Completed updating the website

Submitted by ElonNarai on Sun, 09/28/2008 - 16:50

If you are an older visitor you might have noticed that the page you are looking at now is completly different from what you are used to see. As Roots explained in "Pardon the mess..." we are in the progress of cleaning up and updating various things. As of now both the website and the wiki have been fixed.

If you have any troubles with the website or come across anything that you think need fixing, please notify us through the forum. Our thanks in advance.

Pardon the mess...

Submitted by Roots on Tue, 09/23/2008 - 07:17

The Windows release has been updated tonight so that you no longer need to download the two DLL files that were mentioned on the Download page previously. Sorry for the short-term inconvenience that this may have caused some of you.

We're in the process right now of cleaning up a lot of outdated and incorrect content on both our website and our wiki. We've been having numerous technical issues with both lately, so first we have to fix these problems. The wiki currently does not allow anyone to successfully edit a page and the website has numerous problems with its administration capabilities. The reason we're telling you of this is to ask in advance for your patience to please "pardon our dust" as we fix these problems and get our online services up-to-date once again. You may see random errors or other odd behavior during this period, so please just ignore any mess that you may stumble upon. Thanks!

Suprise! A new release

Submitted by Roots on Mon, 09/22/2008 - 05:38

Tonight we're pleased to bring you the fourth release of our demo, version 0.2.2. This is not the "grand" demo that we had announced we were working on late last year. The purpose of this release is to make our game editor officially available. The editor was used to produce every playable version of Allacrost that we have made available. We felt that it was time to make it available to everyone else as well. From now on, all future releases of Allacrost will include this editor.

Please read the Download page for download and installation instructions. There are a few important notes about this release that you'll need to read, otherwise running the program may not work. As usual, the downloads for windows, OS X, and Linux/source can be found on our sourceforge page. There is also a Debian package available, with FreeBSD and others soon to follow.

The demo remains largely the same as it was in our previous release (0.2.1), so don't expect anything to be dramatically different. Changes in this release include the following:

The Allacrost editor is now included
Player now has ability to go inside structures
Various minor fixes and updates

Part of the reason for this release is that our editor, for the most part, has been a one man show since the beginning. Huge kudos go out to Phil Vorsilak (gorzuate) for continuing to work on the editor so adamantly for all these years. For several months we tried to get him some help, but not many people were interested in working on an application that up until now has remained completely internal. So we are hoping by releasing our editor (which is far from being complete), we'll get people more interested in contributing to it.

We actually have a lot more to announce, but we'll save it for subsequent posts. Keep an eye on the website for more updates in the next few days. Thanks for playing!

A long overdue update

Submitted by Roots on Mon, 06/30/2008 - 19:02

Its been a few months since our last update on the site. Sorry about that. I'm currently the only one who writes these site updates and I have just returned from a large break from working on Allacrost. Here's an update on the state of this project.

First I'll talk about the team. Many people, including myself, have been inactive or minimally active for the first half of this year. I can't speak for everyone's reason for this, but for me personally I needed a break. I had been working hard on Allacrost for over 3 years without a break and it was eating away all of my time. I have begun working on Allacrost regularly again in the past 2-3 weeks, but I also have a new hobby and lifestyle that will prevent me from putting in the amount of time that I used to for this project. Over the long term I'm hoping that there will be more distributed leadership in our team and less reliance on a single lead (myself). I think we're well on our way to that future though as many individuals on this team have already begun stepping up.

Obviously because a large portion of the team has been on downtime, we haven't been making much progress in the past months. This has lead some to question the project's future. Go ahead and read the forum thread in the link to find out the answer to that question. We continue to make progress on Allacrost, its just been slower than usual. On that note, we celebrated the end of the fourth anniversary of this project earlier this month.

Lastly, we have a surprise for you all that we've been working on for several weeks now. I don't want to spoil the surprise, but I will say that its something brand new to the Allacrost experience and will play a large part in this project in the years to come. It's near completion now, though I don't want to predict a release date. I hope we'll have it finished up by the end of next month though, so stay tuned.

New forums, new story, and a painful cry out for help wanted

Submitted by Roots on Tue, 02/26/2008 - 03:51

It's been a while since our last news post, so here are some brief updates. First, you may have noticed that we recently switched over our forums to phpBB3.0. Many thanks to Matt Gallivan for taking charge and making that transition. Matt has also finished updating our custom forum skin to match phpBB3, so in a short while you should see that skin as our default forum theme once again.

