At your service – The user experience

Insane User Experience

Hello everyone!

Looking at this blog posts, we can easily realize we write a lot about programming, but not that much about game-design. One facet of the game-design consists in thinking the user interface (UI). But writing about UI these days is so outdated! Now, people talks about UX, and UX only. Actually, it’s about the user global experience of the game. We can find lots of theories and recommendations all over the Internet.

Factory build queue
Factory build queue

The insane UX process

I have a practical approach about it :

  1. I reasonably code the UI. I want it convenient, plain and understandable.
  2. I test it, you test it,
  3. I improve it.
  4. And so on. Back to step 2.
Energy and Sharp Crysal gauges
Energy and Sharp Crysal gauges

 

The best feedbacks we had so far were from players who tested the game during some fairs (Stunfest, Utopiales)…even if it often makes us start all over again.

Our approach of the Win That War! UI

Why should you have to double-click while a simple click is enough? Why should you have to move the mouse till the very bottom of your screen while the menu could come up in its middle? UI is all about giving the player a nice experience,  that’s why I try to remain faithful to those principles :

  • every clickable component (no matter if 2D or 3D) has to react on mouse-over
  • every change in the game has to be visually and easily identifiable…
  • …and every visual change has to be the exact reflection of the simulation (damages, building progression, etc.)
  • at one time, necessary information only have to be showed up depending of the situation
  • in order not to penalize the player, the action has to be restricted ( ONE click, ONE button, ONE mouse-move…)
  • the more common is an operation, the more it has to be simple to execute.
  • for every action, we’ve integrated visual and sound feedback to easily inform the player that this action was taken into consideration.

Well, well, well…written like this, it may sounds really easy to do, but actually it requires a lot of work…

Feedbacks building tank traps
Feedbacks building tank traps

Since my latest post about UI, we worked on the conception of a brand new animated SVG-based panel. The UI is entirely javascript-coded.  And I’m using only 3 external libraries :

Jquery (I mean…How I’m supposed to do without it?)

-requirejs (To fill Javascript major gaps)

-snap (To easily manipulate the SVG)

 

 

 

The new alpha version of Win That War! will be released soon, so you could test it and send us your feedbacks. Then “back to step 2″

WinThatWar! presentation pitch

A meeting for Rennes startups

We were Thursday, March 5, 2015, the winter breeze was whipping our faces … and yet, despite the cold, we went to the Pitchcamp, co-organized by Telecom Bretagne and “la Cantine Numérique rennaise”. If you  never have  heard of it, it is an opportunity for young companies, startups, to present their project in front of an heterogenous audience, all digital and technological innovations enthusiasts. That’s us. That’s totally us ! That’s why we did this presentation. This also gave us the opportunity to see what else is developed these days  in Rennes digital ecosystem. Once again, it was quite heterogeneous.

On the agenda: Some apps and connected devices  giving all kinds of  sports results and statistics. Long-distance social -drinking with friends. Softwares to help businesses to reach their customers or to detect online fraud.

 A video is worth a thousands words

So, we just  landed in the middle of all of that, with our slides to tell them about video games, retro-futurism, and persistent universes. You dreamed about a clear and simple presentation of WinThatWar!? We hope this video will satisfy you.

Brand new generators

Let’s end the week (and the month) smoothly, and with some pictures. Philemon worked his fingers to the bones this month, and after the air units, we now can show you some of the buildings that will be integrated in the future. So, we have a lot of pretty things to show you, and today our brand new generator is in the spotlight.

Once upon a time : Tesla

Concept generator 2 Insane UnityAs every creation, this generator was born of a mix between some selected references and our artist’s imagination. This time, he kind of felt in love with a nice monument which quite inspired him.

If you’re a geek-person, or if you have an inquiring mind (even if you’re an electricity specialist or if you are well up in general knowledge…it’s ok, no judgement) you might already have heard the name of Nikola Tesla. Tesla was a great scientist and an very creative man. He is behind many discoveries and innovations in the wide world of electric energy.  But Hey, nor you nor us are on here for a History class, and you probably could find loads of information about that dear Nikola all over the Internet.

