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arcnet 7 years ago#1
Or where I will try to list everything I worked on in 2014.
First there is a Patreon page for SOM at www.patreon.com/swordofmoonlight where I've written an essay about why King's Field and Sword of Moonlight matters.
Second my main goal this year was to write all of the SOM extension source code from scratch so that it can be absolute no question public domain and so there is nothing holding it back. That goal has been reached and so I've just been doing what I consider bonus work for the rest of the year more or less.
The brunt of 2014 can be summed up in one concept: language/theme packages. The entire setup experience is now streamlined so from download to creating your first new game project you have to really try to deviate from what you want to be doing.
There is a new Settings tool built into SOM_EDIT that is basically a graphical interface for the project's SOM media file. The project's always had SOM files but they weren't really used. Now they are used to configure the game/project at the most basic level, so you can can control and include whatever files and folders you want into your project, or to put it another way, it's now possible to manage more than one project at a time and to collaborate on projects and there is a first class GUI for that.
The programs have been integrated into Windows Vista and later versions of Windows, so that SOM can be pinned to the taskbar, and its many satellite programs are grouped on the taskbar. There is a new langauge/theme pack menu as part of the component update program that runs automatically after SOM is installed, however there is still work to be done around automatically updating the language/theme packages, which is complicated because they are not part of the regular install base, since most people will only want a handful of them when there can potentially be hundreds. I have a plan and expect to take care of this in 2015. Lots and lots of quality polishing happened all throughout 2014.
Some of the odd jobs this year included ensuring there were no unfinished bits in any of the new work that has been done. The player animations that includes simulating upwards of 20 different kinds of movements (I consider SOM to be at its heart a walking-simulator) are now flawless, except I still recommend disabling the auto-jumping feature until I can find time to improve the way walking/running acceleration works so that there is less accidental jumping.
I got around to fixing the in-game map screens so they are seamless and run at full speed instead of bringing the games down to 1fps. The player position icon is now an arrow with a conical highlight that appears to gesture towards where the player is facing on the map as it blinks. Previously it was a square, so one corner is moved to be between the adjacent ones to create the effect. And finally the red flash effect and others were integrated into the regular screen update so that there is no performance penalty when they occur. The trouble was SOM would fill the entire screen with transparent pixels and that can easily cause a refresh frame to be missed and knock the game down from 60fps to 30fps just because the screen is flashing.
I think it was 2014 when some new effects were added that allow monsters to knock players around the same way the player knocks monsters around. There was something like this before, but it was experimental. I'm really pleased with the new system, and how it delivers on player/monster parity.
The level designer tool got some major upgrades in 2014. First its now possible to make continually churning events that exist on every map, and events that are not associated with anything on the map in particular. Without this making a game is pretty much infeasible. When I tried making games this was my main stumbling block. No more a problem.
There are new options for probing and setting game states. You can learn pretty much anything in an event...
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arcnet (Topic Creator)7 years ago#2
...and since I couldn't decide how to calculate impact based damage like happens after falling in most if not all of the games (which SOM 2000 lacks) one useful new state tracks from what height and at what vertical speed the player landed on the ground. It's purely vertical but still at least as good a system as you have in the original games. So for instance your event that spans all map (previous paragraph) just needs to set the HP loss, play a falling sound effect (SOM comes with some good ones) and flash red (which will no longer slow the game down; and works better I might add than any other effect for communicating a real sense of pain to most people who associate red with pain)
Also in the level designer, where you'd be spending most of your time arranging 3D things, the 3D design screen is now updated in real-time, so instead of setting up the numbers you want and pressing the Apply button to see there results, you get constant visual feedback, and Record when you are happy with the results. There are also five or six new buttons on the 3D screen for toggling different elements of the 3D scene. And for anyone whose ever used SOM the vertical axis is now spread out over two sliders, one that is proportional to the ground plane axes, and another that is really long and runs vertically with new [+] and [-] buttons on either end to cover the whole 40 meter spread instead of trying to cram all of that into a single 2 meter slider!