Our team has been somewhat hypocritical over the last few years, as we continue to say in our message that we really emphasize the story of this game, yet we've shown no actions to back it up since releasing the prologue on the site so long ago. We have been working on the story, its just been very slow since it's low priority during this initial development phase. But tonight, we've made available chapter 1 of the Allacrost story. Its up in the story section of our website, or you can download the PDF right here. I'd like to personally extend my thanks to Brian Aloisi for taking my writing and really making it shine. He has really taught me a lot about writing in the little time that he's been with the team.

Finally, a general status update about how the game is going. Unfortunately, we've made very slow progress in the past two months. This is primarily because we are now very under-staffed. All of our most committed, senior developers have had things happen in their lives this year that has inhibited them from contributing as much as they would like to (this goes for myself as well). We're also short in the art department, as usual. Music and sound as always is fully staffed and is pumping out more material than we know what to do with (but this is a good problem to have). So having said that, we are in somewhat of a crisis right now and we really, really need new programmers and artists on our team to help us keep Allacrost going strong.

If you are a programmer, right now we're looking for people experienced in C++ who are excited about writing game logic. This means writing map exploration logic, code for smooth battle execution, party management and shopping interfaces via our custom GUI system, and more. We also strongly need at least one programmer with OpenGL experience to help improve that GUI system, as well as giving a perfection polish to our text rendering code and adding support for special visual effects such as dynamic lighting for use in our next release. We'd also like to have a couple more programmers working on our game editor, which is shaping up to be a pretty darn nice tool now. So game logic, the graphics engine, and our game editor are the three primary areas that we need more programmers in right now.

If you are an artist and interested in helping, first of all don't be intimidated by the quality of our work. Yes, we have a couple of incredibly talented artists on this team, but they can't create all the artwork for Allacrost just between the two of them. The great thing about working as an artist for Allacrost is that we help each other out all the time to become better at what we do. You'll be learning from the experts, seeing tremendous growth in the quality of your own work, and producing artwork that will be present in a free game that you know people are going to appreciate, In fact once things settle down in the code department, I intend to delve into artwork production myself and take advantage of the great opportunities I have to learn here with this team.

So that's all I have to apprise you of for this update. We're working on a surprise right now that we hope to have ready by next month, so stay tuned for that announcement.

Next Steps, The End of the Beginning

Submitted by Roots on Sat, 12/15/2007 - 18:58

Before I begin, if you have had difficulties getting the 0.2.1 demo release to run on your Windows PC, please read the comments I posted in the release announcement on our main site. A solution for that problem is presented in there.

Now that we've finished our third release, its time we share with you all what our next steps will be. Our previous releases have been tech demos, meant more to show off what we were shaping up Allacrost to be rather than to be something that was fun and enjoyable. Well those days are now gone, as demo 0.2.1 marked the end of our series of tech demos. Our next goal will be to create a complete game demo that we hope our players will enjoy playing. This version number for this next demo is 1.0.0, and it will be the last demo that our team produces. After demo 1.0.0 is released, our team will finally be fully prepared to begin creating the full game.

You may be wondering why we continue to bother with all these demo releases rather than going straight to work on the game itself, and there are several reasons for this. Many people on this team, including myself, have never developed a game before, or even a professional software application. These demos allow us to gain experience and mature our technology so that by the time development on the full game begins, we are all well prepared for the challenges ahead. Another reason is to allow you, the player, the opportunity to sample Allacrost without waiting for years. In the long-term perspective of Allacrost, spending time on creating these demos will be well worth the temporary distraction from the main game.

Demo 1.0.0 will be a major leap forward from 0.2.1 in terms of both features and content. Progress towards demo 1.0.0 had already begun months ago with the re-designs of our graphics and audio engines, which were originally intended to be done only after 0.2.1 was released (this was also the reason why 0.2.1 was released much later than we had hoped). Here is a list of the major features and content that you can expect to see available in demo 1.0.0.

Features

Actions in battles will be animated
On maps, you will be free to roam inside of structures
Support for multiple saved games will be available, and save points will be added to maps
Convenient equipment comparisons will be present in the demo's shop menus
The menu interfaces throughout the game will all see improvement in display and utility
Localization support will be present (the demo will support multiple languages)

Content

An original story has been crafted especially for this demo, complete with character developments
Both maps and battles will make greater use of new environmental and action sound effects
A large amount of new artwork for tilesets, sprites, and more will be added
This release will feature all brand new maps created expressly for the demo's environment and story

These lists are not comprehensive, and there will be much more to expect from this demo. You can imagine this demo as being a stand-alone "miniature RPG", because that's really what we're making. We will be needing to bolster our team's strength for this next release (especially in the area of artwork). I'll be making a post with regards to exactly what help we need and where in the coming week, so if you're interested in joining the team or helping us out with this next release I encourage you to check back with us next weekend. As usual, we'll periodically post updates on our progress towards our next release, and you can expect us to announce a surprise or two before 1.0.0 goes gold. Thanks for all your continued support!

