Arcen Games

General Category => AI War Classic => : x4000 May 26, 2010, 03:00:22 PM

: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 26, 2010, 03:00:22 PM
Okay, so there has been some occasional concern from players that we're going to be throwing away a lot of good stuff when we convert AI War to Unity 3D (away from .NET/SlimDX) in the July/August timeframe.  Some concern is justifiable, so I thought I'd make a post about this to put you more at ease.


About Tidalis's History
Tidalis started out as a SlimDX game based on the AI War engine.  It grew for a while, then had a number of problems that we decided to solve via switching to Unity 3D.  I'll get to those benefits in a bit, but I'm first highlighting the fact that Tidalis started as SlimDX and then was ported over, and that it uses an engine very similar to that of AI War for things like rendering, sound, etc.

The first worry that a lot of folks have is that Unity 3D will have worse performance than what we were able to get with SlimDX.  After all, performance is critical for AI War in a way that it is not for Tidalis, since AI War has such a heavier load on the processor.  From our testing, we have seen no drop in performance of CPU-intensive stuff on the switch to Unity.

There may be a slight hit in terms of GPU usage, but Tidalis runs at 3x the framerate of AI War, and has a ton of particle effects -- really, Tidalis commonly has thousands of sprites onscreen at once, same as AI War does.  There are a few things in particular that seem slower in Unity, like Line rendering, but I have some tricky ideas of ways to resolve that sort of thing in AI War on Unity, while also actually significantly beefing up the graphics in that area.

The other key thing that Unity has that we don't have on the other platform is an amazing Deep Profiler that gives us an absolutely amazing amount of insight into where performance is being lost, etc.  For AI War at the moment, we can do some profiling with Visual Studio of course, but it's not as robust or informative for a lot of reasons.  This should help us improve the core performance of AI War above what it already is, but it might not happen overnight.  It will certainly be an awesome ongoing tool, though, and we're already loving it for Tidalis.

All in all, there may be some bumps in the road graphics-performance-wise, but we have a lot of tricks up our sleeves in ways to resolve that, and in the end I think the performance will be better all around.  Now, let's get to what we gain:


Things Tidalis Has That AI War Does Not

UV Animation: There are a ton of uses for this, and it's a powerful and free-on-the-CPU sort of activity.  This will let us do some things like making vastly-more-attractive tractor beams (and other "colored lines") in AI War, for example.  And they can be animated, with effects that look way more high-res.  And that will actually take LESS GPU/CPU load than the current implementation, which involves additive blending of between 2-5 lines.  This would require just alpha blending and UV animation of a single line.  Very win.

Per-Sprite Additive Blending:  Right now our sprites have to be additive blended in batches, which creates a number of challenges for them performance-wise and limits our flexibility with that sort of effect.  Without getting too much into the details, it's one reason why things like engine bloom, etc, would be incredibly hard to do at the moment.  I am not saying that we'll have engine bloom right out of the gate on Unity, but it is something we could pursue down the road (and of course with an option to turn it off as needed).

Texture Wrapping:  Right now we're using the SlimDX wrapper over IDirect3DXSprite, which is pretty limited although pretty reasonably high-performance.  One thing we thus can't do is wrap a single texture across a vertex, which limits a lot of what we can do.  That tractor beams thing I was talking about? This sort of texture wrapping is also needed for that.  But there are also a lot of other things we could potentially do.

Advanced Shader Effects: Here again, this is not something we'd do immediately, but it is something we could experiment with.  In AI War at the moment we have to stay away from Shaders because they would exclude older hardware.  But in Unity, they have methods whereby those advanced effects are simply disabled or downscaled on computers that can't handle it.  So, that would potentially let us later do some cool effects that would have no impact on system requirements.

Keyboard control remapping:  Yes, that's right.  Technically we could have done that in SlimDX, too -- Alden Ridge supported it -- but it would have been way harder for AI War in particular.  We have a model for that already going in Tidalis, and it will be easy to port that to AI War as part of our porting of AI War to Unity.

OSX Support:  Being able to play AI War on the Mac or the PC will be pretty cool.

Linux Support:  AI War currently does not work in WINE.  But, we have reports that Tidalis does, even though Unity is not officially supported on that platform.

Better Installation:  The AI War installer process is currently... long and painful, if you don't already have all the prerequisites.  Unity has no prerequisites other than a working graphics card.  So, that means you can play AI War off a thumb drive without having to install .NET and so forth.  And the initial installation experience for players will be so much more positive, too.

Better Music Playback:  AI War already has music streaming off the disk, but it has a number of small things that are less than ideal.  In Unity, this works much better.

Streaming in Images:  AI War already streams in images from the disk, but it does so synchronously.  That means that when you are first in the game, there is a lot of lag the first time you look at stuff.  With unity we can stream those in asynchronously.  That will mean that instead of lag, you'll see ships "popping in" the first time their images are loaded.  That keeps things moving smoothly (especially nice for multiplayer), and in general will make it feel smoother.

Simulation-independent framerate:  Right now when AI War starts getting slow in a big battle, the game speed actually drops significantly.  In Unity, the first thing to drop will be the framerate.  So things will get jerky in a big battle, but the game speed won't drop unless things REALLY get bad.  This has a ton of benefits, and will let you get through that moment of lag (when one happens) much faster and more painlessly.

True simulation speed scaling:  Right now you can increase the simulation speed, but it pretty much doubles it with one press.  And there is no way to slow down time.  If you look at how this works in Tidalis, it is so much better and more precise, and I think a lot of players will really enjoy that.

Better windowing and controls:  AI War currently uses a mix of DirectX and GDI, which causes all manner of minor issues.  Everything from tooltip wonkiness in the lobby, to video recording not capturing menus, to issues with the screenshot function, to problems with players having in-game overlays (XFire, Steam) that sometimes don't work well with the GDI parts.  With the switch to Unity, all these issues go away, and the menus will be better-looking and will just "feel better" in general.  See Tidalis for reference, though obviously that's a different GUI skin than what we'll do for AI War.

Large RAM Support:  Right now, AI War only supports 2gb of RAM, so if your game gets too huge and goes over that limit, the game dies.  That is super rare, but for some players with monster machines and 200k+ units, it causes problems.  On Unity we will have support for 4gb of RAM instead (on Windows -- the Mac one might support more, actually).

Better In-Game Updates:  The updater process for Tidalis is oh so much better than the one we use for AI War.  It's much faster, cleaner, and supports many-updates-at-once so that we can do non-cumulative updates that are therefore smaller.  This will be coming to AI War, too.

Binary Networking Support:  This really is unrelated to Unity (as are the in-game updates, really), but it's something we're working on with Tidalis and will hopefully support with AI War in the future.  Basically, having both networking and savegames be in a binary format rather than a compressed-string based format should make network transmissions faster and lower the network requirements overall.  This is still in progress for Tidalis, but it looks promising so far.  This turned out to be a waste of time, and we scrapped it for Tidalis and don't plan to do it with AI War, either.

True Fullscreen Support:  AI War has never been able to run in true fullscreen mode, it always runs windowed (because of the GDI elements).  This causes a very minor performance hit, but more importantly it can cause usability issues for players with unusually high desktop resolutions compared to their monitor size.  This is a rare issue, to be sure, but the true fullscreen support will allow a lot more flexibility in what we are able to do.

Bitmap Font Support (With Unicode!): This lets us use fancier fonts without coming afoul of license restrictions.  This will make for an IMMENSE improvement in the visuals on fonts, expect to have this looking far more fancy with that version of the game.

.NET Issues Go Away:  Right now, if you are wanting to play AI War but your copy of .NET is corrupt, you're pretty much up a creek.  .NET is pretty embedded in the OS, so it might even require an OS reinstall, just so that you can play AI War.  Usually it is just an uninstall and reinstall of .NET itself (which itself takes like an hour), but this won't be any sort of issue at all on Unity.  Thank goodness this issue has been super rare in general.


Things We Lose By Going To Unity With AI War

As everyone knows, you can't switch platforms without some drawbacks.

Multi-Monitor Support: Right now, we could do multiple monitors if we took the time to code that in.  When we move to Unity, there's no longer any chance of that, at least not on the current versions of Unity.  Small price to pay, though.  To clarify: external products like eyefinity, or the use of simply stretching a single big window across multiple monitors by setting a larger resolution in AI War, should still work just fine.   The one drawback (possibly eyefinity excepted, not that I'm familiar with that product) would be a thin windows toolbar across the top of your view.

Faux-Fullscreen Support:  Right now, AI War usually looks fullscreen but it's really actually just a window.  That makes for fast window switching, etc.  That actually isn't possible with Unity, but if you look at Tidalis you can see what is possible: the windowed mode support is really good, and the true fullscreen support has a number of other benefits.  I will miss the support for this, but the other benefits vastly outweigh this drawback.  To clarify: you'll still be able to run in windowed mode at whatever resolution, so you can use it to fill your screen if you want.  But, you'll have a thin little toolbar across the top, and those little window border edges along the sides.


Conclusion
I think there has been some undercurrent of worry that we're moving to Unity "just because" or because we're some sort of Mac enthusiasts that don't mind throwing out a lot of PC-specific benefits, or whatever.  Hopefully this post puts those worries to rest.  There are a TON of benefits to moving to the Unity platform, and the AI War 4.0 version (that will be the first Unity version) is going to really be taking things to the next level, and letting us do even more stuff in the long term.  And I'm pretty confident that I'm forgetting some other benefits that we've had in Tidalis that AI War doesn't yet have (and can't have on the current platform).

