep quiet about it.

Automatically updating the game was tricky as it means overwriting files that Windows may have locked because they are currently in use (like the main exe) and handling the fact the update may fail part way through. My approach is:

1. download and unpack the entire update into a seperate location. If it fails then it doesn't matter.
2. exit the game, start up a seperate application allowing windows to release any file locks.
3. copy the update over the game and then delete the seperate update folder.
4. exit and restart the game.

To write the little app that does the file copying and deleting I used some open source software called wxWidgets. Why bother? Well wxWidgets provides free cross platform code for doing all manner of windozey type things so this little app will work on windows or linux or mac. Should come in very handy for the future, always good to be prepared. I wanted to get more familiar with wxWidgets anyway as it allows you to create just about any type of Windows style app you can think of, but has a simpler interface that is easier to learn than Windows, never mind being cross platform. I'll use this for creating future game editors I think.
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Darth Dallas



Joined: 18 Oct 2003
Posts: 411



PostPosted: Mon Oct 17, 2005 4:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Things look to be shaping up nicely, can't wait Smile

I wonder what happens when Zelda gets aggitated. Does her head spin around Exorcist-style with pigtail pistons popping in and out of its head? Great design work.
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Fost
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2005 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Darth Dallas wrote:
I wonder what happens when Zelda gets aggitated. Does her head spin around Exorcist-style with pigtail pistons popping in and out of its head?

Hmm, good idea - I'll bear that in mind when I come to animate her. She does get annoyed with you in the tutorial if you do the wrong thing, she's a bit of a bossy boots...
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Ninjas



Joined: 05 Oct 2005
Posts: 9



PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2005 4:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks amazing. Every time you guys post new screenshots the game looks more polished. The characters are really great and I love these diaries.
________
Cp300


Last edited by Ninjas on Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:42 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Doom III



Joined: 20 Apr 2004
Posts: 117



PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2005 8:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

no sex/nudity in starscape???

what about the secret jj gallery that is unlocked when you do weebles scavenger challenge on hard mode???


does zelda come with any special attachments?
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PeterM



Joined: 19 Oct 2005
Posts: 1
Location: Edinburgh, UK



PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2005 5:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good work guys, the game is looking great.

I love developer diaries - I got hooked on them when Zzap 64 did one with John and Steve Rowlands as they made Creatures.

http://www.gamestone.co.uk/zzap_world64/apex_03_diary_part1.shtml
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Fost
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Pod Team


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2005 10:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Doom III wrote:
what about the secret jj gallery that is unlocked when you do weebles scavenger challenge on hard mode???

Doh! I forgot about that. Nearly had a 'hot coffee' moment there Wink

Doom III wrote:
does zelda come with any special attachments?

What, like a moulinex magimix? Rolling Eyes
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Flumpaphone



Joined: 18 Sep 2003
Posts: 86



PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2005 3:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Doom III wrote:
what about the secret jj gallery that is unlocked when you do weebles scavenger challenge on hard mode????


I had real problems finding that one. Almost as hard as the trailer in Lunar Jetman, or the generation ships in Elite.


I think Moonpod should make a special JJ spin off game, she's everybody's favourite character.
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Magnulus



Joined: 08 Nov 2005
Posts: 556
Location: Bergen, Norway



PostPosted: Tue Nov 08, 2005 9:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I need to say that your character designs and general style of art for this game is superb, Fost. Your execution of the game's graphics continue to amaze me and I hold the opinion that you rival many of the bigger industry games in terms of style. I will go to the point of comparing you to the style of World of Warcraft in the sense that you've proven that less can be more, and that you keep a "bouncy" style that seems to be impossible to tire of.

I love what you people are doing in general, but right now, and since I'm a graphics-head, it's easier for me to praise the art. I am sure I will praise the rest when it's finished as well.
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Fost
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2005 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Magnulus wrote:
I will go to the point of comparing you to the style of World of Warcraft

Thanks Shocked I can't think of a nicer thing you could have said. I also adore the art in WoW - nothing technically amazing, just really, really great art, and I would guess: incredible art direction. It's not a problem making a game look consistent when you are the only artists on a game Smile but how many artists work on WoW? that must be such a challenge!

Give me WoW's art over Doom III's technical achievments any day..
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Japlish



Joined: 13 Apr 2003
Posts: 67
Location: France/Japan/UK



PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2005 10:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

thankyou for this informative explanation of how mip maps are working. Now I know what they are Embarassed




but when can we play!!!

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Magnulus



Joined: 08 Nov 2005
Posts: 556
Location: Bergen, Norway



PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2005 11:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree totally, Fost. Doom 3 is very interesting at times, like when you follow a man around with only a lantern for a light source. The shadows cast are very neat-looking. But those moments are few. In WoW, it's almost impossible to take a "boring" or "bad" screenshot. It looks exciting at every turn. It's SO refined and SO unified (while being diversified at the same time!) I can't help but take little screenshots for my own photoalbum from time to time.

The Mr. Robot characters and various thingies give me the same sort of feeling. They're very thurough and clean and crisp, and I just want to smother them. I can't wait to see them moving around and to move them around myself. You may have an even bigger hit than Starscape on your hands here.

But I'll stop kissing the proverbial arse.
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Ari



Joined: 05 Nov 2005
Posts: 15
Location: New Zealand



PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2005 10:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

No new dev diaries?

/me goes into withdrawal

Wink Just kidding. I know you guys are probably too hard at work to write about how hard at work you are Very Happy
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Fost
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Pod Team


Joined: 14 Oct 2002
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2005 10:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ari wrote:
No new dev diaries?

There will be one this month sometime to cover Oct-Nov. Hamish has already finished one for War Angels, which is far more interesting than our boring old Mr Robot ones anyway ( to me at least Smile ). We are thinking of capturing some video of War Angels though - we'll have to see how that goes, but I may delay the diaries to get that in.

I'm getting some bits together now. Sometime this week or next week (probably Wink)
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