Third Allacrost release available - Demo 0.2.1

Submitted by Roots on Mon, 12/10/2007 - 08:52

Tonight, we are proud to release to you Hero of Allacrost - Demo 0.2.1. Windows, OS X, and Linux/source packages are available on Sourceforge, and you can expect Debian and FreeBSD releases to follow shortly thereafter. As always, download and installation instructions are available on site's download page right here. For those of you who don't know or just forgot, our intention on this release was to improve upon our last one in small but appreciable ways. There is very little new content, as this was mostly a code development release. We kept you all in the dark about what features we were planning for this release, and I'm happy to say that all of the features that we planned are now implemented in the game, along with a couple of extras. In no particular order, the new features in this demo include:

- You may now have multiple characters in your party, and hence in battles
- Support for saving and loading the game has been added
- Game settings (display, audio, key and joystick mappings) are now saved and restored automatically
- Treasure chests have been added to maps
- The ability to run in map mode is now active, along with a stamina bar that depletes while running
- The menu layout for battles has been improved
- The shopping interface has been vastly upgraded, and now sports a new "shopping cart" like functionality
- Upon entering a map, an introductory text and location graphic are displayed briefly
- We now support interactive dialogues in maps (e.g., you can select a response in specific conversations)
- Various updates to the party menu screen
- Audio playback quality has been improved greatly

The biggest changes in this release are "under the hood" in the game's engine, which we have written from scratch. Although you likely won't be able to notice most of these engine changes, these changes were absolutely necessary and make the lives of our programmers much better (and more productive). One noticable effect of the engine work is the audio playback, which is improved because we now use a newly written audio engine that uses the OpenAL library to playback sound, rather than the less powerful SDL_mixer library that we've used in previous releases.

The credits page of this website has been updated as well. There were a lot of people that really stepped it up for this release, especially in the last couple of weeks. Quite frankly this release might not have happened until 2008 were it not for their hard work. Therefore, we would like to give special acknowledgement to our "release heroes" below. We'd also like to thank our forum members who tested our beta release of 0.2.1 and helped us find and nail down a few critical bugs.

Andy Gardner (ChopperDave)
Brandon Barnes (Winter Knight)
Brett Steele (Safir-Kreuz)
Daniel Steuernol (Steu)
Philip Vorsilak (gorzuate)
Richard Kettering (Jetryl)
Tyler Olsen (Roots)

That's all we have to share tonight, so go download the game, test it out, and let us know your thoughts by posting on the forums. In the next couple of weeks, we'll have two important announcements to make regarding the future of Allacrost so you might want to check back with us near the end of this month and see what news we have to share. Good night, and thanks for playing!

Good news and a difficult decision

Submitted by Roots on Tue, 10/30/2007 - 18:49

There's been a few important developments here in the last week that I felt we should share. First some good news. The most critical and difficult-to-find bug in our video engine has now been resolved. This was the last major barrier to overcome before we could make our next release. Now we have to complete the following:

* Fix a few more minor bugs in the engine
* Polish off a couple of the new features we have added
* Adjustments to the map scripts and game content

It is just a matter of finishing all of these small and relatively easy tasks. If you're interested in helping us test our pre-release build, make sure that you are registered on the forums and an e-mail will be sent out when we reach that stage.

The second piece of news involves recruitment. We've added a few more programmers to the team in the last six weeks so we're not entirely understaffed in that department now. We had a meeting this weekend and decided that ideally, we could use three more programmers to work on the graphics engine, map exploration code, and game editor areas. We're also still interested in getting a 3D modeler/animator on our team if you're in that area of work.

The last and most important news item is a design decision that we must make. We have a critical problem with our battle artwork requirements: they are simply too high for us to continue along our current path. We've proposed and debated 3 solutions to this problem:

1) Generate 3D models and animations for the characters' battle sprites, and translate those animations from 3D into 2D for use in the game.

2) Re-use our map sprites for battles in place of separate battle sprites, and have battles take place on the maps themselves rather than on a battle background

3) Keep everything in battle mode as it is currently, but replace the battle sprites with enlarged map sprites.

There are of course many benefits and downsides to each approach. We have a thread on our forums which you can find here where our community is actively discussing which approach we should choose to take (you have to have a registered account on the forums in order to view this particular thread). The outcome of this decision will no doubt affect the design and gameplay of Allacrost, so we encourage you to voice your opinion about what you personally think is the best option.