The better-installer thing alone is hugely valuable for Arcen, as I think it's been something that harms sales that the installer process is so onerous.  It's that stupid install of .NET 3.5 that does it.  That was the main thing that made us switch Tidalis to Unity, although the cross-platform thing was also a huge draw.  But once we did that, we found ourselves amid a literal treasure trove of other benefits on that platform, and at least most of them are enumerated above.

For those who have been wondering: this Unity changeover is something to be really excited about even if you are on Windows.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Adetia May 26, 2010, 03:20:51 PM
Faux-Fullscreen Support:  Right now, AI War usually looks fullscreen but it's really.  That makes for fast window switching, etc.  That actually isn't possible with Unity, but if you look at Tidalis you can see what is possible: the windowed mode support is really good, and the true fullscreen support has a number of other benefits.  I will miss the support for this, but the other benefits vastly outweigh this drawback.

Think you forgot a word in the first sentence there. But does this mean we lose support for a fullscreen windowed mode?

If so:
(http://reformedevangelist.com/wp-content/uploads/iObject1.jpg)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 26, 2010, 03:30:03 PM
Yes, I fixed that before you posted it, actually.  And yes, that's what it means.  You'll either have a toolbar at the top of your screen while in windowed mode, or it will be true fullscreen.  That change is the main thing that I'm unhappy about with the switch to Unity, but there's always hope that they might support that at some time in the future, and all the other benefits vastly outweigh that one thing.  If you're worried, you can check out the Tidalis demo and see how that works for comparison, it will be the same in AI War (the latest versions of Tidalis have some improvements on that score, FYI).

At any rate, the switch to Unity is going to happen, we aren't going to be changing our mind on that.  If people are really bothered about this one feature they need to start making their peace with it.  The plethora of other more-substantial benefits ought to ease the sting on that one issue, I hope. ;)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: triggerman602 May 26, 2010, 03:49:57 PM
Faux-Fullscreen Support: Right now, AI War usually looks fullscreen but it's really.  That makes for fast window switching, etc.  That actually isn't possible with Unity, but if you look at Tidalis you can see what is possible: the windowed mode support is really good, and the true fullscreen support has a number of other benefits.  I will miss the support for this, but the other benefits vastly outweigh this drawback.

(http://i296.photobucket.com/albums/mm191/Triggerman0/Objection.gif)

However this talk of fancy tractor beams sounds nice.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 26, 2010, 03:52:39 PM
I am curious: are these objections meaning that you prefer the faux-fullscreen thing to ALL of the other benefits of Unity?  If so, I'm kind of shocked at that.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: celoxsf May 26, 2010, 03:57:28 PM
Multi-Monitor Support: Right now, we could do multiple monitors if we took the time to code that in.  When we move to Unity, there's no longer any chance of that, at least not on the current versions of Unity.  Small price to pay, though.


NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

Are you saying that AI War currently does not support multi-monitors? Because I would disagree with that...

I paid a lot of money for my eyefinity setup and I want to use it!

Right now I can play AI War in 5760x1200 with no problems.





My question is: UNITY will break this?


I tried attaching an image but it didn't work out quite how I wanted hehe
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 26, 2010, 04:02:33 PM
celoxsf, in our view AI War currently does not support multiple monitors (not natively in the sense of something like SupCom, I mean). Use of something external like eyefinity is something really separate and should work fine so far as I know.  Unity doesn't have any problems drawing in odd dimensions in windowed mode at least, so at the very worst you'd have a thin windows toolbar along the top; but depending on how eyefinity works, if other 3D fullscreen games work with it, I'd be surprised if Unity games did not.  A quick google search didn't reveal much on that, though.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 26, 2010, 04:07:57 PM
Well, I'm really surprised by the early negative reactions to this thread, that was not at all what I'd expected, and this was meant to be a positive thread to put people's minds at ease.  Apparently there is a lot of attachment to the faux-fullscreen windowed mode.  In light of the above comments, I feel like I should make some additional comments:

Just to be clear, one of the key reasons we're not going to be convinced away from the Unity changeover (especially over one smallish feature like that -- really, the windows toolbar at the top of the screen would be the only difference if you want this) is that I see this as being crucial to the longterm survival of AI War.  Sales are still steady, but are definitely lower this quarter (by about half) compared to what they were in the first quarter of the year.

With other discount promotions and the mini-expansion and all that good stuff, sales should pick up again.  However, I feel like one thing that has definitely held AI War back is its installation prerequisites, which makes people wait an hour before they can even try the demo that they downloaded in many cases.  That's not a recipe for people being in a good frame of mind for starting the game, right?

At any rate, you wind up with market saturation at some point with any game, and it's amazing how long and how well AI War has sold considering how niche it is, etc.  And I think there's a ton more room for growth, too.  But one key thing with that is also opening up into other markets that would be available for it, like the Mac.  Is that absolutely necessary for AI War to survive?  I can't say that it categorically is.

But the loss of one little minor feature like this (which no other game I've ever encountered supports) is a pretty small price to pay for all the benefits that you the consumer get, and we the company get.  And it helps to ensure the continued survival of the game and of us as a company, and puts less pressure on Tidalis to do amazing in order for us to make it through the end of 2011 or to be able to make the staff increases that we really need to make.

I think that some of the prior objections (before this thread) had been worrying that AI War would have to be "dumbed down" in some way, and that we were just going for a cash-in with a larger audience while throwing a ton of babies out with the bathwater.  And that isn't the case.  There are a lot of things we could do to make the game more dumbed-down in hopes of attracting the more casual RTS crowd, but we aren't interested in any of that at all.  The reason for making this shift is that it's a positive thing for the game overall, existing customerbase included, and it removes some barriers to entry that aren't related to the gameplay itself.

I hope that clarifies a little bit more, at least.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: celoxsf May 26, 2010, 04:17:28 PM
Personally, I think you guys are doing an awesome job. You're my favorite Indie company and I desperately want your projects to succeed because you're living my dream!

Eyefinity is a niche market right now, too. I think it will be the future of computers.

Thanks for making such a great game AND FOR COMMUNICATING WITH US!
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 26, 2010, 04:25:06 PM
Many thanks for your support!  And cool screenshot, by the way. :)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: dumpsterKEEPER May 26, 2010, 04:26:54 PM
Count me in as being excited about the Unity switch.  I've been looking forward to it since it was first suggested as a possibility for AI War, I think around the time Tidalis switched to Unity.  From what you've described, it sounds like it will really improve the game in a number of different ways, with almost no major drawbacks in my mind.

As a purely anecdotal story, a while ago I shared AI War with a number of my friends at a LAN party I was at and we played part of a campaign up to the (then) one hour limit.  One of the guys had a really difficult time getting the prerequisites installed for the game and was rather frustrated as a result.  In defense of the game, his computer was hosed in several different ways and this certainly wasn't the only problem he was having, but having to wait for the packages to download and then throw errors when they tried to install was quite frustrating when he just wanted to jump into the game with us.  Smoothing out the install process can only help, and adding Mac support could potentially expand the available player base.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: wyvern83 May 26, 2010, 04:28:48 PM
Simulation-independent framerate:  Right now when AI War starts getting slow in a big battle, the game speed actually drops significantly.  In Unity, the first thing to drop will be the framerate.  So things will get jerky in a big battle, but the game speed won't drop unless things REALLY get bad.  This has a ton of benefits, and will let you get through that moment of lag (when one happens) much faster and more painlessly.

Seriously. My game bogs way down when more than 10,000 ships are in a fight in the same system at one time. I've actually shelved my 19 hrs 30 minutes glassing campaign for the time being for this very reason. Losing the current fake full-screen windowed mode is a minor lose for this trade-off alone imo.

tldr: This an awesome update and losing fake full-screen windowed mode is a small prize to pay for it.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 26, 2010, 04:35:14 PM
Yeah, being able to play AI War on a semi-hosed Windows install will be a big benefit because, sadly, there are so many of those around!

And the framerate dropping thing will be really sweet, I agree -- it's not a magic bullet, in that if your game is running incredibly slowly this will help but not solve it completely, but at worst that would probably about double or triple the speed during those segments.  Another thing that may help will be the binary networking, which is used for in-game single-player communications as well, and which should cause less stress when you and/or the AI are giving massive numbers of orders to a ton of ships at once.  And the larger memory support may have some hidden benefits in this area, too.

And, as we are able to spend more time with AI War in the Deep Profiler of Unity, our hope is to be able to find some hidden CPU hogs that are currently invisible to us.  We certainly found a couple of those with Tidalis (and applied what we learned there to AI War already), but I think there are even more in AI War that we have not yet found that are specific to that game.

Thanks for the support, guys, glad someone other than people on staff are actually excited about this! ;)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Mánagarmr May 26, 2010, 04:47:55 PM
You have my massive support for this. While faux-fullscreen is very convenient, I can easily live without it if all those other things make it in.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: RCIX May 26, 2010, 05:27:12 PM
I'm mostly excited about all the shiny new FX you'll be able to do, as well as actually having non-additive blended sprites and explosion effects for grenade launchers/missiles :)

But no multi monitors? :'( oh well not much you can do about it, perhaps Unity will add that in some later version...

Oh, and how does Steam fare with Unity? will it work, especially seeing you're switching the requirements over from SlimDX/.NET?
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 26, 2010, 06:00:26 PM
Yep, steam works just fine with unity.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Adetia May 26, 2010, 06:03:31 PM
Well, my objection was a joke so sorry if it was taken another way. The benefits definitely outweigh the negatives. I would have posted sooner but I got dragged into something at work right after I made that post.

