Saturday, April 30, 2011

My next project: WorldConquest

I started working on a new project during the 2010 Christmas break. It's a turn-based strategy game whose working title is WorldConquest. The final title will differ, as there already are quite a few strategy games with identical or similar names.

The game is loosely based on a game for Atari ST written by Alois Felber from WisiSoft games in 1992.

The new game will feature the same units as the original game. I am planning improvements of my own, some of which are already implemented.

The original game used square tiles, I will be using hexagonal tiles. Although the new game will be turn-based it will use a simultaneous variant where players plan their moves simultaneously. When all players are ready, orders are executed simultaneously. The game will support on-line and hot-seat multiplayer. I have been thinking about and planning AI from day one. Although my experience in this domain
At this point, I have implemented map generation and some parts of AI, namely path finding. Execution of orders is what I am working on now. Design and basic implementation are done, I am testing and fixing bugs.

I am still open about the platforms I will target. The genre should fit hand-held devices such as smart phones and iPad-style tablets. PC and Mac will probably be first, as these are the only platforms that might have the CPU required to run a rough and slow AI. I would also love to publish on Xbox Live Indie Games, but the prospects are uncertain. On one hand this is a genre that isn't much represented on this market, but on the other hand I am not sure console gamers are the right customer base. Moreover, the .Net platform on Xbox features a poor garbage collector which requires code to be written in a very specific way, and I feel designing and implementing AI is challenging enough as it is. Adding constraints on allocation of temporary objects would add to the difficulty, and "optimising" code to work around the weakness of the garbage collector isn't my idea of fun.
To summarize, the platforms will may include the following, ordered by decreasing order of priority and likeliness:
  1. PC / Windows using XNA
  2. Mac and PC/Linux using Mono and possibly a port of XNA
  3. Windows Phone 7 with XNA; although the garbage collector there currently suffers the same problems as on Xbox, announcements were made during MIX11 that the Mango update would introduce a new ephemeral garbage collector
  4. Xbox 360 with XNA if the next update includes improvements to the garbage collector. No announcements have been made, but I'm hoping that Gamefest 2011 will bring positive news.
  5. Android using Mono. I have no idea what technical limitations Mono on Android has when it comes to efficiency and garbage collection, but I'm hopeful the Mono team will be working hard to lift whatever limitations there might be. Unlike Microsoft's .Net, it's also easier to see where Mono is heading.
  6. iPhone and iPad using Mono would be nice, but it does not seem feasible at this time. F# relies on generic virtual methods for function values, which are a corner stone of functional programming. Unfortunately, restrictions on run-time code generation on iPhone (and I guess iPad) make these hard to support. Sadly, this probably means no support for these platforms.
Although the game itself won't be free software, I will update XNAUtils with whatever reusable code I will write. This includes A* path-finding, a UI framework supporting menus and a network component.

I am planning several iterations, steadily moving toward a Civilization-style strategy game. I will release the source code of old iterations as new ones are published.

1 comment:

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