Mar 9, 2013

Development milestone - 2 year mark

Byte Wrangler and the Bulldog project itself are now over 2 years old, hurrah!

So, where is the project? Is it playable yet? No. Why not? Because these things take time. No, that's not a good enough answer. Because I haven't prioritised the right development, and my original estimates for how long it would take were woefully naive. That said, looking back at the codebase from a year ago, the project has advanced a lot further than it seemed a few weeks ago. When you spend so much time so close to the code, you lose sight of all the changes that have built up in the system over the year. And over the last year, a lot of the changes have had a visual impact.

Compare the two screenshots below:

Bulldog Build 1863 - 37,557 lines of code (Jan 2012)

Bulldog Build 11020 - 62,894 lines of code (Feb 2013)

(Note: I added automated build number incrementing in late 2011, so the build number isn't a good indicator of the relative changes in the early days.)

For the statistically minded, the codebase is now 62,894 lines of code, compared to 37,557 a year ago. During the past year, I've done a great deal of refactoring, so large chunks of code have been removed, so the amount of code written is easily more.

A year ago there were no 3d models in the game, aside from the "monolith", which for a long time was the player character's temporary avatar. Now we have a more human shaped temporary avatar, and around 5 in-game 3d models. "Graphics month" failed to live up to its name, and really only introduced a few new graphics, but I did gain a working knowledge of Blender and UV unwrapping, so future modelling will now take much less time.

A year ago there were 13 different items in the game, none of which were usable. The player could walk around, but not interact with anything in the flat, featureless, sandbox world.

Now there are 43 different items in the world, 90% of which fully interact how you'd expect. i.e. you can pick up an empty water bottle and click on a pool of water to fill the bottle. Then you can click the filled bottle on yourself to take a drink.

The most visible graphical change (to me at least), is that I finally managed to get object silhouettes working. This is a feature I've had planned from the very beginning, and is important to the graphical look I want to achieve. I've struggled on and off to make this work, but I eventually had a breakthrough, and while not yet perfect, I'm very happy with the results. I may elaborate more on the specifics in a separate blog post.

Future Development

So, onwards to the future... I've found that it's easier to stay focussed on the tasks for a development snapshot if I give the snapshot a theme. The current snapshot's theme is food & crafting. I've already added 8 new food items to the game and implemented a food spoiling and food poisoning system. The crafting system is in place but needs to be properly tested and the crafting screen needs to be built, as well as adding crafting recipes.

The following build's theme is going to be sounds, shelter and improved terrain generation. Currently there is only one sound in the game, so the sound effects side of things needs a lot of love. I've also been experimenting with some new terrain generation techniques as a proof of concept, and initial work seems really good.

Closing Thoughts

It's easy to become disheartened about progress when your expectations are high and the project is large. I've come to realise that at the outset, my impression of how long it should take was quite naive, mostly due to inexperience. My current estimates suggest it'll be another 2-3 years before its ready for release, which sounds like a long time, but looking at the progress in the last year, I'm optimistic about how good it will look.

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