Oh and I designed new icons for that screen that came out quite nice. The original icons do not match the look and feel of SOM. The actual icons are up to the theme package, however what I did is taken screen captures of some of the artwork that comes with SOM and shrink them down to icon size, it came out quite well. Just had to choose the widest artworks, which for monsters was the Dino Warrior that very much resembles a classic orc like monster in icon form, and for NPCs I chose the fat matron, and for objects the two legged sign post, and for items the Truth Glass, and for events the Save Point cross. It's also now possible to rotate all objects and NPCs/monsters around the ground plane axes, however I must do more work in 2015 to make the rotations take effect in game, and to correct the "collision response" for such rotated objects, which never worked in the past (its one of the very few still remaining bugs out of hundreds)
Finally I spent a lot of time in early 2014 I think researching all of the games so that I could ascribe proper names to all of artwork based on historical game counterparts. The generic names have been replaced with a new categorization system, so instead of there being 20 to thousands (one day) of longswords (eg. longsword #120) each artwork can be placed into the longsword category and can be given a proper name, like I dunno, the Moonlight Sword for example! These categories can overlap so that artworks (I call these profiles based on the PRF file extension) may appear within more than one category. Similarly the tiles that the level maps are built out of have been categorized and have been made to work analogously to the other profiles so that they can be shared between projects and collaborators. For instance they are no more limited to file names between 0000.prt and 1023.prt, although I still recommend using serial number like file names because they are language neutral and not prone to being necessary to change in the future.
The names of the categories are not translated by the language packages, instead each game author/team/teammate chooses their own preferred categories and labels them the way they prefer, so that no translation is necessary. Still there are new default extension configuration files now for Japanese and English that come with basic categories already filled out. The only aspects of SOM that haven't yet gotten this treatment is sound effects and the magic-like effects that monsters use. That's something that still remains to be addressed in years to come.
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arcnet (Topic Creator)7 years ago#3
One more thing before I get to what the future (2015) holds: the in game menus could still use some work. I wanted to set something up like what the language/theme packages use (they are based on RES files which can be edited with ResEdit.net, whose principal maintainer I've spent a lot of time corresponding with in order to improve ResEdit) and still plan on doing so, however it occurred to me that with some simple tricks the built-in English translation could be radically improved, and the results were so nice that I've put working on a menu customization system off for the time being...
All I did was use < and > arrows in front of the translated menu text to shift the text to the left or right by one character width. That made it possible to translate the menus into English without any abbreviated text.
Actually the last part of 2014, for 3 months I've resolved to working on a graphical interface for managing the game's script/translation files (a different version of the script for each language/style the game is translated into) in one place. I didn't realize how long it would take to do that. I'd hoped to have an initial release ready before New Years Eve but I expect it will be more of an early 2015 release. With a few days left to go It probably won't be possible to even release a demo before next year.
This new tool is actually SOM_MAIN. You could say that it's put the Main into SOM_MAIN, since before it was no more than a four button launcher. But now the 3rd button has been replaced with a full featured script editor. Or I call the script a gameplay, like a screenplay only for games, because I am always looking for new ways to legitimize video games as a first class art form.
The old function of the 3rd button has been relegated to this new tool's Save As menu. It's worth pointing out that the new script editor is completely separate from the project editor which is natural because it is purely a work of text, just as SOM_MAIN is separate from SOM_EDIT. How they are able to work together is in SOM_EDIT's text boxes (or rather the boxes of all the micro programs SOM_EDIT spawns) instead of putting the in-game text in there, although that is possible, you really want to put what are effectively links in there instead, that link to sections of the script, or what I generically call a transcript, or a non-sequential script. The links can be language neutral so that translation and rewrites become a snap...
