Evolution of the Battle System

Submitted by Roots on Sat, 06/25/2011 - 06:50

A few days ago on our forums, I put forth a set of ideas for how to improve the battle system in Allacrost. Usually I don't highlight forum discussions on the main site, but this is a rather important one for us to receive feedback on. The outcome of this dialogue could very well greatly influence the direction we take for our battle system in the future. If you'd like to add your own thoughts, comments, and ideas, we'd gladly welcome them. The link to the forum thread is below. Its a long read, so prepare yourself.

Forum thread: Making battles more player-active

It is likely that our next development release will include some changes to the battle system based on this thread so that we can receive additional feedback after people have actually experienced these concepts instead of just read about them. So be on the lookout for that.

June 2011 Unstable Release

Submitted by Roots on Mon, 06/13/2011 - 04:15

Its been a long time since our last unstable release and today we're happy to break the trend of silence. Head over to our sourceforge page and you'll find unstable releases for Windows, OSX, and Linux/source. In case you're new to this concept or you forgot what an "unstable" release is, they are basically development snapshots that are meant to allow interested parties to observe our current state of progress. We try to polish them up a bit so that things aren't too incredibly chaotic, but they do contain many unresolved bugs, missing features and artwork, etc. Its a little hard to put together a changelist, since this release is part of an entirely new product (the full game instead of a demo). Here are some of the major new additions you can see through this release.

Two brand new maps with many scripted events that develop the beginning plot of the main story
Enter/exit sequences in battle to smooth the transition from map exploration to battle execution
Better display of battle damage and status indicator text and images
Receiving damage causes a brief stun on the stamina bar, allowing you to delay opponents actions slightly
New skills available to use, some of which can target an entire party
Attack points have specific stat modifiers (for defense and evasion)
Targeting certain attack points may invoke status effects. For example, targeting legs to reduce agility
Enemy's are no longer "leveled up" to match the party's strength
If the player loses a battle, they have the option to restart the battle from the beginning, taking a penalty on XP/drunes earned upon victory
Two new enemies to fight, one of which is a boss-type

A few miscellaneous notes about this particular release:

It is not balanced at all, and currently all battles are extremely easy.
I'm not sure if the save functionality works, but even if it does you shouldn't need to use it
Don't try to mix saved games of this release with those of past releases, because it likely will cause problems and may crash the game
We left the "debug" options on the main menu for you to play around with if you like. These are: "Menu, Battle, Shop" and will take you to those respective environments. There are Lua (text) files which can be modified to change the properties of these modes as well (if you'd like to know how, ask us on the forums)
There are a few pieces of placeholder art in this release
If you're experiencing any input issues, there's a forum thread detailing the problem and instructions for how to enable a temporary solution that was put in place for this release. This problem seems to be rare, thankfully.

Now our plan going forward is to attempt to try and make a new unstable release every month until we make the official release. This, however, is not a promise and it totally depends on the state of progress that the project is under. If we can maintain our current level of progress, it shouldn't be difficult for us to keep making these releases on a monthly basis. With that, we hope you enjoy this progress snapshot release and continue to look forward to more. If you have any comments, questions, or problems regarding the release, either post on our forums or join our IRC channel and we'll be glad to help you out. Thanks!

Wrapping up this May

Submitted by Roots on Mon, 05/30/2011 - 01:05

May is coming to an end and it has been the first full month since this project's re-awakening. We've had a handful of people join our team this month and make some great contributions, although our team remains a small and focused one. Despite this size, this month marks in the top three of the most active periods during the history of the project, as measured by the number of SVN commits.

On a related note, Allacrost has a page at Ohloh, a site which tracks and monitors the state of open source projects. You can find the Allacrost page here. On the main page you can see an visual analysis of our codebase. A good way to check our progress is to view the "Commits" tab on the code analysis graph. Generally speaking, the more commits there are for a given period of time, the more active the project has been. And if you're wondering why the code base seemingly doubled in size last month, that's because it did. We created a new development trunk for the game at that time and left the demo trunk intact for any future work we may do there.

We're still struggling on the art front as we're missing several key images we need for the upcoming prologue release. I've been doing some artwork myself this month to try and fill the very large gap. The weekly challenge for May 28th through June 6th over on OpenGameArt.org was actually created with our needs in mind, and we hope to get some usable art assets from this challenge to construct our castle tileset. This site, by the way, has been a great help to us and to open source game projects in general. Indeed, some of the art and sounds that we have in the game currently are taken from the archive on this site, and we've uploaded some of our own work up there for others to use as well. Please show them your support as they are a vital asset to the open source game development community.

The current state of the game is playable, though we're still not finished with the largest and most critical map for our upcoming release. The other maps though are mostly complete and will only require refinements and tuning to make them fully release-ready. The gameplay of map exploration has not changed too much since the demo, although there have been a lot of improvements to this code to make it easier to create vivid environments through scripting. The battle gameplay, on the other hand, has seen and continues to see significant improvements in both its execution and additional features which have been added.

