Approaching Galavant’s Two-Year Dev Anniversary

Galavant’s GitHub repository was created October 17, 2015. This means the two-year development anniversary is coming up.

I find the fact that I’ve been working on Galavant for two years both upsetting and acceptable. It is upsetting to me because it doesn’t seem like I’ve come very far. It is acceptable because of my approach to working on it. I have only worked on Galavant when I have wanted to, which means long stretches of time occasionally pass before I feel compelled to pick up where I left off. The advantage of this approach is that it makes it harder to get burned out by a project. The large disadvantage is the slow rate of progress if you don’t often want to work on the project.

 

sporadicCommits
My sporadic development approach

 

I am a professional software engineer by day. Work takes a lot out of me. I rate my own comfort and relaxation as more important than a strict development schedule.

To give you an idea where I’m at:

  • PLog had to be discarded due to memory allocation fighting with the Unreal Engine setup. I ended up writing my own C-style string only Logger with feature parity in a couple hours. This proved to me that PLog was way more complicated than it ought to be
  • Agents have gotten to the point that they can get hungry, set a goal to find some food, formulate a plan to find food, follow the plan to the food, pick up the food, and eat the food. This is the core of Galavant’s AI design. By piling up needs, resources, and actions, emergent behaviors will result in agents having diverse and hopefully interesting interactions with each other, the world, and the player
  • Combat has begun development. I haven’t thought much about what I wanted from the combat system in Galavant. I know for certain that I want it to be relatively fast-paced, unforgiving, and more on the realistic side than the game-y side (i.e. you get hit in the head with a sword, you’re dead). Chivalry has been a big source of inspiration for me recently. The current state of combat is that the player can use an attack, animations are played, and different CombatActions can be created, but they don’t actually do anything yet
  • I’ve added a simple procedural world system and Actor/Entity LOD management. This is the structure which the infinite world will be built upon
  • The Entity Component System has gotten several small revisions. I’ve been refining and refactoring it to minimalize boilerplate

The big target I’m after now is getting Combat stood up. Agents, needs, inventory, items, equipment, and numerous other systems will all be involved in getting it ready. I’m going to hold off on world generation, building, and such in favor of working on fundamental gameplay interactions (like combat, needs, and managing inventory).

My goal is to turn this tech demo into a game that can be played. Here’s to another two years!

Bonus Gifs:

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The Great Gif Exchange Revived, Week 1

I’ve done a valiant job avoiding getting anything done for a long time. I have caught the bug again and got several important things finished/working, including

  • Unified logging – purged std::cout from the Galavant library in favor of the awesome PLog. This allows me to pipe all output through Unreal when using GalavantUnreal, which is nice
  • Added a very simple testing framework, Catch, which makes writing and testing new things easier
  • Finally, finally got my build system in order. Using Jam has been a bit challenging due to lack of documentation. It’s now all sorted out and builds are quick
  • Hierarchical Task Networks now fully hooked up and functional. This is demonstrated in the Gif for this week. It’s still heavy on boilerplate, so I’ve still got work ahead of me cutting that down

It has been a very long time since I posted a Gif or exchanged one with my colleague, but I think I’m going to try to start that up again. Here’s the .Gif:

This .gif is showing twenty agents moving into four groups. Each one of those agents was assigned a Goal to find a “bus stop” and go to it. They then formulated a plan using the hierarchical task network system to locate the position of the nearest bus stop and travel to it.

This is a very simple example. In the future, agents will have much more complicated plans which can accomplish complex goals.

I’m not entirely sure what I will work on next. I’ve been itching to work on the world but I can continue making progress on the AI behavior/gameplay side without the world.

I have been having doubts about whether or not I should continue developing Galavant. I’m going to continue working on it while I do some soul-searching on whether I want to spend any more of my life on this project.

An Update on Galavant’s AI

I made it my goal to finish the design of Galavant’s AI system by the end of the month. I have failed in doing so. I’m going to continue working on the design through November.

I’ve been investigating Goal Oriented Action Planning, Hierarchical Task Networks, and The Sims’ AI. All three of these systems solve a similar problem to what I’m trying to solve with Galavant. Right now, I’m thinking Galavant’s design will be a combination of the three. I can’t say for certain yet what that is because I don’t know yet.

This is the foundation of Galavant’s gameplay, so I don’t feel too guilty about taking my time with the design. Once I decide what I’m going to do and implement it, things should greatly speed up and start becoming interesting, so sit tight!

The Great Gif Exchange, Week 15

I didn’t get a whole lot done in the last couple of weeks, but I did finally get something I should’ve had from the start: the player controller!

The player character/controller was much more frustrating to add than I thought it would be. This tutorial was very helpful.

Terrain

I fixed some problems with the chunk system that you can see in the .Gif (overlapping chunks, non-grid-aligned placement), but despite this, I still get gaps and tears between voxels.

I’m thinking I might discard the voxel system and instead use a traditional height map terrain. Terrain modification was never a part of the design for Galavant and neither was three-dimensional terrain (i.e. cliffs, overhangs aren’t essential to the vision, although I am going to have to do something special if I want caves in the game).

Building will still be a part of the game, though I am not sure what tech I will use to facilitate that (whether it be voxels, tile-based, model-based, or the really awesome Dreams type approach).

AI

I’ve made it my goal to finish the design for my macro AI system by the end of October 2016. It’s the most critical part of Galavant, so it’s very important that I get it right.

Galavant has a very ambitious goal: simulate hundreds (or maybe thousands) of agents continuously, making its world a truly dynamic place. The entirety of Galavant’s gameplay is based on emergent behaviors that result from this. Agents will start wars, cannibalize each other, spread plagues, build cities, and fall in love. The player is just another person in the chaotic world (though there will be weights etc. to make agents involve the player in some way).

I’ve been looking at methods like Goal-Oriented Action Planning and Hierarchal Task Networks to accomplish this task. I plan on posting my technical design documents at the end of the month, and begin writing the code in November.

Once the macro AI system is in, things are really going to pick up. I’m excited to finally be at this exciting point in development.

Livecoding.tv

In case you weren’t aware, I’ve been streaming development of Galavant on Livecoding.tv. As of writing this post I’ve logged forty-two hours. My stream tends to be pretty quiet, but I enjoy having some company during long days of coding. It also helps to keep me productive, because if I’m streaming live I can’t just watch YouTube all day.

 

 

The Great Gif Exchange, Week 13

Work has been really busy, so I’ve been burnt out on working on Galavant. Thankfully, the game at work is now live, so things are much slower.

It’s very surreal to have worked on and released my first professional, actual-game-industry game. It was a console port, so we didn’t build it from the ground up. Total development time was something like nine or ten months, besides the continual post-launch maintenance. I was part of a team that started out with only three programmers inclusive, which then expanded to seven programmers at peak development.

Anyways, here’s my simple .Gif for week 13 (I skipped many weeks due to crunch at work):

This is demonstrating my new Entity Component System, which was designed to replace the Object Component System. It’s much more flexible in terms of managing memory and requires less boilerplate.

The entities in the .gif only have a single component attached to them. The component handles actor creation and movement, which at the current time just has them randomly fly around.