Monday, June 10, 2013

Return from vacation!

I've been in Europe for the past 9 days or so, which is why there wasn't any update this week. Obviously, I didn't really get much done, but I was able to do some old-fashioned level design. And I mean really old-fashioned: by sketching out maps in a notepad.

So, with absolutely nothing else to offer for the last week, here's one of the sketches of one of the several immediately available to the player at the beginning of the game.

Next up for this week: I'll be solidifying and finalizing the structure for Layering. The steps for this are as follows:

  • The current system has a hard-coded Layers structure with a fixed number of Tile Layers and Entity Layers. These are hard-coded into the engine, which isn't good, because not every game is going to use the same layer structure. So, the engine will instead search for defined layers in the Implementation assembly and dynamically use those layers in the level editor and game engine.
  • The first bullet point is pretty easy, but this next one is going to be a major change. I want to allow for layer-over-layer scenarios: that is, not just a simple drawing order, but also entirely different sets of layers that overlap each other. So, let's say my game has 5 layers: ground layer 1, ground layer 2, entity layer 1, entity layer 2, and ceiling layer 1. But what if I want an entire section above another section? It would be very limiting to just create 10 hard-coded layers in the implementation assembly. Instead, I'm going to split the level structure into Slabs which each have a collection of Layers. Slabs will also serve as physical (that is, they affect game logic, not just drawing logic) separations of entities. A special entity behavior will transfer the player between slabs--this might occur, for example, at the top and bottom of a ladder. The end goal of slabs is to allow scenarios such as walkways that pass over other parts, and the ability to walk underneath those walkways.
  • Once slabs are complete, the lighting engine is going to have to be updated to support slabs correctly. A single layer of lights will no longer be sufficient. The bottom slab (closest to the ground) will receive light from all slabs, but upper slabs won't receive light from slabs underneath them.
  • Game logic needs to be updated such that the creation of entities is not done on a Section, but on a Slab. That is, the code 'section.CreateEntity(...)' is no longer valid, since the engine wouldn't know which slab to put it on. Instead, the command slab.CreateEntity(...) will be the way to spawn new entities dynamically.
  • Finally, I'll have to update the level editor so that the user can add and remove slabs, and switch which slab they're working on. It would also be nice to view just the current slab being worked on in isolation, or a full view of the level at once. This will probably be the most boring part of the update, but good tools are essential, so it's very important to do this correctly.
Will the update come this weekend? I don't know; this isn't a small feature, and it's definitely one I want to get right. I've been putting off real level design until this part was done, because it will change the structure of the file so much and I didn't want to waste time writing data migration utilities.

So, I'll see you when it's done! For more gradual updates, check my twitter,


  1. Looks Great!

    Seeing the video made me think of the first time I played chrono trigger for some reason!

    Anyways, could you use this to create alternate time/world with the same map but different mobs/items?

    1. Thanks! I'm sure my artist would be thrilled to hear his style reminds you of Chrono Trigger, since it's such a great game.

      As for your second part, the engine actually supports what you said before this--I can create and load levels with any level of dynamicness that I want. Perhaps I'll put together a video of something like this in the future. I probably won't be dealing with the highly complex situations that arise from different time periods (you pretty much have to be designing a game from the beginning with that in mind for it to work). The 'slabs' are explicitly for creating walkways and other multi-level structures that are visible at the same time.

    2. Allright I get it!

      Thanks for the answer.

      Looking forward to your next blog installement.