Author Archives: Kaalus

Whale Watching

Some time ago I tweeted that I am working on a cool, small feature to do with whales. Here it is:

http://youtu.be/40hxT1Lkn7U

I could not resist adding this little gem, even though it took me an entire day to tweak the blowing particle system and add a new AI behavior to make whales surface.

In 1.25 and earlier, whales are fish, which is embarrassingly unrealistic. No longer! In 1.26, it will be possible to drown a whale.

To digress a bit, the AI in Survivalcraft is a fairly complicated affair, but it’s structured into multiple, simple behaviors, making it easy to maintain and extend. Only one behavior may be active at any time for a creature. As a result, each behavior competes for “activity” with others. The behaviors do it by advertising an “importance value”, and the behavior with highest one is activated.

For example, breathing reflex behavior in whales bases its importance on amount of air left in the whale lungs. When a whale is near drowning, the importance of breathing behavior is so high that it will trump anything else. The whale will abandon whatever it was doing, including chasing or running away from the player, in order to surface. As soon as the air is replenished, breathing importance drops to zero and next most important behavior is resumed.

New Cetacean

Traditionally, there is a bunch of new animals coming in 1.26. I know that the Orca is very popular and cool, so one of them is also a cetacean. And a cute one, too. See for yourselves:

Cetacean

Calling all zoologists out there, can you tell me what animal is that :-)

People are crying out to get spawner eggs for Orca in creative, but I think it should stay inaccessible as it is. At least there is something you have to get the hard way, even in creative! So, this new beauty will also have no spawner egg. To get one you have to go far into the deep ocean, find it and lure it.

I still have a fair amount of work to do on the clothing, the largest chunk being linking it up with the survival system. After that – release.

Have you heard the news yet? Notch sold Minecraft to Microsoft. It’s a bit of a shame, I don’t fully understand why he did it. Apparently, neither does him: “I’m aware this goes against a lot of what I’ve said in public. I have no good response to that“. That sums it up, really. Certainly, not for want of money…

I don’t know what effect the sale will have on Survivalcraft. Hopefully none. Hopefully, Microsoft will not go onto a legal rampage to extinguish “Minecraft clones”. In theory game mechanics (such as blocks) cannot be copyrighted, only tangible assets can, so we should be safe. But God is always on the side of better paid lawyers :-)

I was happier when Notch owned Minecraft. At least he was a sensible guy. Multinational corporations are scary.

On a more jolly note, my friend from Jake Games made a free version of Wreckin Robot for anyone to try – and the paid version has 5.0 stars! Here’s the link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jakegames.wreckinrobotdemo. Try it out and give him some feedback.

New Animal Behaviors

Windows Phone 7 does not support shaders. This is true. It is probably the cause of largest amount of pain of all the things to do with Survivalcraft. WP7 is the lowest common denominator platform for me, and is giving me shivers. Because of lack of shaders, I am still working on clothing/armor. If I could only do what is trivial with shaders. But I can’t. It’s nigh on impossible to render clothing properly without them.

However, I will do it somehow. So sleep well :-)

If WP7 keeps pissing in my cornflakes like that, I may eventually ditch it and switch to supporting Windows Phone 8 only.

In the meantime, to cool off, I want to talk about something more pleasant. 1.26 will make a substantial change to how animals behave. I won’t spell out the details yet, but the changes were requested by you many times. And they make the game more interesting. For now I’ll leave you to guess what exactly these changes are, I will likely do a video to show you what I mean before the release. For once, they are already done and partially tested, unlike the clothing *&$%#^.

Survivalcraft

Now something else. A friend of mine has recently started working on a mobile game of his own, and (how the time flies!), he’s now released it to Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jakegames.wreckinrobot

It’s a cute physics based game and he’s still updating it, so needs all the feedback he can get. Here’s a link to his blog: http://www.wreckin-robot.blogspot.co.uk

 

Clothing

Have a look at that:

Clothing

 

Yes, the new, big feature coming in 1.26 is clothing. Obviously, clothing will be integrated with survival mechanics. The basic stuff, like armor (certain types of clothing protecting against hits) and temperature effects on health (wearing thin clothing in the snow) should be included. Suggestions for anything beyond that welcome!