So things are looking pretty darn good and the team's progress has been phenomenal over the past few weeks. If we can keep up this momentum and rate of progress, I'd guess that we're only maybe 2-4 weeks off from having the first unstable release out, which will be an enormous step forward to getting us to the finalized product. Thanks for checking back on us, and we'll have something new to share with you soon.

Wiki Status

Submitted by Roots on Fri, 05/06/2011 - 00:23

Our wiki, which is hosted at our Sourceforge webspace, has been offline for sometime due to changes that were made by the adminstrators over there. The wiki is back online as of today. Unfortunately at the moment, any attempts to edit the wiki will be met with an error message so it should be considered a read-only wiki for now.

Our plan is to migrate our wiki content over to our main site and bring it all back online there. This will take some time to do though so we ask for your patience during this time. We'll try to get the wiki fully functional again before our next unstable release is made available.

Back From Hiatus, New Releases Coming

Submitted by Roots on Mon, 05/02/2011 - 01:40

Over the last few months the project has been in a state of limbo and very little progress was made during this time. However, I'm glad to announce that we are back on track once again. I took a personal break from Allacrost to deal with some issues and now find myself with both a large amount of free time and motivation, a truly powerful combination. We've made incredible progress in the last week and have quickly rebuilt our lost momentum. I want to take a moment to outline our next major milestone and what you can expect to experience from us next.

Our previous major release of demo 1.0.0 marked the end of our demo series. We've built up enough of a foundation to take an exciting step forward and begin production of the full game. If you recall, the keystone of our release model is that we release the game in modules. A release of a module of the Allacrost game is analogous to the release of a new episode of an on-going TV series. The first module we are currently working on is the prologue. Like we started doing last year, we'll be making available a series of "unstable" releases throughout the development process of this module. These releases will continue to offer a playable preview of what we are working on just as they have in the past, and we'll iteratively improve on each one until we feel that the final product is ready. As always, there's no set time line for this release. But we are working hard to get out the first unstable release as soon as possible

So aside from the new plot, what else can you expect to see in this release? We'll be starting with a brand new set of maps and a sizable amount of new artwork this round. Most of the new features will be in the battle system and include status effects, the ability to retry battles that you lose (so you don't have to start all over from your last save point), and target points on enemies that have different weaknesses and effects. There's a thread on our forums going into more detail about the changes to the battle system that are coming up. Speaking of the forums, if you'd like to participate (or merely spectate) in the discussions we're having about the changes that we're making, that's where all the action happens. You can also subscribe to the Subversion Commit Log thread, which provides a real-time progress meter showing when changes are made and what those changes were.

We hope you're looking forward to the revival of this project (though it wasn't really dead, just in hibernation). One major setback from our long slumber is that we've lost contact with most of the team. If you're willing to lend us a hand, we could really use it. Even if you have no talents or skills other than playing a game, we could find a use for you. We're especially in dire need of artists, as we have zero of them at this moment. The more help we can get, the sooner this release happens. Thanks for being patient with us. We hope to begin rewarding that patience very soon.

Allacrost Demo 1.0.2 Released!

Submitted by rujasu on Fri, 10/01/2010 - 05:25

Version 1.0.2 has been released, and can be found here:

https://sourceforge.net/projects/allacrost/files/

This is primarily a maintenance release to correct problems with the Windows version. Players can attack in battle now. Please let us know if there are any other bugs by posting them on our forum, or join us in our IRC channel (#allacrost on irc.freenode.net).

Available is a source release, as well as a binary version for Windows. Mac OS X users can compile from source or continue to use version 1.0.0 until a binary release is available.

A changelog can be found here:

http://allacrost.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Changelog

View screenshots of the game here:

http://www.allacrost.org/multimedia/screenshots

Enjoy the game!

DEMO 1.0.0 NOW AVAILABLE

Submitted by rujasu on Mon, 08/23/2010 - 02:42

Our newest demo is now available! Check it out at: https://sourceforge.net/projects/allacrost/

As usual, it is available for Windows and Mac OS X, and a source package is available for users of Linux and other OS'es. Please note that the binary package for Windows includes only the English language version of the game, without the map editor. Because we have had limited help on the Windows side recently, we have been unable to provide the map editor or alternate translations. If you would like to help us with the Windows distribution, or have other feedback, please talk to us in the forums!

New unstable release

Submitted by rujasu on Mon, 03/01/2010 - 02:44

We have posted a new unstable release (development snapshot) on our Sourceforge page:

https://sourceforge.net/projects/allacrost/

Differences you may notice from our past demo include new environments, music, characters, and plot. This content is unfinished, consider it to be in a beta or even alpha state right now. Other features include an internationalization framework (work-in-progress), settings profiles, and a new shopping interface. To see the complete list of features, check the release notes on our Sourceforge page. Alternatively, play the game and find out!

