Our power storages do more than just store power. They also reset the additional power cost for buildings more than two tiles from a power plant, which is a pretty easy concept to grasp in our game. And a power storage has access to all the power you have, even if it is not connected to a power plant, which is much harder concept to grasp in Powargrid. I wrote an earlier blog post about the design decisions that went into this choice.
Unfortunately we found, in our (still limited) playtesting, that the concept of power storages that get power 'magically beamed' to them was too confusing for our test subjects (read: our friends during a LAN party at my place). The strange thing is that none of them have ever found it the least bit strange that in games like Supreme Commander power AND metal get magically beamed between buildings and moving units. The difference of course is that Powargrid only lets you build in places where you have power, not wherever you have an engineer or some such.
That initially lead us to the depressing conclusion that the confusion is something inherent in the mechanics we designed, which would mean that the problem is unsolvable without changing those mechanics. But since such a change would add a lot of unfun to Powargrid, this is not a road we're willing to follow.
Eventually it dawned on us that there IS something in a name and that changing the name could make the whole thing less confusing, even though a power storage would explode as sweet by any other name. The name power storage implies not only that it stores power, but also that it can be emptied. So we decided to change the name to substation. We hope that with this much more general name, the functions of the substation will become more intuitive to grasp. Only testing will tell.
The names have been changed in the missions (though not yet in the build on the site). Turned out that doing so was very little work, even though I had to rewrite parts of dialogues here and there. The hard part was actually making the decision. The hardest part will be to stop referring to power storages.
Blender is a great program. It's powerful and free of charge. The downside is that it's hard to learn how to use it. I've been trying to do so off and on for the last couple of months, with a big extra speed boost during our hackweek.
One of the most frustrating aspects of familiarizing yourself with Blender is that sometimes, things happen and you have no idea why. The classical thing almost everyone runs into (if you look at the books, websites and tutorial videos) is that every now and then, something you select will stick to your cursor. But not always. Turns out that if you hold your right mouse button (yes, the right one, you read that correctly), for a little too long, you select AND grab at once.
Hackweek was chock full of Blendering for me, so I encountered multiple issues just like this. There is the knife tool, which doesn't work predictably (for a beginner like me) if you have an edge split modifier active or there are overlapping edges (especially ones you aren't aware of). Another thing is caused by the numerous hotkeys Blender has. Don't get me wrong, hotkeys are one of the ways in which Blender is absolutely great, but it does introduce the possibility of accidentally toggling things on and off. Which you don't notice. Until things start to go wrong.
Take for instance the hotkey o. Last weekend I tried to rotate an octagon I'd added to a model. But instead of rotating just my selection. The surrounding vertices were dragged along. OK, that's not what I had in mind. I tried again, with the same result. I removed the octagon and added a new one, with the same result. I saved and restarted Blender, with the same result. So, with all else having failed, I decided to RTFM (which means Google-ing it). But what to search for? 'Blender rotate drags vertices'? 'Blender rotate affects surroundings'? 'Oh Blender, why did you change for no apparent reason'? 'Google, tell me why my Blender is broken! I have work to finish!'?
What I'm trying to say is that finding the answer is easy if you know that what's happening is called proportional edit. But if you knew that, it wouldn't be that much of a problem. As it was, I spent a very frustrating half hour before I finally found that the o key switches proportional edit on and off. I guess I accidentally hit it when I tried to separate a selection (with p).
Eventually though, the frustration wears off and the knowledge remains. At least, I don't think I'll soon forget about proportional edit and the o key. And at that point you realize that these time-consuming incidents are not the worst way, but the best worst of learning Blender. And of learning to do anything, really. If you endure the frustration and don't let it stop you from searching for the answer, you'll get better rapidly. Even if it doesn't feel so at the time.
So I'm glad to say that I'm becoming better at Blendering. My best guesstimate is that I have only 3826 accidental key strokes left before I'm completely fluent :).
It's (a)live! The new Powargrid alpha is up. In this release:
Sometimes tiny changes make a big difference! We've got a bridge spanning a cloud covered ravine, and with the terrain at the bottom being completely flat, you get these ugly, straight edges to the clouds where they intersect the terrain.
We were afraid we'd have to redo the terrain to make the gorge deeper so it wouldn't show, but instead, I just made the bottom a little bumpy, and presto!
Dear diary: casualty numbers are rising fast and morale is at an all time low. We're running out of firewood, so the bitter cold may claim us before the undead do. I fear this may be my last entry.
Actually, we're just having loads of fun and getting a lot done. Too bad the week is almost over!
That's more like it! Now to add some special effects and it's good to go.
All the basic building models have been modeled, rigged, and thoroughly tested (we sit back and watch four AIs blow each other up).
We've got one more mission we want to wrap up this week, and we'll upload a new release to the site for you to play with. Check back soon!
Good morning! Michiel here, with another quick update. Rebuilding the models is a lot of work, but we're making pretty good progress! I figured I'd play around a bit with Fraps and Movie Maker to post another movie, this time of the new shockwave tower model being blown up:
Next and last model to rebuild is the power plant, and then I'll probably work on some more campaign levels. Willem is modeling an old temple, which you'll have to fight the red blobbies over in the jungle. Until now we only had some placeholders:
Things to do today: break stuff! In a good way!
As buildings take damage, we swap in different models to show, well, that they've taken damage. Some buildings eventually start smoking or emitting sparks. Then, when they are destroyed, they explode into pieces. To make that happen, Willem cuts them up in Blender, and Michiel uses the Unity physics engine to blow them apart. Then, we cackle maniacally. Ahahahaha!
Michiel has been fixing bugs and working on some special effects. For a certain mission, Willem wanted to levitate a ball on beams of lightning. Don't worry, it sort of makes sense!
Hiya, Michiel here! Willem and I have both taken a week off from work, hoping to get a lot done on Powargrid. This may involve pizza and large quantities of coffee. We're also gonna try to do a mini blog post every day.
I'm going to start with the dialog system, letting it remember which dialog options you've chosen so characters can refer back to that in future missions. Willem is working on the new models for damaged buildings.
Alright, here goes... Ready, set.... hack!
We're Michiel and Willem. Hi!