At last a shaky-cam (well not shaky, but you know what I mean) video of GSB 2! I wanted to do this to show off multiple monitor mode with a lemon for scale. The video shows my dev PC with the game running. My PC is a i7 3770 quad-core 8gig RAM, windows 7 and a GeForce GTX670 video card, powering two 27″ monitors for a total GSB2 fun ratio of 5120×1440, or other 7 million pixels of lasers and explosions. Here is the video:

I’ll be doing more videos over the next few months to keep you all updated, plus other things are in the pipeline :D. In future I’ll capture normal in-game footage I just wanted to do a multi-monitor one :D Help me spread the word about 7 million pixels of explosions with ‘likes’ and ‘shares’. I reckon I’ll be more popular than these youtube kids by tomorrow!

BTW the games current website is at www.gratuitousspacebattles2.com (it will get a makeover eventually), I blog about the game here, occasionally tweet about it (@cliffski) and there are forum discussions here.

 

So here is a thing, you might be interested in if you use STL, if you don’t…well sorry :D

if use use the sort()n function thats built into an STL list, it guarantees to preserve the order of identical objects in the list. if you use the vector version, all bets are off.

Bloody hell.

So if you have a bunch of asteroids with these Z values

5,9,3,0,0,0,-2,-5

And you use a list to sort them, all is good in the world. if you use a vector, those 3 asteroids at 0 are going to Z-fight like crazy things.

the solution?

use stable_sort()

well call me mr-picky but I think I’d be happier if stable_sort() was the default, and we actually renamed sort() to be take_your_chances_and_do_random_crap_sort().

I presume stable_sort is slower… Luckily I’m not sorting asteroids every frame (that would be NUTS), and I only sort things when I have to, so it isn’t mega critical. it led to a bug where the biggest hulk chunks from spaceships did Z-fighting if theyu weighed ewnough to all have a Z-speed of zero, and thus a Z position(relative) of 0, so when other objects spinning away caused a z-sort, their order got scrambled. If you are a non coder and don’t know what Z-fighting is, it’s a flickering effect you get in 3D games where two images seem to be undecided about which one is in front. You often see it on ‘decals’ such as blood splats on the floor or posters on a wall. It’s annoying…

So I was tweeting that this took forever:

dialog1

It’s just a dialog box for gratuitous space battles 2., why did it take more than twenty minutes to put together? Now… I’ve seen unity, I know it has all these plug-ins that do stuff like this, and that it’s all very user-friendly etc blah blah. But I’m old school. I’m rocking my own custom-written engine, including all the GUI. That gives me huge advantages (mostly speed) and also some disadvantages. The best advantage is there isn’t anything I can’t make the code do.

The pain with this dialog box came in three flavours.

Flavour one was those circular clock-like indicators. In theory, this is really easy, you can just generate a tri-strip of a lot of polygons and draw a curve thats smooth and crisp as you like, as long as you can spare the vertexs. I’m not drawing many, so it’s not an issue. The problem is, when you do that, you get a too-blocky, too un-aliased clunky mess that just doesn’t look ‘right’ when surrounded by lovely aliased everything. I’m not drawing 3D models, so my game has a  nice smooth look to it, and it jarred badly. So I have a sprite of that curve, and I draw a subset of it using a tri-strip arc. It’s a bit fiddly, ant took a while to get right.

Flavour two was the outline of the right-hand part of the window. It’s a bit complex, as it goes in and out and then around the close button and then loops around those circles, and it has to be really slick too, and ironically in this case it looks better drawn as a crisp 1 pixel line, so there is actual hand-crafted code in there to work out all those positions and curve ncie arcs and lines around them.

Flavour three was speed. I like everything in my game to render fast, including GUI. No point in having a fast engine where 95% of the frame is spent drawing a dialog box. That means ensuring that ouline on the dialog is a single draw call with no fuss, that all those tiny animated bits of fluff in the dialog corners and outside the edges are drawn efficiently, that the calculations on that arc outline are as fast as possible, and that the dialog in general; doesn’t use many draw calls.

It’s all horribly, laughably slow really. I probably have a ‘spare render target’ knocking about that I could use to blap this whole dialog to (BTW they resize dependent on the ship, which adds to the complexity), and then only update it when it changed, otherwise just blapping it as a single quad. In practice, the windows various elements update quite a bit.. but I’m sure I could speed up the module icon rendering with runtime aliasing onto spare render targets. I love all this stuff.

But even I know when I’m getting obsessed and need to move on!