Well, why are we writing about that ? Actually, because the Las Vegas “Tesla fountain” commemorative monument was the main reference used by Philemon to design the Generator. You can take a look here and here. You might well notice some elements you’ll also find on the illustrations below.

And there was the Generator

Concept Generator Insane Unity
As you can imagine, our generator is used to…generate energy.  As a power (or nuclear) station, once built, this building produces energy that will be used by your other buildings and units. However, be careful not to overuse its power, otherwise BOOM !

3D generator Insane Unity

Wait…we didn’t noticed him, but Michel (our robot-engineer) is on this screenshot. You, little scamp!

Have a nice weekend.

Artificial Intelligence, part 4: Congestion

Here is the 4th part of my Win That War’s IA series. Today, I’ll write about flocking behavior.

Let’s start with a video. A tanks army is riding through a canyon. If you give a look to the left side of the video you can see that the units are lining up, which put them at the mercy of an ambush. It also takes a while before they finally cross the mountain. Now, the right side of the video. As you can see, the units take the canyon’s entire width, and quickly arrive to the other side.

This noticeable improvement is simply due to the use of a flocking algorithm.

Because of my early affection for the flowfield technique, which is notably used in Planetary Annihilation and Supreme Commander 2, until now I neglected this type of algorithm.  Actually, a well settled flowfield allows to go without using flocking: the units have a natural behavior, then the congestion and collision issues are efficiently solved.

But here is the thing: I figured that using the  flowfield generates two problems. First one is that it’s hard to optimize, and that Win That War! maps vastness involves a huge memory consumption. The second one is that the paths computed by the flowfield solver are approximative, and it’s a real issue when a robot has to go through a dense base, slaloming between hard-to-cross buildings.

So… I just threw  everything to get back to a more simple but efficient “Weighted A*” algorithm. IA code just got more “thin”, and the performances got better. But, you know, nothing is that easy, and with that kind of algorithm, we fall right back into congestion issues. That may be why you had a bad time crossing mountains with a big army in the Alpha 0.2 version.

 

That’s why I decided to add a flocking stage.

Your fingers are getting itchy and you want to try this by yourself? You’ll find a nice introducing method here.

In the end, the choice of a pathfinding algorithm really has a strong impact on the game, not only on  the bugs… Flocking makes the game a little more “nervous”, and units behavior seems different.

The future will tell us if we made a good choice.

 

Warning ! Air units deployment.

If you already played to our Alpha-Demo (If you don’t, jogtrot to this website : http://www.indiedb.com/games/win-that-war) you know that, in Win That War!, there is some tanks, which drive…on the floor. Well, that was a good beginning, but not enough. If you would like to have a go at these damn tanks and engineers, you might need some air units. What a coincidence, that’s precisely what we are working on these days.

fighter bomber1

Concept arts, icons, place-holders, integration… and here they are, our very first bombers flying across the map. Actually, well, that wasn’t that easy. Those little flying guys had first decided that it would be funnier for them to become some kind of underground units. I mean, we had some issues integrating them at first, and the bombers were buried under the sand, showing only their cock-pit and vertical stabilizer. We just deleted the evidences about that. And everybody and every unit went back to their place, in the air or on the ground.

Concept_Bomber_Light_05

If you’re a lucky guy, you might experiment these firsts air units in Win That War! next release. Hope you’ll put it to good use.

Meanwhile, you now can have a quick overview of what is coming.

bomber_animated
 

Pitch my game – Meeting at Epitech engineers’ school

January 21st, we were present at the 2nd edition of the Pitch my game BZH (understand Breizh – Britain) at Rennes’ Epitech school. We were there to introduce our game, Win That War! in front of about a hundred of persons, most of them also working in the Video Game industry : SNJV (National Video Games Association in France), 3 Hit Combo (Rennes’ crew organizing the Stunfest convention every year). And some other independent video games’ developers : Ballistic Frogs, Wako Factory and Triskell Interactive, among others.

