My Hero Sandbox
[2012-Jan-21] Every time ... they pull me back in!
Hi again, happy new year! As promised, here's a new dev diary and you
didn't have to wait a year for it!
Quick summary update: Yeah, I'm working on this
When we last left off, it
was end of August 2010.
Tommy and I had stopped working on the game in
summer 2009, but had picked it up again around
March of 2010, and we had moved forward with a
I had completely overhauled
the basic structure of the code to be more object-oriented, which had made
it much easier and faster to continually add new capabilities. My
characters could do interesting things like fly, turn invisible, shrink,
and grow. Tommy had added new art assets like buildings and
trees. He had updated his models to have facial expressions which he could
animate. He had conquered the big hurdle of creating animations that would work for all his
meshes (male/female, caped, non-caped) This made it very easy to have add new
meshes and have them come alive!
One other major new feature was "synchronized" melee combat. As shown in
the Bats-Caps pix, I created code which would match the fighters'
movements to each other in a flexible way (basically using the anim names
to do this, but with a level of randomness to take advantage of the large
amount of anims that Tommy had done). This resulted in engaging
combat that was fun to just watch. A "grappling" feature
added even further variety.
carried over to flying melee as well, as shown in the
pictures. Yes, that
feature long-wished-for by fans of the FF games was working in my game.
With this version, resistances had not yet been implemented, but otherwise
melee combat was largely complete. Additional features like stun and
knockback would be added in future updates, but I wanted to get cracking
on ranged combat as well as creating object and map editors.
The cat's out of the bag ...
As I mentioned in the last Dev Diary, it was around this time in 2010,
that news of the project slipped out on the FR Forums. I personally had
not been active on FR in a number of years, but Tommy did still post there
and he shared some screenshots.
I really had no problem with this, as it wasn't like I was actively
keeping a secret, it was more that it was just something I was working on
and hadn't even thought if others would find it interesting, especially if
it never got finished!
Well, it turned out there was plenty of interest
and lots of good questions were asked. Tommy and I did our best to answer
what we could. The publicity was actually kind of nice, after having worked on
it for so long without much
feedback other than a few people. I started these
Dev Diaries to share a bit about the history of the project
and the current status.
Even more monumental (well it was to me, anyway) -
I actually got to meet Tommy face-to-face in person (3D even!) for the
first time. It was a blast to finally get to speak to someone I'd
only known over the net for years. We had just a few hours, but spent
a great evening chatting about ideas for the game and where we
needed to go next.
With things out in the open, we agreed that we needed to perhaps start
introducing more of our original creations into the game, so as to not be
seen as infringing on the Big 2's (DC & Marvel) stuff. We had been
testing with familiar characters as it was fun, but this was always
intended to be an original game with original characters.
Tommy showed some of his on the FR Forums: Sgt. Shield, Green
Goddess, and Granite Girl. I quickly whipped up
"work-in-progress" skins for Hyperwave and Pulsar (see
pics for the first glimpses ever of these charcters), some heroes I'd created years ago but never used.
Backstories for them? Well, I have a few things, but we haven't gotten to
the big storyline portion of this project yet, so I'll leave that for
Our good friend, Lightning Man, also gave us
permission to put his original characters in there somewhere and he
provided a nice splash screen.
But then ... Break #2!!!
Work continued steadily - Tommy was optimizing the use of textures on
his meshes and continually tweaking the many animations. I added a simple
animation viewer so he could test. In addition, I was doing a lot of code
cleanup and optimizations. Really boring stuff actually, but necessary for
the game to work.
My immediate goal was to get into ranged combat (which was going to be
tricky) and the object/map editors. Maybe even release a quick demo or
character viewer so people could check things out.
But then ... it happened again - an unplanned break.
It was October 2010, and just like the previous year,
all work slowly came to a halt. It wasn't any one thing, but
various ones: Tommy started having issues with his hard drive and had to
rebuild his PC (it's possible he may have lost some of his work, I'm still
too afraid to ask how much).
I got really involved with my job and family,
as often happens to me at that time of year. Maybe we also were feeling burnout again. We had accomplished even more
than during our first stab at this in 2009, but we did not keep going.
Days and weeks turned into months passed and before I knew it, it was
2011. At some point (I don't recall exactly when), the FR
forums got hacked into oblivion and so we had even less reason to keep at
it. The Panda3D forums also got kinda quiet and I lost interest in reading
them for new improvements and bits of information. It seemed that there
was no real interest from anyone anymore.
I honestly did not think about the game for a long
while. Not until Nov 2011, well over a year
A new hope?
A few things happened around Oct-Nov 2011 that pulled me back into the
First of all, I completed an important project at my job that
I had been responsible for and working on since 2009. Completing this gave
me not only more free time, but a general feeling of "wow, I have my life
Secondly, DCU Online went free-to-play. I had been interested in this
game since I heard about it (even got on the beta), but could not justify
the expense or time to play it. With my work project done and no money
barrier, I dove in.
Turns out I really enjoyed DCU Online. I've played other superhero
MMORPGs, but this one just worked for me (doesn't hurt that I'm a DC
fanboy, probably). I any case, as I played, I started noticing little
things that reminded me of things I'd been working on for my game. The way
that you pick a combat-type in DCU (brawler, martial artist) was very much
like what I had in mind for my own game. The character customization was
something that Tommy and I had discussed a bit and seeing (and liking)
DCU's made me feel like getting mine completed.
Finally, I discovered BiL (BeardedInLair's) posts at the FR forums on his experiments
with Unity3D. His excellent stuff inspired me to take a
look at what I had done again. (and I also realized that the FR
forums were back up again thanks to BiL!)
I actually started looking at Unity. It seems like
a fantastic tool, but, at least right now, I can't get the hang of it! I
read a post from someone who said "Unity provides a really amazing art
pipeline, and an adequate programming API. Panda provides
the opposite: a really amazing programming API, and an adequate art
pipeline. So, whichever one of them looks better to you will depend on
whether you're looking at it from an artist's point of view, or from a
the moment, I tend to agree. And I'm a programmer not an artist, so
I started getting my Panda code running again.
It had been over a year since I'd even looked at
this stuff. So I started slowly - installed the latest Panda SDK and
changed my game font to an opensource one. Looked good! I started a
reorg of the Character Editor (see pic) and started
squashing some coding bugs I'd left a year ago. I'd left off as version
v0.3.1, so I started a new one, v0.3.2.
In just the couple of weeks I've been back at this
(which included Christmas break), I have made the latest version a lot
more stable. Mainly by adding more classes to my code (boring techie stuff, but it's made a difference). I've also started programming the
game UI in a lot more detail. Inspired by DCU Online,
but even more by Warcraft III and World of Warcraft. The latest UI can
be see in the pics.
I am glad to see that the Panda forums seems active
again and a major new SDK version (1.8) is just around the corner. My
immediate plan is to stabilize the UI by adding action butons (I know all
the power keys, but no one else would) and after that maybe even releasing
a pre-pre-pre-alpha version for people to play around with.