24-hour Game Jam – Pillbug 3D

I never post here, at the same time I don’t think anyone really reads here much either. So I don’t really care to apologize for such things to pretty much no one.

Last night I was talking to my buddy Adny. We had nothing better to do so we decided to do a 24-hour game jam. For those of you who don’t know what a 24 hour game jam is, well you have 24 hours to put together an idea, implement it, and release it. It forces you to scale a project down into an achievable and manageable set of goals and then try and complete them as quickly as possible. It’s a perfect opportunity to learn new ideas, concepts, or even tools.

For our project I employed the use of Unity3D, a tool I’ve known about but never had a chance to really dig into. This was a chance for me to learn about Unity3D! We had a basic game idea we’ve had swinging around for a long time, which is basically just a pikmin clone with bugs instead of pikmin. We scaled down the actual gameplay to meet our 24 hour deadline (note we failed hitting our scaled down gameplay as well… but there is still a playable demo here).

For this project we set the goals of:

  • Create a collection of reusable art assets for a randomly generated world
  • Create camera controller for following player with rotation
  • Create a random map generator that is infinitely large in all directions, and infinitely changing if you back track on yourself
  • Create basic user input for a playable character
  • Create basic AI for spawned ‘follower’ characters
We had more on the list that ended up not making it in by the end of the day. But we plan to do yet another game jam that adds more to the game and introduce real gameplay such as:
  • Enemy MOBs to defend against, with attack AI
  • Attack AI for ‘follower’ characters to defend self against enemy MOBs
  • Scoring system that tracks how far you’ve traveled, longer you survive, the more points you get
  • Poison like attribute modifier to kill off ‘follower’ characters to increase survival suspense
This was a wonderful learning experience for Unity3D and introduced me to most of the basics about how to make a game with Unity3D. This project allowed me to get introduced to all the workings of Unity3D with out getting squashed under the tedium that would have been part of making a much larger full fledged game. Scaling back our requirements to key features to get introduced to just the basics kept the experience more controlled and easier to manager.

One other thing I learned about Unity3D is that it has a web player. So I excitedly loaded this thing up here so I we could share it! It also helped for sharing it with Adny who only worked on the art and didn’t have any of the code base to play what he had a role in creating.

Anyways, here to share with you. A small prototype game that took 24 hours to build. We call it ‘Pillbug 3D’, note it will require the installation of the Unity3D web-player plug-in. See the Unity3D web-site for more details.

Controls: WASD to move, Left click to spawn ‘baby’, Right click and position cursor around main character to rotate camera

Pillbug 3D – made playable by Unity3D web player

Small LoDGameBox update

I’m here to release a short update about the condition of LoDGameBox, and to say happy birthday to myself.

Yep it’s my birthday… weeeee. Ok back to work Duct!

So for the past month I’ve been working on a videogame for a company using the LoDGameBox as the framework for it. It’s coming along beautifully and also is letting me pull apart the entire framework and getting it into a real life implementation. This has been accelerating the building of the framework and I am happy to say Alpha version 0.1 will be out very shortly.

That’s right guys, a version that can actually be used will be out very soon. Please check out the code at my google code project and expect some great stuff soon.

Some things that are working right now:

Physics – there is a functional physics engine. It’s not exact yet, but it can actually be used. I’m using the main backbone of it in a game right now, but I coded my own custom Arbiters and Resolvers. Which yes you can do by extending and implementing the Arbiter and Collision classes.

AI – At the moment I have an A* monotonic algorithm and the main interface for AI and pathfinding set up. Right now you can have some fun with the well known A* algorithm… more algorithms to come.

AssetManager – I set up a management system and support classes for loading assets into a project. It creates a central place to load and store external assets like sound, swfs, bitmaps, etc. I am also making simple methods for accessing SWF Libraries for use.

LoDTweener – the LoDTweener is in very early stages right now. It supports container transitions and the SimpleTween right now. Don’t expect the robustness of TweenMax or even TweenLite right now, but it’s on its way. Of course, per usual, it is extensible for your sake, you can create your own custom tween types for complex animations. Just implement the com.lordofduct.engines.animation.ITween Interface and go go.

SFXManager – Sound effects are at a very functional level with support for playlists, overlapping sounds, and simple sound effects. At the moment it is based on CS3 / Flex 3.0, but I hope to be updating this to CS4 / Flex 3.4. I’m a bit hesitant though because it kills flash9 functionality, but the new data sampling options can make for simple audio syncing and the sort. Please let me know what you think about upgrading it to Flex 3.4?

