The future of Chaos?

This is a tricky issue to debate, and a bit of a rant, but.. what really is the future of Chaos?

I am realistic enough to know that Chaos themed games will never prove as popular as mainstream games. I feel the gameplay and this style of game is really great. I also see that it is often talked of favourably in games magazines like Edge, and GamesTM. But despite this, I can’t see new players embracing the game or being at all interested due to the dated gfx, antiquated user interface and lack of modern features and effects. Sad perhaps, but that’s how it works in the games world..

And what I really want to do, besides making Chaos even easier, fun and better, is to make it more popular!

Even though I appreciate all the support and comments here, the Chaos community is somewhat fickle with long periods of inactivity on the gooey blob group, and no central site to keep things current and active. I tried to do this with forums and blogs on my homemade zunked site, but I found it too difficult to maintain while designing and programming the game. I don’t want to see Chaos die, yet games like X-Com and Laser Squad Nemesis are proof to me that this genre can be reborn and brought to a new generation. And why not? Chaos is great fun as many people here know..

Hence Chaos Groove of course. I’ve wanted to do a version of Chaos that bridges the divide between the past and the future, but how do I go? I remember reading on the gooey blob yahoo group that some people there didn’t like Chaos Funk. There is nothing wrong with that of course.. but did they not like it for the zooming? No.. The gfx? No.. The AI? No..

What they didn’t like about it was that it was mouse controlled. They wanted keyboard controls..

And I thought to myself, man, you’re living in the past! Chaos is one of those games that is perfect for mouse controls, why would you blind yourself to modern advances in this way? I know some people have hacked the original spectrum version to fix bugs, and add new spells when playing under emulation. That is something that on one level I admire, and on another just think it’s a waste of time since the rest of the emulated hardware (and hence the game) is too limited for modern tastes.

Chaos is not perfect, or untouchable. It has bugs, problems, poor gfx and a bad user interface. I am all in favour of keeping the gameplay, expanding it and improving it, but I also have no problem with totally replacing the gfx, sound, user interface and effects.

So, what is Chaos’s future? Do I try to appease the gamers who want a completely faithful remake (something I already tried to do in Chaos Funk) and provide traditional options and gfx (and more work), or do I try to even more fully embrace the future and make Chaos popular again?

For the more modern focus I would more than ever need the assistance of talented graphic artists, musicians and designers. Something I have not had much luck with in the past unfortunately. Whatever happens I will finish Chaos Groove to have all the features and options of the original (it’s not far off that already), and then take it further. But exactly how much further can I take it without support of people talented in different areas than myself?

I guess I’m feeling a bit frustrated by what I’d like to acheive and what I can do on my own. Yet, the programming side is not really a problem to me as you’ve seen by my progress on this little blog.. :/

Bug fixing time

A few more bugs fixed:

  • For some reason, I had set Magic Woods & Shadow Trees to have a magic resistance of 9 instead of 0. It should have been 0 as this marks them as can’t be damaged by magic resistance attacks.
  • Two lines of code were the wrong way round, which meant the game failed to stopunattackable creatures from being highlighted. This is now fixed so that shooting correctly auto-cancels when the only targets in range are non-attackable. Before this change it would not cancel shooting if there were walls or castles in range.
  • Stopped the spell casting highlighting working before the spells appear in spell selection.
  • Moving off the board now properly clears any board highlights. You could previously move the cursor off the last horizontal row onto the spell icon area in spell-casting or movement and the highlights would remain.
  • Moving over “No Spell” icon removes the spell highlighting.
Posted in Bugs. 8 Comments »

Shadow Form

I’ve now put in the Shadow Form spell and ability. There is a little bit of confusion about exactly what effects this gives you in the original game, and I think the Atari ST version stopped you getting engaged as well.

I’ve made this version of Shadow Form give you +3 defence (in addition to shield, armour), at least +3 for movement, and not affect your chance of being engaged. Like the original it is lost if you attack or shoot anything. Although if you are mounted, the piece you are riding on can still attack without it being lost.

The AI wizards will now cast Shadow Form and not attack or shoot if they have it. I know in some situations it is perhaps the better option to try to kill a weak wizard and lose the Shadow Form, but that gets really complicated for an AI to try to work out.. 😉

In the process of making the AI wizards do this, I’ve also improved their movement choices a bit. Although, I still need to do a bit of work on this.

For now the gfx flash in and out in a retro style. I’ll probably put in an option for a smoother fade in and out effect.. It’s tricky trying to cater for those who like the original style and those who want a more modern look. Something I’m struggling with so far. My own inclination is towards the modern effects and features, but I do want this to be the definitive version of Chaos, hence making it also attractive to classic players to some extent.

Shiny Weapons

Here you can see a Computer controlled wizard casting Dark Power on an enemy Golden Dragon..

Screenshot for Chaos Groove, with magic attacks and powered up wizards

Notice also the wizards running about with spangly, shiny, super-weapons! Yes, I have put in the code and the new gfx to let you cast Magic Shield, Magic Armour, Magic Knife, Magic Sword, Magic Wings & Magic Bow. 🙂

I had to add a bit more shading detail to Magic Armour as it was looking too flat otherwise, and it is one of my favourite gfx in Chaos. I would love to do all the gfx with this amount of detail or more, but I’m afraid I’m not a good enough artist to do on the creatures..

To implement the new spells.. first of all I added a spell option to enable a spell to change a target piece’s gfx to another one in the list of pieces available. This lets me change the wizard gfx, but it could also be used to disguise a strong piece with a weaker creature’s image (thinking of evil spells here!). With this in place I was able to add more spell options to change individual stats like combat, defence, movement, etc.. Like the originals, the combat and defence options refer back to the original pieces values to stop you casting two magic knifes and getting a +4 combat advantage.

