Weekly Update

The greatest thing about being a developer is the diversification of my field. There is always so much going on  that I can rarely get my head wrapped around all of the amazing work being done in the field.

Likewise, I have been quite busy. 

Exodus

To start with, I’d like to say that Exodus is coming to a head. It is finally narrowing in on a few of the issues that have been plaguing the game over the last few months and is at a bit of a crossroads. As the game stands, I expect you have played it – otherwise this wont make too much sense – the chaos level flattens out. The higher difficulties are rather bland and quickly escalate to complicated nonsense. I think I am going to take a couple weeks to try to tweak it into a more interesting and enjoyable game at the higher levels, but ultimately a question is being begged – is this all there is.

To answer that I have to be clear – Exodus was initially a demo to exercise and improve my UE4 and C++ skills. Ken and I were both looking for something interesting to work on that would be reasonable in scope and interesting in vision and so I pitched Exodus, we put a month and a half into it and that was the primary effort behind the game. Most everything has been frozen since about mid May. In recent months Ken has been busy with life and starting a new job, so his availability has been acutely different and so I’ve been trudging along trying to address community concerns. I am not a marketing genius, nor am I exceptionally good at publicizing our achievments – though i do hope to be better about that going forward.

I have approached Desura regarding publishing the game on their platform, and will still be persuing Steam, though it has proven to be much more complicated.  I am not entirely sure of the delivery schedule, but hopefully that will come together in the next couple months.

profile-headerA few days ago I pushed the 1.0.3 release, which includes a ton of graphical updates as well as a thorough reworking of the difficulties system. It is and still will be my pet project.

Going forward I am debating a few interesting features, one of which is taking up more and more space on my whiteboard.

Flathead

For whatever reason, Flathead has not quite taken off as I had hoped. The project is pretty well supported, as I am still fielding about 8 emails a day on integrating and how the binding works, but its not quite where I want it to be. I have pushed a few tweaks but in order to better improve the binding I am needing input and folks putting it to good use.

In the next couple weeks I am hoping to deliver an update to the revision of V8 that is used. I am hoping to update it to the 3.28 branch to take advantage of some bug fixes and tweaks.  I am also hooking it into my next project – another demo…

You can find more information on GitHub.

JunkWars

JW is a game about building vehicles and bashing the shit out of them. Think of it as a comical take on Robocraft or World of Tanks. At first I am focusing on wheeled & tracked vehicles, but since the name doesn’t exactly say anything about the types of vehicles, I imagine it could be expanded to include both the aquatic and aerial types.

I am using Flathead in JunkWars to provide a kind of mod support to the game, allowing users to build out parts and features to help keep the game fresh and vibrant during the quiet development phases. I will expand on this as I get closer to a POC worthy of your time & energy, but for now – suffice to say that its going to be quite neat.

Atlas & Atlas Server

In the time I’ve spent playing with UE4 and learning of my own limitations I came to the conclusion that I have to make sure I am spending my time appropriately – and to do that there should be some form of objective means of testing and monitoring my projects to better understand the interests of my community. Most projects either aren’t transparent about their monitoring of your actions, or aren’t doing a very good job understanding what you do and why.

There is a lot of UX tools and experiments that are available on the market, but who cares about those – Atlas is a new take on UX testing, in the form of a plugin for UE4 and a server. The idea is pretty straight forward – Your game sends beacons or pings out to the server, where they are processed, cached and reports can be run against them.

One important milestone is the notorious Alpha detection – how do you know that an internal version of the game is being run by an appropriate user? What do you do to stop unauthorized distribution of your internal content and how can you monitor such things?

Well, the good news is that the answers to these questions are within your grasp. Given…

  1. Your game has a version and will know what state it was built in (shipping, debug etc.).
  2. Your game is able to identify the user using Steam or another fashion such as a proprietary login system.

With these two assumptions you can use Atlas to query for what users are allowed on what builds and monitor their usage – as in the case of a version of your game being stuck up on the pirate bay and being distributed around the globe. Having one of your test users simultaneously logging in from Russia, France, Persia, Denmark and Missouri is extremely unlikely.

Atlas will likely be integrated into Exodus in the next release and will also be used on JunkWars.

You can find more details about AtlasAtlas Server on GitHub.

That sums up the details for this installment, the future ones will likely be shorter and more manageable for those of you who see text and lose their minds.