UI – the user interface package is coming along very nicely with Mouse Cursor controllers, Keyboard controllers, pop windows, and other cool stuff. Check it out.

Utils – also the utils package is building up nicely with simple methods for performing numerous actions. There are tools for random values, math, strings, matrices, timers, etc.

Enjoy!

I screw the screw with a screwdriver – Interfaces

Interfacing and Implementation

Several times on the internet I’ve been in some type of discussion in which I refer to interfaces and implementation. Several times I get a return with some statement about how they aren’t using an interface at this moment, or just explicit confusion to the entire statement all together. Now this doesn’t surprise me, I assumed the person understood the word when they didn’t. It took myself a while to figure out what the hell they are, and that was with both friends and books shoving the concept in my face repeatedly until the light lit up and went ‘ding ding ding!’ This entry here is written in the hopes that it goes ‘ding’ for you as well.

The words are just vocabulary describing concepts. The words travel from 1 language to another easily. It just so happens a few languages also have data types and keywords called the same thing. The only reason these keywords are called that is because the action they perform is equivacle to the definitions of the words as a concept.

Consider it like this… why is a screw called a screw? Because you screw a screw. The name of the screw directly relates to the action performed on or by the screw. I don’t know which definition of word came first (if the noun or the verb), but either way interface is kind of the same idea. We just know that the concept of interface came before the data type interface.

WHAT ARE THEY!? Ok ok, let’s get to the most important part of this article. What the hell is an interface and implementation as a concept.

Interface

Well let’s just look at the dictionary definition of this word. It’s not like this word was invented just for programming… it comes from English. Let’s take one of the several definitions of the word that closely relates to our situations from an English perspective.

interface – a common boundary or interconnection between systems, equipment, concepts, or human beings.

The commonality between all the definitions of interface is that it refers to a boundary. And that’s what a programmatic interface is, it’s the exterior boundary of an object. More specifically it’s the parts of an object you can see and communicate with when you aren’t inside the object. I can see a human’s mouth, I can’t see their lungs. His lungs play a large role in their ability to speak, but just from looking at them, it looks as if the mouth is doing all the work. That mouth is their speech interface.

In OOP the interface is nearly the same thing. When you define a class everything inside of the class tends to be protected and wrapped inside of it. This is called encapsulation, and is the simplest example of encapsulation in OOP. Once a Class is instantiated and other objects attempt to use it, the other objects don’t CARE what goes on inside of the Class… and the object doesn’t want the other objects to care. Instead we communicate to the object through its interface… that being the properties and methods defined by the Class.

The word can also relate to other data types as well. Such as user interface, a user interface is the parts of a program as a whole that are made available to a user to alter the program. We don’t let the user into the program to play with anything, we have a definite boundary through which there are a few defined openings they can act upon. Or a graphical user interface, its like a user interface, but displayed as graphics as opposed to command entry (ui is accessed via a shell or command prompt, gui’s are accessed through a more intuitive visual display). Further more larger design patterns can have implicite interfaces. For instance, say you create a large framework… that framework can be designed with implicite boundaries. Certain data types that can be created, and others which are hidden and internal. For instance consider the DisplayList in flash, coders of AS3 don’t get access to the nitty gritty of the DisplayList like how it is rendered or anything. But we have an interface to gain access to it and use it via the DisplayObjects, Stage, and EventDispatchers made available to us. These kind of interfaces are very complex and take a lot of planning. The boundaries of them are sometimes hard to visualize.

Implementation

When you have an interface, what are we interfacing to? Awww, the implementation. Let’s again take the English definition of the word as a verb (not as a noun).

implement – verb – to put into effect according to or by means of a definite plan or procedure.

And that is exactly what implementation is in programming as well. It the WHAT the interface is allowing you to do. Remember how I described the mouth as the interface of speech for a human. And the lungs played a role in the ability. Well the lungs are part of the implementation. It’s the what that is occuring to allow voice to be created, of course there are other parts that consist in the implementation; larynx, tongue, etc.

In OOP you can see the implementation as the actual operatable code inside of a Class. So the method definition is the interface, and the code inside that method is the implementation. Again though the word isn’t just restricted to OOP and Classes. Anytime there’s an interface, there is an implementation of that interface. In the user interface, the implementation is what occurs when you access some part of the UI. Same for a GUI. Or in a framework the implementation is the entire framework’s structure.

Let’s bring this back into flash again with its DisplayList. I said that the DisplayObjects and the sort act as an interface into this structure. Well the implementation is what the structure is actually doing. Its all the internal code of the flashplayer that renders your DisplayObjects on the stage.

