Wednesday, 23 December 2009

New and Helpful Feature

I've just added a new feature which improves Stellar Forces further above and beyond the game on which it is based, namely Laser Squad:

One minor flaw with the otherwise excellent Laser Squad was that if one of your units saw an enemy unit during the enemy's turn, you were never informed, which doesn't make for a realistic game at any level.

In Stellar Forces, if one of your units see's an enemy unit during the enemy's turn, it is now shown on the game map.

Coming soon: Another new mission!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Stellar Forces Progress

I'm quite please with the way Stellar Forces is turning out, considering I only started programming it about 2 months ago. There are currently 14 games being played, and new logins being created all the time, and I've had some great games against some challenging opponents. There's been a few minor teething troubles like imbalanced missions and the odd bug, but as of now I can say that the game is great fun.

Unfortunately, as to be expected, there are a few people who have created logins and started a game but then obviously decided it's not for them. It's understandable since there's no way of knowing what a game is like without playing it, but it's a shame from their opponents point of view and I hope it doesn't put them off!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Stellar Forces: Out of Alpha

Stellar Forces is now out of alpha! I've been tweaking the client and uploading a new version every couple of days for the last few weeks. I think I've now ironed out all the major bugs and even added a few more missions. The latest version is now 0.4.

The next stage is to make the game more accessible; unfortunately, it's very hard as the programmer, when you know a game inside out, to see how it might look to fresh eyes who have never seen it before. Will new users know where to go and what to click on? Does it make them want to play it? Until I work that out, I'm going to add a quickstart page.

Friday, 11 December 2009

New Mission: Moonbase Assault

[Read in a Geordie accent] Day 34, and the housemates in the moonbase are still managing to hold off the onslaught of the Laser Squad, who are intent on destroying the moonbase computers and save the free world. Corporal Jonlan has managed to elimite two members of the Marsec Corporation, but he has been wounded by the primed grenade hidden in one of the dead bodies. Who will win? You decide!


But seriously, the newest mission in Stellar Forces is Moonbase Assault: the Laser Squad must attempt to destroy a certain number of computers located around the moonbase, whilst the Marsec Corporation must defend the moonbase either by killing the Laser Squad or at least holding out until re-inforcements arrive. Each side has 8 units, and the key to winning this is stealth.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Randomly generated maps - a bad idea or a terrible idea?

For a couple of the missions in Stellar Forces, I thought it would be interesting to have randomly-generated maps, since it will mean an infinite variety of layouts and thus increase the replayability.

However, I've come to the some-may-say obvious conclusion that randomly generated maps aren't always a good idea, especially for missions that have important "hot-spots" (my term for some aspect of the map that plays a critical role in the mission). A randomly (or "procedurally") generated map is probably okay for a straight firefight mission, but there are at least two reasons why they are not the best idea for anything else:-

1) The random layout may give one side an unfair advatage; I'm currently playing the mission Escape, where my side has to get to the escape chute. As luck would have it, the escape chute was "randomly" placed in the next adjacent room from where my units started! Some may say that this is a flaw in my algorythm, and they would be right.

2) The other problem is that nothing can replace a hand-crafted custom designed levels, with all it's subtle nuances that are probably only noticed after using it to play several games. Years ago, I hacked the original Laser Squad, and messed about with the maps, in particular making Sterner's moonbase a lot bigger. Unfortunately, this had the effect of making finding him especially hard! This showed me that not just the layout, but even just the size of the map is critical.

So I'm going to produce customized maps for all but one of the missions (that one being the straight firefight). Unless anyone else wants to have a go?

Monday, 7 December 2009

Stellar Forces: Now has a proper domain name

Stellar Forces now has a proper domain name: www.stellarforces.com!

Hopefully this will give it the credibility to be taken seriously as a game that is here to stay. It's always looking for more players, so if you want to play a turn-based strategy game where you can take your turn at your own convenience, please give it a go!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Stellar Forces: Units now have heads

The development of Stellar Forces is a process of constant improvement, and it's hopefully a testament to the other important new features that have been added that only now have the units been given heads.