October 2007 Update

Submitted by Roots on Sun, 10/21/2007 - 21:27

Our progress has been a little slower so far this month, but we're far from a stand still. There have been several very difficult-to-fix bugs in the new video engine code that have been slowing a lot of us down (especially myself). Hopefully within the next week or two, we'll have everything patched up and ready for prime time. Our map editor has been making some great progress though, thanks largely to gorzuate. We do intend to begin making public releases of our map editor sometime in the near future once we have a couple more features available in there, and we hope that will attract more people who are interested in helping out with editor development. I personally hope that our editor can become on-par with the editor for StarCraft, as the SC editor really helped to boost that game's popularity.

Anyway, artwork has been making some nice progress as well, even though many of our artists are inactive right now. Most of the artwork focus lately has been on map sprites, including new non-standard (non-walking) animations. They haven't been yet added to the game (because I've been spending all my time fixing engine bugs), but hopefully we'll be able to squeeze a couple of them into our next release. There's also been a revived focus in story and writing ever since we hired Brian to be a writer a few weeks back. He and I have been working together on both the main story and having a nice mini-story for our subsequent demo releases.

Except for these outstanding engine bugs, code-wise I'd say that we are pretty much ready to make our next release. Last I checked, all of the primary features we had planned for this next release are implemented and fully functional. There are also several additional features that we've managed to squeeze in as well. One feature that we have been working on but will not be in the next release is internationalization support. So perhaps within the next month or two, we may become interested in attracting some translators on this team. Speaking of which, we're still looking for a few programmers to join us. We have a few new programmers on our team (3-4 I think) since our last post, but we could still use a couple more.

That's all I have to report this month. I hope you'll continue to be patient with us as we continue to try and get this next release out to you all. I know it sucks that it takes a few months between releases, but I'm pretty certain that our release frequency will get shorter and shorter as we go on since we are finishing a lot of our foundation (engine) work. if you have any thoughts or comments, feel free to post them in the forum.

September 2007 Update, Programmers Wanted

Submitted by Roots on Mon, 09/17/2007 - 23:15

The past month has seen several important developments. The largest improvement was done in the code for the game's engine (specifically, our audio and video engines). The good news is that this new code is designed much better than before, making it more flexible for us to use and easier to add new features. So effectively, it is great progress for us in the long-term. The bad news is that engine development does not really gain us any short-term progress, so the next release continues to be delayed as a result. But this engine development would have to have been done later if not sooner, so its not so bad.

We've been seeing a good amount of progress in artwork lately, which is very nice. Some of the new artwork that's been created will likely make it into the next release as well. Some music has also been composed, as well as some people stopping by on the forums and contributing sound effects and artwork, which has been much appreciated. So in summary, I would say the progress of the past four weeks has been fairly steady.

Which brings me to my next point: we need more programmers on our staff. Currently, we have 7 staff-level and 4 contributor-level programmers on the team. 3 of the staff and 3 of the contributors are on what we call "downtime", meaning they can not work on Allacrost for an extended period of time due to personal reasons. So we really only have 5 programmers total who are working on Allacrost right now. We are really looking for staff programmers, not contributors. We need people who are able to make a regular, stead commitment to helping this game along, rather than those who just help out when they have free time. If you are interested, head over to the Contribute page and fill out a staff application for a programming position. I would also recommend that you view the Coding Needs page on our wiki, as it lists all the major areas of our code base and which ones are in need of a programmer to actively attend to them. Also you may wish to view our Bug tracker, as it not only lists bugs, but also specific development tasks. To view all of the coding development tasks, you can login anonymously, click on "View Issues", and then from the Filters box near the top right of the screen select "Code - Feature to Text". That should give you a darn good idea of the kinds of things we need to hire people to do, and in what areas of the code we need new programmers the most right now.

One final note I'd like to make regarding applying to be a team contributor. About a week ago, we took a step back to analyze our programming team to understand why progress has been so slow, and we realized it was because in the last hiring round we did, we took on several "contributor" programmers but only one or two "staff" programmers. We overestimated our programming strength as a result of all these contributors that we hired. And further, some of the people that we hired turned out to not produce any code at all, which was upsetting to us because we spend quite a lot of time setting up and training our new members. As a result of this, we've decided to change the way we recruit and respect our contributors so that we only "hire" those contributors whom prove that they're actually committed enough to contribute something. We now require only a very, very basic contributor application to be filled out, and we reply back with a small list of things for the applicant to work on. If at least one task is completed to a satisfactory degree, we invite them onto the team. We'll see how this new recruitment model works out and if it does the job, we'll continue it.

Hopefully we will get a few outstanding new programmers on this team and my next post will be filled with wonderful news about our progress. Until next time.