Some known issues that we hope to have resolved by the next release:

- You may experience random crashes, particularly when changing maps, so save very frequently.
- The story is mostly complete, but details are missing. Some parts may be hard to follow because of missing or incomplete animations/dialogue.
- The desert outskirts area is not complete and should be fairly unchallenging.
- Claudius may keep running when certain dialogue events occur.
- Treasure chests repopulate when revisiting an area

Enjoy, and be sure to post any feedback in our forums!

Release early, release often

Submitted by Roots on Fri, 02/26/2010 - 22:53

This popular mantra of the open source community is one that Allacrost has historically neglected to follow. I feel that we had good reason to do so in the past when our work was focused more on the core engines and game logic rather than content and features. We had very little to show then. Other than our official releases, the only other type of releases that we made available were internal pre-releases to our forum community for testing. These releases were kept somewhat private and required a registered forum account to download or even be made aware of the pre-release. Being an open source game, it was always possible for someone to download the latest SVN and compile and try the game out on their own, but not everyone has the technical know-how or motivation to perform such a task.

Early this month, at the encouragement of some fellows of the open source game community, our team considered whether we should begin to make releases more regularly. We decided it was definitely worth a shot. This weekend, we will make available our first "unstable" release. This is unlike anything we've done before, because it truly is a snapshot of the current state of the game. Unstable releases will be unpolished, unfinished, and full of bugs. But they are great for keeping our players involved in the design process, our team motivated, and the general public interested in the project. Below is an explanation of our current plan with these unstable release in a Q&A format.



Where can I download the unstable releases?
Unstable releases will be made available on our Sourceforge page, the same as our official releases. Unstable releases will be clearly marked so and placed in a separate directory.

What systems will unstable releases be made for?
The same as our official releases: Windows, OS X, and a source distribution for POSIX-type systems like Linux and FreeBSD. Others outside our team may decide to make specific release builds for their respective systems, but we do not support this.

Is there a way for me to automatically be notified when a new unstable release becomes available?
Yes. Sourceforge provides the ability to subscribe to RSS feeds about our project from the project page. If you register on our forums, you'll be sent an e-mail every time that an unstable or official release is made available.

How often will unstable releases be made available?
We're tentatively setting ourselves a guidelines of trying to have no longer than two months between unstable releases. However, this is not a guarantee. We are not releasing on a strict schedule and unstable releases are basically made when the timing is right.

What are the criteria you will use to decide when to make another unstable release?
There are many, but the most significant include: the amount of time that has passed since our previous unstable release, the presence/absence of any bugs that may cause crashes or freezes, and the degree of noticeable change from the player's perspective relative to the previous release.

The word "unstable" has me concerned. Is there a risk involved in playing an unstable releases?
We intentionally decided to call these unstable releases to indicate that yes, there is indeed a risk in playing them. However its no more risk than the developers take every day when they are working on the code (actually its much less risk). The worst that we've observed happen during development is the computer freezing completely and requiring us to restart our systems, but this situation is very rare. Other times the application may freeze, become unresponsive, or crash suddenly. These conditions are also rare. We do, however, try our best to eliminate any bugs that cause crashes or freezes before the unstable release goes live.

How many unstable releases will be made available for download?
Only a single unstable release will be available at any time. Once a new unstable release becomes available, the previous unstable releases is deleted and will no longer be available. This is done to ease the burden on our team so we are not trying to support or resolve issues with multiple unstable releases.

How do I tell which unstable release I have? Is there a version number?
The file you download will have an eight digit number representing the year, month, and date that the unstable release went live. For example, if the unstable release was made on February 28th, 2010 the file name would include the string "20100228". Other than the file name, there is no version information available. The game itself will likely report either the previous or next official version number such as "1.0.0".

Do you want feedback or bug reports on the unstable releases?
Of course we do. But because unstable releases by their very nature contain an unfinished state of the game, some problems are very evident such as missing images or something being drawn at an incorrect position. Please try to anticipate which problems are self-evident to the team and don't waste your time or ours reporting such issues.

Will you be supporting unstable releases?
Yes, but don't come with the expectation that we're going to fix your problem immediately and directly. For example we may fix a crash that a user reported, but the fix wouldn't be available for the user until we make the next unstable release. We want to make sure that unstable releases are not counter-productive for our team, and producing a new unstable release every time we fix a reported problem would cost us a lot of time and effort.

Will installing the unstable release conflict with the official release I already have installed?
Probably. To be honest we're not sure at this stage. This issue we'll figure out along the way, and hopefully in the future we'll have a system in place to ensure that official and unstable releases can co-exist on the same system without conflict. We recommend you back up any saved game files and settings that you don't want to lose.



I want to make one final and important note about our unstable releases. This is an experiment for our team. Many of us have great hopes that this will be a positive force for the project, but we can't be sure if this will ultimately help or hurt us. If, after a lengthy trial period, we decide that these releases are not beneficial enough to justify their cost, we may decide to discontinue making unstable releases available. So bear with us through this process and hopefully both the players and the team mutually benefit from this new system. Check back with us late this weekend for our first release of 2010!