Monthly Archives: December 2017

Jetboard Joust Devlog #71 – (Black) Hole In One!

This was the first weapon that I really didn’t have much of a clue what I was going for when I started it and, ironically, it’s probably turned out to be the one I’m most pleased with!

When I set up the placeholder for this one ages ago it was called ‘Storm Bringer’ and I had an idea it was going to involve some kind of ‘particle storm’ type effect, a bit like those fireworks you get that fire out a ton of different sparks that go off in different directions.

However, I’ve already changed the ‘Spreader‘ weapon to be called ‘Particle Storm’ and, as that now does something very similar to what I intended this weapon to do, differentiating this weapon proved difficult.

I tried a series of variations with a bunch of particles moving in a constrained and stuttery ‘Brownian Motion’ type manner but this all looked shite and, to be honest, given that I’ve done so many of these weapons now I was beginning to feel like I was running out of ideas and motivation.

Then came a random source of inspiration. In my very skunkworks home studio I have a rack for audio gear that I’ve cobbled together over the years from various shitty pieces of Ikea furniture and stuff. In an attempt to make this more uniform (as nothing matched and my workmanship was so terrible) I covered the entire piece with Jack Kirby art from a bunch of old Spiderman and Fantastic Four comics I had as a kid.

On one small section of this there’s an image of a character disappearing into a kind of black hole, the image is drawn in negative and looks really striking. I had vaguely considered a weapon called ‘Black Hole’ (though I was worried it would be too similar to the ‘Sonic Boom‘) so I decided, largely out of desperation, to try switching the particles I was using to very dark circles with a light outline. I thought this would look ridiculous but, to my surprise, it actually looked kind of cool!

It’s not a single black hole though, so I hit upon the concept of a weapon that fires a series of mini black holes that suck the life force from enemies. Stephen Hawking would probably turn in his grave but I liked the idea. I’m calling it the ‘Black Hole Blaster’ which, thankfully, just about fits in the space I’ve reserved for weapon names in the HUD!

I worked on this ‘negative space’ effect some more, adding a layering system to my particle code so that I could draw all the white outlines ‘behind’ the black circles, this gave the effect of a unified black mass with a white outline which looked much better than a bunch of circles overlaid. As usual there was a lot of tweaking and messing around here (I didn’t really have any point of reference for the effect I was trying to create other than that one comicbook panel) but I’ve ended up with something I think works.

There’s five layers of particles in the final version two sets of black circles with light outlines (one smaller than the other) and the concentric circles you see overlaid which (I think) help to give the impression of some kind of black hole rather than simply black smoke. It was difficult to get these concentric circles subtle enough to suggest ‘black hole’ without overwhelming things, I had to do a lot of messing around with the frequency and distribution of them. It’s possible that I’ve erred to much on the side of caution and could do with a few more of them. It does look a bit like some kind of weird satanic flamethrower but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing!

Lastly, whilst working on the collision detection (which was very straightforward) I thought it might be a nice touch if these mini black holes exerted a small gravitational force, actually sucking enemies towards them. This was pretty fiddly to code, and my initial version was ludicrously powerful, but it did seem to work and help to differentiate this weapon nicely from some of the others.

So I think I’m pretty much done with this one now. I’m really pleased with it, both in the way it looks, but also for the fact I’ve never seen a weapon quite like it in any other game (though some smartarse will no doubt point one out to me)!

Only two weapons left to go!!

Dev Time: 2 days
Total Dev Time: approx 140.5 days

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The Jack Kirby Panel That became My Inspiration

An Early Draft Of The Weapon

The Final(ish) Version

Too Much Suction!

Black Hole Dogfight!

Jetboard Joust Devlog #70 – Shred-ache

At last – a weapon where I can write about something else other than endless tweaking of shader and particle effects (though there was still plenty of that involved)!

The Shredder is another weapon inspired by many wasted hours playing Turok 2 on the N64 back in the day. In Turok it’s a weapon that fires a laser that bounces off anything it hits, you can it in action here.

