0.4.1 Development Thread

Announcements and infodumps from the Species dev team.
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Quasar
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Re: 0.4.1 Development Thread

Post by Quasar » Thu Jun 28, 2012 10:03 pm

And the floodgates are open again: 4 mutation maps in one day. :)

Turns out the eye-ear bug was related to the way I was handling feature mutations: if a creature mutated both feature type and feature texture at the same time, the 'appropriate texture' verification would use the old feature type. So if a feature mutated from an eye to an ear, and at the same time the eye-texture changed, it wouldn't realise it was now an ear and would happily keep using the eye texture. Fixed now, and the other mutation maps went in smoothly this morning.

Everything now has mutation maps, which should make the evolution a lot more organic: rather than the current magically-appearing fully-formed eyeballs, features will have to go via a light-sensing patch. More importantly, it means the engine is now set up properly: I can now start to replace the semi-random placeholder content with realistic progressions from feature to feature (progressions were useless before, because creatures could skip ahead due to the mutation system).

Onward!

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Re: 0.4.1 Development Thread

Post by Icefire » Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:57 pm

Given that that is fixed, is there any possibility of an ETA on the release?

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Re: 0.4.1 Development Thread

Post by Quasar » Sun Jul 01, 2012 1:28 am

An ETA? Hmm... this has been a really weird update. It started out as a "fix a few bugs, maybe add some clouds" hot fix, and has turned into something much larger and more game-changing. After some extensive discussion with Jade yesterday we're now looking at re-making all the eyes and eye textures now that we have a proper organic mutation-map in place (eyestalks! yay!), as well as adding some more variety and detail to other aspects. Don't worry, we're not completely reworking anything fundamental (already did that a few days ago), but we do need to get enough content to make the mutation map a viable addition (at the moment it serves little purpose).

Since the current build is "in development" (programmer speak for "broken in ways that shouldn't be logically possible"), I'm going to need to at least get my hands on those eyeballs before releasing it. I'm eager to do so though, so at some point I'll have to start putting these shiny distracting possiblities into the 'for later' bin and just get it done.

So, consider this not so much an estimate as a horribly ill-informed guess, but somewhere between 7 and 14 days from now, give or take.

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Re: 0.4.1 Development Thread

Post by Quasar » Mon Jul 02, 2012 5:08 am

Hmmm... I'm been watching the feedback from my bank of orbital monitoring satellites, and general concensus seems to be that the simulation itself is all well and good, but the game doesn't actually play like a game.

This is pretty much what I expected: I'm still focusing heavily on the simulation side of things, and haven't given much time over to the the 'gameplay' side: heavily targeting the bio-geek niche first before expanding on the more general gameplay (artificial selection and genetic manipulation and creature sampling and so on).

I get the impression, though, that I'm not going to get away with that for much longer, because the lack of interaction is putting people off. The game needs to give the player something to do, rather than just something to watch.

So I've decided to add a few new functionality items to 0.4.1, which should offer the player more options. Don't worry, I'm adding these while I'm waiting on other content, so it shouldn't delay the release any.

Gene Splicing

Extract DNA from one creature and inject it into another: the second creature will now give birth to [del]abominations of nature[/del] 'spliced babies! (makes use of existing mating code)

Radiation Gun

Zappy your creatures. Increases the mutation rate for that creatures progeny. Like in real life, radiation should be culmative: the more you expose a creature, the more frequent mutation becomes in it's immediate descendants.

Immortality Serum

Something that keeps a chosen creature from ever dying, but also makes them sterile so they don't become an infinite source of creatures.

Highlight Filters (this is a large feature, so it may not make it in in time)

I'd like to allow the player to highlight creatures based on respective stat values. So, for example, you'd select "head size", and the creatures with the largest heads would be highlighted red, while the creatures with the smallest ones would be highlighted blue. I might not be able to calibrate artificial selection for a while yet, but this should make it possible to artificially select manually with the kill and feed tools.