Personally, I love fullscreen windowed, it should be an option in every game (and am very sad it's going away :'(). That is not always an option as we can clearly see. Perhaps a semi-hack could be implemented to have the app snap to the screen so the toolbar is actually off the screen and it just appears to be fullscreen windowed. I have seen 3rd party apps that do this for EVE Online so I don't see why something similar couldn't be implemented here.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: rubikscube May 26, 2010, 06:14:53 PM
too many techy stuff, i only care about game changing things :D
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 26, 2010, 06:39:16 PM
Thanks for the clarification, and no worries. For the hack to make it align, unfortunately we can't even set window position in unity, which is super annoying for things like that. Unity 3.0 is coming this summer, though, so my hope is that it will address things like that. Fingers crossed!
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Adetia May 26, 2010, 06:41:28 PM
Thanks for the clarification, and no worries. For the hack to make it align, unfortunately we can't even set window position in unity, which is super annoying for things like that. Unity 3.0 is coming this summer, though, so my hope is that it will address things like that. Fingers crossed!

Well, the feature wasn't build into EVE, it was a third party app that moved the window...is that not even possible?
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: superking May 26, 2010, 07:30:03 PM
any idea as to what direction this will effect performance? I can run AI war at decent res on my laptop, but it is a very close thing.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Buttons840 May 26, 2010, 07:40:34 PM
Unity works in Wine as well; can't wait for my AI War on Linux.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Ozymandiaz May 26, 2010, 07:59:23 PM
As someone who playes 99% of the time zoomed out looking at icons, I do not really care all that much, only thing concerning me is pure performance, and if you say that is good, then all is well. ;P (I do however alt-tab quite often...)

I got no idea what unity3D is though... ;)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Lancefighter May 26, 2010, 08:11:59 PM
of random note..

I love faux-fullscreen games..
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: RogueThunder May 26, 2010, 08:21:03 PM
But the loss of one little minor feature like this (which no other game I've ever encountered supports) is a pretty small price to pay for all the benefits that you the consumer get, and we the company get.  And it helps to ensure the continued survival of the game and of us as a company, and puts less pressure on Tidalis to do amazing in order for us to make it through the end of 2011 or to be able to make the staff increases that we really need to make.
Everything Valve Source Engine based as of the Orange Box update. Aka TF2, Portal, L4D/L4D2, DOD:S...
Albeit its a hidden setting. Most easily added by adding the shortcut launch option -noborder (and -windowed or setting to windowed in game).
I don't play CS:S anymore because its never been updated to said... Although that's in part because of the older steam engine's ah... disruptive bugs with multiple monitors in full-screen.
The option did actually appear in the menus for TF2 and L4D2 at one point. I think it might still on the latter, it vanished an update down the road in the prior, although -noborder still works.
Also interestingly ol Sid Misers Alpha Centauri could be goaded into it. Albeit through a bug. Open two copies of the game, close one, forces the other copy into a boarder-less window.

I know there are more... Just can't remember which, it's almost always a hidden option on the games that do support it.

Will unity at least support a maximized-window mode? Where pressing the maximize button does essentially what it does in programs that never go true full screen. I can stand that if so... though would prefer to see boaderless. It really is a good feature for this kind of me.

Oh. Get good built in VOIP along with the unity rebuild if ya can... with controls that actually let you toggle mic and such... for rts hold to talk keys are annoying, and voice activated does NOT work for everyone. Atm my friends mostly use skype... though were giving ventrilo a try but when suddenly ya get a disconnect if anyone was in fullscreen... well. Not pleasant. I know, a big request. But without quasi-fullscreen it would make the experience better.

All said, I actually--despite really hating the idea of loosing nobordered full-screen--do support the unity switch. Pretty much for the reasons ya stated.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 26, 2010, 09:59:31 PM
Thanks for the clarification, and no worries. For the hack to make it align, unfortunately we can't even set window position in unity, which is super annoying for things like that. Unity 3.0 is coming this summer, though, so my hope is that it will address things like that. Fingers crossed!

Well, the feature wasn't build into EVE, it was a third party app that moved the window...is that not even possible?

I'm sure that would be possible, if you had a third party app to do that.

any idea as to what direction this will effect performance? I can run AI war at decent res on my laptop, but it is a very close thing.

Well, that remains to be seen, but my notes on that are in the original post.  Summary: the graphics performance seems a smidge worse in Unity, but because it has so much more flexibility we'll be able to use some more efficient methods in places that might make it a net gain; the CPU-related performance seems the same; and there is an incredible profiler that should aid us in performance improvements over time beyond what we can do now, but the results of any such process are never guaranteed when you go into it.

So what would the net effect to the game be?  Only way to find out is to port the entire thing and see what it does after we have all our refinements in place, etc.  With Tidalis the result has been exceedingly positive, to the point where that game is often able to run at 200fps on my Q6600 with Geforce 8800GT.  It's a really fast platform, it just depends on how it will handle all the sprites, really -- in AI War at present we are using Sprite Batching, which is something that unity itself doesn't support in the same way.  That actually opens up a lot of the flexibility I was discussing above, but at the same time it leads to different optimization paths for a game like AI War.

So there are some unavoidable question marks there, we can't know exactly how that will turn out until we see it in action, but achieving as-good-or-better-than-now performance will be one of the chief goals of our porting process (as it was with Tidalis).  With Tidalis we wound up with overall better performance, so that's something.

On the bright side, let's say that -- picking a bad case of random numbers -- performance was 50% worse in terms of graphics.  On a borderline machine, that might drop you to 10fps, which would be jerky, but the underlying CPU simulation would all be the same, etc.  That's one key difference with this new architecture and the current one, as on the current one your entire performance would go down by about 25% in that scenario unless you used frame skip or similar.  So that makes it a bit more resilient to drops in graphics performance, which is great, not that we want to be in that end of things much.

I have faith that we'll be able to get the performance where we want it -- I was unbelievably nervous about that when we first ported Tidalis, but the result was great.

But the loss of one little minor feature like this (which no other game I've ever encountered supports) is a pretty small price to pay for all the benefits that you the consumer get, and we the company get.  And it helps to ensure the continued survival of the game and of us as a company, and puts less pressure on Tidalis to do amazing in order for us to make it through the end of 2011 or to be able to make the staff increases that we really need to make.
Everything Valve Source Engine based as of the Orange Box update. Aka TF2, Portal, L4D/L4D2, DOD:S...
Albeit its a hidden setting. Most easily added by adding the shortcut launch option -noborder (and -windowed or setting to windowed in game).

...

Also interestingly ol Sid Misers Alpha Centauri could be goaded into it. Albeit through a bug. Open two copies of the game, close one, forces the other copy into a boarder-less window.

I know there are more... Just can't remember which, it's almost always a hidden option on the games that do support it.

Well, hidden options and enabled-through-a-bug.  Little surprise I haven't run into that, then I suppose. ;)

Will unity at least support a maximized-window mode? Where pressing the maximize button does essentially what it does in programs that never go true full screen. I can stand that if so... though would prefer to see boaderless. It really is a good feature for this kind of me.

From looking at Tidalis, I don't think it does at present.  But, if as many games as you say support this sort of borderless feature, then perhaps it will make an appearance in Unity 3.0.  Honestly I don't know what all they will be having in that version, and hopefully (knocks on wood) that will be out before the AI War 4.0 release is ready.

Oh. Get good built in VOIP along with the unity rebuild if ya can... with controls that actually let you toggle mic and such... for rts hold to talk keys are annoying, and voice activated does NOT work for everyone. Atm my friends mostly use skype... though were giving ventrilo a try but when suddenly ya get a disconnect if anyone was in fullscreen... well. Not pleasant. I know, a big request. But without quasi-fullscreen it would make the experience better.

Really I feel like that is going to be out of scope, there just is no incentive for us to build in VOIP stuff because there are so many external clients that people already prefer.  With the Unity version, AI War will be better compatible with the overlays from stuff like Steam and XFire than it already is, so for those that have voice chat those are then right there in the game already so far as I know.  I suspect there are other such solutions, too.  But I'm not aware of any free, just-drop-this-into-your-code VOIP solutions aimed at developers.  There are a ton with in-game overlays or similar, though.  And ventrilo, teamspeak, etc, are all built around use for games.  Personally I just use skype at the moment, though I used teamspeak for years and roger wilco before that.

All said, I actually--despite really hating the idea of loosing nobordered full-screen--do support the unity switch. Pretty much for the reasons ya stated.

Many thanks for the support.  And the nobordered full screen might see a return, you never know.  Either through something unity does, or through some clever windows-specific P/Invoke calls or something like that.  Unity code written on mono is just as capable of PInvoke as our current native .NET stuff is, so we should be able to get the window handle for the game, and potentially even then give it some commands such as losing the border.  But that would really remain to be seen, and certainly no promises at this point.  This might all turn out to be a lot of worry over nothing, regarding this specific feature, either because of windows API call availability or Unity 3 making that a feature, but at the moment this post is detailing what I know.

Thanks, all!
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Shardz May 27, 2010, 02:03:06 AM
The migration to Unity sounds pretty cool to me! When you want to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs...that's just the nature of change really. I'm looking forward to seeing all the new changes over time on this platform to spice things up a bit in some areas. I also do agree that it is initially 'quite a process' at present to install AI War on a fresh new machine. From the start of installing the initial product and requirements, through the addon and updates, all the way to the final updates can be a lengthy process.  Knowing this from the first time I installed the game, the second time I made a rather large sandwich with fries and made an event out of it.  *rimshot*

Anyway, everything sounds undeniably interesting and intriguing to me and I'm on the team for the Big Win. I'm waiting even more patiently for Windows 7 SP1, but that is another forum and debate on its own.  ;D
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: blackwhitehawk May 27, 2010, 04:49:45 AM
Will this raise the system requirements at all?
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 27, 2010, 08:50:39 AM
Will this raise the system requirements at all?

