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Moonpod Homepage Starscape Information Mr. Robot Information Free Game Downloads Starscape Highscore Table
November-06: Trailer Time!
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Fost
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 03, 2006 7:34 am    Post subject: November-06: Trailer Time! Reply with quote

Trailer Time

*High Res Downloadable version (23 meg - mpeg)

It's always good fun putting trailers together. I also built a streaming flash player for it based around this php streaming method, so we should be able to use streaming video more on the site if it works ok.

Your rank is: ZX Spectrum

Mark had the great idea of ranking player scores by historical computers, so there's a little computer icon associated with your profile in game. Hopefully there won't be too many arguments about whether one computer should be a higher rank than another Smile the scary thing is, that Mark has programmed most of these computers, and I've used many of the ones that actually had graphical displays to draw sprites or render images. Thankfully the days of trying to render a robot model and running out of memory because you only had 512k are long gone Smile
Mr. Robot: Computer Rank Images
Scoring is based on achieving various objectives, and you get a little medal for each:
Mr. Robot: Achievement Medals

The rest of this month I've been putting in place further front end icons (ghost hack has a lot of requirements) and working on help file art etc. It all adds up to make the finishing process not just a case of sticking a game on the website and seeing what happens.
Mr. Robot: More Icons


Last edited by Fost on Mon Nov 13, 2006 9:22 am; edited 8 times in total
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Poo Bear
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2006 11:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Happy Birthday to us.

Moonpod is 4 this month Smile It's been a long slog for us, and we've had problems along the way that have delayed us (which are well documented thanks to the transparency of our development as a result of our dev diaries Wink ). It will be nice celebrating Fost's birthday, Moonpod's (on the same day) and (hopefully) Mr. Robot's launch soon Smile. Hopefully in the future you'll see games coming out far quicker from us than three and a half years per title!

A Good Example of Open Source Working
I've been building an installer script - a huge lua-based batch file that takes all the game content, runs various conversions on it such as texture compression and then builds the installer. We needed a commandline based image manipulation application to resize some of the textures (Fost routinely draws textures at higher res than we need them, and then we use coloured mip-maps to determine which resolutions get displayed hen you run the game high res). He found ImageMagick, which is a very popular open source batch image manipulation tool. I am always wary of using open-source applications. Of course, you can't complain when something is free, but I've always found that when you come across a problem with an open source app, it's really difficult to get anywhere. Documentation is more often than not built with doxygen and provides no real-world examples, and asking questions on a forum is a very hit and miss affair - getting told to read the manual (always our first port of call), getting answers to a question we didn't ask through mis-communication problems, or just getting no reply. Like I said - you can't really complain, but it does mean open source isn't always a great answer for critical areas of development.

Sure enough, we came across a problem with ImageMagick: Images with alpha were being converted to pre-multiplied alpha on resize. Pre-multiplied alpha is generally used for video compositing, where the alpha channel is used as a matte. It means that all colour information where the alpha is black is lost. This isn't a problem when you are using the alpha as a matte - since the colour parts that are lost wouldn't be displayed, but when you are using alpha to say - control specular highlights in a game, it's a big problem.

The online manual - whilst well written in this case, bore no fruit, so we were resigned to posting on the ImageMagick forum. This is where we had one of the best open source experiences we've had. The ImageMaick project leader and others started to get to the bottom of the problem within a few hours - we sent them example images, and eventually came up with a way to split the image into separate RGBA channels, work on them separately, and then recombine at the end. All of the best Open Source projects seem to benefit greatly from this kind of top level leadership. anyway, it was a great weight off our minds, and we thank the ImageMagick team for their prompt help.
Image Magick Game Texture: Premultiplied alpha resize problem.


