Jul 8 2010

Dwarfs 0.65 Beta Uploaded!

Update 2: Disregard the previous update! The new version has been uploaded now, and you REALLY should be able to start the game now if you crashed at start up! Also, there are a some new sounds

Update: A new version has been uploaded, which hopefully works with graphics cards capable of storing textures up to 2048 pixels wide! If you got a crash at startup before, give it another go.

The day you all have been waiting for has come! You can now download a beta of Dwarfs (http://www NULL.po2games NULL.com/forum/viewtopic NULL.php?f=4&t=2)!

To download it, just visit this post (http://www NULL.po2games NULL.com/forum/viewtopic NULL.php?f=4&t=2) and follow the instructions! We’ve disabled all time modes but 15 minutes. Not to be cheap bastards or anything, but because the longer modes make no sense since only about 1/4 of the content is in the game. You can still get pretty far in 15 minutes, and you’ll have more than enough time to encounter all content!

At this point in the development, the game’s foundation is pretty much done. What we’ve left to do is make more of what’s there — more enemies, secret caves, more campaign missions, and so forth. The game, as it is now, gives a very good sense of what the final game will be like. It’s a very playable beta.

To make playing the game interesting, we’ve added an online scoreboard! To uploadĀ  a score, there are only two prerequisites:

  1. You must be connected when you get it
  2. It must qualify for your own highscore list

Now we will truly find out who has the longest beard!

Annoying Insects

When releasing a Beta like this, only one thing is certain: there will be bugs. Lots of them. Most people probably won’t notice anything major. Some people will run into pretty drastic ones! If you stumble upon a bug that crashes the application, you will (hopefully) be taken to a crash screen asking you to upload the crash report! Press Enter to do this. If you find a bug that just messes with the game without crashing it (such as dwarfs digging through rock, or your base flying away), please do report them in the forum! Oh, and on that note…

The Forum

As stated above, we’ve created a forum where you can report bugs, ask questions and come with suggestions! Anyone can register and post, and if you have something to say, please do! :)

Some Pointers

It might be a good idea to go through the Campaign (which for now is a tutorial), to learn the basics. In the Codex, accessible from Main Menu, you can read up on some tips and tricks, as well as watch short video tutorials and listen to my silky sweet faked British accent!

Oh, and when you’re not playing Dwarfs, I trust you’ll be watching the EVO Stream (http://evo2k NULL.com/live/), just like we will ;)


May 4 2010

Iterations: Dwarfs Now and Then

A word of advice to anyone developing a game: save your iterations!

Just like it’s good to keep a visual diary for comparing weight loss when dieting, or keeping recordings from when you started playing an instrument, having earlier builds of your game saved down is a great source of morale. Given that there is progress to show, of course.

For Dwarfs, we started to archive our “stables” (every 0.x gets extra bug-test attention) at v0.3. When I’m stuck with some really soul crushing programming, and it feels like the game is going nowhere, I like to start one of the old ones up and remember that’s what I thought back then too.

V0.3 – January 2010

v0.3 - Menu

The "menu" in v0.3

v0.3 - In game

Screenshots cannot even begin to describe how insanely hard the game was back then

V0.4 – February 2010

v0.4 - Menu

A slightly improved splash screen, from before we decided on the name "Power of Two"

v0.4 - In game

It might not look that different, but the improvement to gameplay is immense.

V0.5 – April 2010

v0.5 - Menu

Finally, an actual menu! The version number at the bottom is a liar :(

v0.5 - In game

Without doubt the sexiest iteration yet, with huge graphical and technical updates

Current – May 2010

v0.55 - Menu

A new WIP main menu! We're taking our chances with one of those extravagant thingys.

v0.55 - In game

Not much of a difference to be seen... but you'll have to take my word for it: there's sounds and music now. :)

The difference between these versions are much more profound than is shown by the screens! I won’t bother you with patch notes, but I’ll repeat what I wrote at the top of this article:

Save your iterations!

Apr 21 2010

Developing with C#/XNA

When you’re going to begin development on a game, the very first questions that appear are “For what platforms?” and “What tools will we use?”

