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Week of November 9, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

75 LTBucks awarded :cool:

Why 75? Well, obviously I didn't hit the devlog time. But that's understandable...I'm going to blame it on the cold that I've come down with thanks to the frigid Tennessee winter. If I had been able to stay awake until 12PM, I would have gotten 175 :cry: Oh well. But why 75 instead of 100? Well, warp rails work!! But the splitting/merging of lanes isn't fully implemented. Luckily, the most intense parts of the logic are all done and working! That's right, today I got to take my first ride on the rails :D It's already exciting without the VFX & SFX...but I can't wait to see what it'll be like when I add the graphics and sound :) :squirrel:

Today was intense, to say the least. There was a lot of math involved in getting lane allocation nailed down. When you think about it, what I've really written is like malloc (the C memory allocator), but with wedges in a cylinder, rather than linear blocks of memory. And it works!! Cool :D

Watching a rail test with 100 AI ships of varying sizes was quite rewarding :geek: Since splitting/merging of lanes is not complete, some ships are simply unable to enter until a lane frees up. But with another hour or two, that'll be changed. It's still so cool to watch a bunch of ships zip along those rails, even without effects.

In addition, I didn't quite get around to locking ships inside their lane, so the trajectories of ships are still a bit...dangerous :ghost: But locking is easy and should require maybe another 15 minutes or so. Lanes are already safely computed, so it's just a matter of locking a ship into that lane rather than just 'pulling' it toward the next waypoint along the rail.

Just need another day of solid work on these rails and things should be in great shape!

Now, tomorrow? Let's lay down some rewards. 100 LTBucks for impressive VFX AND SFX of the rails. It's gotta be compelling. Partial rewards are available for good but not great effects, but I want to push myself to achieve excellence! No reward for completion of all logic -- that should be a given. In fact, I might deduct some bucks if, for some crazy reason, rail logic isn't 100% done after tomorrow. Finally, I'd like to offer 200 LTBucks for a major stretch goal of AI that is fully-capable of using rails. That means AI tasks must use pathfinding, handle requests to enter a rail, etc. I don't anticipate that this can be completed in a day, but it's worth posting a bounty ;) 100 LTBucks for 12PM EST, although it seems I have a pretty bad track record of delivering on that one :roll: :oops:

So excited to see this work come to completion!!

PS ~ In theory, rails don't have to be perfectly linear. Every rail segment (e.g., the rail that joins to intermediary nodes) must be linear, but the overall path can have some curvature to it. We need to be careful here, because the math to compute non-colliding lanes with arbitrary curvature is something into which I'm not going to delve. But if we apply a bit of 'padding' to each lane (e.g., allocate a lane that is slightly too large for the requested object's size), we can safely add 'a bit' of curvature to the overall lane. I know, it's scary throwing around those words without mathematical precision, but I'll be doing plenty of testing to figure out exactly how much I can safely bend the lanes.

PPS ~ I took an hour-long break today from the warp rail logic to see how far I could push the double-precision engine. I've been curious to do this for a while, since I haven't actually established where it breaks down. The systems I've shown are large (large enough that a single-precision engine couldn't handle them), but make no mistake, they're absolutely tiny compared to what the engine can actually handle. Well, it turns out that I start to lose noticeable precision at coordinate values of around 10 trillion meters (10 billion km). When I say 'start to lose noticeable precision,' I mean that the motion of objects is visibly jerky. So, knowing the scales of ships and camera motion, I would guess that this means we are getting centimeter accuracy out to roughly 1 trillion meters. That's pretty absurd (the current systems are in the realm of 10 million meters or so). So for those of you who want to make a 'realistic scale mod,' or at least a 'close-to-realistic-scales mod,' just know that the LT engine is very friendly and very much ready to take on some absurdly-large game worlds :) :squirrel: We can't quite do a full-sized solar system with cm accuracy, but we can certainly create spaces that are bafflingly-large enough to provide the illusion of real space :D
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” ~ Henry Ford