I considered it a low priority since it didn't affect the gameplay whatsoever, but it must be said that it has improved the look of the game considerably. Next on my list is adding some more scenery so the levels aren't quite so barren.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

New Mission: Breakout

A new mission by the name of Breakout has been added to Stellar Forces. The mission premise is simple: one side must escape from the complex within the time limit, whilst the other side must prevent them with a dose of death laser fire.

The complex itself is quite large with more corridors than the players have units, so it's a bit of a game of hide and seek and is ripe for various tactics. However, this being a new mission, it's probably going to get tweaked over time.

Note that you will need a client of at least version 0.36 to play this mission.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

New Client - 0.36

It fixes a few small bugs and adds a few tweaks (like makes the units slightly more accurate at shooting) but the main difference is music! Thankfully, there is a mute button though for when it eventually starts to grate.

Monday, 30 November 2009

League Table

There is now a League Table, so you can see how well you are doing compared to the other players!

Friday, 27 November 2009

New Version and New Forums!

A new version of the Stellar Forces client has been uploaded, and I can also announce that we have some new forums, linked into the Stellar Forces website (so users don't need to log into a seperate website to be able to chat).

I've added forums before to my website, and it's usually only a matter of time before they get spammed and so I have to add a captcha or something. However, until that happens, it's pretty open (to people who have a login to the website).

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Looking for Playtesters

I'm looking for playtesters for the game Stellar Forces. It's completely free, and based on Laser Squad and X-Com (without the resource management sections). If you liked those kinds of games, then why not give it a go? Any and all constructive criticism is welcome, and if you have any good ideas for it, you can have them put in!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Seeing through doors

I vagually remember reading something on the internet about rounding errors causing problems with 3D games. I wish I'd concentrated on it more when I read because I think it could have been useful in solving a problem I had.

I discovered that it is possible for a unit to see an enemy through a closed door if they (and the enemy) were positioned just right (slightly off-centre in this case). After a lot of investigation and messing about, I found that it was indeed some kind of rounding problem: the width of the two halves of the sliding doors don't quite equal the full width of the doorway, meaning there is a gap (of probably 0.0000001 units or something ridiculous!). However, computers being computers, that's probably a big enough gap to allow a "ray" through.

Still, it's fixed now, and I'll be uploading a new version soon. The big question is "do I force everyone to upgrade since they'll effectively be able to cheat with their current client?".

Friday, 20 November 2009

New Stellar Forces Client

A new version of the Stellar Forces client has been uploaded: version 0.32 alpha. There are only a few minor visible changes in this version: the password input is now masked, the lights are a bit brighter, and the currently-selected unit is highlighted, among other tweaks.

The main change is in the background code - the client is now more accomodating if the server sends any extra data. This is so that if the format of the data send to the client is changed (which is expected and understood by newer versions of the client) then those still using the older versions won't have any problems (although the data will be ignored, which could be interesting).

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

[Send Reminder]


There's a new feature on the Stellar Forces web control panel - "Send Reminder". There are a few games being played that are waiting for opponents to take their turn, so I thought it might be a good idea to allow reminders to be sent, otherwise a game will grind to a halt.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Stellar Forces Update

So far the Stellar Forces website has been live for about 4 days, and things are a bit quieter than I had hoped, though a couple of games have just about started.

I originally didn't want too many people to join, since if any major problems were found, it would have meant them all re-starting their games or something. However, I forgot what a problem it is trying to entice players to play something new, so maybe I should have given it more publicity.

This is something I intend to correct very soon. This time I'm going to concentrate on mentioning it on sites that have a specific link (not in the href style) to Laser Squad/X-Com-style games, rather than just pure gaming sites.

Welcome to the Stellar Forces Blog

Welcome to the new Stellar Forces blog. Here I'll be talking about my new game Stellar Forces, which uses Laser Squad/X-Com game mechanics and a modern lobbying system to connect players who can play across the internet at their convenience.