Monday, 29 October 2018

Glowing Golems And The Curious Tale Of The Non-Invertable Bind Shape Matrix

Whilst agonizing over golem design followed by golem re-design, I had a mangled LOD mesh which resulted in a crash. Making a slight change to the mesh and re-exporting fixed the crash, but I also noticed a curious error warning in the console (which probably wasn't related).

bind_shape_matrix in mesh# controller is not invertible (may cause problems with skinning)


 A little bit of digging around the codebase led to these most useful code comments.

   // Some exporters (AutoDesk) generate invalid bind_shape matrices. Warn if
   // the bind_shape_matrix is not invertible.

Okay that wasn't very helpful. What would the skinning problem be (I had not noticed any) and how do I fix it for export from Blender3D? Alas, the interwebz were not particularly useful in  determining how to do this, so I started a process of elimination, based on the logic available. Deducing that many of my models were rotated and vastly resized soley using the armature, I eventually found that uncoupling the mesh from the skeleton, and manually editing the mesh to resizing, rotate and align it to the bones cleaned up this error message.

The downside turned out to be how many instances of this error there was. I have so far created a variety of characters which weighed in at ~110 seperate meshes, and 85 of them needed resizing and manually aligning - and as it was the meshes which required directly editing, I couldn't just snap one object to another - which is actually part of what caused the problem in the first place. At least it was an error caught before I got to the end of character creation, but it would have been much less hassle to have found this out at the beginning, possibly with some huge flashing warning than a few red lines in hidden amongst the jumble of text in the console soley during first importation.

Golems, golems a plenty

So this brings us to golems, and the constant redesign of the little blighters. Who would have thought that creating a vaguely humanoid shape out of clay/rock/earth would have been so complicated. The problem was, I didn't really like any of the designs which I came up with, thus creating a whole array of slightly different clay men ensued. Eventaully I went back to my first design and added glowing cracks. Initially I had these cracks animated, first with a pulsing effect which didn't seem to be very obvious, so I changed that to an animated one. This looked quite cool when they were not moving but became rather busy and not particularly obvious with them running about, so in the end I decided to keep the glowing cracks static.

I made a rather interesting spawn animation from which the golems are created from animated rocks gathering together and then fall away to reveal the monster within. It looked quite fancy having it happen over time but this is an action game so the whole thing had to be compressed into one second. Likewise when a golem is slain it collapses into it's constituent parts of rock.

Golems Spawing, pre-glowing cracks

In game, the golem is a small and heavy enemy, best suited to swarming the player. As they are made from earth/rock/stone/etc they are very heavy and cannot be pushed out of the way (at least not by the physically weak gun wielding, range-based default player character). Golem has death in Hebrew written on it's face - not that you can see this at the scale and angle, but hey it does.

I also changed the overall colour scheme of the game, getting rid of the greenish colour and replacing all of the HUD elements and user interface with an old blue colour I liked.

Green out, blue in

And here's  the golem level in action.

So far I have around 70% of enemies for levels done - not including level bosses, and of course there are a number of player characters to yet create and replace that yellow cube. I am leaving those until last as they are all a variation on a theme and will share the same skeletal structure for animation.

Next up is organizing animations and data for attacks for my old "Dimensional Knights".

Soon ...

Friday, 28 September 2018

Jugular Spurtiness, Engineered Brutes And Boolean Modifiers

Scorching heatwaves have faded into Autumn and the oversized fan I went to so much trouble to get hold of is now packed badly into it's box. At one point I was swarmed by the "Idea Fairy" for other game ideas.

Actually footage of me defending myself from new game ideas

Back on the gamedev front, I added GUI markers to the interface for when the player gets a temporary boost or decline. Previously such events were heralded with an informative element saying what had just happened and how long it would last for, but there was no actual timed element to let the player know whether it was still on-going or had stopped. I decided to change that with a simple "up arrow" icon for boosts next to Experience, Health, Energy and a "running man up/down arrow" for temporary speed changes. Once the temporary change is over, the icon vanishes. Having a speed boost also now protects the player from slowing attacks.

I also gorified the decapitations. Not only do head explode and blood splatter but now jugular veins spurt and throw extra splatter on to the ground near the neck when the corpse finally comes to a halt.

Boom! Headshot!

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I had coded some custom homing missiles. However they would cause a crash if their target was deleted - even though I had told them to reset and lose height if there was no target.The hacky workaround was simply not to have any deceased target permenantly delete faster than the lifespan of a missile. Recently I realized that I had failed to add a "isProperlyRemoved" for the target deletion check, and this fixed the crash.

Getting on with modeling and coding new enemies, I eventually found that Blender 3D has a csg style tool called "Boolean Modifier". This can slice, delete and merge two different meshes. Annoyingly I found all of this information out after I had been doing the whole thing manually ... (insert autistic screeching here).