Please see my notes above about performance, nothin the original post and about three posts (or so) up. There is some uncertainty around the graphics, but indicarions are positive. And other than that, no. I don't expect to be making any changes to the system requirements, is the goal, but one can never be sure until the game is entirely porter and fully optimized on the new platform.



And Shardz: Thanks for the support!
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Winter Born May 27, 2010, 09:49:00 AM
Thunderbirds are go!
Anything that enlarges the potential player base without dumbing down the game is cool with me.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: quickstix May 27, 2010, 10:24:12 AM
Very interesting read. Unity brings a lot of great stuff to the table and cutting stuff like .NET and GDI can only mean good things.

What especially interests me is that Unity seems to work well in WINE. :)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: keith.lamothe May 27, 2010, 12:12:10 PM
Very interesting read. Unity brings a lot of great stuff to the table and cutting stuff like .NET and GDI can only mean good things.
Yea, though one of the major selling points for us is that it allows us to keep using C# (via the version of Mono that's quasi-static-linked into Unity, instead of .NET) :)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 27, 2010, 12:15:04 PM
Yeah, our view is that C# is the best language ever -- it's just hobbled by a poor installer for its giant runtime.  Fortunately, Mono does not have that issue (well, not when it's embedded in unity).
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: keith.lamothe May 27, 2010, 12:19:03 PM
Yea, we actually looked at just doing mono for AI War and it would be doable but to really gain much deployment wise we'd have to static-link which means a special license agreement (and significant fee) with Novell, and even there the only publicly available terms include a limit on how much revenue the project is allowed to generate, etc.  I imagine they would have been reasonable about it and we could have worked out an agreement, but Unity makes a lot more sense in general.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 27, 2010, 12:20:04 PM
Yep, and then there's the whole thing of finding a rendering engine, and I was not happy with any of the native-.NET ones other than SlimDX, honestly.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: RogueThunder May 27, 2010, 03:35:30 PM
... Well, hidden options and enabled-through-a-bug.  Little surprise I haven't run into that, then I suppose. ;)
Its pretty commonly known for TF2/L4D/L4D2/DOD:S, but yeah the AC bug-instigated one is really obscure XD...

Really I feel like that is going to be out of scope, there just is no incentive for us to build in VOIP stuff because there are so many external clients that people already prefer.  With the Unity version, AI War will be better compatible with the overlays from stuff like Steam and XFire than it already is, so for those that have voice chat those are then right there in the game already so far as I know.  I suspect there are other such solutions, too.  But I'm not aware of any free, just-drop-this-into-your-code VOIP solutions aimed at developers.  There are a ton with in-game overlays or similar, though.  And ventrilo, teamspeak, etc, are all built around use for games.  Personally I just use skype at the moment, though I used teamspeak for years and roger wilco before that.
Only problem I have with that. Is for instance we use skype atm. Skype unfortunately deals with a minor network blip by dropping the call outright. And for some strange reason, skype is the only VOIP I can find that allows constant-on talk without holding down a button--or hoping that the code recognizes when you start talking. The latter of which doesn't work for one of my friends, the software just doesn't like his voice. And especially with AI wars hotkey saturation, a hold to talk key is a bit unreasonable. Not to mention ackward while trying to actually do something.
XD I do suppose its a bit of a request though.

Many thanks for the support.  And the nobordered full screen might see a return, you never know.  Either through something unity does, or through some clever windows-specific P/Invoke calls or something like that.  Unity code written on mono is just as capable of PInvoke as our current native .NET stuff is, so we should be able to get the window handle for the game, and potentially even then give it some commands such as losing the border.  But that would really remain to be seen, and certainly no promises at this point.  This might all turn out to be a lot of worry over nothing, regarding this specific feature, either because of windows API call availability or Unity 3 making that a feature, but at the moment this post is detailing what I know.
Hmmm. I'll do some poking around when I get home, someone might have worked something out. Programmings not my thing--but finding things on the internet? That is a whole 'nother matter. XD Am using a netbook on hotel internet atm... Less than pleasant.
Might be something, since M$ at-least now wants programs to draw into the titlebar with the newer ribbon interfaces. (Which are imo, terrible. But oh well.) It means some workaround could close or at-least should be more common than it used to be.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Mánagarmr May 27, 2010, 04:41:03 PM
You could always run Teamspeak, Mumble or Ventrilo with voice-activation. Everytime you say something, it literally "pushes" the push to talk button.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: keith.lamothe May 27, 2010, 04:44:10 PM
I think he's saying one of the problems is that voice-activation feature doesn't work for everyone, notably one of the people in their gaming group.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: rubikscube May 27, 2010, 08:14:39 PM
valve games seem pretty popular
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: eRe4s3r May 27, 2010, 08:58:53 PM
Well, if AI-War really goes fully Unity then that would be awesome, 1 we could blend 3d-objects and 2d-objects easy as pie (fully lit and shaded planets/objects on map!)

We could create 3D-Backgrounds instead of the backdrops we have now, animated , asteroid belts, nebula and swirls/blackholes and stuff.

We could have actual shader based effects (explosion distortion, ripple, desaturation, oversaturation, smoke and explosion blend properly without performance loss.

So yeah, the amount of stuff change to Unity COULD bring to AI-War is staggering. But i think this is going to be a huge undertaking, and if done should focus on bringing mod-ability to the game. Simply because if its not done at that point, it will never be done ;p

So i hope this change comes.  :o ;D

Even if no modding comes, if my "mockups" in the gfx section of this forum become reality then that would already immensely increase the range for AI-War. Nicer graphics are the prime requirement to make nice gameplay videos after all ;p

And if shader effects come the scope of additional eye-candy is massive  ;)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 27, 2010, 09:25:38 PM
1 we could blend 3d-objects and 2d-objects easy as pie (fully lit and shaded planets/objects on map!)

We could create 3D-Backgrounds instead of the backdrops we have now, animated , asteroid belts, nebula and swirls/blackholes and stuff.

Nope, none of that.  AI War has always been based in a 3D engine, but we use a 2D plane in order to achieve that.  In the case of Unity, we're using an orthographic camera, which rules out any possibility of 3D models.  I don't want to get into the 3D models thing, anyway, despite my past experience with that (outside of games (http://www.christophermpark.com/gallery.php?sGal=12_Dreams_of_Steel_and_Coal)).  I just don't have any interest in going that direction, for a lot of reasons, and it's fundamentally incompatible without current rendering methods in Unity, anyway.

We could have actual shader based effects (explosion distortion, ripple, desaturation, oversaturation, smoke and explosion blend properly without performance loss.

But yes, all of that stuff would be possible.  However, pixel shaders do come with a performance hit, especially depending on the graphics card.  The main thing is that it would not be as large a hit as it otherwise would be, and it could be easily turned off on lower machines, etc.

So yeah, the amount of stuff change to Unity COULD bring to AI-War is staggering. But i think this is going to be a huge undertaking, and if done should focus on bringing mod-ability to the game. Simply because if its not done at that point, it will never be done ;p

As I noted before, it will probably never be done, we aren't interested in having a lot of mods.  Until such time as we (in the distant future, when we've lost interest in maintaining the game) open source the game, we won't be emphasizing mod-ability any more than we are now.

Even if no modding comes, if my "mockups" in the gfx section of this forum become reality then that would already immensely increase the range for AI-War.

We definitely do appreciate community submissions of stuff, and build that into the official game where we can, though.  Certainly a ton of your stuff has been implemented in the past.  There's definitely going to be some nice new eye candy with the 4.0 version, but it may not be staggering overall, as we're going to be primarily focused on getting it running and efficient, etc.  A lot of the key improvements I have already mentioned, like the GUI and the tractor beams (and other colored lines), but there will be some other things, too.  I think that we could actually cut down on RAM use some by removing animation frames that are just "engine effects" and converting those into engine bloom effects that could be configured via dat files.  So that way players could contribute to the engine bloom work, if they are inclined.

Having community participation, and having mod-ability, are two totally different things in my mind.  We always lean toward the former, at the moment. ;)

And if shader effects come the scope of additional eye-candy is massive  ;)

Yeah, that is really true.  We've done a bit of simple experimentation with Tidalis on that (nothing in the final game), and it's really powerful.  But of course Unity has its own shader language (since it works with OpenGL, DirectX, and other platforms), so that's something new that we'd have to learn (and shaders are new to me in general).  I expect we'll do an increasing amount with that over time, but right at the 4.0 launch I doubt there will be much.  It's definitely great to have the capability, though, and I think it's something we'll grow into increasingly over time, partly through our work on Alden Ridge and other games, and then wrapping that back into AI War like what we've done with what we've learned through Tidalis.  Exciting stuff. :)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Doddler May 28, 2010, 11:35:51 AM
I'm really excited to see what can be done in unity.  At what I've seen of unity syncronizing a multiplayer simulation would be rather difficult (ie: I haven't a clue where one would start), but I haven't dedicated a huge amount of time ot the problem.  :P
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 28, 2010, 11:40:54 AM
At what I've seen of unity syncronizing a multiplayer simulation would be rather difficult (ie: I haven't a clue where one would start), but I haven't dedicated a huge amount of time ot the problem.  :P

