хаппи индэпэндэнс даи!

Yesterday’s post may have made it seem like today was all about the lightening of the UK Coronavirus lockdown, but there was one other big aspect of today’s date! Yes, you guessed it, celebration of the liberation from unscrupulous tyranny Alison’s first birthday! A year old already, good grief. Happy Birthday, poppet.

Also, I recently realised that you could automate the process I use to write Azbuka, the “fictional language” of Cloudgazer (actually just transliterated English written in the cyrillic alphabet). Thankfully, I learned my lesson here and instead of launching into yet another project to make said tool, I had a look to see if someone else had done it already. They have!

The Story of Cloudgazer

This has been a big week for me.

Back in something like 2003, I was laying on my back, looking up at an angled skylight and seeing only lightly clouded sky. I found myself wondering: what if that was down? What would it be like to live in a world where the sky was like an endless ocean, above and around you? Where you travelled in airships between floating cities, like islands in the vast blue void?

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Agnes Water – Southern Cross Backpackers

It was teeming rain when Carolyn drove us to the transit station on our last day in Noosa. Both Lucy and I were excited and slightly anxious at the change ahead. The continuation of our adventures up the coast was an intriguing unknown. And since our arrival we’d been staying in motels, friend’s houses and with relatives; the Southern Cross Backpackers in Agnes Water would be our first ‘dormitory’ accomodation. We arrived at 18:10 to a waiting minibus, that took us swiftly to the hostel. The greyhound journey had been a fairly tiring 9 hours, so we were looking forward to the usual crash-out on a comfy bed and I must admit I hadn’t really thought about the fact it would be a dorm of six. The three dutch lads that greeted us asked us where we were from, but the conversation pretty much ended at that.

The atmosphere immediately following our arrival was uncertain, though not unpleasant. We both agreed that what we needed, were some people to strike off a good conversation with. As there was a barbeque about to light up, the opportunity arose to do just that. All we needed was to buy a drink and we got a hot dog. We sat down with it and got talking to Irish couple Owen and Tia. They had been making their way down the coast from Cairns; working in many hostels although in this one they were taking a break and just paying to sit back and relax. They were also just one of many people we would meet that were headed for Sydney for New Years.

The following day we had a leisurely start, as we’d booked the Scooteroo Tour which starts in the mid afternoon and is pretty much the main reason that many backpackers make a stop of Agnes Water. At the hostel office, we had been warned the previous four or five days had been solid rain and the forecast was grim, but the new day brought with it some stunning sunshine and at 14:30 we were picked up (speaking Rural Aussie Time; at two thirty we were waiting for the bus, at two fifty-five it actually turned up). The tour basically involves riding 125cc chopper motorbikes through quiet rural roads in search of kangaroos. In addition they cheese it up with a complementary flame-decal helmet, matching leather jacket and free temporary tatoo. I passed on the tatoo, but the rest was safety equipment which meant I was supposed to wear it. So I fed it to a passing platypus then resumed looking awesome.

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Music of Azimuth

I’ve often thought about the musical side of the world of Azimuth and what approach I would take in an audio-visual medium: primarily because the game Azimuth Skies is just that, and the question applies. I’ve recently taken interest in a genre that calls itself Electro Swing, which to me seems ideal. The mixing of old and new is perhaps its key feature (which can be done successfully or clumsily, for certain) which, with the art deco overtones, suits Azimuth very well. Caravan Palace in particular are a group that, given a blank cheque for making a Cloudgazer movie or big-budget game, I’d love to have creating some tracks. But I’d also like to share this as another fine contender; “Vive le Swing” by Italian singer In-Grid (but yes, it is in French). Give it a listen!

On an unrelated note, I left my job today! Despite still needing to complete my pilot licence and move out in a weeks time, I hope that I might have a little more time to pursue my creative endeavours both here and in Australia. I’m certainly feeling more inspired than I have been in a while!

Azimuth Skies : A Webplayer is Way Overdue!

EDIT: Webplayer update posted! It’s still rough as hell, but it’s progress!

Well I really wanted to post a new version of the Azimuth Skies web demo this evening but it just doesn’t look as though it will be happening. Lexbox (that’s PC#2) got malware infected somehow at the weekend and I spent most of this evening fixing it to retrieve some files back… that, and apparently making oneself a chilli takes two hours. At least I assume this to be the case, short of someone tampering with the number of hours between 7 and 9.

So I shall round up the basic features coming in the next build and thereby force me to include the new webplayer tomorrow:

  • Re-Re-RE-enabled damage on skyfighter Machine Guns, but this time they don’t push objects around and are working properly. Big thanks to the folks at Unity Answers for helping solve this one some months back.
  • Airships have AI, that can move the ship to any given location. So they’re almost to the point where they’ll start shooting you (might even be, when I post the update)
  • Put in a ‘debug’ reload zone for skyfighters
  • Pressing ‘v’ will toggle Invert Y for skyfighters (till I put in a menu)
  • Ships can now spawn, on a somewhat limited basis
  • Sinking works properly, and ships tilt with their motion up/down
  • More damage effects
  • ADDITION: Ships now shooting each other, although they are crap shots

Azimuth Skies!