All these wizard spells also let the wizard attack undeads, although that side of the code in terms of creature attacking is not in there yet. I’ve made the magic bow arrow gfx appear white with a slight glow to separate it from the normal arrows.

The AI can now also use these new wizard spells, although I might have to tweak the values used after analysing more games. At the moment though, the AI will be more likely to cast spells like shield, armour, wings or bow if it is under threat. Similarly, it is more likely to cast knife, sword, wings or bow if feeling strong. I think this does reflect how human players would play and hopefully will feel more natural. The AI will also not cast a spell like knife when it already has sword.. Oh, and having the same spell more than once will make it more likely to be cast (more chance of getting one to work).

I had to do a bit of work to get the AI wizards to shoot properly when moving around, mounting and firing, or standing still and firing from the ground or when riding a creature. This part of the code wasn’t there at all before, and it took a while, but it seems to be working ok. Now, they are just totally evil with their new weapons.

What else? Oh, I’ve made the wizards be more likely to ride pieces when under threat rather than trying to hide in the open. I think I’ve fixed the spell information bug Kreezer mentioned and I fixed a couple of other rare bugs in there too.

Great balls of fire..

Somewhere in the middle of this raging inferno is a wizard who is about to die!

Screenshot for Chaos Groove, with fire effect in place.

Yes, I’ve been improving and adding new particle effects (and they look much better in motion!) Firstly, there is an improved exploding effect (such as when casting magic bolt). I’ve also added a proper flame effect (see above), for when a dragon’s fire hits something. I still need to do proper missile particle effects.. Also in place is a new magic attack effect (which looks pretty cool), and this also means that I’ve added the 4 magic attack spells: Justice, Decree, Dark Power & Vengence. Not only that, but the AI will actually use them as well. 🙂

The AI won’t cast them on a wizard that is not riding another creature (or tree, castle), because for the moment I have not put in the code where a wizard loses all his creatures. This will be optional in the game with a few variations, I always felt it was too unbalanced personally.. but it will be in there if people want to enable it.

Once I’ve got the AI to use raise dead properly, I’ll be moving onto spells like magic shield, etc.. There is more drawing for the wizard gfx for those, so it will take a bit longer.

Fixing bugs!

As always with a release there are bugs that get missed. I’ve been fixing those today:

  • Raise dead can now be cast by human wizards. When I added the support for grey dotted square highlighting (to show the range) I forgot to do a few checks which caused some issues.
  • Lighting can now be cast from trees, The highlighting code wasn’t being passed the right wizard ‘layer’, so it didn’t know he was in a tree and was instead looking at the tree (which can’t attack) and so was not drawing attack targets.
  • Walls can now not make you engaged. I’ve added a check to only engage if the creature has an attack value. Maybe this should be maneuverability?
  • Shadow trees will now be correctly used by the computer wizards to attack pieces. The old code had no check to see if a piece could attack even if it couldn’t move..
  • The AI will no longer pause for a second or two trying to select pieces which can’t do anything (i.e. shadow wood trees that have no enemies around them).
  • There was a flaw with the line of sight which made it non-symmetrical. This has now been fixed and I’ve made the line of sight more precise at the cost of more checking.
  • Spells like subversion which use magic resistance will not now be considered against a creature with a value of 0 (unattackable by magic)
Posted in AI, Bugs. 3 Comments »

Chaos Groove Demo no. 2

Chaos Groove Screenshot

Here is what you’ve been waiting for, Demo number 2!

There are still some issues with this that I haven’t had time to add or fix yet:

  • Magic Wood trees can only be entered by the wizard who cast them. They are also attacked and shot as if they were normal creatures.
  • The AI doesn’t yet cast Raise Dead.
  • Wizard movement for the AI is a bit broken, sometimes it attacks when it doesn’t need to, and othertimes doesn’t. Also the AI doesn’t have code to deal with dismounting. But at least the AI now tries to ride creatures and get in trees.

Pressing the right mouse button over an empty board square will now highlight all creatures by their wizard’s colour..

Oh, The game now uses a text file: Display.ini to open a screenmode. The default option is to try to open a fullscreen screenmode of 1280 x 1024 using OpenGL. If this is not suitable for you then please edit the display.ini file to pick a screenmode that works better for you.

I’m sure I’ve missed something, but enjoy some of the new spells, and the better AI wizards!

Hard work!

I’m knackered.. I’ve been working on the 2nd demo this weekend and it’s took longer than I expected to try to get the AI to use the spells (and move) more intelligently. Also, I had a few bugs I had to track down and all together I’ve worked a bit too much.

It’s safe to say that if it hadn’t been raining nearly non-stop for the last 2 days I would have not got so much done..

There are still some bits I haven’t been able to get done, but for today I’m going to have a proper break. The demo is now done and it’s just stopped raining (finally!)

See my next post for the demo..

AI Work (and a few other bits)

I’ve been working hard on making the AI work properly with the new spells like subversion, magic bolt, etc..

This has involved me fixing a few AI bugs as well as rewriting a few parts to deal with the new non-creature spells. I’m also trying to work on the movement side for the wizards and tweak a few things to make the AI protect the wizard much more. I need to do all this because the spells weren’t being used properly by the AI previously.

Oh, I’ve fixed the highlighting error reported previously, now creature’s owners are highlighted correctly.

I hope to get a demo out tomorrow (fingers crossed!)

Pathfinding test

Chaos Groove Pathfinding test Screenshot

This is just a test of the pathfinding under extreme conditions to make sure it all works properly. 🙂

I will also use this pathfinding for game options which throw in a user definable amount of walls and destructable objects on the board to make sure no wizard is trapped in a corner. 😉