This “around Video games” meeting gave us the opportunity to observe the public reaction towards our more or less technical presentation of Win That War! It appears that most people enjoyed it. Some of our colleagues really pleased us with kind encouraging comments and compliments. It feels good. Doing the presentation of a video game, or any creative work, when it still in progress, is always a challenge. It might be really clear for the artist or developer himself, but it’s always hard to explain to others. Fortunately, there is some videos of the event. Unfortunately, there is no english subtitles. If you want to watch it anyway (if you understand french, or if you just want to have a look at the slides & demo), here it is :

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you’ve got some questions about the game itself, we’ll try to answer it in a future blog post.

Yoon

The Insane Unity team came on Tchouri!

IU on Tchouri

“That’s one small step for Win That War!, one giant leap for Insane Unity” – Khaleepso alias Lola, on-live on Tchouri comet.

On Wednesday afternoon, Philae landed on “Tchouri” comet. Win That War! congrats the European Space Agency (ESA) for this breakthrough in the Space Conquest and for the incredible discoveries it will certainly bring to us.

Like CNES (but with a smaller crew), we are also working busily. Philemon and I are working on a new website for the game, which will takes place at http://www.winthatwar.com, while Doom and Etham are writing technical documents.

Khaleepso.

Win That War! 0.2 alpha is out

I have been told that many people’s dream is to be paid to play videogames. They would be disappointed ! Testing a videogame is harassing work. ;-)

Philemon, Doom and I just spent 3 days playing at Win That War! in LAN. Every time the story repeats : we start developping our eco, establishing a strategy, getting into it, really, and PAF !: big crash. No choice but to get back to the code to fix the problem, then to start, again, another game, then another. Now the program is stable.

The gameplay is still basic, but it already gives a fair idea of the kind of game we want it to be. You can download this new release (0.2 Alpha) on IndieDB.

Win Thar War ! Alpha Demo (0.2)

 

Once more, we’ll be happy to have your feedback, remarks and ideas !

E-deportivamente,

Etham

Back from holidays

Hi fellows,

After some holidays, the entire team is back to work.
Philemon is still working on the typography and we hope we’d be able to show you soon the (almost?) definitive version of our logo title.
He’s doing a great job on it and it takes a lot of time because the typography and effects’ choice will really represents the Win That War! identity.

Doom also worked a lot these days and you could enjoy a local multiplayer game mode.
Yes, you well understand : the next release will give you the possibility to play with your best friend or your boss and just blow his units off, because yeah, you’re the boss and you know it.

And what’s doing Etham during this time ? He’s working on the graphical user interface.

Stay tuned,

Yoon (Oh, me ? I’m intern at Insane Unity for a couple of weeks and I’m here to take care of you, Warers)

Nodes “à la carte”

Hi everyone!

Let me introduce myself: my name is Rémi, intern at Insane Unity for 2 months. During this period, I developed the terrain editor of Win That War!.

As you may already know if you’ve read this first article by Doom, our maps are modeled by shaders using noise generators. This technique has the particularity to generate a infinite game space, simply by changing the value of the seed. Also, the use of shaders allow to harness the power of your (so expensive) graphics card.

The editor I was commissioned to create aims at making the creation of environments more enjoyable. Indeed, instead of typing dreadful lines of code, it provides an editable graph that describes the shape of the terrain with interconnected nodes. Especially, this should let Philemon create maps without risking a nervous breakdown.

World Generator Terrain Heightmap Node Graph

The graph is made of two parts:

  • the heightmap
  • the splatmap

The first describes the the relief of the map. It mainly uses noise generator nodes to form terrain layers that are combined to each other.

The second is a logical system that determines where to draw each texture depending on the terrain characteristics (e.g. snow on the peaks, grass on the plain).

The result is directly rendered in the editor. Then the designer feels free to import textures, modify the nodes parameters and have fun exploring the world of which he is the god. Once the work is finished, we simply export the template in to the game to have access to a new environment, which we can generate an infinite number of battlefields for you, players.

World Generator Terrain Heightmap Node Graph

You are now well informed. If like me you are drooling profusely while waiting to walk on these alien lands, you will have to wait a little (someone’s whispering in my ear that a multiplayer version will be released in early fall).

Now, I said “goodbye” to you because my internship ends this day. It was a pleasure.

Long live Insane Unity! Long live Win That War!

Rémi

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