I'll also be taking suggestions for other player-driven features. I can't promise anything, obviously (there are reasons a lot of things can't be on this list), but if it can be done in a day or two I'll add it to the development list for 0.4.1.

Please respond if you have any idea's!

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Re: 0.4.1 Development Thread

Post by Icefire » Mon Jul 02, 2012 3:50 pm

Gene-splicing should do a minor amount of damage to a creature's health. In healthy creatures, this won't be much of a problem. In dying creatures, it would kill them likely. Also, The less healthy the creature is, there should be a higher probability of the genes you extract being damaged. Meaning possibility of unexpected mutations! :D

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Re: 0.4.1 Development Thread

Post by Quasar » Mon Jul 02, 2012 10:21 pm

Hmmm... that should all be possible. Mutation is applied by the parent at birth, but adding a 'damage' or 'radiation' modifier to the DNACapsule class (used for disembodied genomes*) should allow it to carry over from the donor.

Thinking long-term, these are all things that would make for great gameplay elements. At first, DNA extraction would be something you'd have to do manually, and would be damaging or even lethal (mental image: going out with a net, bringing a struggling creature back home, and throwing it into the maw of the terrifying mechanical 'sampler'. Brief vision of flames and crushers and rotating toothed gears as the door opens and slams shut again, and the creatures DNA appears in your gene bank). Later upgrades would make it an automated and much less painful process, with the least invasive being a photo-sample, which can be done by little flying camerabots (ala. the combine scanners in Half-Life 2).

*Actually, now that I think about it, what the heck was I thinking? Why didn't I just make a 'Genome' class and put it inside every creature? I really need to get around to modularising this stuff properly: object oriented programming is pretty useless if I'm not making the objects properly.

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Re: 0.4.1 Development Thread

Post by Reprieve » Tue Jul 03, 2012 2:20 pm

If the development is going to take a while would it be possible to just release the AI fix now? I've yet to have a decent simulation because of that.

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Re: 0.4.1 Development Thread

Post by Quasar » Tue Jul 03, 2012 10:18 pm

I swear I'm trying to get it all worked out as soon as possible, but the AI is something I've been trying to fix on a fundamental level, so it's taking longer than I'd hoped. It's more than just inability to find food: making the perception target visible revealed some unfortionate things about the AI. With the tweaks I've been making, currently the population explosion at the start is about 10x what it should be: where it was yesterday they all just died. It's a mess. All this stuff with new features are really just side issues: it only took me an afternoon to get the gene splicer in, and the rad gun should be even easier.

So please bear with me on this. This is my first ever release, so I'm busily learning and taking notes: in future things should be more organised.

But I am willing to provide a date: I'll make sure it comes out [checks calender] Sunday the 15th at the absolute latest. That gives me a week and a half from now to sort all the worst problems out.

...

There's also an interesting problem I'm seeing which is not really a bug, per se: it's actually a result of the simulation working fine. During the initial explosion, the creatures specialise heavily for the 'surrounded by others' environment, becoming highly social and amorous because the best way to reproduce is to push your genes onto as many other creatures as possible and hope one of <i>them</i> reproduces. And then the explosion dies down, only the creatures are no longer capable of reproducing on their own so easily. Boom, instant mass extinction.

In the real world, of course, the initial explosion covers often a much larger area (or involves much smaller creatures), so chances are a population somewhere would survive. In Species, the comparitively small population size makes it significantly harder.

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Re: 0.4.1 Development Thread

Post by Reprieve » Wed Jul 04, 2012 12:19 am

Sorry, I'll happily bare with you. I was just under the impression that the AI was all fixed.

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Quasar
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Re: 0.4.1 Development Thread

Post by Quasar » Wed Jul 04, 2012 3:08 am

Heh, sorry myself: I didn't mean to chide you about it just to let you know why I can't release it yet. I didn't mean to come out sounding so stressed, I just picked the wrong words. :D

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