Monday, 7 December 2015

One year older

Dear Chaos Guns friends,

A year has passed since this blog has gone silent. One year with no news, no posts yet countless hours of hard work at the backstage for our team!
So, in case you are still wondering: No, we're not dead. We were not sleeping.
In fact development is on-going and the machines are working 24/7 back at Chaos Guns HQ!

However it's been a rollercoaster ride for us and a LOT of things have changed ever since.
Let me start with a summary:

First iteration of the game's engine was written by MarK and from the very beginning it meant to be something that the Amiga platform had never seen before. Open world support, huge maps directly imported from Google Maps, 4 player independent multiplayer action, true shadows and light conditions as well as a fully functional inventory and items management system were key factors in the design. Following the release of our first Amiga demo, back at June-July of 2014, MarK left the team due personal reasons, leaving the engine in unoptimized state (even on a 060 performance was about 10 fps only) that rendered any further development impossible. If we wanted to continue we either had to find someone to pick up MarK's work from where he left it or start from scratch.

At Summer of 2014, a small campaign was initiated to find support within the community but it soon turned out to be a wild goose chase. MarK's engine, written in his own language (PowerD, a derivative of AmigaE) was a huge barrier for anyone brave enough to dig deep into it. I met quite a lot of great folks on the net, but none of them was willing to really pickup it up (which is totally understandable). About that time, Dalibor Javorcek from Slovakia also came forward and invested some time on a new promising engine, done primarily as an experiment. But other than being a useful exercise this effort also failed to provide the needed solution as well.

In the mean time, Tsak had just begun working on a new prototype using Game Maker on PC. With the Amiga coder search being at a dead end, a fresh start was needed and Game Maker seemed like a solution that had the necessary potential. New platform, new goals and a brand new design: Having the experience from the previous demo we sat down and did an overall evaluation of all the pros and cons of the old build which resulted in quite a few changes. Multiplayer theme (primarily due to it's complexity in any platform) had to go and the action was focused on single player gameplay. At the same time an important aspect that was currently left incomplete - the combat, shooting and melee mechanics- was redesigned and character control was simplified. Lastly a new plan for the AI was formed as well as various other details and feats that were missing from the original plan.

With the basic Game Maker prototype functions ready, it was obvious that someone more experienced was needed to help us finalize it. So at November of 2014 we invited Game Maker expert Shaun O'Reilly from USA to join us. With him on board, development continued smoothly for the next 6-7 months. We didn't really published anything regarding this version but the results were surprisingly good! A weapon showcase was created, including rapid fire machine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles and amazing, combo based sword fight, as well as enemy attacks, advanced AI that included seeing and hearing, a sneak system, running ability and much much more. Eventually, at June of 2015 Shaun was blessed with a third kid in his family, so priorities took him away from the project, leaving us -once again- in limbo...

The end is the beginning: About that time, we sat down for a second round and did an evaluation of our work and the development days passed. The dream for an Amiga version was always a priority for us and even as we progressed with the Game Maker engine it was always at the back of our head to make a comeback... someday. But in order to do that, drastic changes needed to happen.

One of the weakest points of the original first Amiga engine and the overall plan was that it was simply too demanding. Use of 256 colors, shadows and a highly complex rendering system that combined multiple layers of gfx, were all aspects that caused poor performance on classic Amigas without elevating the visual outcome (f.e. the same exact result could have been achieved with less colors, no auto shadows and a tileset with pre-drawn elements). In addition to those, the development and design logic was overly ambitious from the get go, prioritizing less central feats in expense of core gameplay functionality. So, it became apparent that if we wanted this to succeed we would have to focus on the basics and build our way up, placing as a first priority the game's performance.

First stop on this new endeavor was to get the game's gfx assets in a better shape & state. Tsak started experimenting with the use of different and smaller palettes that would not exceed 32-64 colors. The experiment yielded amazing results and soon the complete gfx database was restructured and replaced outright (95% from scratch) adding a sufficient amount of new animations and fx on top!

Having the gfx ready (with it's 32 color palette that would allow us to bring the game to the larger OCS public) and a new, more compact development plan, the Amiga version was now more likely to happen, so next the team focused in finding the right person that would undertake the challenge with a new build from scratch.

At the same time several other alternative solutions were considered. One of them was to use the popular Amiga game making program, Backbone, but we needed first proof that this was -indeed- a solution that would allow us to finish the game, even if this meant to sacrifice key elements of the gameplay in favor of a more classic and basic approach. So, without a second to waste, Tsak once again found himself working on a new experimental Backbone iteration.

By August of 2015, nearly 2 months after the Backbone demo was initiated, a new event came to shake development. Jozef Tomka from Slovakia, an experienced Amiga ASM coder who was working on his own map editor and 2D engine called GGC, responded to the call! It was a question of a few mails to give his engine an actual purpose and soon, a brand new Chaos Guns chapter was about to start!

Fast forward to today: Right now after 6 months of hard work we have at our hands not 1 but 2 brand new demos!

The first is an 100% finalized demo version made with Backbone. Despite it's shortcomings and performance, this version served it's purpose, proving that a full game using Backbone IS possible. The demo itself is an amazing feat for the Backbone standards both in terms of finish and overall design and it is currently providing a structural road map for the "real deal" that follows.

The second demo, based on Jozef's GGC engine, is the current 'work in progress' and aspires to be a SUPER enhanced version. Besides it's outstanding performance this new work is already shaping up amazingly well, incorporating Backbone demo's basic elements as well as more advanced feats from our previous designs, including a new and EVEN more sophisticated weapons showcase (compared to the one we had at the Game Maker demo). And this time, back on a real Amiga, without the need of any extra processing power!

To make long story short - after a year break on the blog, we feel confident again to share some samples and news about our project, which seems now to have a great new direction! With the basic engine ready, we will once again start designing maps to tell stories about vast and distant planets. And what better time than Christmas for this to happen?

Wish us luck!