Data types and keywords

So what about the data type interface and the keyword implements. Both these keywords don’t exist in all languages, in more recent languages they’ve been put into use to allow a high level language to easily describe these concepts in code form.

Both of these keywords are explicit rules defined by the language to perform the concepts as defined above. An Interface is a way to describe the interface of a Class. And when a class implements an Interface you are deciding to now write the code which defines the implementation of the Inteface. Yep that’s a lot of reuse of the same word to mean different things… and that’s why it is confusing. But it’s just like the ‘screw’…

I screw the screw with a screwdriver.

See the confusion??? That’s all it is.

I once got in debate with someone about how C++ doesn’t have interfaces, and through out the debate I was trying to explain how C++ does, it just doesn’t have these keywords or the data type. But the concept was there, and you could perform it. The act of extending abstract classes is basically the same idea as implementing an interface. Just abstractly… the only difference was that the same data type could be used to extend and implement certain Classes as well. Still though it’s all there. The same goes for AS3 (which I bring up a lot), it has an interface data type, but you don’t have to use it. I’ve found several open-source projects on the web where the programmer uses an Abstract Class to define the interface. The rule this abstract class is enforcing is the same exact thing as the interface data type.

LoD AS3 Game Framework – update 3

This update is small, but important.

I’ve moved the source of my project onto Google Code for easy sharing. It also allows me to easily update it through SVN and for you to checkout the entire project out easy. Or you can just sift through each individual file on google code through the directory tree. In the end this will streamline my blog entries about it, I can post and share new stuff so much easier!

Furthermore I’ve changed the name of the project, from now on I’ll be referring to it as “LoDGameBox”. Please come on over and check it out. Version control and comments are available to see what changes have been occuring.

LoDGameBox at GoogleCode

LoD AS3 Game Framework – update 2

So I return with another update about the LoDGameFramework. I know I said I’d have the physics part done by now, but it isn’t… sorrz. It’s really close though. And that’s what I’m here to show an example of. Above is an example of a collision detector using Separating Axis Theorem, along with a resolution algorithm devised from the same algorithm used in FOAM (credit given in source). To show the point you can easily swap in and out different algorithms. There are 3 other algorithms for collision resolution and 2 other for collision detection.

Furthermore, though you can’t visually tell, the collision meshes used for all the objects vary here. The red shapes use my IGeometricShape interface describing circles, ellipses, and polygons. Where as the black blocks are described by regular Rectangle objects in flash. You can mix and match all of these collision meshes at the same time. I still want to get the Bitmap ones running, but I have some other work to do as well.

If you want to play with this example below, just click it with your mouse and 10 new geometric shapes are generated and set to collide against each other.

DIRECT LINK

You can still download the library in its current pre-alpha state in the link bar. Or here!

LoD AS3 Game Framework – update 1

So I’m here to update everyone on the status of the “LoD Game Framework”. I’ve been adding all kinds of interesting objects into the library since the last time I posted and I’m happy to say a big release is coming soon. This release doesn’t particularly mean the whole library will be functional, but a section that I bet a lot of people want will be up and running.

Before we get to that nice little surprise, let me discuss some of the interesting things I’ve been adding.

For starters, I contacted Jim Armstrong aka Singularity, author of the AS3 parametric curve library at Algorithmist.net. I wanted to abstract the algorithms from his library for use in my parametric curves and requested permission from him. The interface for the version I’ll be releasing is going to be heavily trimmed down. I’m removing a lot of the stuff that deals with ‘drawing’ curves to DisplayObjects and just keeping anything dealing with the math of curve. Instead another set of objects will assist drawing the curves along with other geometry I’m including.

And there’s another one! Geometry, right this very moment (I’ve been up all night… vamp!) I am coding up a set of objects called IGeometricShapes. These shapes are for mathematically representing complex geometry, and allowing you to extend and create your own special geometry. There are two basic types of IGeometricShapes at this time: convex smooth edged shapes, and polygons. Convex smooth edged shapes include stuff like circles and ellipses, where polygons represent stuff like triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, etc.

I’ve also started work on a more robust Tweening library then that garbage one I posted here months back. Now that might not make most of you happy, and at this moment it is very much in its infancy. But what I’m going to be doing in turn is setting up an interpretor class that will allow you to inject your own tweening engine into the entire framework. What this means is that you can easily wrap the LoDTweener around lets say TweenLite or the likes, and any part of the framework dependent on the LoDTweener will utilize your favourite tweening engine instead. No need to change code inside the framework to coerce it into using a different engine… further more I plan to let you swap this stuff out on the fly. This means you can code your entire project around the LoDTweener and then just simply update the interpretor class with what engine to use (no this is not implemented yet, that’s for the future). Some might ask WHY I don’t just include TweenLite, or why I just don’t use any Tween Engine at all. Well I need tweens for different parts of the framework, so that’s that, I can’t go with out. But not all Tween engines out there are free, for instance my favourite one ‘TweenLite’ has a very restrictive license on it that doesn’t fit into my open MIT license I’m sharing this under. So instead I’m giving any of you the choice to use whatever you want with ease.