If you decide that Windows-based PCs are the best target, the options at your disposal are staggering. When we were trying to pick a development environment for “Dwarfs”, for each language, engine and wrapper, we asked ourselves:

  • How fast is development?
  • How much control does it take away?
  • How powerful is the tool?
  • How big is the user base and community?

Getting answers to these questions wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. After some pondering, we decided to use Microsoft XNA (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Microsoft_XNA) to do some prototyping, since I had previous experience with C# and knew that at least the programming language was extremely optimized for fast development. After using XNA to develop Dwarfs for four months as a school side-project, I can attempt answering some of them.

How fast is development?

Extremely fast. It’s so fast that developing in C#/XNA almost feels rude towards other students, who are struggling with shoddy software such as Torque, or daunting tasks like writing their own engines from scratch. You can be up and running with XNA in literally minutes, if you know what you’re doing.

And yet…

How much control does it take away?

Surprisingly little. I would say XNA hits the balance perfectly between handing you the tools to build your game, and then backing away so that you may build it as you wish. How bold you’ll be when developing is entirely up to you, and XNA accomodates most scenarios. You don’t need to know what a shader is, for example, to efficiently render something to the screen using the GPU. If you want extra control (which you likely will), you can just replace the default shader with your own. Most parts of the engine (if you could call it that) is like this. If you don’t like a module, you can usually just rewrite it yourself, if you have the skill. I feel the most prominent loss of control is instead due to the C#-language. The Big Brother memory management is frustrating at times, but the ease of use more than makes up for this to me.

How powerful is the tool?

This is one of the questions that are difficult to answer. It’s certainly very efficient at what it does, with pretty optimized rendering and so on. You can’t access DX10 or above, though, and I imagine that many advanced programmers consider C# less powerful than C++. For development of the sort I’m doing (small scale indie), it’s perfectly suited.

How big is the user base and community?

Very big. This question might seem odd to some. The user base shouldn’t matter that much as long as the tools are good, right? Wrong. The process of developing a game is very complex, not only from a technical viewpoint, but also from a spiritual perspective. What I mean is that morale plays a huge part in how efficient and ultimately successful a team is. Results are the best source of morale. If you spend one day making something great, you’ll spend the next day making another great thing, because seeing your efforts bear fruit gives a great high.

While tangiable results are an awesome source of morale, one of the WORST drains are things not working. When you sit there wondering why in the nine hells your perfectly skinned model fails at compile time with some arbitrary error message, the sun isn’t shining quite as brightly as it did a few minutes ago. Having a significant community is key here, for several reasons. For one, a quick search on Google or the XNA Forums is likely to yield great results, and if you can’t find an answer that way, you can always post yourself. In the case of XNA, not only is there a strong community (http://creators NULL.xna NULL.com/en-US) ready to help, but the actual XNA Team is paid by Microsoft to hang around the official forums. Perhaps most notable is Shawn Hargreaves, whose blog (http://blogs NULL.msdn NULL.com/shawnhar/) is an excellent source of good information.

But certainly there must be some drawbacks?

Up until this point, it must sound as if I’m being paid by Microsoft. I’m mainly positive to C#/XNA, because there is so much to be positive about. Among some minor issues, there is one big downside: compatibility. XNA is based on DirectX, and C# is developed by Microsoft. As such, games made in XNA will be played by no apple or penguin. Another slightly annoying thing is that any PC-user will need to download and install the redistributable. I’m fairly sure you can wrap it into your game installer pretty neatly, but still, I think those measly 8MB could be included in the DirectX-installation.

Well, that’s my first TL;DR-post, and I’m sure there’ll be more of them coming on relevant subjects! To anyone who stumbled in here wondering what language to learn if you’re new at programming and want to make games: I think C# / XNA would be perfect for you.

Apr 20 2010

Power of Two is online!

This post marks the moment Power of Two entered the realm of cyberspace! Here, we will post DevBlog-updates and random ramblings about whatever occupies our minds. Currently, our main WIP is the arcade-strategy game “Dwarfs”. And yes, you may spell it like that :)

Stay tuned!