A lot has been going on recently. Partly due to the holiday season, partly due to a foul little piece of malware corrupting my windows installation and effectively wasting a week. However, much has changed since the last webplayer. There are more ships, they are more sophisticated, several things have been fixed and I really only have AI left to do (and some sounds) before the core gameplay model is complete. Check out the Webplayer above to give it a go!

Perhaps the biggest change has been of name. For the last four years, this project has been known as Iron Skies. A name I came up with for the incarnation that was my university project, I decided to change it in light of the Finnish indie film of a very similar name.

My game is now known as Azimuth Skies. Seeing as the name of the world within which it is set is Azimuth, this seemed like an obvious choice. I also toyed with the likes of Azimuth Wars and Azimuth Air Battles, but there really is (or at least, will be) more to the game than just combat.

For the uninitiated, Azimuth is “an angular measurement in a spherical coordinate system”, such as a compass bearing. It is also a term found in artillery, meaning direction of fire. So now you know.

Iron Skies Devblog – Some Changes

From now on I will be streamlining the devblog a little. The webplayer will now be in one place, (on that top bar up there), and I will continue to update it, commenting on updates from time to time as entries here, so feel free to check back occasionally. Here’s what’s in the latest version:

– Ship’s guns now present and working; the first ship has a single forward cannon for you to play with

– Skyfighters added back in. With their new and shiny flight model that’s almost complete.

– Ships can ram each other! Collision causes damage finally, something the old version never got around to having. The damage model will change too; I want some components to leave behind a ‘shell’ of wreckage so that you don’t get weird gaps when a central system (like the hull) is destroyed. A hierarchy would be another alternative, but I want to make shipbuilding as simple as possible.

– Some targets to shoot at. Both the skyfighters and ship cannons can take em out. You can even ram the crap out of them.

As a final note, I am considering a new name for the project. Since my first version way back in 2006, a Finnish film studio has been working on Iron Sky, a movie about space nazis. I’ve known about it for a few months now, but the fact is it’s inevitably more publicised than mine and to continue using such a similar name is only going to cause me trouble later on. So if you have any ideas, feel free to suggest them!

At the very least it might prevent confusion around the fact that I’ve started again from scratch…

Iron Skies Devblog : Components and Outputs

So it’s been a while since the last one due to all manner of things, but I’d like to tell you what I’m now working on. The Airship / Component system is at the heart of the game’s mechanics and I’ve given it a complete overhaul.

Play the Webplayer Test

  • Controls: WASD move the ship; Left Shift / CTRL to ascend/descend; Right Mouse Drag to move camera and Left click on a ship component to open its properties.

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Iron Skies Devblog : When it comes to the Crunch

What do I know about the Crunch? I haven’t even been to the Crunch. But I have been pretty busy, working toward a playable demonstration of Iron Skies.

iTween for Unity, from the nice chap at pixelplacement!If you use Unity, I highly recommend checking it out…

But as everything is a bit all over the place, I’d like to share a link with something that promises to be useful not just for this project but anything else I do with Unity: iTween. Okay, bad name; but a fantastic set of tools. It was written by an independent developer (nothing to do with Apple) and put basically is an extension on Unity’s functionality to make changing something from A to B both easy and powerful. All that needs installing is a static script, slapped into your asset folder. Coupled with how painless Unity is already, the result is possibly the best thing in the world you can get for nothing.

On a computer.

Iron Skies Devblog – Thoughts on Networking

Well it’s been a while since I’ve posted, my excuse being no better than the usual guff about being busy and overworked and maybe a little hungry. Progress has so far been great, but the amount there is to do to meet my original aims is vast.

Today I decided that a working single player game was better than an unworkable mess of a multiplayer one, and for this reason I’m going to postpone the network feature of Iron Skies for the time being. I’ve done some trials with Unity’s networking and come to the conclusion network code is a bit hard.

Unless you’re a programmer or a particularly savvy designer, network games don’t work how you think they do. I liken a multiplayer game to a play on a theatre. In split screen, all the audience sit in the same theatre watching the same actors portray the same play. But in a network game, each member of the audience are in completely different theatres, with different actors, who are attempting to stand in the same place on the stage as all the other versions, and who’s only means of doing so is phoning up all the other theatres every couple of seconds to ask who’s moved and where they are now. Oh, but to keep it looking convincing, the actors ought to guess where they’re going to be and just adjust if they’re wrong about it.

A balmy-sounding analogy, but one that begins to capture the apparent inanity of networking. When coders say that adding multiplayer is a lot of work, they don’t just mean “oh I have to write a big file on the end here and some of the words in it are long and difficult to spell”. It is something that will totally change the core workings of your game code. The way everything talks to each other: picking up items, throwing objects, even movement; it all needs to be not just re-written, but often re-thought out.

I suppose this doesn’t sound like the ideal thing to leave out for later. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I don’t think the nightmare pandora’s box of online play is something I want to unleash before I even have a demonstration of gameplay. I will certainly want networking at some point, but it is easy to forget just how much work it requires.

So yes… Iron Skies 2.0 maybe?