We don't actually use... much of unity except for the rendering engine, sound, etc.  We use GameObjects only for display, we don't use their networking, none of their collision stuff or any of that, we just have one scene that runs everything in custom scripts in front of the orthographic camera, etc.  So, that issue is neatly bypassed because we're essentially running our engine inside the minimum of theirs.  Ours is about to be synchronous, and is more efficient due to doing a lot less floating point math and so forth, so it's the best of both worlds.  Tidalis multiplayer is synchronous in a similar manner to AI War (but "multi host" so there is never any command lag on your own machine).  So if it works for Tidalis (which I'll know for sure soon), it will work for AI War as well. :)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: danando May 28, 2010, 02:41:45 PM
look everybody.. x4000 wants to move to unity because it will make more enhancements, etc and his reasons too. i dont know what will come of ai war when turning to unity but i think they will do a pretty good job, plus it means 2 indie company rather than one ;) , i think  :-\ however youve got the other side, things could go wrong, not much progress than usual but i have hope n arcen games and I'm sure that whatever they will do is going to be perfect for ai-war. look at it this way, arcen games will progress on ai-war bcause it is a successful game and my pov is that i think this gme coud be major within years to come :) 

sure moving to unity will lose some features but who says they wont come back again ? i dont know if multiscreen will be lost forever but the arcen developers have done a f****** damn good job they deserve credit.  :)

ps (sorry for swearing)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Buttons840 May 28, 2010, 03:32:57 PM
And what of the possibility of AI War becoming open source in the distant future?  If it is a cult classic then surely it will still be loved after Arcen has closed it's doors.  I suppose replacing unity with another 2d rendering engine wouldn't be extremely difficulty?
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 28, 2010, 03:58:00 PM
And what of the possibility of AI War becoming open source in the distant future?  If it is a cult classic then surely it will still be loved after Arcen has closed it's doors.

Well, regardless of what happens with AI War, the only way Arcen is going to be shutting down is when I retire... which is not going to be for another 38 years, speaking in terms of averages.  That's assuming something doesn't happen to put us out of business forcibly, of course, but there's certainly not any other job that I'd prefer. 

But either way, AI War is likely going to not become open source for at least 10 years or so, and I'm certainly not basing technology decisions around that.  A Unity Pro license is not needed to run the engine we use for AI War, anyway (just for us to sell it), so folks could use the Unity Indie one, which is free.  But none of my decisions about which platforms to choose will ever be based on how easy it will be to open-source down the line, because that's just foolish to limit things in the short term so that something that happens after our company is done with the game would be easier.  Things will be so different in 10 years, anyway, that the current state of technology will be just a distant memory in the first place; who knows what else will happen with Unity or otherwise during that time.

I suppose replacing unity with another 2d rendering engine wouldn't be extremely difficulty?

Heh, yeah, right.  ;) That's why it's going to take Keith and myself the better part of a full month, working together.  And having had past experience in Unity (having already spent a month porting Tidalis), and a full knowledge of the original AI War source.  For someone else to later port it away from Unity in their spare time would be all but impossible with the current state of all the various technology platforms.

I wouldn't fret too much about it, though.  There's the Unity Indie side of things, and in 10 years who knows where Unity will be, in general.  There are only so many corners one can see around, and right now my focus is on making sure that AI War stays viable and growing as a product that is still active.  I'm not actively trying to do anything to mess with the open-source-ability of the game down the road, but neither is that a factor that weighs in any of my decision making about shorter-term stuff.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: danando May 28, 2010, 04:02:20 PM
nice speech x4000  8)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: RCIX May 28, 2010, 06:44:57 PM
A Unity Pro license is not needed to run the engine we use for AI War, anyway (just for us to sell it),
Heh. I was wondering how much you guys pulled down a year, and now i know! How? you (probably) wouldn't buy unity pro if you didn't need it, and if you did need it then you'd be making 100k+ a year :)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: danando May 28, 2010, 07:07:49 PM
RCIX... lol at your post  ;D
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 28, 2010, 07:08:53 PM
Well, you could guess that from the fact that there are three of us fulltime, and two parttimers. Fortunately we make more than just that, even, or it would never cover the staff and all the expenses of a business like this. As it is, things are always moderately tight.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: danando May 28, 2010, 07:11:26 PM
hmmmm  well you doing a good job at keeping me interested  :D
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: RCIX May 28, 2010, 07:35:51 PM
Well, you could guess that from the fact that there are three of us fulltime, and two parttimers. Fortunately we make more than just that, even, or it would never cover the staff and all the expenses of a business like this. As it is, things are always moderately tight.
Don't worry, i'll be tossing in another 15 bucks (10 in early june for tidalis then another 5 asap for CoN) :)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: danando May 28, 2010, 07:37:55 PM
any AI WAR download there is I'm getting so count me in too
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 28, 2010, 08:31:16 PM
Many thanks for the support, guys. :)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: superking May 29, 2010, 08:14:15 AM
do you have an office building somewhere? I'm assuming with 5 guys this isnt run from home
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 29, 2010, 10:18:40 AM
Nope, no office. We are in three different US states and Quebec. Pablo and I are the only two who have met in person.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: eRe4s3r May 29, 2010, 10:21:06 AM
I would assume most of the work is done via repositories/online.

There is no reason why 2 coders and artist/sound guys would need to sit even in the same country nowadays. For anything more advanced theres web-cams, emails, forum and chat ;p
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 29, 2010, 10:25:28 AM
I would assume most of the work is done via repositories/online.

There is no reason why 2 coders and artist/sound guys would need to sit even in the same country nowadays. For anything more advanced theres web-cams, emails, forum and chat ;p

Exactly.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: danando May 29, 2010, 08:46:52 PM
well for people whoarnt in the sam place working together you done a pretty damn good job x4000 :)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 30, 2010, 12:43:24 AM
Virtual offices (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_office) are the new thing, and not just a fad.  I'd worked that way for 2 years before forming Arcen, so was pretty practiced at it.  There are drawbacks, but also advantages, as with most things.  I certainly don't like at it as any sort of disability. ;)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: superking May 30, 2010, 08:22:19 AM
no, it sounds great  :)

Tidalis isnt really my cup of tea, but AI War is, in my oppinion, the most promising RTS game to date. The AI, the unit targetting, the focus on reducing micromanagement are revolutionary- I have great faith in Acren Games

I would like to help AI war development in any way I can- I'm no programmer, so all I can really contribute is concept and spritework (although I would very much like to get my hands on the base unit/weapon files in order to test out unit concepts myself  :P) but if you ever require either it would be my pleasure to lend a hand
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 30, 2010, 09:55:29 AM
Many thanks! :)

EDIT: To expand on that, we aren't actively looking for more design staff at the moment, volunteer or otherwise, simply because of the complexity involved in adding more folks, etc. If things go well with Tidalis I do plan to bring Keith on fulltime and then make two other hires -- folks already selected for those roles. One of them is a designer who would be working on stuff other than AI War, but I don't I'll have him help much with AI War.

One challenge with adding a pure designer for AI War Is it was built for programmers, not designers. To tweak any of the stats for ships, etc, you have to edit the source code. Which is something we did a bit differently on Tidalis where needed so that Lars could tweak design elements without having to program. Ironic, since he's now at Google as a pretty hardcore type of programmer.

But, I digress. I appreciate the offer, and you never know it might come up at some point, but at the moment I keep a pretty tight oversight on AI War design, and having team growth is always a management challenge at odds with my ability to get my own non-managerial work done. ;) I really do appreciate the offer, though.  
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: superking May 30, 2010, 10:13:58 AM
no worries  :) to clarify, I only meant voluntary work, but I appreciate that probably entails more managerial time on your part than my contribution is really worth buisness-wise

: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 May 30, 2010, 11:10:04 AM
I knew what you meant -- and I is appreciated, and your contributions via the forums are really appreciated. It's just a challenge for me, with team size, etc, as you noted. :)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Burnstreet May 31, 2010, 05:53:15 AM
I am looking forward to the switch, sound like many nice things are to come.

Only problem I have with that. Is for instance we use skype atm. Skype unfortunately deals with a minor network blip by dropping the call outright. And for some strange reason, skype is the only VOIP I can find that allows constant-on talk without holding down a button--or hoping that the code recognizes when you start talking. The latter of which doesn't work for one of my friends, the software just doesn't like his voice. And especially with AI wars hotkey saturation, a hold to talk key is a bit unreasonable. Not to mention ackward while trying to actually do something.
XD I do suppose its a bit of a request though.
In Teamspeak 3 you can activate permanent sending (in addition to push-to-talk and voice activation)

I would assume most of the work is done via repositories/online.

There is no reason why 2 coders and artist/sound guys would need to sit even in the same country nowadays. For anything more advanced theres web-cams, emails, forum and chat ;p
Incorrect. There is one thing you can only do when being near each other: Going outside for smoke breaks together.
These smoke breaks have been some of the most productive minutes of my whole work time.

And sharing a beer or 2 via webcam is also not as nice... :)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: eRe4s3r May 31, 2010, 11:17:57 AM
Artists tend to be anti-social creatures, creativity is a fickle beast after all. And usually when an artist has an inspiration, he locks the doors and wants total peace. Nothing breaks inspiration faster than a silly conversation.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: zebramatt June 01, 2010, 08:26:51 AM
Call me crazy but I'm still holding out for multi-monitor support on Unity, some day...
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 June 01, 2010, 09:24:47 AM
Call me crazy but I'm still holding out for multi-monitor support on Unity, some day...

