Track

So it has been awhile since I wrote anything here. But quite a lot has happened. The last thing I wrote about was the Xbox play test of some Small Engine stuff. I don’t exactly know how to sum that up. I am no longer working on the Small Engine, and I am not sure if it is because I don’t think it is as important as I thought it was, or if it was because I finished it. By working on it for a long time, I gained a lot of useful skills and programs that I can re-use in my future projects. In fact, a lot of what showed up in the April test is stuff I still use in every game project I start. If an engine is a set of tools, then I think the Small Engine is pretty much done. With that being said, I don’t feel guilty admitting that I moved onto a new project called Track.

Track is a game that has been sitting in the back of my head for years now. While hiking down Blueberry Mt in N. Chatham NH, my dad and I came up with this idea. It was going to be like pong, but on a circle, and not really like pong at all. As we discussed, and as the years rolled on, my friends and I developed the idea into a giant physics fluster cluck. Every time I sat down to try writing the game, I got stuck on a technical aspect, and so I was unable to make this awesome game that existed only in my head. Until this past summer while on vacation in NH. With a burst of technical inspiration, I got a quick prototype of the game done. When I came home, I submitted it to the http://bostonfig.com/ . I showed my game to a lot of people, and they all seemed to like it enough to give me an award for game design. From there, I took a break to make sure I passed all my courses at WPI, and after that it was back to Track. Since I started back up again, I estimate that around 25 hours have gone into Track.

Track’s end goal is to wind up on XBLA, which means it needs to run smoothly on the Xbox. Sadly, the bostonfig version only ran at a stunning 2 fps on my 360. But the new version I have been working on runs at a nice 40-60  (usually). There are still lots of things to do on performance. And there are still lots of things to do game play wise.

I have said all this, and yet I have not really said what Track IS yet. Track is a top down 2D shooter game. It is currently only really a local multiplayer action game, but soon I should get some of the single player elements in, which are going to be a bit slower paced with a puzzle here and there. In Track, your objective is to kill everyone else. The big catch to Track is that you confined to a “Track” on which you can either go forwards, or backwards. Luckily, the Track bends and twists, so you can blast your guns off the track at your enemies on the other side. You also have the ability to detach from the Track in an attempt to attach somewhere else. But being separated from the Track has some disadvantages, namely being you cannot steer very well, and you only have 5 seconds to live.

Here is a video of the current version. [I can’t seem to make it autoplay at HD, despite linking it with the ?hd=1 tag. You should change it to HD]

YouTube Preview Image

For people who have been following this already, here are the big changes…

  1. new spawning system. Instead of exploding onto the track into the middle of chaos and certain doom, players who respawn fly towards the Track from off screen, and then have 2 seconds of invulnerability. During this time, they may not shoot.
  2. Changed all the weapon visuals (slightly). Everything is a bit more slick and sexy now. Lots of particles, yo.
  3. The ‘Laser’ weapon that cuts the Track deals a lot more damage. If you get hit with the laser, chances are you are dead.
  4. The enemy AI has been updated to be able to form teams with humans.
  5. New kind of AI. They are the orange buggers in the video. They have very little health, and will pester players by shooting pulse shots at them. In small numbers, these guys are not a threat, but once they achieve a critical mass, they become very dangerous.
  6. Player’s energy level is now represented by a white inner circle instead of a black circle.
  7. The aiming dot is now a large aiming line. In the video, the green player is the only human player, so the aiming line only shows up for them.
  8. Hot-joining. instead of having to start a new game to change the amount of players in a match, a person can pick up a controller, press start, and instantly hop into the game. When they have had enough, they can press start again, and leave the game.
  9. And a lot of technology changes. The largest of which would be how the Track is represented in data, and how Missiles detect the Track. Instead of using a grid spatial partitioning system like before, they snap their position to a grid position. There is no grid in memory, but the positions are just vectors. Then that vector breaks down into a unique hash code (x*3*y*7), and is remembered by the program. When a Missile wants to find possible Track pieces to collide with, it just checks if there are any Track pieces with the same hash code as itself.

 

I think that is it for now. I am really excited with the progress so far. The fps increase from 2 to 60 on the Xbox is really fantastic. If anyone wants to know more, just shoot me an email at cdhanna@wpi.edu

 

Follow The Track.

 

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