We're a group of professional software developers from Düsseldorf (Germany) trying to develop computer games in our spare time. This is the place where we boast about our achievements and whine about our failures.

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MentalFS's picture

Panzerdämmerung

We haven't paid much attention to Tank You for a while, but here is a little hint how it went on after the tech demo:

Screenshot

The first thing you will see is that you don't see any tanks, but robots. That will be the most significant change in the game. We made that decision to make the game more fast-paced and to have characters that people can identify with and potentially laugh at better.

If you look closely, you can also see some other changes. The land chunks are not visible at the beginning. Currently, they are still pre-generated, but our goal is to dynamically render them out of the explosion. Also, you can see a background layer where the blown-out chunks used to be.

The robot as we designed it is very simple, JBox2D-wise. It's a solid body, where we added a not strictly mounted head for pure decoration, and most importantly a single wheel, used to move. This way we should be able to instantiate many robots without having to worry about performance.

To have the robot actually stand up we had to play some little tricks with JBox2D. Basically, we set the inertia to a value that essentially preventented the body to tilt. Additionally, we correct its angle on every logic update in the code. Since this would look a bit stiff to have them always stand straight, we adjusted the angle we set according to the velocity - for emaple, the left robot you're seeing ist moving to the right. Getting them to move required setting a motor, a construct brought by JBox2D. The can move quite fast now, without the player losing control. Also we are experimenting with jumping.

The question now ist, can we still talk about "Tank You"? I really liked that name...

Development on Tank You ist on hold at the moment in favour of our new project Dead Men Walking. Maybe we will later talk about why we lost motivation to continue (for now). I personally would like to gain some more experience with the other project and then return to this one.

115Volt's picture

New Project

First of all sorry for the great lag in our blog.

TankYou has developed slow but quite nice and changed a lot. I doubt we would even need a new name now, but i won't tell to much till the project is back on our main schedule. We have frozen the TankYou developement for some time to work on an other little neat projekt.

Dead Men Walking is its working title. It is a casual puzzlegame where you have to lead a group of undead from an entrance to an exitpoint. The gamemechanic is inspired by the classic game lemmings but has got some nice tweaks due to the strict top-down-perspective of DMW.

Our main goal ist to finish this miniproject and gain more motivation for our longrun TankYou.

We are thinking of different frontends for DWM: an Applet; a Desktopclient and a mobile Android-App. At the moment we evaluate different engines to figure out which suits best for our needs. An other option is to stay with plain odd java2D.

We hava a running techdemo allready, but the user-interface is quiete wired and the grafics are super-ugly so we decided not to publish it yet and wait some time till we go public with first screens, videos or something playable.

115Volt's picture

Project history

Now that we finally have a tank you project blog i think we should start with a little retrospect in the history of this project. Allthough it seems unbelievable and is quite embarassing this project (resp. it's ancestor) was founded in 1997 under the name "Martes Zibellinae" (latin for sable). The plan was to build a simple clone of worms with little sables instead of worms. We loved worms very much, but thought that quality got lower with every sequel. Since we were still attending school we had a lot of spare time to invest, so we startet without much experience in game development and only basic coding experience.

The first attempt was developed in C++ and used plain Direct X. We got suprisingly far with this attempt and had some demo with destructable terrain, mines und so called "rubber ducks", but without movable sables. "ruber ducks" where supposed to be a special kind of mine which detonates if a sable leaves once he stepped on it. Due to our missing expierience the code quality war aweful and the hole project was hardly maintainable or extandable. There was a bug in the "rubber duck"-ignition logic which we were not able to find no matter how hard we tried it. Finally we declared the first attempt dead and started new right on from the scratch. I would love to show the old demo with it's pixel-graphics to you but unfortunatly it got lost druing a hdd crash (we had less experience in backups and version control too ;) )

