Tidalis:0.800 Beta Release

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Notes From The Producer: June 7, 2010

Has it really been two weeks since the last beta release of Tidalis? That's absolutely forever in Arcen terms. Part of it was that Keith and I were busy getting AI War settled down so that we could spend the rest of the month focusing on Tidalis. But, part of it was also that there was just a ton of stuff going on with Tidalis behind the scenes, too.

In no particular order, a bunch of changes in this version:

  • The last two themes are now complete, in terms of art and music, and work on the art polishing is seriously underway (check out the animations on the title screen—still in progress—as well as the completed ones on the volcano and tidal wreckage themes, among others, as well as all the changes to the map screen).
  • Tons of new sound effects, mainly for special blocks and items.
  • A bunch of new levels and cutscenes, as well as a revamp of all the existing cutscenes with new polish and code that allows us to make a much more interactive, fluid effect to them.
  • The basic implementations of high scoreboards, achievements, "plushies," extrinsic item awards, and "puzzle titles" (the last two being specific to the adventure mode, the former two being global).
  • A bunch of progress on the networking, including connectivity between at least Intel Macs and PCs (if anyone can verify that a PowerPC Mac can connect to an Intel Mac or a PC, that would be much appreciated—we don't have a PPC Mac on hand, all of ours are Intel Macs). Granted, you can't actually play the game yet with the networking, but a surprising amount of work went into just getting it to this stage.
  • A ton of tweaks and bugfixes.

As I noted above, we're pretty much settled on the AI War stuff for the month, bugfixes and other small tweaks aside, so we've now got the full programming firepower on Tidalis to finish this up in time for an official release hopefully on or around July 6 (that's a super tentative date, we haven't spoken to our partners about it yet—but July 6 would be the earliest date we're likely to do it, and a week or two after that would be about the latest we'd be likely to do it).

We'll be submitting Tidalis to the PAX 10 contest this year, and we feel like it has an excellent chance; especially with all the polish in 0.800, and which we'll be putting into the game throughout this week, it's really coming to the next level presentation-wise. We'll be submitting to the contest on Friday (due date is not until next Tuesday, but we want to submit early just in case of any issues with the submission).

So this week will be even more focused on polish than usual, but I also hope to get the networking a lot closer to done this week, if not completely done (it just depends on how much other polish work requires my attention more urgently before PAX 10, since networking isn't something we expect to be evaluated for that contest).

In terms of themes, special blocks, items, and game modes, we're pretty much finished with that. We might add a last few more of some of those if time permits, but Tidalis already has an absolute ton of functionality and our focus now is on making all of it shine, along with adding or polishing the rest of the non-direct-gameplay functionality such as (for example) networking, Steamworks support, gamepad support, hopefully Twitter integration (hey, it's quick and fun—and a good way for folks to spread the word), and various other good stuff along those lines.

We still have a goodly number more levels to create, and many more cutscenes to write and script as well, but all that's coming along well. In terms of art, we're almost purely on to the polish phase (images for the final cutscene of the game notwithstanding), and with music/sound we're pretty much done (any other sound effects we think of, and the music for the final cutscene of the game, notwithstanding). When it comes to music/sound, mostly Pablo is getting ahead on the next two projects, i.e. Children of Neinzul and the AI War 4.0 remastered soundtrack, but he'll be back on Tidalis stuff as needed. But expect to see continual evolutions on the art from Phil, it's really amazing what he's done on a lot of the themes and on the world map already, but he's just barely gotten started in many senses; so many more themes to update, and I'm working on programming some new tools to help him add even more life and vibrancy to the backgrounds.

All in all? This project is really coming together, which is really rewarding. It's nice to have this last month for a lot of polish along with the last feature implementations, as that really lets us put a level of professionalism on this game that AI War didn't hit until version 2.0 or 3.0. Of course, prior to 2.0, it was just me on AI War (and Pablo on music), but on this game we have a team of 5, so that's much better! I think everyone on the team is really amazed at how well this is all coming together from all angles, and we all have the feeling that we've got something really special here. That's a really neat feeling, I have to say.

--Christopher M. Park

New & Updated Levels

  • Adventure levels 63-72 have been added to the game.
  • New cutscenes have been added for levels 10, 12, 15, 17, 19, 22, 24, 27, and 30 and a new secret cutscene has also been added.
  • All of the existing cutscenes, including the intro, have now been updated to take advantage of the new scene creation abilities.

New & Updated Art/Music/Sound

  • The last two art/music themes have been added: Lava Flats and Last Area.
    • Both of these have to be unlocked via being encountered in an adventure before they will be selectable in Quick or Custom games. But, player-created levels can use them at any time. If you want to avoid spoilers with them, don't peek!
  • The first ten segments of the adventure map have now been visually polished, along with other maps of the adventure map screen in general.
  • The five Line Clear Fanfares have been improved.
  • New sound effects: Turnip dying, Pit Monster eating, Can O Beans exploding, Crystal breaking, Water Balloon popping, Lightning Striking, Server Found, General Item use, Message received, Board Clear fanfare for Light-Up mode, Fire hiss when falling in water, noise for fish/sponges absorbing water, splash for blocks falling into water if moving too fast, metal breaking, extend, constrain, quake hammer, wall breaking.
  • The Volcano and Tidal Wave Wreckage art has been substantially updated, with added animations and details.
  • The Windy Mountaintop, Snowy Lowlands, and Title Menu art has been updated with added animations.

Gameplay Additions

  • Added a new Empty Block special block.
    • Only used in the level editor. This block disappears immediately on loading the level, creating a hole where the level designer had placed it.