Indeed, would be really nice.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: deMangler June 19, 2010, 01:50:44 AM
Very much looking forward to being able to play AIWar under linux.
My hardware just couldn't handle the big battles along with a VM.
It is a great game and I would love to start playing it again.
:)
dM
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 June 19, 2010, 09:18:08 AM
We're very much looking forward to the linux support being better, too.  Hopefully at some point Unity will even announce full direct linux support (rather than it just happening to work so well under WINE).  That would be the best, for sure... :)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: keith.lamothe June 19, 2010, 10:56:01 AM
Yea, the Unity folks have said that they want to do a linux port of the player and intend to do it, but don't have any definite plans/timelines at this point.  Basically Unity just compiles all your stuff into a c/c++ app and they'd have to port their lower-level c/c++ code to run on linux.  Doable, but time-consuming.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: getter77 June 19, 2010, 03:10:19 PM
Yet another voice in support of the Unity move---that'll be the generation of AI War I eventually play!

Given the incredibly high level of engine competition brewing, I'd reckon it far more likely that there will be "surprise" windfalls to reap versus drawbacks for all of the Arcen projects in the mix.  It is in the Unity3D's team, which they grew substantially in order to have more potent capabilities, best interest to blow the doors off as best they can now that the spotlight is shining on them far brighter than at any time these past few years.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: cranphin June 23, 2010, 01:15:21 PM
WOW! :)

This sounds like it's going to be all kinds of awesome, especially in the hands of the devoted AI wars guy(s) ;)
I'm very impressed you're willing to make such a big change to better the game too :)

I do hope it works out well, I know how things like this can end up harder then expected, I do develop software myself :D

Also, I've got two friends who have the game but can't/won't play since:
- One is a Mac addict, solved :D
- One broke his .NET, solved :D

When's the Beta gonna be ? :D

Bring out some more DLC so I can give you some more money ;)

: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 June 23, 2010, 02:08:33 PM
Thanks for your support! Hopefully this will be to beta by the start of August, but it just depends on how much trouble we run into with the porting. Fingers crossed!
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: keith.lamothe June 23, 2010, 02:16:43 PM
Oh yea, the Unity engine could really give us a good thrashing for daring to port this... but I think we'll win ;)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 June 24, 2010, 10:04:59 AM
Looks like the very first bits of Unity 3.0 beta are now shipping: http://blogs.unity3d.com/2010/06/23/the-first-unity-3-0-pre-purchase-betas-are-now-shipping/

And the even better news is that the full 3.0 version will be out in a month or so.  That won't help Tidalis, at least not at initial launch, but it will be great for AI War 4.0. :)

I imagine we'll have our beta copy in a week or two, we weren't nearly in the first 100 to buy unity 3.0, but we did buy it a few months back.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: keith.lamothe June 24, 2010, 10:08:34 AM
That's a big relief for AI War 4.0, yea.  I wasn't looking forward to going from the VS debugger to no debugger at all; hopefully the Unity 3 one will give me the basics :)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 June 24, 2010, 10:10:24 AM
Indeed!  And the font stuff is a big relief for me with AI War, too.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: rubikscube June 24, 2010, 04:12:58 PM
so what do you think, of course not close to the launch of 2.0 but do you think 4.0 will bring in as much players as 3.0?
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 June 24, 2010, 04:15:07 PM
It depends on how you define that, really.  We're doing the CON expansion, and the port to Unity, and that's about it -- a few other tiny features as we go, but we'll have our hands full with just that.  Personally, I think that OSX support and better Linux support and better windowing (and possibly performance, etc) are a huge deal.  But it's not a groundbreaking raft of in-game features like 3.0 saw.  But if you look at the list of stuff between 3.0 and 4.0, we've already surpassed that anyway, in my opinion.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Dragon June 24, 2010, 07:41:16 PM
I have a couple of questions about this whole thingy....  First of all

Simulation-independent framerate:  Right now when AI War starts getting slow in a big battle, the game speed actually drops significantly.  In Unity, the first thing to drop will be the framerate.  So things will get jerky in a big battle, but the game speed won't drop unless things REALLY get bad.  This has a ton of benefits, and will let you get through that moment of lag (when one happens) much faster and more painlessly.

Is that going to help with my Quad core 2.3ghz chugging about 10 hours into an 80 planet two player game, when no combat is going on, and I'm looking at the Galaxy map, or empty systems?  Or is that purely a visual graphics speed adjustment?  Because my graphics card can handle everything AI Wars has thrown at it fine so far.

Linux Support:  AI War currently does not work in WINE.  But, we have reports that Tidalis does, even though Unity is not officially supported on that platform.

If it does end up running on Linux, will you officially support it, and create Linux installers, etc?  Because games & laziness are pretty much the only reasons why I haven't switched to Linux, so knowing that AI Wars was fully supported would be cool.  Plus I have some friends that might be interested if it ran on Linux, but otherwise aren't interested.

Faux-Fullscreen Support:  Right now, AI War usually looks fullscreen but it's really actually just a window.  That makes for fast window switching, etc.  That actually isn't possible with Unity, but if you look at Tidalis you can see what is possible: the windowed mode support is really good, and the true fullscreen support has a number of other benefits.  I will miss the support for this, but the other benefits vastly outweigh this drawback.  To clarify: you'll still be able to run in windowed mode at whatever resolution, so you can use it to fill your screen if you want.  But, you'll have a thin little toolbar across the top, and those little window border edges along the sides.

This makes me very sad, as I find that is the best way to play a game.  Speaking as someone with dual screens, having the game on one screen, and chat windows, skype, and firefox on the other screen is pretty much how I play.  Although, I suppose I could dig out the little eve window grabber and use that to move the window.  But having it native would be cool.  Maybe you could check out the window grabber program and put in code like that into AI War it's self.  Or something....  Personally, the only reason at all to not play in Faux-Fullscreen would be if it was fully dual screen supported, like Supreme Commander.  Every other game I play if windowed....  *shrug* I suppose it's not a big loss, but it's something to whine about, and let you know that it will be missed, etc.   :P


: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: keith.lamothe June 24, 2010, 08:17:14 PM
Is that going to help with my Quad core 2.3ghz chugging about 10 hours into an 80 planet two player game, when no combat is going on, and I'm looking at the Galaxy map, or empty systems?
What version are you running?  We've done a lot of performance improvements lately.  Also, are you playing with special forces captain AIs?  If you could post your save (probably in a different thread) I could take a look at it during the work on CON/4.0 and run it through a profiler and see if it's anything we can fix.  Also, fwiw, it's only making significant use of 2 of your 4 cores, since there's a sim thread an an AI thread (and only a sim thread if you're non-host in a multiplayer-game); neither can be effectively split any further without losing more than is gained.

But to your question I don't think this particular facet of Unity will greatly aid your performance, though Chris would know better.

On Faux-fullscreen, yea, it's something we wish we could keep, but it's just a significant weight (with a group of maybe 5 others) on a scale with Alaska on the other side, in a lot of ways.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 June 24, 2010, 08:52:17 PM
Mostly Keith handled the questions there, but to the ones not addressed:

I have a couple of questions about this whole thingy....  First of all

Simulation-independent framerate:  Right now when AI War starts getting slow in a big battle, the game speed actually drops significantly.  In Unity, the first thing to drop will be the framerate.  So things will get jerky in a big battle, but the game speed won't drop unless things REALLY get bad.  This has a ton of benefits, and will let you get through that moment of lag (when one happens) much faster and more painlessly.

Is that going to help with my Quad core 2.3ghz chugging about 10 hours into an 80 planet two player game, when no combat is going on, and I'm looking at the Galaxy map, or empty systems?  Or is that purely a visual graphics speed adjustment?  Because my graphics card can handle everything AI Wars has thrown at it fine so far.

As Keith noted, this isn't liked to help with simulation-related performance (although, having a profiler like the one in Unity we expect to really help us to improve simulation performance over time -- but that won't be an immediate or a guaranteed thing, we'll just have to see what it tells us).  But, like he noted, if you're not on the latest betas there's a good chance your slowdown problems are already fixed in that beta.  Otherwise, a save and a bug report would be helpful, it might be something wonky with some specific unit.

Linux Support:  AI War currently does not work in WINE.  But, we have reports that Tidalis does, even though Unity is not officially supported on that platform.

If it does end up running on Linux, will you officially support it, and create Linux installers, etc?  Because games & laziness are pretty much the only reasons why I haven't switched to Linux, so knowing that AI Wars was fully supported would be cool.  Plus I have some friends that might be interested if it ran on Linux, but otherwise aren't interested.

No, we won't be officially supporting Linux if Unity doesn't, because if there are issues then there's just nothing we can do about it, it's in the Unity area.  I don't think Linux particularly uses installers, at least not in the sense of Windows.  At some point, if Unity improves their Linux support and officially supports it, we intend to do the same.  In the meantime, it's sort of swim at your own risk with AI War on Linux, simply because we don't have any control over the low-level code to the degree we'd need to do any fixes there.  Same as with the faux-fullscreen support, that's just out of our hands.

Although, I suppose I could dig out the little eve window grabber and use that to move the window.  But having it native would be cool.  Maybe you could check out the window grabber program and put in code like that into AI War it's self.  Or something....  Personally, the only reason at all to not play in Faux-Fullscreen would be if it was fully dual screen supported, like Supreme Commander.  Every other game I play if windowed....  *shrug* I suppose it's not a big loss, but it's something to whine about, and let you know that it will be missed, etc.   :P

To be clear, you can still play windowed, you just get the toolbar at the top and the "chrome" along the sides.  We won't be writing any windowing helpers to go with the game, I can promise that, because: 1) it's not something that would be cross-platform, and as much as possible we're not going to develop solo-platform features; 2) if there are already third party apps, those are battle-tested and you might as well just use them; 3) I'm not a C++ programmer, nor do I want to be, and having worked with windowing functions and global OS hooks some in the past is enough to make me never want to again.  It's different on every OS, and it's nasty, and it frequently breaks or has unintended consequences on the user's system.