New default skin

You will not believe it at first, but there is a new default skin for the player coming in 1.26.

Here’s how it looks like at the moment:

NewSkin

 

I know it looks spartan, with just boxer shorts and no other clothes. But there is a good reason for that – it’s the new major feature coming in 1.26. Because of it, the player will not look like that when he disembarks the intro ship, despite having a half-nude skin texture. The new feature will also hopefully make survival mechanics a little more complex.

With this monster hint I am sure you will easily figure out what the said feature is :-)

The default skin is still in work in progress and I may change it a little.

Memory Changes

The new build with fixed memory leaks and new texture is already on Google Play (1.25.15).

I also decided to completely change the way terrain memory is managed. This should result in large savings in memory usage at the cost of more frequent allocations. As a result, the game should be playable (without running out of memory and crashing) at higher visibility ranges than previous 1.25 releases.

Because it’s a large change, there’s always risk of screwing something up. Please download and test, I want to publish for remaining platforms as soon as possible and get back to work on 1.26.

I’ve already completed work on a bunch of smaller new features for 1.26, but there is a new large coming as well. Has been requested many times. Guesses welcome as usual :-)

Memory Issues

I haven’t been writing for a while, but that does not mean nothing is happening in the world of Survivalcraft.

First of all, I am going to make another interim release in 1.25 series before 1.26 hits the headlines. The are many reasons for that, but the most important one are memory issues. I discovered a fairly nasty memory bug in the game that causes some serious leaks from time to time. I am aware that people have been reporting more frequent game crashes with the latest version, especially on memory constrained devices such as iPods and older iPads. As of today I stopped work on 1.26 features and applied myself to fixing that.

Another thing is a new blocks texture and icon:

Icon

When Survivalcraft was created in 2011, mobile devices were much slower and their screens much smaller than today. As a result, the game was designed for a 4 inch 800×480 screen, which was high end back then. Obviously, it’s no longer the case in 2014. Therefore, I decided to up the resolution of the default blocks texture to 512×512.

You can already find the new blocks texture in Amazon version of the game. Other platforms should receive it soon as well.

 

Community Content Ranking

I think you noticed that already, but a couple of weeks ago I made a large change to the way community content is ranked. This roughly coincided with 1.25 release.

The problem was that the old algorithm was putting too much stress on number of downloads and ratings.

The new system takes into account a lot more factors than just raw downloads. Most importantly, the older the content gets, the more it gets downranked. I think this is good, because once something gets to the top of the list, it starts amassing hundreds of thousands of downloads and ratings. It then becomes even more entrenched at the top, other content never has any chance of dislodging it.

Now, with time working against it, anything near the top should not stay there for months on end as it was before.

I am still occasionally tweaking various parameters in the algorithm, but it’s not a major change, just small corrections.

I wonder if Google guys feel the same when they tweak Google Search ranking algorithm :-)

iOS approved

Finally Apple have reviewed and approved 1.25.8, which hopefully is the last bugfix release in 1.25 series. Apple device owners should be able to download it shortly, if not already.

Some explanation to do with ART runtime support on Android. I don’t expect you will get much speedup from running Survivalcraft under ART runtime vs Dalvik. The reason for that is Survivalcraft, being multiplatform, interfaces with the system libraries in a minimal way. Probably less than 1% of code can be speeded up by ART.

ART support is nevertheless important, because other apps designed specifically for Android can see more tangible gains. More and more people will make the switch away from Dalvik.

Anyway, it’s good to know that ART support seems to be working. Thank you for all the feedback!

 

ART on Android

I asked this already on Twitter, but to get more responses here it comes again:

In 1.25, I made some changes to make the game run better under experimental ART runtime on Android (which is the successor of Dalvik). I haven’t tested those changes yet, but I am curious how it fares on various devices. If you are running ART already on your phone/tablet, could you please let me know whether the game works properly, and what device do you have?

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