In the second attempt we tried to construct a fundament on which we can build a game, so we tried to make a little sprite-engine as abstraction from Direct X. The thing was calles HASE (german for bunny) which is a backronym for (HackAddict Sprite Engine). It could handle animations and had a cool algorithm for the automatic distribution of the sprite graphics on resolution sized offscreen surfaces. I can't remember why the second attempt went wrong, but it did. I guess it was when we left school and had to server our military duty of ten month in the german army (resp. air force). We haven't much spare time and in the little spare time we were busy to waste our payment on drinking ;)

In the third attempt we switched from Direct X to SDL in first instance to make the game plattform independent, but it turned out to be an improvement in nearly every way. SDL is really a nice engine, but that don't kept the project from falling asleep over time.

In the meanwhile we become professional software developers and at work we are developing java applications. Although java hasn't the best reputation for game developement we decided to give it a try and started the forth attempt. We looked into slick but decided to switch to technical 3D and jMonkeyEngine. It worked quiete fine but we had a lot of trouble in terraingeneration and again a lack of experience this time in 3D development.

After this java excursion we went back on C++ and SDL. We builded an engine which i am still very proud of. It handles extendable XML-described game content and was very flexible and performant.This attempt died when we found out that hardware accelerated rotation would be really usefull. SDL support only very slow software rotation and the OGL integration requires much OGL knowledge which we didn't had.

After failing again we decided to change the game concept radically from sables to tanks and the actual design. Sixt time is a charme. As you can see we're back on java with Slick and realtime physics in (j)box2d. We are old and experienced enough and know what we are doing, the only problem is still the lack of spare time which can be invested in TankYou.

Now we're very hot on finishing this project.

MentalFS's picture

How we handle(d) land

As you might know, Tank You started as a completely different game, which was mainly supposed to be yet another clone of Worms. There are still a couple of similarities, but since we switched from animals to tanks a lot has changed, making Tank You more unique (at least in our eyes).

When we started our Tank You ancestor, land was supposed to behave like known in Worms. That means, an explosion should cut out a circle of the land, creating a hole. We didn't exactly know how it was done in the original, but the best guess is that the whole level is a graphic with one color being left out to mark the free space. Actually we can be pretty sure, seeing that this is exactly the format Worms 1 used for custom levels on the Amiga.

So around a decade long, we always used this method of representing land/the level. Of course we had to cut the level to several smaller images. Back then, most graphic cards didn't allow images greater than the screen size. Later it was done just to increase performance. And after switching to Slick, we had to respect the texture sizes from OpenGL and used alpha values instead of a color key.

I would say this was one of the few structures from our code that remained the same all the time and determined how the game looked and felt. Well, it was, until we decided to try a physics engine.

Using a physics engine provided us many benefits: The whole logic of how a bullet flies, when an object has to stop moving after hitting the ground, collision detection and in what angle a tank has to be where it stands is taken over by the engine. But it also has its downsides. Basically everything has to be represented in a way the engine understands. That means, regarding the level: we can't just use an image. The engines we tested want their objects to be polygons.

Translating an image into polygons would either be inaccurate or just madness. We didn't even try that because it would take up more memory than the images themselves. Instead, we threw away our understanding of how land works in the game. Land is now divided into little polygons. This changes a lot: Explosions now can't just cut a hole in the ground. But wouldn't it be boring if the level was undestroyable?

We certainly think so. We decided to add Hitpoints to chunks of land. Land is now maybe not immediately destroyed, but if hit several times, or hard enough, it will be gone. It still looked a bit wrong because we were used to pixel accurate explosions, so it was a sacrifice.

But a little addition makes the new way land is handled brilliant: We can make the chunks movable. When the hitpoints are reduced below a certain treshold, a chunk of land will become loose and fly around. This brings a whole new kind of dynamicity to the game.

They can fall down, they can block the way of your tank. But they can also help you moving over a pit. Maybe some day they will crush you when they hit you, but that's not implemented yet. Until then you can shoot or try to push them out of your way.

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