But, if it's as popular of a feature as some folks make out, then hopefully Unity will add support for it in the next version or two...
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Dragon June 27, 2010, 02:46:44 PM
I'll post a new save in the thread I had talked to you guys about it before.  Along with more details.
http://arcengames.com/forums/index.php/topic,5850.0.html

As far as linux goes, they do have packages....  But yeah, I can understand not supporting it if Unity doesn't.  And I guess the "normal" windowed mode will work fine... :D
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 June 28, 2010, 03:04:14 PM
So, evidently Arcen was among the first 100 developers to order Unity 3D version 3.0.  As I recall, we decided to get into Unity right after they made their announcement -- purely by chance -- and then we bought a version 3.0 license right in that week after it was available.  It only made sense, because when we were buying it that gave us a 20% discount or something along those lines, plus full access to the version 2.0 version that we've been using since March.  So that was a sensible deal, but it's amusing to find ourselves in the "first run" of external beta testers for version 3.0.

I haven't had time to install it or fire it up just yet, but hopefully in the coming weeks will be able to.  We're really excited to see what all is in there.  Looks like the debugger requires MonoDevelop, rather than Visual Studio, which means I won't be using the debugger and Keith is at least moderately unhappy with the debugger already (hey, we'd like to use our IDE of choice), but it's still better than no debugger at all (well, if you're into that sort of thing, which I'm not).  Anyway, I'll have fun poking around at the font capabilities and other settings, etc, when I get a chance, and hopefully can update this thread with other things we can see as improvements once we get AI War onto Unity, and once Unity 3.0 comes out (no idea which will happen first at this time).
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: rubikscube June 28, 2010, 07:00:36 PM
what's the price of the new unity or is it top secret? :) cause i don't know what to expect, am i suppose to think it's 50 dollars like a basic software or some 3000 $ for a high end developer tool? I think it's the latter.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 June 28, 2010, 07:14:15 PM
It's $1200 per developer, temporarily, but normally would be $1500: https://store.unity3d.com/shop/

We had to get two licenses, one for Keith and one for myself.  As developer software goes, not too bad really, but it's not cheap either.  The Wii version used to have a footnote saying it cost $15,000, though.  I suspect the PS3 and XBox360 ones are somewhat the same.  But now they've updated their pricing info for the Wii saying that it depends on the distribution channel how much it costs, so perhaps it's far cheaper for Wiiware, and just more expensive for the Wii if you will have it distributed on disks.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Admiral July 17, 2010, 12:53:14 PM
AI War on OSX... Now that's the best thing ever. :)

Looking forward to it!

Cheers...
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 July 17, 2010, 02:49:45 PM
Many thanks!  Long time no see, glad to hear from you again, too!  Hope you've been doing well. :)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Admiral July 18, 2010, 02:14:39 AM
I got your announcement of a new game e-mail, so I immediately purchased it, of course, and then browsed around your site. Life has been busy but good, and I'm gratified to see from reading many of your posts that you are doing well and your firm is growing steadily.

I'm not much of a puzzle game player (I prefer strategy/RPG by far) but your game runs great on my nearly four year old MacBook Pro running OSX 10.6, and looks and sounds extremely nice. (Great job!) Maybe the kids will enjoy it when they're back. Didn't matter if I didn't like it - I wanted to support your endeavor.

When's the iPhone version coming out? It looks like a perfect game for that platform. :)

(Apple makes a neat device, but man it is truly the worst PHONE I've ever owned, and I got my first AMPS cellular phone in 1992.)

Cheers!
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: RCIX July 18, 2010, 02:36:10 AM
(Apple makes a neat device, but man it is truly the worst PHONE I've ever owned, and I got my first AMPS cellular phone in 1992.)
Blame it on the gimmicky steel-band-around-the-edge antenna; i've used earlier ones and those are pretty good as phones.

And, wow! glad to see a post from one of the relatively few people that joined here before me! :)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Collic July 19, 2010, 09:38:20 AM
Hi,
I haven't played AI war for a while, and on logging in saw this thread. This is great news. I recently had to do a full windows re-install, so I was dreading the .NET installation so I could check out what's new in the game. Moving to unity is a brilliant move, for that reason alone. It seems to be a very impressive and robust rendering engine, and I can only see it doing great things for the game.

If anyone reads this and is curious about any other games that use unity, this is the best, most recent example I can think of: http://www.interstellarmarines.com/ It's a completely different genre and game to AI war of course (and still under development, with some impressive tech demos), but I think it highlights what the engine is capable of in terms of gfx and performance.

Keep up the good work, and I look forward to trying out the new incarnation of AI war. I think I'll hold out until the port is ready. It will give me time to read up on the masses of features that have doubtlessly been added since I last played.

Oh, I've also had the opportunity to try out Tidalis, and from what I've seen of the demo, it's a very, very good game. It isn't my kind of thing, but it deserves to do very well indeed. I'll have my fingers crossed for you in the hopes it does as well as it should.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 July 19, 2010, 09:48:35 AM
Many thanks for the support, guys!
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: ttomm46 July 22, 2010, 12:09:40 AM
Will the next add on for AI war still play ok on my low spec intel 2.66 ghz computer with XP and my lousy pci Nvidia 6200 video card..?.Right now I just have the first AI war without the Zenith Remnant. :)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 July 22, 2010, 01:11:21 AM
Yep, our expansion packs don't increase the system requirements at all except in terms of disk space. :)

I'm not certain exactly what the ai war 4.0 required specs will be, but hopefully at or lower than what they are at present.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: RCIX July 22, 2010, 03:42:06 AM
I just thought of another awesome idea: you ought to be able to use a basic shader to offer a range overlay system, since it's (relatively) trivial to do. I'd even be happy to help with that, as i'm working on something similar. As long as you let me use it in my own future commercial ventures too :)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 July 22, 2010, 09:50:59 AM
Sure, I'd be open to collaborating on shaders, and would always be open about the result of something like that. The main challenge would be that generally a sharer would have to be applied to some texture or object in game space, but in the case of range overlays for ai war, the only thing around to apply it to would be the camera. Given the per-pixel nature of shaders of the sort, and the way that textures that we currently use can be cached on the gpu for multiple vertex draws, I find it unlikely that the shaded would be faster. And there are compatibility concerns with older hardware without shaded support; having range overlays disappear for them would be seen as a pretty critical bug. So it's possible something like that could work for ai war, but those are my concerns at the moment, anyway.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: madpinger July 22, 2010, 07:32:44 PM
I'm sorry if I might of overlooked this being mentioned somewhere, tho with this change.  Will it be as if it is a update to AI Wars or will I need to pay for the game again ?
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: RCIX July 22, 2010, 07:40:54 PM
The way i was figuring the shader would work is that you translate all the range circles into screen space, then you pass this data to my shader (probably in blocks), and render a semitransparent texture over the entire screen. The shader would so some relatively simple calculation to strip out pixels you don't want (some simple length and stuff calculations, i'm still working out the shader details), leaving you with a nice cool looking range effect. As for platforms with no shading support at all, i would imagine you would have some fallback effects quite similar to those you have now, as you'd need for any shading effect.

@madpinger: I'm sure it will be an update to AI war. That's what makes x4k so great :)

: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: dumpsterKEEPER July 22, 2010, 07:41:43 PM
I'm sorry if I might of overlooked this being mentioned somewhere, tho with this change.  Will it be as if it is a update to AI Wars or will I need to pay for the game again ?

It will be a free update to the game.  The new Children of Neinzul expansion will be a (very) small amount more, but the updates and enhancements for the base game will not.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: keith.lamothe July 22, 2010, 08:01:14 PM
Yes, the 4.0 update (which includes the port to Unity3D) is free DLC.  The CoN expansion stuff is not free ($4, last I heard), but is just new content, so if you don't get that you aren't missing out on any bugfixes or new features that apply to existing content.  That said, we are planning some rather cool stuff for CoN, so I do suggest at least playing the trial version of that when it's done (or during the beta, if you like, though obviously that will be work-in-progress) :)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 July 22, 2010, 08:22:41 PM
Yep, the 4.0 version is free. And if you already have the windows version, you get te Mac version free, too. When you buy any of our games on Mac or pc, you always get both at once if they are immediately or ever supported. So no worries!

Regarding the shader, that coupe potentially work, just depends on the implementation. I don't know enough about shaders to say for sure, honestly. But it's intriguing!
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: madpinger July 22, 2010, 10:25:14 PM
Ok, thats nice.  How long till the expansion is on steam then, in all likely hood ?

Also, if you're going to support MAC, You going to let us have it on linux at last ?

: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 July 22, 2010, 10:38:24 PM
From past experience, I wouldn't expect it on steam until it officially releases. So probably sptember or possibly October, really, because I'll be out for three weeks of paternity leave in the august/September timeframe. Mainly depends on how smoothly the porting to unity goes and when my son is born.

Regarding Linux, unity does not officially support that platform and so we can't either, but hopefully it will be coming before too much longer. They support practically every other platform under the sun now. But; word is that Tidalis works great in WINE from what I hear, and that was even before WINE 1.2 just came out, so I imagine that the windows version of AI War will at least be playable in Linux, though I have no idea if there will be issues or what. Fingers crossed, hopefully not.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: madpinger July 23, 2010, 05:58:11 AM
From past experience, I wouldn't expect it on steam until it officially releases. So probably sptember or possibly October, really, because I'll be out for three weeks of paternity leave in the august/September timeframe. Mainly depends on how smoothly the porting to unity goes and when my son is born.

