Updates, Engines and 2.5

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Updates, Engines and 2.5

Postby Gristmill » Thu May 29, 2014 11:52 am

Work on 2.16 continues, as you may have seen in the other thread. We've been bouncing back and forth between the new and old engine, trying to strike a balance for keeping XenoMiner moving forward - there are a lot of issues with some of the bigger ideas we'd like to see in XenoMiner, generally related AI and hostile/friendly mobs and power grids.

As you may remember, we made some major improvements to our engine that we then used to roll out Downgate. The hope was to continue moving that along on a parallel track until we could get in all the features necessary to have a fully functional XenoMiner in it. We're much farther along now, we're about 60 - 70% of the way there.

One of the major differences between the old and new engine is dropping the infinite world in favor of varying sized "arenas" - spaces that can be quite large, but can be contained in memory fully for the duration of a game (or mission). The advantages here are that we can produce grid data (such as power grids, AI grids, pathfinding grids, etc) and keep them without a lot of swapping, error checking, edge cases and memory management. When it comes to multiplayer, this is a god-send.

In the old engine, because handling a changing 3d environment for pathfinding is so challenging and processor intensive, we can barely handle 5 mobs at a time - even that can be pretty janky. The only other (reasonable) option is to use a much less intense/fun AI that simply points at the player and tries to walk forward (like a few other voxel games). With a grid pre-populated and guaranteed to be there, the new engine can handle many more mobs and much more efficiently.

We've also been able to play with incorporating a Structure system and a Power Grid. This has led us to a system where things that need power (lights, beacons, radar/scanners, etc) can be attached to a power source network and then draw against it. It also means we can put in real switches (that allow power to flow through or terminate that flow) and can turn things on or off - like the lights. These things are built on the arena in-memory system of the new engine, placing them in an infinite world becomes very challenging very quickly (or leads to simulation inconsistencies ... what happens when you run conduit from a power-plant out of memory range, we can't update the simulation on both sides, etc).

These are all "new engine" toys, however, and not available to XenoMiner classic. While we continue pushing the new engine to a point where we feel it could handle everything XenoMiner would need, we have some obvious questions to answer: is it even what players want?

The new engine would mean no more infinite world, but perhaps the ability to "zone" in and out of large spaces - perhaps picking a site off of a map and then traveling there, exploring/mining/building/fighting within those bounds. If you wanted to go elsewhere, you'd do that by loading a new zone. What would be gained for this trade off? Mobs. Lots of them, varying types and sizes. More than 5 at a time. Turrets, turrets you can place and power and can defend even when you walk away. Power stations, multiple power generation forms, and "structures" like radar, comm dishes, beacons and processors that require it. Area updates ... perhaps plant-life or other things that grow and change. I don't want to make too many promises, but those are the kinds of things this change would enable.

While we're toying with these ideas and prototyping, it would be good to get some player feedback and thoughts on such a change. It would certainly mean old games would no longer be functional - this would have to be for new games going forward (if we made the changes at all). For Xbox, because of the large install base and our inability to communicate directly with 99% of those customers, the sane idea would probably be to make a few more updates to the Classic engine and then roll out a different game title for the new one (sort of like we did with Downgate). The obvious downside to that is people needing to repurchase (on Xbox). Before someone asks ... no, we couldn't have two different modes, one for old games and one for new. That would be a nightmare to make work and something close to apocalyptic to maintain. Your thoughts would be appreciated on this. Please don't panic, we're just looking at the road ahead right now and Xenominer is still moving forward as always.

In the meantime, we still probably have the ability to roll another title out that is not XenoMiner but is related (like Downgate was) and can show off some of these new abilities. A little work on menus and some background functionality is all it would need. We may go that route, as pushing the full engine forward is a slow process and having something new for our fans to play with in the meantime might be a good stopgap. We are thinking a sort of "Build and Defend" style game in which you build up fortified areas and then hold off hordes of aliens might be a fun game, and would let us show off a lot of what we have done. What do you think?

2.16
That being said, we are still vigorously rolling updates into the classic engine. We're on the second revision of the Airflow system, which seems to be working nicely and may lead to other cool things, even in the infinite world setting. This has required some major re-tooling and functionality work, and is based off the new engine (ported back down to classic).

We've prototyped a new vision scanner that allows you to see minerals through the landscape highlighted to a certain range, which we will probably make a function of certain helmets.

We're also working to get higher resolutions available to PC so that you can play fullscreen on modern PC's ;)

Finally we have a prototyped "bio-scanner" that will show hostile life on the minimap when enabled. Whether this is done through certain helmets or is a device you build that then grants this ability is still being decided.