And more importantly the links are limited to Japanese and English text, but the script can include text and symbols from all world languages and disciplines and in unlimited amounts. Furthermore the text can include HTML like markup that can be used to do things like consolidate what would have taken many many event instructions before into a single written mathematical expression, or what is also called a script, that is embedded in the text along with the text that is displayed on screen. This is the same way modern WWW documents work, and even means that variables can be inserted into the displayed text, so that for example and NPC or popup message can communicate some statistic stored as a number in the game's save file directly to the player within their dialog.
I also intend for the new SOM_MAIN editor to be used to author Help files for the core tools that will work just like WinHelp, only I intend to develop a replacement for WinHelp that will be called SomHelp and may only differ by supporting Unicode RTF files and probably not supporting some of WinHelp's more exotic/less useful features. Oh yeah, did I mention that the new script tool is based on RTF rich text like Wordpad uses? So in addition to markup there is formatting that lets you use italics and change fonts on the fly and of course lots lots more right in the in-game text (in fact I hope to replace the special text instruction with a macro system for dynamically creating new graphical instructions since it will be made obsolete and would work perfect for that)
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arcnet (Topic Creator)7 years ago#4
P.S. the script editor will also include a spellchecker if you have Windows 8 or later. I myself intend to upgrade to 10 just to have a spellchecker next year when it is supposed to be release. I'm going to purchase a new workstation for use with one of the new VR headsets that everyone and their mother are promising nowadays in order to prepare a new pixel perfect memorial version of KF2 1995 that will be made with SOM and released more or less to the public domain using the original PlayStation artwork taken off the discs, unless From Software cause foul in which case it will be released with placeholder artwork separate from the original disc artwork.
In 2015 I want to of course wrap up the new script editor, and I am going to spend some time working with a Japanese SOM game called Hearts Collide that features a lot of custom classic Phantasy Star like artwork and hopefully completing an English translation of HC. HC is a good way to showoff SOM but also this will allow me to fully vet the new script editor myself. And I've found a new graphics tablet that I intend to use in a campaign to doctor SOM's original artwork to be presentable (it's full of wholes and unforgivable blemishes) alongside returning to some software I worked on two or three years ago that is used for advanced work with SOM's proprietary file formats and also includes a high performance (GPU based) renderer I developed at the time that will be used to accelerate SOM for VR play and steady its framerates on "low-end" PCs.
EDITED: I myself prefer affordable PCs and intend to purchase the most affordable desktop or nettop integrated PC on the market that has all the outs required to drive the VR headsets. Meaning I want to be able to test SOM on what is hopefully a $150 or less PC connected to a however expensive VR headset. I am not really interested in graphics that go beyond KF2 and supporting VR will require fairly basic low polygon graphics the likes of KF2 I think to be practical since it needs to output so many more pixels and at frame rates that much higher than 30fps. But even if my $150 system or whatever is the entry level price can't quite play KF2 no matter what I can get it to do, at least it will be able to run tests until future $150 systems can meet the requirements.
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arcnet (Topic Creator)7 years ago#5
One major game changer that I almost forgot to mention IS that it's now possible to run all of SOM's micro programs at the same time without ever having to close them down and start them back up again.
The one case where you would have to do that is if you are making custom tiles for your maps, however that is an advanced activity which isn't technically part of the core SOM experience. Still I'd like to work on that because it also applies to changing the tiles that are included by the game project, which is part of the core experience but something that isn't likely to be required because there isn't a huge database of tiles to choose from yet.
This development basically means that the locks that existed have been removed, these locks would only allow one micro program to be open at a time that wasn't in read-only mode. Not only are the locks removed but it's safe to save inside each program without any side effects, and you can make changes in the SOM_PRM program which will then be carried over into the SOM_MAP program.
While on the subject, the new SOM_MAIN based script editor will also work alongside the other programs. How it does that is the text boxes have new little buttons beside them that will open SOM_MAIN up in compact form to the relevant text in the script, and when the micro programs are saved the script they have open in SOM_MAIN will also be saved.
The script also includes all kinds of metadata and can be sorted and printed and is primarily presented in the form of a collapsible outline so that the script can be organized into multiple levels of items and headings.
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