Gameplay Updates

  • Blocks that die while under the bottom of the well no longer cause the blocks above them to hard-fall.
  • Blocks that clear via evaporation over time (right now, just Ice and Fire blocks) no longer cause the blocks above them to hard-fall when they die.

New Level Editor Features

  • Can now pre-populate the item stock in the editor.

Misc

  • Basic implementation of High Scores screen. Just Score and Timestamp for now, displays top 10 scores.
  • Basic implementation of player "Puzzle Title" in adventure rewards screen.
  • Various updates to the cutscene engine:
    • The text now scrolls into view, rather than all appearing at once.
    • There is a new TextSegment node that can be placed inside of TextDisplay nodes, allowing for paginated text within a specific overall segment of the Scene.
      • This also has an optional MaxDisplaySkip (default of 1) attribute that allows the scene creator to make specific text segments come into view faster or slower (0 would be faster, anything higher than 1 would be slower).
      • There is also an optional ShowsImmediatelyAfterPrior attribute (set to true or false, defaults to false) that allows the scene creator to make one segment show immediately after the last, rather than being on a separate page. This is useful for colorizing one specific line versus another.
      • There is also an optional BorderColor attribute (defaults to empty string) that allows the scene creator to set the border color of the text of a specific textsegment.
        • Currently the only valid value is "darkred", aside from leaving it blank.
    • There is a new optional ShowBackground attribute (set to true or false, defaults to true) on the TextDisplay node. When true, the text area will now show background text area panel. When false, it just uses a completely transparent background like it used to.
    • There is a new optional Height attribute (set to a numeric value, defaults to 150) on the TextDisplay node. This is not used at all when the ShowBackground is set to false, but when it is set to true it sets the height of the background text area panel.
  • When the adventure cutscene index window is closed and reopened, the cutscenes are now all reloaded from the disk (which is useful for testing if changes have been made to the scenes).
  • Added plushy display to adventure map screen.
  • The clouds on the adventure map now move much more smoothly.
  • Blocks no longer "wiggle up and down" (from being in a column that is too high) if they are actively moving. This prevents blocks that are falling or rising from seeming jerky in their movements when it was really just the wiggle effect. As soon as they are still, they wiggle as they should. To most people, this is likely to be an imperceptible change.
  • The alignment of the visual themes is now always from the top-left when used in scenes, to prevent confusion for people creating cutscenes.
  • Removed the "disable extrinsic rewards" checkbox from settings, so those are now always enabled (which is ok now that they're actually implemented).
  • UV Animation on sprites, and layer scrolling on layers, is now 10x larger in scale. Old 1 = New 10, etc. This lets theme designers set a 10x slower scroll if they want to. Old theme values are scaled upwards.
  • It is now possible to host network games, to find them on the LAN, and to directly connect to them. You can also set your player name for use within networking, and the host can see the name of the client (and vice-versa) when they are connected. It is also possible for the host and the client to disconnect their sessions.
    • Other than this, the networking is still in progress, though; it's not ready to be used, and the networking GUI windows inform the player of as much.

Bugfixes

  • Fixed a bug relating to Sun and Moon mode not working quite right in recent version (since 0.415).
    • Thanks to Ixiohm and RCIX for reporting!
  • Fixed bug where cutscene update was somewhat related to mouse movement instead of being purely fixed-timing.
    • Thanks to dumpsterKEEPER for reporting.
  • Fixed bug where closing the stats screen would cause an unpleasant flash.
  • Fixed a bug with the theme offsets remaining in the actual level after watching a cutscene.
  • Added check to solitaire mode so it will not auto-add a drop-X-block win objective if there is already a drop-X-block win objective.
  • Fixed bug in level editor where the special block type list contained an uninitialized element.
  • Fixed bug in level editor where the embedded item type dropdown contained a blank item.
  • Fixed a bug with popup messages sometimes showing behind other windows.
  • Fixed bug where an item image was missing.
    • Thanks to Ixiohm for reporting.
  • Fixed bug in cutscene index window where its size was changing with each scene added to the list.
  • Fixed overlapping display bug with rewards screen display if you had viewed it on the adventure map with achievements, and then it came up after winning a level.
  • Fixed bug where Line Clear Reactions in Zen mode could create nearly perpetual clear-reaction-clear-reaction cascade chains.
  • Fixed bug where frenzy + solitaire resulted in blocks still falling normally (contrary to solitaire rules).
  • Fixed a bug in random theme selection that could result in a game failing to initialize.
  • Fixed a bug with uv animation moving to the right for theme sprites, which caused all manner of oddness in a couple of the themes.
  • Fixed a bug that was causing slight jitters throughout the application for uv animations that were moving up and/or left, when they wrapped around the full size of the image. This applied to clouds on the adventure map, rain/snow, wind, and so forth.
  • Fixed a bug where non-water-modes were acting as if there was water below the bottom of the well.
  • Previously special-frequency-defined levels were ignoring normal "don't place block type X during initial well population" logic (i.e. no eaters), fixed to obey the allowed special block list.
  • Fixed bug in CenterWindow that would gradually and subtly increase the virtual width and height of the window with each call, causing displacement of some controls.
  • De-charring clear method no longer shows up in objective editor, since it doesn't really do anything from the designer's perspective.
  • Previously, there was some visual hitching the first time a theme was opened. Fixed.
  • Fixed a few theme definition errors with clouds disappearing inappropriately in a few themes.

Internal Programming Notes

Tidalis