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If you read this far, you're probably a superfan :) Thanks for your patience these last three months, this engine work is necessary but a real slog. We've also had a few personal/real life issues come up on the team (life happens) that have slowed things down. My personal ability to post to these forums has been greatly reduced, for instance. This doesn't mean we're dead or don't love you guys, it's just hard to keep up the posting pace of the past (I used to update these forums several times a day).

So now ... your feedback. Apologies if the post is a bit rambling, I hope it makes sense.

As we say at Grist: "Talk to me, Goose!"
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Re: Updates, Engines and 2.16

Postby still crosshair » Thu May 29, 2014 2:56 pm

Well I am not sure what to say really. You have said a lot so its going to be hard to stay on one point but I will try. Can PC somehow keep unlimited worlds ? I know its not really fair to Xbox players but I feel PC may be able to handle this New system with the addition of unlimited worlds. If it has to be for PC players sake that its swapped over then okay. But if you agree in that PC can handle it then why swap over? I know it would most likely be because everyone does not work full time on this game plus you are only one team not two that can split on Xbox and PC. So if it has to be done then so be it. If it can be altered then please let it be this way. Not wanting to screw Xbox players here but if PC can do it then allow it. I feel in the long run it will turn out to your benefit. Not saying to alter the way things work simply the world size thing. If people wonder why something fails then we could explain that there are limits.
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Re: Updates, Engines and 2.16

Postby Gristmill » Thu May 29, 2014 3:06 pm

still crosshair wrote:If people wonder why something fails then we could explain that there are limits.


:D That has never worked!

thanks for the feedback, still.
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Re: Updates, Engines and 2.16

Postby still crosshair » Thu May 29, 2014 3:11 pm

Gristmill wrote:
still crosshair wrote:If people wonder why something fails then we could explain that there are limits.


:D That has never worked!

thanks for the feedback, still.


Ah yes I know but when one does not have many excuses on hand they will use whatever is at hand. :lol:
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Re: Updates, Engines and 2.16

Postby BushKillFalls » Thu May 29, 2014 4:37 pm

Hey Mav... Long Time Reader Short Time Tester :lol:

Glad to hear about the Ground Scanner work progressing to Fruition. Can't wait to get digging with it and finally find those elusive extra minerals just behind the stash I was digging out of the cave wall and would usually miss.

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While anyone that knows me knows I was always willing to "Sacrifice Infinite Worlds" hopefully realises I love Infinite Worlds and would only want to give them up if needed to move the game forward. I think the Idea of a more Tile Based Infinite World which is what it seemed that you might be thinking of where you selected a Zone of the world to work in and that Zone was loaded in game Like you would load another Game Save but without actually losing progress on that world.

Example that came to my mind reading what you said is that I work on getting my Processing Power up on my world and I have a Good Stockpile of Materials and Minerals on My world and I am Satisfied or Filled my worlds Spawn Zone Up which is however big (a few or several Biomes big) and I want to expand elsewhere. So since I made a mine in this zone and I wanted to make a Spaceport in another in the past Maybe I would have made a Whole new World and had to start over before but this Zone Method vs Infinite World might let me keep my gear and minerals and allow me to carry them in my mule to this new Zone allowing me to not have to start from Square one again building Processors and having to upgrade my gear while searching for all the minerals again. I might be able to throw 4 threadless from one zone in my mule and take them with and just keep playing. The Zoned Play Idea Definitely has some major possibilities that I can see.

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Losing old worlds is a bit of a hard thing to let go as a possibility going forward. I can't even fathom how much time I have spent working on the Leviathan Worlds especially with the Air Processor and it's Power Core. I would have to say though that while I would miss it I would like to see more of the types of features you mentioned about adding and even a few that players might have asked for in the features request more than holding onto those worlds as we can always have more fun building more new things with the new Engine, Features, and Multiple Mobs.

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New Game! Would there be another Promo Code to use in XM and DG and would our other Promo Codes unlock a special mode or items in the new game?

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Multiplayer and Zone Worlds has some interesting questions. Like...

-Would players be able to be in different Zones than the Host since the File is sent to the players joining and their system runs it and a whole lot of black computer magic happens to let everyone know what everyone is doing so we all can see the changes they make
(more technically if a guest says to the hosts system I want to go to Zone 2 will the hosts system say here is the change log for zone 2 have fun and let me know what you change as since you aren't in the same zone I imagine only autosave would ask what the player was doing before they exit since the host doesn't need to be constantly updated because they don't physically see the player)

-Would we be able to have a permission system setup where we could allow certain people in some zones and not in others.

-Would there be a way to link assets of one zone to another like a Com Dish in Zone 1 would "Communicate" with a Com Dish in another Zone to say yes you have 3 Storage units in zone 2 and 1 storage unit in Zone 4 that you are allowed to access in your current zone 1 because you made Com Dishes in those Zones so you can transfer things to other zones. However the Com dish in Zone 3 is still unpowered or dh.. dh.. dhun... become un powered by attack or Meteorite? or was never powered so you can't access the 5 storage unite in it.