Regarding Linux, unity does not officially support that platform and so we can't either, but hopefully it will be coming before too much longer. They support practically every other platform under the sun now. But; word is that Tidalis works great in WINE from what I hear, and that was even before WINE 1.2 just came out, so I imagine that the windows version of AI War will at least be playable in Linux, though I have no idea if there will be issues or what. Fingers crossed, hopefully not.

Well,  I'll offer my congratulations on your son now, as I'll likely forget. ;)

Far as running it under wine,  I'll just hack the mac version to run if I can swing it rather than run the windows bin. :/
Working on Safari for mac currently as moonlight is supported by netflix but moonlight for firefox under linux is not.  RAGE !

;)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 July 23, 2010, 08:46:31 AM
Many thanks on the congrats!

And, makes sense on the Mac version, it seems like the intel Mac version ought to be a closer fit.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: AlexV August 07, 2010, 12:32:35 PM
I've been playing Tidalis a bit now. They are completely different games, so this is probably a hugely unfair comparison, but is there anything to infer from the much longer load / startup time of Tidalis? I'm hoping it's just because it loads more (or bigger?) stuff than AI War, rather than being a limitation of Unity's resource loading...

For comparison, on my system time from launch to menu for AI War is ~2.2 seconds; for Tidalis is over 4x longer at ~9.5 seconds.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: keith.lamothe August 07, 2010, 12:35:59 PM
Tidalis has to load a surprisingly large amount of stuff, whereas AI War has historically done a lot of delayed loading on ship graphics and whatnot.  I'm not exactly sure what to expect with regard to loading time, but I wouldn't worry about it.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: eRe4s3r August 07, 2010, 02:38:52 PM
Load time seems to be 10s for me too, and i am on a Six-Core DDR3 4GB ram system which i would think means.. that the loading is somehow having an issue with the many small files.

I think this could be fixed by having a large pack file with an file index
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: keith.lamothe August 07, 2010, 02:42:30 PM
Sure, and Unity's normal way of doing things would have pretty much everything packed up in the assets bundles, but then it would take unpack/pack (or even compile) actions to add, remove, or modify any art or sound asset.  Which means more dev time, and makes it harder on graphic/sound modders.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 August 09, 2010, 09:04:48 AM
Actually, it makes it impossible on graphics/sound modders. But yeah, tidalis actually has about 4x the graphics bulk in size that ai war does. We do a fair bit of delayed loading (and unloading, to keep ram usage reasonable) in tidalis, but all the stuff we know we will need in tidalis we load from the start, which is where that bar comes from.

In the case of ai war, most ship graphics we never know which you'll need, so we'll continue loading them as-needed as you play. Actually, unity will so a far better job with that than we were doing with raw .net; we will be able to easily stream those in behind the scenes rather than causing the lag and hitching that you otherwise see on an ai war first load of a savegame.

Should be good!
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: keith.lamothe August 09, 2010, 09:08:09 AM
Actually, it makes it impossible on graphics/sound modders.
Don't underestimate the determination of modders ;)  Most of them will bounce off the wall, but my guess is that (if motivation was present) within a couple months one of them would find or write an unpacker/packer to work with the format.  But it would make things a major pain, to be sure.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 August 09, 2010, 09:11:07 AM
Well, fair enough. ;)

Oh, and we didn't even mention the other downsides like difficulties distributing minor updates and tracking version changes, etc. For games that change frequently, the benefits are many and numerous to having large numbers of individual small files.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: AlexV August 09, 2010, 09:56:41 AM
Not that I'm saying it's necessarily the right approach here, but for a similar requirement of mod-friendliness vs. load performance on a bit of software I worked on, we just checked the last modified stamp of the resources folder at startup. If it changed, then we ran a compilation step over all the small easily user-modifiable files to produce a single non-modifiable file, then loaded that. Every time the files in folder changed it would take a comparatively long time to launch, but after that was much quicker. Resources did not change often (unless you were working on a mod, of course!)

It wasn't for loading graphics files, though, so who knows whether it would have any beneficial effect with those. With web development there's a technique for loading a single large graphics file then clipping the smaller images out of it as needed, but whether that's helpful or not with Unity I've no idea.

When you get right down to it, though, if Tidalis has about 4x the resources to load, and is loading about 4x slower than AI-War, then that sounds about right to me.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 August 09, 2010, 10:23:04 AM
Yeah, nnormally I'm all for jit precompiling, too. In this case, the other challenge with graphics  loading is that your graphics card can't actually natively use any useful format as a texture. We store graphics in png format because they are full quality, compressed, common, easy to use, etc. But in order to load the graphics into a usable format, they have to be loaded from disk, decompressed, converted to the native graphics card format, recompressed as part of that process (to make sure as much as possible fits on the gpu ram), and then it's ready to go.

In the case of how unity handles things normally (not what we do with unity), it does a precompilation step on the assets as they are added to the project, and then stores them in a big single-file blob of some sort in the native graphics card compressed format. It's very clever in many respects because they can just load that one file and then they are ready to go -- no format conversions at all. But it's also got a lot of drawbacks for games of the sort we make. If we just released games and then forgot about them, the unity way would be the clear choice, but thankfully that's not so. ;)

That said, I do hope to have a hybrid solution at some point in the future, but for now it's relatively low on my priority list for the reason you mentioned.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: RCIX August 23, 2010, 03:57:41 AM
I'm curious; have you guys actually started with the Unity port, or are you still gearing up?
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 August 23, 2010, 09:41:44 AM
Still gearing up, in the main.  Our goal has been to get all the other tweaks we wanted in (that's about done), all the CoN stuff in for at least the first versions (that's basically done), and to get through the most important parts of the bug reports forum, which had grown rather large (that's getting close).

In related news, the v3 of Unity is getting pretty close from what we hear, too.  We're on something like beta 4 or 5 from them, and those are getting a lot more stable, etc.  So hopefully that might coincide with AI War 4.0 being fully released in early to mid October, which is the current goal.  Hopefully we'll have AI War pre-4.0 unity versions out in mid-September, so that public beta testing can begin on them then.  We shall see.

That said, some of the work we've been doing in the last few weeks also doubles for the unity port, such as the lobby redesign.  That was a good 6ish hours of work right there that was easier to do BEFORE the switch, and which saves us at least that much time off the switch.  There have been a few other things like that behind the scenes, both on the AI War and the Tidalis side; the new Tidalis sound subsystem that was added in 1.003 for that game is what will be used for AI War, and it's finally robust enough to do what AI War needs.

So... we're getting there.  But in a lot of real respects we can only do one thing at a time, so it's a rather specific order of operations to get all this done.  I also wrote out a big honkin internal conversion notes document for the code, so that if Keith is working on that while I'm out on paternity leave (which is likely to be the case), then he'll at least have design notes in hand!
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: RCIX August 23, 2010, 06:30:29 PM
8)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 August 25, 2010, 03:46:20 PM
Incidentally, we started on this on Monday and are solidly into it now.  Still a ways off from having something we can provide as a playable beta, but it's at least getting some notable progress1
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Spikey00 August 25, 2010, 03:47:53 PM
Excellent to hear, nonetheless.  I'm sure us players can suffice with waiting for until October.  ;)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 August 25, 2010, 03:49:48 PM
Oh, you won't be waiting until October -- that's when we'll be releasing the final, 100% working, official version.  The betas hopefully will be by mid-September at the latest, if not sooner.  But there are a lot of factors that would affect that one way or the other, and these are going to be really rough and half-baked betas for a while, to be installed separately from the main beta chain.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Spikey00 August 25, 2010, 04:02:26 PM
I should be able to join the club of the faithful beta testers, or rather at least for ZR and the base game since I'm still stuck in a rut, but I am excited for the change to Unity (not that I really know what it will mean exactly for me, but a new engine is always a welcome).

You, Keith and the rest of your devs must be hard at work doing this split project, handling the main AI War and the port over.  Have a huge party once that's done with, eh (but I assume you will begin developing of your TD game)!
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 August 25, 2010, 04:05:21 PM
I've been less involved than I would have liked so far (baby-to-be stuff, but no baby yet), but it's a relief to have it with lots of progress, at least.  With the code on that, it's just me and Keith, though Pablo has been hard at work on the soundtrack remastering for months.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: Spikey00 August 25, 2010, 04:14:10 PM
Still no baby, huh?  Heh, well you're still a good person for having concern for your wife and baby; though, to our dismay!

Oh, I did not know that Pablo was remastering the entire AI War[/Tidalis] soundtrack--for months!?  H-how can this be possible, oh, is he including new tracks as well?  Months makes it sound like a huge undertaking, though I trust we shall see his work will be redeemed.  ;)
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 August 25, 2010, 04:17:23 PM
The Tidalis soundtrack is already fully high-quality sound quality and execution, etc.  The remastering just refers to AI War, TZR, and then the new CoN stuff on top of that.  It's a lot of work because he had to re-record a lot of it from scratch, remix all of it, make some adjustments to the underlying music to smooth out a few things that he felt were rough, work with new sound samples that are higher quality to get the most realistic sound possible out of them, and in the case of the electric guitar and French horn, arrange and record live performances of those instruments since we couldn't get anything synth-based that sounded nearly good enough.

Lots and lots of work, to be sure.
: Re: Things that Tidalis has that AI War Does Not (Yet) -- Updated 5/26/2010
: x4000 October 02, 2010, 02:04:31 AM
At long last, time to retire this thread.  The AI War 4.0 first beta is now out!