 Nobody Cared Who I Was Until I Put On The Mask ... and then beat the player to death ...

Previously I had modeled a plasma-rifle wielding alien based on the old Manits Man character, and named it the "Kralmok Warrior" after the name of the weapon it carried. This enemy has now been renamed again as the "Hive Warriror" - which is a little easier to say, never mind spell as I found "Kramlok" appearing in my code quite often. The Hive Warrior is a level 5 enemy and is now accompanied by an Engineered Brute.

Brutes with a Hive Warrior and a human sized zombie for scale

The "Engineered Brute" is a genetically engineered ... er ... brute. A large and relentless enemy with a melee attack which whilst slow, recovers quickly. They are the sort of solid enemy which the player will find difficult to push out the way, especially the default ranged weapon (gun) based player character. It spawns by teleporting in just like the Hive Warrior and gives out a gutteral snarl to announce it's entrance in overly dramatic style.

Dramatic Entrance Is Dramatic

Now that I am at testing level 5 enemies all together I realised that I had not created an easy function for this and instead would have to play through the other levels first. Which is fine apart from the time taken - unless I get chomped on by giant spiders in level 3 and it's all game over and start again. To rememdy this I coded a little function which starts the game at the desired level with the player upgraded through typical experience leveling and powerup collections from previous levels.

My Face When I Didn't Do This Earlier ... 

10 whole minutes of testing combat against Level 5 enemies. I got pwned in the 10th minute and never escaped the level.

So, that was the month that was. I fixed and tweaked loads of stuff, got level 5's enemies modeled, animated and working, and found a whole new and easier workflow inside Blender for modeling.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Shaggy Spiders And Splattery Goo

Spiderpig, Spiderpig, does whatever a Spiderpig does ...

Placeholder Cube under attack from (not very hairy) spiders ...

Variety is the spice of life ... allegedly ... anyhow, I am trying to have a varied and interesting range of enemies. As an easy introduction for the player I have started out with ye dull olde zombies before venturing into more interesting adversities such as velociraptors, strange deer headed Wendigo creatures and insectoid aliens. However they are all rather ... two legged. So I decided to get away from bipedal creatures and into more ... well, legs. Thus, spiders! Now as we all know spiders are complete bro's, and anyone who says otherwise is probably a fly or mosquito or something.

I wanted hairy spiders, but quickly found that sticking hairs all over them did not really show up very well, what with the distance of the camera, so instead ended up making the spiders more shaggy. The larger the spider, the shaggier. Making shaggy spiders ended up taking way longer than expected, just like everything gamedev related ... :/

Testing various levels of spider shagginess, before I added hairs to the legs

Having a spider level, I wanted a variation in spiders themselves, and chose 3 types with obvious visual differences to help the player understand what each type does. These are, rather unsurprisingly, small, medium and large.

Small spiders are thin, smooth and spindly, without addition hairs. Small and fast, they charge at the player with a toxic bite.
Medium spiders have hairy bodies. In addition to the standard bite attack, which is less toxic than the small, charging spiders, they have a spitting attack for use at range.
Large spiders are the hairiest and serve as damage absorbing tanks. They are also the heaviest, so trying to push them aside is difficult, especially for player characters with long range weapons who are the physically weakest - eg: default gun player character. Whilst I have coded a shotgun player character I have yet to design the data for melee based ones.

A range of spiders (and some test ones at the bottom)

Here is a good 13 minutes of testing the spider level in combat. I accidentally used the wrong model for the smallest spiders, and later also changed how the hairs cast shadow as they made the largest spiders look too dark from certain angles.

Action Spiders!

I also spent sometime thinking about general combat. First I created a "miss" effect for melee attacks which do not hit the player. For standard melee attacks this is a small distortion flash and some sparks, whilst for larger monsters there is an accompanying puff of dust. Attacks which do hit the player trigger an on-screen damage effect so there is no reason for additional effects.

I enhanced the blood decal effects too. Previously these had been a single, randomized decal. Now there is a splatter effect of blood going outwards. Standard deaths have a single additional splatter, whilst decapitations and full body explosions have considerably more.

New splattering effects before I honed and increased their randomization

All this and various additional and general gameplay tweaking - and some sun bathing because there was a heatwave - took up the whole of August.

So, what's up next. Good question. I've been rethinking my list of levels and extending it. Deer monsters level needs an additional enemy which are likely to be fast moving spritegirls with a ranged special attack. Insectoid/Mantis aliens need a melee based tank/brute. Interdimensional Shadow Knights have been modeled but are still in need of animations. There are a couple of planned levels with no modeled enemies, and all the level bosses and player characters are currently placeholder cubes. Several special attacks still require fancy models and of course all the actual levels are just the single test environment. Originally I was planning on creating whole levels out of meshes and lightmapping it all to save CPU/GPU load but now I am not so sure and might use the more "traditional" methods of creating the environments.

So, lots to be cracking on with ...