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Yes I am a Super Fan and made it to the end and I can change if I had too but I won't :D
Last edited by BushKillFalls on Thu May 29, 2014 4:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Updates, Engines and 2.16

Postby froganox13 » Thu May 29, 2014 4:46 pm

I'm fine with no infinite worlds. (they just make me get lost :P ) I think you should do what you think is best. And if that means I need to buy the game again, I will.

P.S. A alien horde mode would be awesome! :D
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Re: Updates, Engines and 2.16

Postby Gristmill » Thu May 29, 2014 5:07 pm

Great ideas and questions Bush.

" a more Tile Based Infinite World which is what it seemed that you might be thinking of where you selected a Zone of the world to work in and that Zone was loaded in game Like you would load another Game Save but without actually losing progress on that world. "

That would be the idea, you'd have a Game Save that contained multiple zones. For instance, you could start in one zone and build a small base, then decide to travel to another zone and strip mine it. You could even keep the first but ditch the second one, or keep them both. Add a third, etc. As long as we're only loading one zone at a time, that's just fine and that would be a good plan.

"Losing old worlds is a bit of a hard thing to let go as a possibility going forward."

Yeah, we agree, hence the discussion. As I mentioned, we may have to consider other options.

"though that while I would miss it I would like to see more of the types of features you mentioned about adding and even a few that players might have asked for in the features request more than holding onto those worlds as we can always have more fun building more new things with the new Engine, Features, and Multiple Mobs."

Indeed!

"New Game! Would there be another Promo Code to use in XM and DG and would our other Promo Codes unlock a special mode or items in the new game?"

We'd probably do a promo code for it in XM, and the reverse. Not sure about DG.

"Would players be able to be in different Zones than the Host "

On Xbox definitely not, you'd have to follow the Host from zone to zone. On PC, this would be a possibility, but something we'd have to weigh against other cool features.

"Would we be able to have a permission system setup where we could allow certain people in some zones and not in others."

In a one-zone-at-a-time system, no ... it would be more like who has permission to join you at all. On a multi-zone server that I am in no way ever promising, that would probably have to be.

"Would there be a way to link assets of one zone to another like a Com Dish in Zone 1 would "Communicate" with a Com Dish in another Zone"

Maybe, probably, or in a similar fashion. The main thing is this means really Zone 1 and Zone Other would have to be in memory at the same time, and that's the whole problem we're trying to solve. That being said, we may be able to look at universal storage or giving you inventory access to some central warehouse wherever you are.
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Re: Updates, Engines and 2.16

Postby Gristmill » Thu May 29, 2014 5:08 pm

froganox13 wrote:I'm fine with no infinite worlds. (they just make me get lost :P ) I think you should do what you think is best. And if that means I need to buy the game again, I will.

P.S. A alien horde mode would be awesome! :D



Thanks froganox! glad you love the game and thanks for the feedback!
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Re: Updates, Engines and 2.16

Postby still crosshair » Thu May 29, 2014 5:43 pm

Yea the one problem I have with a tile world is with Multiplayer. I would want my players to have room to build and expand and if they need me to open a new world or zone then its really not infinite. The idea of headless PC servers is really hurt since host would have to be notify every time someone wanted to move to another chunk and when someone wanted to work on something in another chunk. Even if the game keeps its current host setup this will really be a pain for host and guests. Especially a host who does not watch the server closely or happens to just be AKF.

I mean it sounds pretty good for single player in a sense. Only I would want each chunk or zone to be named so you would have zone 1 then the next zone you enter is zone 2. With that said simply walking out side of the current zone makes the game shut down the old zone and move you to the edge of the new zone. So I do not have to create a new world and exit/enter it via exiting my game and loading another one instead. Another thing would be to be able to see a list of zones. Since you were talking about being able to delete them this list could be used. If you quarried out zone two hit the refresh zone button next to zone two and it is returned to its default state. I know that can be cheap but it would act as a way to delete said zone.
I would be willing to give up infinite worlds I just worry about the MP the most right now.
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Re: Updates, Engines and 2.16

Postby jon22 » Thu May 29, 2014 7:23 pm

I wouldn't mind if worlds were limited. Bigger-than-Minecraft worlds for Xbox 360 would be nice, with different biomes. Also we should be able to take any items currently in the M.U.L.E and equipped to different worlds, like Terraria.
I'm not a hardcore voxel player but I do enjoy Xenominer when I can be bothered playing it (Black Flag and some GTA at the mo). Maybe call the next game Xenominer Worlds to justify a second purchase.

P.S Any news on a lobby selector for Downgate?
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