No big announcements this time around; I’ve mostly been working on polishing the user interface + adding content for the beta at the end of this month.
I finally got around to working on my list of cool body parts. I made a water jet that can be squeezed as an easy mode of propulsion (though it pulls you back a bit as it refills) and fins that can be activated to tense and turn (like holding an oar out sideways in a canoe):
In order to have a dynamic ecosystem, I need to be able to measure the performance of player creatures. Setting up a database + metrics to track creature stats was one of those things that takes a lot of backend work and has unimpressive visual results, but here ya go:
These are the average distances traveled, speed, parts that were chewed off, and calories gained from eating other animals/plants for three test creatures. Since edible plants didn’t exist yet, I had to add those too:
Those blue guys are plankton, which can act as a food source for herbivores. I still need to make a mouth that can efficiently scoop them up — I’m envisioning a whale-type creature that just swims along to gather them up. You can also see here my new ability to dynamically resize stuff, which is gonna allow creatures to eventually hatch from eggs as lil bebbez and slowly grow larger.
I also added a bit more variation to the maps; there’s now foreground and background rocks that can make little caves that creatures can hide in:
CREATURES n’ DRAG
Since replacing the squares and circles of the early versions with more complex biological shapes, I’ve been wrestling with the problem of how to calculate the water drag on the creatures. Before, I could just use each edge of the primitive shape, but when I have a multi-ridged part with a whole bunch of little edges (e.g. vertebrae), it creates a lot of unwanted drag.
One of my first thoughts was to dynamically wrap the creature in some kind of skin that glosses over all the bumps and ridges. It was something I’d been thinking of doing anyway as a graphical touch.
As cool as this idea sounds, I ended up deciding it had too many problems to be worth trying to get working (for now at least). That flicker when it moves the tail is due to the edges on the skin polygon crossing over each other and not being able to figure out what’s inside and outside.
Plus, how to decide what’s wrapped in skin and what isn’t? Do I just cover each appendage individually, or should there be some way to stretch it between arms? It would have taken an bunch of trial-and-error plus another set of user interface stuff, which was too big a solution for just trying to get creatures moving properly again.
So I ended up just looking at the convex hull of each part. This smooths out the parts on an individual basis. After skipping all edges of the convex hull that were inside other parts, I got something that works remarkably well.
In this gif, the blue lines that show up are the edges that are currently experiencing some amount of drag, and the red lines are the amount and direction of that drag:
The impending beta is forcing me to iron out all those small details that’ve been piling up on my todo list. The two that I think are worth mentioning now is a better UI for the new muscle mark system and snapping limbs together at specific angles to make it easier to make things symmetric:
(I actually stole some of that muscle-swipe UI from my phone’s unlock screen)
I also finally got saving creatures working from desktop / remotely-hosted sites, with a new UI to boot. It’s not flashy, but at least it has buttons and stuff now.
On the “oh wow oh gosh we’re almost halfway through the 8-month kickstarter timeline I’m gonna need to find more money SOON” front, I’m putting together an application for the Indie Fund, which is a group of investors with a very developer-friendly set of terms. They’re super selective, though, so I gotta put my best foot forward.
It’s the sort of thing where I’m gonna have to ask for enough money to make the game into something that’ll have an excellent chance of making it back, which is likely gonna mean bringing on additional people — an artist and PR/educational grant writer, most likely. This is a big ol’ can of worms I don’t have a lot of experience in. Working with… other people??? Yikes. In any case, I’m aiming to submit this sometime in July after I get the results from the beta.
Oh! Also, the stickers shipped sometime last week, and I should have some pictures of them in the next update. Until then!