Data Size
Now we have the final compressed installer textures, music and audio , it's easier to get a handle on potential download size. We should be around 25 meg; definitely below 30. It's quite an achievement really - I would never have thought you could crunch a project this big down to this size if you'd have asked me 2 years ago. Compared to Starscape, it has about double the graphical content, and with our original compression tech would have been around 80-100 meg Shocked it also has a smaller install footprint, because the decompressor we are using is fast enough to work on the fly, so we don't need to decompress the textures to disk on install. http://j2k-codec.com/

Final release executables have also had some of the loading code optimised, and loading speeds are much better than the debug exes we use during development.

The lower install size means we've had a few options as far as music is concerned - it's always a tradeoff between quality and number of tracks. We've plumped for slighty better quality of tracks. So there's 9 tracks in the download version. We are also going to have a free extended music download like Starscape which of course has them at high quality, and will include 14 tracks.

Usability Testing
We would probably have gone beta about 2 weeks ago, but usability testing brought up a lot of issues we were not expecting, so I've (so far) added about another three weeks in to address usability. It's mainly really tiny things you would not have even guessed would cause a problem. for example: in ghost hack, when you defeat some enemy programs, some experience is awarded and there's a chance your powers will increase as a result. This was relayed to the player in a 'tickertape' along the top of the screen. During usability however, we found that because the text was always there, players didn't realise they needed to press the skip button to continue. This is fixed by moving the information into a box that pops up at the end of a battle, and now players realise they need to do something to continue. Watching someone play your game, then just sit there with a blank expression because they don't know what to do is quite a painful experience! As the game's developer, you become blinkered to user interface issues, because you spend so much time during development using workarounds that they become second nature and you rely on fresh sets of eyes to help you.

Indie Vs Casual

It's a problem we have always had and I suspect always will have because of the very nature of the games we like developing. A casual developer once commented that casual developers are professionals, and indie developers are hobbyists. One could easily take offence, but I completely understand what he meant: Casual developers make games which are 100% polished from top to bottom, and a huge part of their development is usability testing. Whilst I would of course argue that we (developing 'indie' games rather than 'casual') approach development in a very professional manner the scope of what we are trying to achieve is far greater, and so we have less time to work on usability to the extent that casual developers do, yet we are working with far more complicated interface systems. I recently had a look at Atlantis Sky Patrol, and it's a game which shows just what heights of professionalism casual game development has reached. The bar is set really, really high with this title. The user interface and experience is just so slick. I would love to see Starscape's interface worked on to such a level. There's a perfect example of the gap though - Sky Patrol is just so highly polished, and you can't imagine a casual game devloper releasing a game with some of the deficiencies in its interface that Starscape has. At the end of the day though, Sky Patrol is just another Puzz Loop clone however. It seems you either sacrifice gameplay complexity or you sacrifice interface polish. Having the time to work on many iterations of usability is something I find appealing, but I've never really thought of any casual game ideas that I find gripping enough to push for Moonpod to make. At the end of the day, I suppose we are making games we want to play, so in some respects it is our hobby Smile

Even so, ".. a man's reach must exceed his grasp...", and we should strive for perfection in all areas. It's something I want to look into, development methods to allow us to improve matters. Our current toolset does limit us to some extent; some more gui controls might help address issues in a more straightforward manner. I think what we really need is some form of layout editor though. Ripping out a gui screen and redesigning it from scratch is presently a daunting prospect, yet that's what we often find ourselves doing after our first run with focus group tests. I'm going to spend some time researching gui systems in the future - ceGUI and Direct Forms Designer are two I want to look at, but I'm interested to hear about any others.


Last edited by Poo Bear on Mon Nov 13, 2006 11:32 am; edited 2 times in total
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icarus
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yay finally! Too bad Starscape didn't have a trailer.
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ewerybody



Joined: 05 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hoooray! And Happy Happy Birthday to you guys!
I'll bake a tart later. I promise! Smile

To the posts: Very intersting imagemagic work there. We once used this too. But now there is some nvidia tool doing the psd>dds compression. They respond very quick too. Its not open source but what counts is that such things happen, when problems occur, right?
I didn't know about imagemagic flushing the alpha black areas in color layer Laughing interesting!