Re: Week of November 9, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

Yikes. No LTBucks for me today :cry: Sorry guys, but I'd prefer just to pretend this day didn't happen. Between hitting the peak of my cold and the effects of the cold meds, my brain was functioning at maybe 25% capacity today. Add that to the fact that my body decided to take a generous helping of 16 hours of sleep today, and you're left with a rather sad, LTBuckless Josh :ghost: :|

Luckily, I didn't lose anything, because I did manage to finish the rest of the rail logic, including lane-locking and splitting / merging of lanes. This resulted in some pretty exciting tests, including 256 ships on the same rail! Very fun to watch. I meticulously ensured that the allocator was working properly and avoiding collisions...and it succeeded! Although it's a bit scary to see so many ships in close proximity flying down the rail at high speeds, it's indeed as safe as I promised! I tested directionality as well -- flying in the opposite direction as those 256 ships and passing through them in the blink of an eye. Thrilling indeed, but no collisions of which to speak! Just...make sure to buckle your seat-belts :D

In the short amount of time that I've had to partake of the new rail system, I've come to love it even more than I first anticipated. Why? A few reasons. Perhaps above all else, what I love about it is that it actually highlights the beauty of the LTverse rather than taking away from it. What I mean is that, in travelling on the rail, you get to watch your surroundings pass by, gaze at the stars, and just enjoy a relaxing trip through the universe. Planets, asteroids, dust, stations, and miners hard at work -- all of it becomes scenery on a lovely voyage through space. It hadn't really occurred to me before that a tunnel mechanism would take away from that beauty rather than expose it. After logging some serious rail time today, though, I can say very confidently that I love this approach! It feels right. It feels minimal yet atmospherically beautiful, which, if you think about it, is really a good description of the LT 'feel.' In addition, the actual node / rail graphics are minimal enough that they don't detract at all from space. If anything, I find them to be a lovely little accent to it :)

Another unanticipated consequence of the rail system is a really nice sense of scale. To be fair, this would have happened with tunnels or 'warp lanes' as well. But I love how the gentle glow of the rails and the warp nodes provides a much-needed sense of scale to space. When you approach a node to jump onto the rail, you will see that the nodes are quite large compared to your ship, unless you're already in a pretty massive capital ship. And yet, as the scenery passes you by, you notice that the passing nodes look absolutely minuscule in comparison to the surroundings -- the asteroids, the planets, the stations. Yes, those asteroids really are massive! Today I had some of those rare moments where the scale of LT space was impressed upon me. This doesn't happen as often as I'd like, because scale is such a difficult thing to perceive in space. Flying down the rail, though, I realized just how vast everything really was. Taking a trip from one side of an asteroid field to another, I could appreciate the magnitude of it all. I could build a massive empire in here, in this one field, I thought to myself. A city of huge production stations...and it would still be but a splash in this vast ocean of space :geek:

Although I don't have the rail SFX yet, I do have some nice ambient drones emitting from the warp nodes, and hearing those drones fly by as you make your way down the rail is another lovely part of the voyage.

It's also worth noting that a trip on the rail does not stop you from accessing your menu, using your scanner, etc. So if you tire of the scenery during long voyages, you can always spend some time perusing the local markets, checking up on your fleet, etc. You can even pop open the scanner and look for interesting signatures as you fly through the fields -- a rather neat way to sweep large swathes of space!

Ok. So, like I said, let's pretend that today didn't happen. All the rewards are still on the table from yesterday, and tomorrow I think I'll be on the tail end of my cold. Let the magic continue so that we can finally bring update #21 to the surface! :monkey:

PS ~ Since I was out of daytime meds, I made the mistake of taking Nyquil during the day today. Dunno if you've ever tried that but...don't :shock: Pretty sure that stuff could knock an elephant out :lol:
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” ~ Henry Ford

Re: Week of November 9, 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Alright. So I've been known to be too optimistic. Turns out that's what happened with my health status.

I feel awful about it, but I spent all day in bed :( Surprisingly, the thought of having to settle for an unimpressive dev log was less painful than the thought of getting out of bed. Which is pretty scary when you consider that each unimpressive devlog costs me a small piece of my soul :shock: :roll:

Anyway. It is what it is. Terrible timing and mighty frustrating to be sick at this time. A rather obnoxious reminder that I'm human, I guess.

