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Alex's Freedom Fortress Blog

My Hero Sandbox

[2011-Dec-02] Magical Mystery Tour

Welcome back ... at the end of the last installment, ... wait a second -  last installment was over a freakin' year ago!?!?! Oops sorry about that, looks like another one of my timeouts (I'll explain). Actually, I only realized the Freedom Reborn forums were back up this week (they were gone for quite a while). I had thought my audience (of like ... 5 people) was gone forever.

I would guess the main questions for anyone reading this - Is it done? Is it further along? Are you still working on it?Beatles guitars

Answers: No, not done. Yes, much further along, though I have not touched it in about 6 months.
Am I still working on it? Well, my posting this is a sign that I'm at least thinking about jumping back in. (though I'm not sure about Tommy, who is pretty critical)

In any case, back to the story:
I had left off around July 9, 2009. Things were rolling on the SuperSquad project. Tommy and I thought ...3 , maybe 4 months ... we're done and we release the game, become famous, and get hired by a game company to make more games.

And then everything stopped. What happened? Well, blame The Beatles.

Back in Dev Diary #1, I mentioned my guitar/songwriting hobby. I had just picked up my guitar again in 2008 after many years. Well, 2009 was the year of the Beatles' comeback . All the albums were remastered and Beatles: Rock Band came out. Seeing all the Fab goodness, reminded me how they had gotten me interested in being a musician all those years ago. The pic shows part of my guitar collection (the Beatles part!)

I started spending more time rediscovering the guitar and the Beatles' genius and less time coding Super Squad..

Superhero character editor Panda3DI started jamming with friends and even with people on the internet. I started writing a song a day..
Honestly, I think I was also feeling burnt out on the Panda and coding. I needed a break..

Interestingly, Tommyman was also feeling the same , I think. Without really saying anything we just stopped doing as much. Even though we still chatted about other topics, the game was not mentioned as much anymore..

Until Jan 5, 2010 ....
That day,  learned of a new update to Panda. Also the Panda site itself had been transformed to be more user-friendly and the documentation had been updated (to make more sense IMO). I continued to look and learn with some trepidation, as I was insanely busy at work (and still doing music)..

Finally, in early March I took the plunge again and by April 8, 2010,,I had coded a title screen and had the beginnings of a character editor. (well ... at least I could show a list of hero files from a folder, pick one, and have the model pop up)..

I worked to add a screen with all the fields in the hero file to the editor , so you could .... y'know ... edit them. I also reminded the few people who knew about this that my target date for finishing this game was still 2012. (Hmmm... that's kinda close now))

By the end of April, the editor was working, along with Resistances, the ability to save, copy, and delete characters (all of this was trickier than it sounds)..

To do these screens, I was learning the Panda 2D GUI interface objects - something called DirectGUI. Which is a massive pain in the ass. Really. I love so much about Panda but this specific part of it is hard to work with - it uses a different scale than 3d objects, there are very few built in objects, you have to construct things out of parts. For example, in order to have names pop up that I could click in a scrolling list. I had to write a routine to add button objects for the names. And routines to scroll a page at a time, etc. Not fun! I tested it with up to about 2,000 hero files. It got really slow after that. Made a note to optimize it more in the future..
Superhero Panda3D Stats
But it got done!!
A note on game design: I had mentioned this previously, but I designed it so you have direct control over character Resistances..

This has several advantages over FF (IMO)::
- You can customize defense very specifically (more combinations than FF))
- no wasting attribute slots (I call them "traits") to bump up your cold defense, etc. You just set it here exactly how you want it..
- No passive defenses at all, freeing up power slots..
- "0" is standard. You can go 5 above and 5 below to choose whether you're very invulnerable or vulnerable to a specific attack. (Again more levels than what FF offered))

A reinvigorated Tommy started producing tons of art - new meshes, improved meshes, new animations, skins, and objects..

Superhero powersBy August 2010, I had gotten back to the main part of the code and had greatly improved the AI as well as cleaning up my code by removing unneeded functions and cutting down its size..

I added the feature that made me "famous" in the FF world in the first place (and a personal favorite) - "watch-mode" by pressing Ctrl-W, All the characters would now just go at it until one side (heroes or villains) were completely defeated. All melee punching of course, nothing fancy. But all the characters who could  - were flying and running faster than others (remember all their hero files had stats which the game was using for speed, strength, etc. - only resistance was not taken into account yet) So it was a battle to behold!!

I had no limits on squad sizes (still don't) so I was watching 8 vs. 8 or 15 vs. 1, whatever I would set my map file to. And Tommy kept cranking out more and more meshes. Every time he did, a new warrior joined the fray..

At this point, I added the capability for characters to grow, shrink, and turn invisible. In the pic at the left, you can see examples of this. All these meshes are the same size (and visibility) normally. I simply wrote code to have them grow, shrink, or go transparent when the player clicked the right button (And if the hero file had the right trait in it)..

Tommy was innovating plenty himself. He took a break from the characters and whipped up some buildings. By editing the simple map text files to place the buildings, he created a quick city that made the battle scene even cooler..

Tommy also figured out the lines of Panda code that could make the game go into slo-mo mode. Perfect for capturing some great superhero action shots with the screenshot function I added..
Panda 3D City and Superheroes
There's a Plan
At this point, I had a rough roadmap written down..All the goodies to date comprised version 0.3 of SuperSquad..

Version 0.4 would add::

  • Basic (very basic) projectile/beam combat
  • Clean up the hero editor a bit (more pulldowns, power editor))
  • Add a "Set up city battle" screen - you pick your squad , the foes and then you fight. (rather than having to manually edit the map file
  • Add energy costs to powers and replenishing

Version 0.5 would add:

  • Bug fixes (we had plenty of those)
  • Better AI - better tactics (use power properly, AI editor)
  • Shield powers
  • Keep implementing traits (had fly, grow, shrink, invisible, and fast healing so far)

Panda3D Super SpeedStory modes and missions would follow after this. 

This Dev Diary has gone on for quite a bit, so I'm gonna wrap it up and promise to do another one before too long. Yes, I will not wait another year!!

One last feature to mention:  on Aug 30, 2010, I was able to add dynamic speed trails. As you can see in the Flash pic, a character running with this feature turned on leaves a "trail" behind him , much like what you see in comics. This is done completely with code I put together, There is nothing special about the mesh, no special art file required. You simply give a character this trait and they do this when they run.

Coincidentally, this was around the same time that our little project was "outed" on the FR forums. Suddenly, everyone knew what Tommy and I had been doing. Is that good or bad? Time will tell.

And with that, I bid you adieu.


Freedom Force Info
Alex's Hero Conversion Tips

Comics Corner
JLA v Avengers - Once and For All!

The JLA Mod
Setting The Scene
Making a list, checking it twice ...
Infinite possibilities

My Hero Sandbox
A little background
Fast and Furious
Getting somewhere!
Magical Mystery Tour
They pull me back in!
By The Numbers


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