Today I sketched out and began the proposed integration of all the main modules created so far into a single engine application. Perhaps the most significant factor in the final integration is the removal of the segment system as we know it. As we explored the final shape of the software during our meeting yesterday, we realized that the grid system of editing buildings is rather antiquated and forces the user into creating very blocky and right-angle structures. If Reloaded is to fulfill it's potential, we need to ensure that every element of the game creator produces the best results.
To that end we have sketched out a new system which will allow buildings to be dropped into the level instantly, and dynamically customized through real-time geometry generation. This would allow buildings of any size and specification to be formed, rotated and placed throughout the level with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of flexibility. This would include doors, windows, floors, roofing and the usual subtle details that make the shell of the building. From this shell, custom textures and shader effects can be applied to each material element to create highly bespoke structures that will look substantially better than the Borg cube buildings we have come to expect from FPSC Classic levels :) Everything else is added in the usual way through static and dynamic entities to create the furniture, fixtures, scenery elements and augmentations such as light switches, signs, lights and more.
Anyone who has used the segment editor for larger constructs like cathedrals, Dwarven halls and especially outdoor structures will sympathize with the limits of the 100x100x100 segment system, especially when piecing together sometimes upward of 30 segment pieces to construct a unique building. Rather that preserve the legacy that segments left us, an idea was born to re-imagine how buildings could be created that is both quicker and more flexible. Details on specifically what level of control we will gain remains to be drafted out, but the general consensus is that we should loose none of the capabilities segment painting provided FPSC such as drawing out buildings and editing on multiple levels.
Better Performance, Less Memory
This decision also improves the performance of the engine be vastly reducing polygon counts, with the byproduct that less memory is required to store them. Where an FPSC Classic building would typically need 24 polygons per 100x100 wall segment, the new real-time building would only require 12 for an entire face of wall, whether it be 100x100 or 1000x500.
Another bonus is that rather than have performance hungry processes to analyse the segments placed and produce physics, AI obstacles and geometry buffers from them, the new system will have these elements built-in which means pressing the 'big green button' to test your game will be instant as intended.
Segments vs Buildings
The real questions of which is better is theoretical at the moment, and I join many supporters of the segment system who believe it created a unique and easy to use method of building worlds. The intent is to reproduce all of these attributes, and also go places segments could never go. By dropping them now, before we invest any more time to them, will mean more energy put into building a system suitable for a 2014 game maker.
More details on the specific features of the building maker will follow, starting with sketches and ideas, conversations through this blog and eventually some prototypes as proof of concept. To get an idea what the final building might look like, you need look no further than the 'combat super building' featured in the last round of screenshots. This is our template for everything a building might need, from walls and floors, to stairs, ladders and beyond.
As I hinted at yesterday, this week is about integrating the modules into a single application now to make sure all the preliminary pieces fit, the overall memory usage is predictable and most importantly, that the performance ticks along at 60 fps on my 'not very monster anymore' PC. I have a few Ultrabooks on standby to make sure Reloaded runs okay on decent laptops as I am sure I will be on more than a few roadshows demonstrating this product to journalists and interested parties throughout 2014. I don't fancy tugging around a Tower PC with me (like the old days) and it's always good to aim for low spec when producing software as it keeps one honest.
Sorry if this development is turning into a complete re-write of the entire engine, but the more I work on it and play modern games, the more I am inspired to produce the best game creator possible. The latest demo plays pretty good, and running around a gorgeous landscape, sniping characters that don't just stand there is pretty neat! More visuals later this week!