Try again tomorrow? :ghost:

Sorry for the letdown guys...I know you all want that update almost as much as I do :thumbdown:
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” ~ Henry Ford

Re: Week of November 9, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Back to...50%ish :| And I'm awarding myself a paltry 50 LTBucks for the day!! Woohoo!

No, not terribly impressive, but in my still-high-on-cold-meds state, I at least managed to delve into some warp lane visual and audio candy. It's not awesome yet, hence the minor award. But it's getting there! I also started on AI utilization of the rails. Again, not finished, but once healthy/lucid Josh returns, he should have no problem wrapping it up.

Instead of dwelling on that work, I'd like to speak a bit about my continued experiences with entering a half-dream state in search of inspiration, which is a fantastic activity when sneezing and sniffling cause one to just want to lay back in the chair and let the eyes droop shut. I'm not sure if it's due to the cold meds, or the continual practice of this strange art (as I said a while back, I've been practicing for about a month), or some combination of the two, but today brought a fascinating and highly-successful exploration of my subconscious -- by far the most successful I've had to date. Within it I found an abundance of inspiration and beauty related to LT, and even found some great technical insight. I realized that I need to do a better job of keeping in touch with this subconscious 'dream' of Limit Theory; after all, it's the dream that has pulled me so far in making this thing a reality. Interestingly, it was the first day wherein I had the idea to keep my keyboard on my lap as I drifted into dream land, which allowed me to record flashes of subconscious inspiration. Perhaps surprisingly, typing is physically-minimal enough that it doesn't disrupt a half-dream too much.

So you all think I'm crazy now, yes? :roll: :lol: :ghost:

("Attention crew: this is Admiral Adama. DRADIS shows incoming wave of abstractness. Brace for impact!")

But seriously, I had some important revelations that started to tie together a great deal of my previous thinking on the relationship between objects and object types, attributes, and research (since research is intimately related to those attributes). I started to develop a mechanism for how all types of things could be represented by attractors in a unified attribute space. For example, if we could define a set of unified attributes that can fully describe all weapons in the LT universe (a difficult problem, no doubt, because we would like to think that beam weapons are quite fundamentally different from missiles...but...are they really? Could we not quantify that difference using a unified set of attributes?), then we could encode the idea of weapon types (pulse, rail, beam, etc.) by simply placing some number of 'attractors' in that space of attributes. Then, when we generate a weapon, we simply sample a random point in that attribute space, but apply the attractors afterward. The result is that the weapon gets 'pulled' towards what we might think of as the standard set of weapon types. This produces far more coherence than pure random generation. Yet, we can still maintain a unified continuity between all weapons, meaning that the implementation is shared, but also meaning that we can occassionally get some bizarre, exotic results (what would a weapon whose attributes are stuck halfway between a beam and a missile look like!?) I'm going to apply some more thought in this direction after I push this update out, because I know that my subconscious is onto something! This is something that I've hit on before with the research mechanism (research operates on attributes), but I've never seen it so clearly, nor have I ever realized that coherence in attribute space can be created by warping that space with attractors.

Although I probably won't be using this mechanism for weapons since I've already got so much code in place, I can tell you that I almost certainly will be applying this technique to colonies! I've always been bothered by having to define some preset number of colony types. I would do much better, I think, to define a unified colony attribute space, and then place some attractor points within that space. This would give colonies a very real uniqueness. Despite uniqueness, we could still classify them according to the closest attractor! In other words, we can still say 'this colony is an agricultural colony,' because the attributes lie closest to the agricultural attractor point. Yet, the colony would remain unique from other agricultural colonies. You see, it's the difference between colony type as a set of values and colony type as a classification based on a set of values. Sure, it sounds abstract, but I promise, this is going to yield some very concrete benefits!! It's strange how so many patterns are starting to emerge in different places -- these attractors distort attribute space in the same way that PlateMesh warps distort geometry; the classification works in the same way that the game determines which zone you're currently in, etc. I guess it makes sense, though: at the end of the day, it's all just math! :shock: :geek:

Ah! Also forgot to mention that I started on 'custom items' today! We've got LTSL widgets, we've got LTSL objects, we've got LTSL AI what's missing? LTSL item types! Time to complete the circle of rapid prototyping :) Will speak more about this after update 21, at which time I'll begin to leverage it as I've been leveraging custom objects / widgets this month.