Achievements!! Darn cool! I mean I love achievements! Have no xbox 360 so far but I played BF2 some .. well some minutes .. ok hours, its already hours!... nahhh ok days, you got me! Surely addictive this one too.
And looking very cool those awards! *slobber* Razz

And cool trailer! A little small but maybe a HD-version later?
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Fost
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

icarus wrote:
Yay finally! Too bad Starscape didn't have a trailer.

Yeah! You know, I really want to make a Starscape trailer. I think I'll do one anyway, even though the game is out. Might be useful for people who want to see what's beyond the demo.

ewerybody wrote:
But now there is some nvidia tool doing the psd>dds compression.

DDS would be nowhere near good enough for what we are doing. We are using jpeg2000 compression for images. Although we aren't using imagemagick for that, we use a little commandline app based on the decoder we licensed. We are really just using ImageMagick to scale down textures. We test to see if the top level texture mipmap is being shown when the game runs in high res. If not, then the image quality actually improves by scaling the texture down - then you use the top level texture more often rather than a hardware scaled down mipmap.

ewerybody wrote:
And cool trailer! A little small but maybe a HD-version later?

There's a high(er) res link above to a 23 meg mpeg. Smile
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ewerybody



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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 10:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Even before downloading a demo a trailer is helpful!
Maybe show some heavy devastating devastator action with 6 beam laser 4, beam drones and nano bomb 3. Twisted Evil Twisted Evil

(Saturday I just dumped 2 of those in zone 5 at the boss node :/ I'm actually a little **** about that... someone a hint?)

Ahhhhrg! Now I see! The trailer, yay very cool! Me so fool. pardon me!Rolling Eyes

Fost wrote:
DDS would be nowhere near good enough for what we are doing...

OK I see. So you use jpg2000 for "transportation". Well, right there its much better than .dds. But on the graphics card there is no jpg2k of course. there is only raw or .dds, isn't it?
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Fost
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ewerybody wrote:
But on the graphics card there is no jpg2k of course. there is only raw or .dds, isn't it?

Yes, I think when Poo Bear mentioned 'on the fly' use, he was talking about the loader decompressing them. With Starscape, the decompresser was based on the Open Source JASPER jpeg2000 code, and is incredibly slow. We licensed another one, and found that it's so fast we can use it in a normal loading situation. End result is a game much bigger than Starscape fits in much less space on the users hard drive. Not much of a worry for all those people buying SATA terrabyte drives, but it's nice to be as efficient as we can be.


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Poo Bear
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 11:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is j2k codec we use, $50 which is decent:

http://j2k-codec.com/
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Magnulus



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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 12:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Conglandulations, Nick and Moonpod!

Rockin' trailer, man. The nanomeks look so cute! The whole green "warning" image was also very nicely done. I did a double-take on that one. "Rated M, blah blah robots... wait, what?!"

The ratings and achievements look awesome. Those kinds of systems are what tend to drive me to play a game over and over in order to get it all. Can you imagine me about ten years ago, when Pokemon first came? My neck was a wreck. If C64 doesn't rank highly, I'll personally come and molest all of you. Grrrrrrrr!

I'm amazed that you're actually managing to get it down to 25-30 megs. I actually still, to this day, experience that people complain about 50 meg downloads (particularly people with slow connections, I suppose) so that'll certainly count in your favour, I think. How much would the game hog with all graphics and things uncompressed?
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Fost
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 1:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Magnulus wrote:
If C64 doesn't rank highly, I'll personally come and molest all of you. Grrrrrrrr!

Yeah, Poo Bear puts that at the top of the 8bit era! I was a spectrum fan myself - Obviously the hardware was outclassed by the C64, but I think there's a lot of great games that only came out on the speccy.