I knew that to get this mechanic to work I was going to need a method of collision detection that was more robust than the current system I’m using due to the speed the shredder’s ‘beam’ would be travelling. My current system relies on objects actually colliding at the point at which the collision checking is done, this is fine for the most part but will fail when very fast objects more ‘through’ smaller objects (the so-called ‘bullet through paper’ syndrome).

So I started looking at how to implement a basic raycasting algorithm to check for collisions instead. I am not great at Math(s) so was slightly dreading this, but thankfully I found a YouTube video that was able to explain to explain the calculations involved in simple raycasting here. There’s some very clear code linked to from that same video.

I was able to implement a decent enough raycasting algorithm fairly painlessly, so the next step was to work on the visuals. I didn’t really like a plain ‘laser beam’ type effect as is used in Turok, so began working with smaller particles instead. I felt a weapon called the ‘shredder’ should look at least vaguely like it’s tearing things to pieces!

After several hours of tweaking particle parameters (a process I am now getting a bit tired of) I managed to settle on an effect I was pretty happy with and seemed to fit with the name ‘shredder’. There’s two sets of particles here, one which stays aligned with the ‘beam’ and one which drifts away from it. Also particles are added when the ‘beam’ reflects off a surface.

I uploaded this to Twitter thinking I was done, but after coming back to it felt the trail of the ‘beam’ was too dispersed. It needed some kind of central ‘pulse’ or something. I also had some feedback, again via Twitter, to this effect so I wrote a simple shader that allowed me to taper a beam out to a point and used this. I also focussed the distribution of the particles a bit more.

Now I think I am done!

Dev Time: 2 days
Total Dev Time: approx 138.5 days

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First Steps Testing The Raycasting Algorithm

Adding Reflection And Testing A rough ‘Laser Beam’ Effect

The Point At Which I Thought I Was Done

The Final Weapon In Action

Jetboard Joust Devlog #69 – Boom Boom, Shake The Room!

This latest weapon is called the ‘Sonic Boom’ and I had a fairly good idea of what I wanted it to look like visually before I started. Something akin to radiating circles but not so regular in feel.

I remember seeing something as a kid in a book about optical illusions (we had no Internet then, kids) that always stuck with me – it was an image comprised of two sets of concentric circles, the centres of which were slightly offset. It made your eyes go funny and that was a good thing.

So I started on that basis, by updating the geometry shaders I discuss here to include multiple sets of shapes that are offset by a certain amount. It took quite a while to get this working in a way I was happy with (and to structure the HLSL in a way that was sensible and would allow me to add other shape types easily), but the result was pretty satisfying if nothing like the effect I set out trying to achieve!

I realised there was just too much being drawn in the shader so I set about adding some different paint modes to vary the effect created. As well as the original ‘OR’ logic (if a pixel contains a shape it’s drawn) I added AND, XOR and NOT modes that react differently, particularly where shapes overlap. For the AND and NOT modes I allow a number of overlaps to be specified, with AND any pixel that contains >= the number of overlaps is drawn, with NOT and pixel that contains < the number of overlaps is drawn.

By combining these modes and a lot (and I mean a lot) of tweaking I was finally able to achieve the type of effect I'd set out to create. The final version consists of two overlapping geometry shaders for the bulk of the effect, particles around the barrel of the weapon, and a smaller 'negative' geometry shader also around the barrel of the weapon.

As with most of these weapons, the actual mechanics of it were pretty straightforward to program. It acts really like a kind of RPG that must be 'charged' before being released, if anything it's even simpler than the RPG because I'm allowing this one to travel through buildings (I'm not sure if I'll keep it like that or not, it does seem a little weird).

I did also have to update the enemy AI to allow them to cope with a 'charge and hold' type weapon but that was pretty easy. The audio design for this one's gonna be fun!

Dev Time: 2 days
Total Dev Time: approx 136.5 days

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First Stab At Updated Geometry Shader

Adding Different Paint Modes To The Geometry Shader

The Final Sonic Boom Effect

Adjusting Enemy AI For ‘Charge And Hold’