I’ve also got a large portion of the tiling system set up. This is what lets you create 2D cameras and scroll scenes. The tiles allow you to layer your scenes and create panning effects like parallax scroll. There isn’t a lot I have to say about it at this time as I’m not sure exactly how much I’m going to be putting into it. I have this issue where I want to balance it between being light weight for those who don’t need everything, and having great options for those who do want everything. Please, let me know what kind of layering, camera, and scrolling techniques you want included!

Lastly in this literary update, the most exciting part (for me…). My Physics Engine is nearing completion, I hope with in the next 2 weeks to have it out on the table with some demos for everyone to check out. Now again I’m taking an interpretor style design with the physics engine. That’s right, I’m not going to force you to use only one style of collision detection, or one style of collision resolution. I’m not going to hand you a restricted list of geometry or leave you out of the loop of the whole process. Instead there is several small sectors of it that you the user get to control.

1) IPhysicalAttrib – meaning “Interface of a Physcial Attributed Object”. This interface exists soulily for you designing your own physical bodies into the PhysicsEngine. There are a couple ways to implement it. You can directly just pass a PhysicalAttribute object into the engine and update via this object, or you could implement the IPhysicalAttrib and expose the inerface of the PhysicalAttribute through it (similar to implementing IEventDispatcher), or you could implement the interface your own special way creating you own effects inside the engine. This allows you to directly add any class you want to the PhysicsEngine just by implementing the interface.

2) IPhysicsCollection – this interface describes collections of objects for manipulating the physics of. This allows you to create independent groups of objects that interact internally only, or you can combine groups to create global conditions. The collections range in functionality to allow you to describe all kinds of scenarios and keep processing power down. For instance, say you have a level filled with static rigid bodies that don’t react to forces or anything, yet the player can collide with them. There is a style of IPhysicsCollection to describe this situation easily. This way the physics engine completely ignores these static objects interacting with each other but still allows the player to collide with them.

3) CollisionMesh – the collision mesh is a property of IPhysicalAttrib, it’s one of the most important object interface uncovers for any physical body. Through the CollisionMesh you describe the collidable area of any object. There will be a couple different types of CollisionMeshes that come default and you have the ability to define your own. The planned ones as of right now include:

  • Simple CollisionMesh – used for describing a basic OBB
  • GeometricCollisionMesh – adapts the earlier described IGeometricShapes to describe a convex hull
  • BitmapCollisionMesh – describes a DisplayObject as a BitmapData object for pixel perfect collision (with a performance hit though)

Of course again there is the ability to make your own types of meshes.

4) CollisionDetectorAlgorithm – a CollisionMesh allows you to attach any algorithm to it for detecting collisions. There are a couple of algorithms included directly, and of course an interface for you to add your own. You can easily swap out algorithms with a line or two of code, and you can even allow different objects to use different algorithms at the same time!

5) CollisionResolverAlgorithm – when a collision occurs it is passed along to the engine to be resolved. Any given IPhysicsCollection can have a unique resolver algorithm set to it (or just use the global default set in the engine Singleton), this allows you to pick and choose how objects react when colliding. For instance you can use a simple resolver algorithm that just doesn’t let objects intersect, or you can use more complex once that simulate friction and elasticity, or you can even more precise and include angular velocity and other fun stuff.

6) CollisionEvents – when collisions occur two events propogate. One informing the entire project that a collision occured and another for when it is resolved. You can hault the collision once it’s occured for any reason and stop it from being resolved. Lastly the event is dispatched from 2 places. You can listen to the PhysicsEngine itself to capture all collisions that occur, or each object that is part of the collision also dispatches the event themself. This also means that if the object implementing the IPhysicalAttrib interface is also a DisplayObject, the event will bubble through the DisplayList.

So be ready guys, I’ll be updating again in the near future with a fully functional physics engine for everyone to tinker with. Instead of trying to go for a fun realistic engine, I went for something that is useful. You can still create the really interesting accurate physics, but you can also just create simple physics that are more useful in most videogames. You don’t always need angular velocity, or elasticity, so instead the choice is there, but not necessary.

You can still download the library in its current pre-alpha state in the link bar.