Magnulus wrote:
I actually still, to this day, experience that people complain about 50 meg downloads (particularly people with slow connections, I suppose) so that'll certainly count in your favour, I think.

You know, conversely, I've heard people say on forums that they didn't think a game was worth the price because it was only ten meg! I've seen that a couple of times - so maybe it's counterproductive Very Happy

Magnulus wrote:
How much would the game hog with all graphics and things uncompressed?

Data folder is about 160 meg, so probably about another ten meg on top of that with all the other bits. If you counted the textures as source (before they are scaled down and sharpened) you are talking about 4 times that - although it would only look better if there was some kind of first person view. Third person actually looks worse, because you never get to see the top level texture, and hardware scaling used to make the mipmaps isn't as good as doing it yourself.
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ewerybody



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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 1:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Darn the people don't complain about ea releasing a 1GB demo for BF 2142!!!! And this is not the first..

Yea I've seen the warning screen as well! Very funny:lol: But I've only noticed it in the large version. H - hilarious

Magnulus wrote:
How much would the game hog with all graphics and things uncompressed?
interesting question.
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Japlish



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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 2:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think I would be old before this game is made!!
blue robots are best i loved the video.

i put it on shoutwire for you, but i make a mess (sorry Embarassed )
http://www.shoutwire.com/comments/38453/Mr_Robot_Trailer_Movie
i try to make it sound good (you did win the award right?) and make someone check the english for me but i do not see they pull links so it is messy. now i cannot edit it Mad rubiish shoutwire.

http://www.shoutwire.com/comments/38453/Mr_Robot_Trailer_Movie

__~~^can__not__wait__for__this__game^~~__

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Fost
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 2:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Japlish wrote:
i put it on shoutwire for you, but i make a mess (sorry Embarassed )


Thanks anyway! I hardly have time to work out how all these new sites work - I think someone put the War Angels trailer up on there too when we released it. It's great to have people like yourself act on our behalf like a marketing department - obviously we couldn't afford our own!

I'll have to sort out what the Mr. Robot jedi rank is going to be.


Robo-jedi? Robot Lord? Hmm....
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SethP



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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, Mr. Robot is looking awesome! I'm glad to hear the usability testing is progressing. From everything I've managed to gather, Mr. Robot's interface sounds like it'll be pretty good, but I'm glad to hear it's getting that professional polish that you guys do so well. Personally, I thought Starscape's interface was pretty good; The only issues I had were having to click too many times to assign crew to a project and the fact that the ship builder didn't play very nicely with mouse control, but neither of those were really show stoppers. If you can achieve the same intuitiveness and simplicity that you managed in Starscape again with Mr. Robot, I'll be happy to call the interface "casually" polished Very Happy

Also, the trailer is really cool. As usual, great job picking and synchronizing the music Fost. I loved Starscape, so Mr. Robot's been pretty much sold on me for a while, but the trailer definitely gave me that "Man I can't wait to play" feeling. Good job all around Smile

Just a couple of quick things I noticed about the video player -- When the "back to start" button is pressed when the video is playing, the "play/pause" button isn't updated correctly. It still shows the "pause" icon, even though the video is already paused. Also, it doesn't seem to work on my Linux box. I'm thinking that the problem stems from the latest version of flash available for Linux is Flash Player 7 instead of 9, so I don't really expect you to do anything about it, I just thought you might want to know.

On a side note -- does anyone know if there's a way to get Flash Player 9 for Linux? I tried the official Adobe download, but it landed me with 7.
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ewerybody



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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fost wrote:
I'll have to sort out what the Mr. Robot jedi rank is going to be.

Robo-jedi? Robot Lord? Hmm....

maybe more computer like: Central Processing Bot, MainBot (Mainboard), root-bot (linux root and robbie williams rootbox..) I just think robots maybe have no jedis or lords .. but hierarchies and dependencies of course...
Or maybe allude someone that cares for the wealth of robots: Robot Master, Master Robot Engineer ... just kidding ;]
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