Fuck yeah D00ds!!!!!!!!! Welcome back to another FUCKing BLOG post. YEE-HAW!!!! and it’s me Cliffski! Your Gaming commentator who TELLS IT LIKE IT IS! Lets see what KRAAAAAAAAZZZZY things are happening in the world of games!!!111oneoneone.

Every now and then gamers take part in incredibly self-righteous debates about how games are ‘art’ and a mature art form, and are being unfairly discriminated against compared with more ‘established forms of media such as books, films, TV and the theater. Why is gaming treated as some ‘lesser’ art form or media when other areas of the media are held in comparatively high respect?

I think it’s pretty clear why. or to put it in gamer-coverage terms, DUDE, it’s like FUCKING obvious you Noob!

I’m 45 years old. I have a bald spot, own slippers and have a pension. I play games, and so do a LOT of people my age, and a bit younger. Pretty much everywhere, everyone treats me like an adult. When I read a book or magazine, it treats me like an adult, ditto for most websites I visit, or events I go to. Except when any of those involve games. When it’s games related, suddenly I am targeted as though I’m a horny and stupid 13 year old boy who wants to shout a lot and say ‘fuck’ because mom isn’t watching. This hasn’t been something that appeals to me for about THIRTY YEARS.

As a quite committed, serious gamer, I can ignore a lot of that and still enjoy what is my hobby as well as my job, but it *must* turn away a lot of people my age and in their thirties. I am EMBARRASSED at a lot of gaming coverage, whether it’s in a magazine, or online, and especially in video. Lets not even mention TV. I would have assumed that the situation would have got better over the years, as more people into gaming like me grew up, but if anything, the youtube obsession has made it much, much worse.

Lets face facts, gaming will NEVER be taken seriously until it sheds this infantile image. Tax-breaks for the gaming industry? how do you make that argument to a politician my age (or older) when a quick search online for interviews with game developers shows them being quizzed by embarrassing kidults in bandanas holding skateboards saying DUDE and FUCK at every opportunity? You think that appeals to anyone who is in their forties? It’s not just journalists. even the head people at gaming divisions for Microsoft and Sony have the tendency to start saying stupid dumb things and doing high fives on stage the minute they talk about games.

Some games are deliberately immature and silly and aimed at kids. Some aren’t. All of them get reviewed by people who think they are making adverts for nerf guns. Please grow up, it is acutely EMBARRASSING to see 30+, or 40+ men pretending to be ‘down with tha kidz’. The next time you are posting a video review of a game, see if you can manage it without adopting a stupid voice, and without swearing. If people can review books and movies in a normal voice without screaming and making knob jokes, I theorize the same can be done for games.

I know blog reader regulars know this already but… I’m working on this:

GSB2-Black500w
Oh yes indeed.

I guess not many people will be surprised, the original game sold very well, was very popular and seemed to have an endless lifespan thanks in no small part to an excellent community of modders. The reason for doing a sequel isn’t financial though (I’d be doing Democracy 4 if it was), but driven more by a desire to do the job properly.

Gratuitous Space Battles was the first time I ever tried to do a game that looked impressive. I mean it. Kudos and Democracy are not designed to be a feast for the eye, they are interesting simulations covering topics not covered before. Those games are about choices and mechanics. The GUI was there because it had to be. Nobody looks at those ‘happiness’ sliders in kudos or those bar charts in Democracy and says ‘I gotta get me some of that!’.

menu

I love space battles. I love em to bits. I could sit and watch them on and endless loop. There is so much to them, the feeling of scale, the sound effects, the particles, the cool lasers, the amazing nebula backdrops and the vast vast fleets of ships doing amazing acrobatics. As a kid I grew up watching the original star wars movies and playing Elite. Space Battles are in my blood and I love them. Game-wise, I *want* to liked Eve online, but I’m sick of being ganked by some teenage boy and his pals for their amusement. I don’t want the lowliest of the low mining ships that gets one-shot killed. I want a huge fuck-off spacefleet. I want to be ackbar.

battle

GSB2 is a continuation of my fantasy of making this come to life. There are various questions answered on the placeholder website here, but let me summarize. GSB2 will be bigger, bolder, better and have more cool effects than you can shake a laser gun at. It will have a truly gratuitous user-interface. it will lovingly embrace the possibilities of twin 2560 res monitors. It will have a super-cool feature I haven’t announced yet. It will be a PC-first game, pure and simple, and it will be in your hands either late 2014 or early 2015. And you can play it in London at the Eurogamer Expo in September. If you are press and looking for presskit logos etc, clicky here.

Videos to come in due course. You are going to *really* like the videos.