Alright, now that I've firmly established that I've gone off my rocker, I think I'll wrap this one up :oops: Speaking of wrapping it up, as soon as my voice is back to sounding like a living, healthy human being, I'll be filming the update. I've pretty much got it all where I want it, and am ready and excited to let you all have a look at the beginning / continuation of the LT content explosion :D

I'm only going to put one reward on the table for tomorrow, because it's the only one that I really really want at this point: 12PM EST. Come on now. Tired of this devlog deficit! 100 LTBucks, as usual. Go get 'em, monkey! :geek: :monkey:

PS ~ Seriously, thanks for bearing with me through this log. I know that was a bit...crazy. But it's been a while since I've gone off on one of my crazy, abstract tangents, has it not? :oops: Hopefully this rhinovirus isn't eating away at my rationality... :ghost:

PPS ~ It occurs to me now that I should start calling this 'meditation' -- sound a bit less crazy, yes? :roll:
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” ~ Henry Ford

Re: Week of November 9, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Just can't seem to win against time, can I? :? Well at least I'm winning against one thing: my cold :) Back to 75% today and things are starting to get back to normal. About time.

Spent some more quality time with graphics and audio today (both in the warp rail department as well as elsewhere), and quite pleased with some of the developments:
  • Nice new effect where the dynamic dust (the dust clouds that move as you pass by them) is lit up by the central star. Makes for a really nice sight when you happen to be riding a rail through a dusty zone toward the star :)
  • God rays (light shafts) are back in full-force ;)
  • Implemented a new radial blur & aberration effect for high-speed travel, in particular, for warp rail usage. Adds a nice accent to remind you that you're going rather fast on the rails :geek: I can definitely see this effect being useful for wormhole VFX as well, whenever those come to fruition.
  • Improved HUD with distance culling for world nodes. Significantly reduces clutter.
  • Improved procedural weapon generation to stabilize munition lifetimes (I found that some pulse weapons were lasting nearly half a minute... :shock:)
Hoping to be back to full speed tomorrow and in good shape to bring this puppy to a close :)
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” ~ Henry Ford

Re: Week of November 9, 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014

Tremendous day :D Finally back to ~100% and the pre-update code is once again flowing at full-speed :geek:

I focused pretty heavily today on the feeling of motion in LT, both to put the final oomph into warp lane usage, as well as to inject some fresh life into flying a ship. Here's a little taste of the progress:
  • Implemented a subtle camera shake effect that indicates high velocities
  • Improved the radial motion blur even more -- looks really nice, especially during rail journeys!
  • Improved the passing dust flecks to be both more subtle yet more prominent at the same time :shock:
  • Worked on the sound engine to get proper doppler effects! This actually makes the warp rail experience even better -- hearing the drone of passing nodes with a doppler shift really helps convey just how fast you're going. There's also an 'exiting the rail' sound at the end, and hearing that one with the doppler shift is awesome :D
  • Improved ship thruster sounds to convey a better feeling of motion and high speeds
Between all these improvements, flying your ship feels a lot better than it did yesterday. Riding on the rails feels a whole lot better. I'm a happy Josh! :) I still didn't get around to adding subtle sounds to pitching, yawing, and rolling...I think that would also go a long way in making flying feel better. But I'll do that tomorrow! Just need to find the right sounds :)

Unfortunately, my sleep hours are absolutely killing my ability to get on top of the devlog deficit at the moment. Something needs to be done :shock: :ghost:
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” ~ Henry Ford

Re: Week of November 9, 2014

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Argh....hate to do this to you guys, but this is getting out of hand! I'm going to go ahead and institute a devlog savings day so that we can get these things back on track :ghost:

Lots of progress coming your way!! Will be posting the next one well in advance of 12PM EST :)

The beast dies today! No more shall you plague our happy little devlog!

See you soon :wave:

:ghost: :ghost: :ghost:
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” ~ Henry Ford

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