Tidalis:0.850 Beta Release

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Notes From The Producer: June 11, 2010

Well, this has been a productive week.

Our rendering and animation capabilities hit a new high this week, with a custom keyframe-based animation scripting engine that we've built on top of our existing engine and on top of Unity. This lets Phil build all sorts of cool stuff directly into the themes, in tandem with all the other tools he already had.

To see a great example of the sort of thing that this enables, just check out the amazing new work on the title screen—to me, this is absolutely jaw-dropping work, and that's even after I had the pleasure of seeing that evolve all week. The boat and the waving seaweed are all that are actually using the keyframing so far, but their animations would not have been possible without it. Amazingly, all the rest of the animation on that scene is uv animation; it's amazing how Phil constructed something so dynamic out of such simple techniques.

For another example of the keyframing at work, you can see the totem in the forest theme (he bounces slightly now). Phil hasn't made it to the forest theme just yet in his updates, but that was something I was trying out as part of my testing of the keyframing tools, and I really liked how that turned out.

But, there's a lot more that's changed here beyond just art, although the art has seen some amazing strides in other areas beyond what I've mentioned here (see the full release notes). In general, this week we sat down and looked at the game and made a list of all the things we wanted to fix or improve or change before the PAX 10 judges would be seeing it. That was a huge list, and it's been a really intense week for the entire team, but we're through about 80% of that list and closing in on the last 20% or so. Most of these fell under the Misc category in the release notes, but don't let that fool you as to their importance. The game is feeling a lot less beta, and a lot more like a finished product, with this release; so much so that we jumped from version 0.800 to version 0.850.

Speaking of PAX 10, we've also actually bumped back our time to submit to PAX 10 until Monday, so if you find stuff that seems buggy or wrong over the weekend (if you're playing this weekend), we'd love to hear about it so that we can get everything in top form for Monday. Obviously we're still having to prioritize what happens before Monday and what will just be part of our polish cycle between Tuesday and the start of July, but we still want to know about everything anyone finds. Monday I also intend to put out a new trailer for the game, showcasing all the new art, music, features, etc, so that should be fun. Smiley

This project is really flying along at this stage! The networking work took a hiatus this week since it doesn't have relevance for PAX 10, but around about the middle of next week I'm going to be back on that in a big way.

For scheduling reasons with our partners, it looks like we're going to release during the week of July 12 now, although I don't have an exact date. We still expect to be materially complete with the game by the start of July, just with final testing, fixes, and possibly some last art tweaks during the period between July 1 and July 12. The reason for the date shift is purely strategic, avoiding other large releases and sales with partners, not anything to do with the schedule for Tidalis itself.

Hopefully by the time July 12 rolls around, AI War: Children of Neinzul will also be available for preorder, and in fact we're hoping it will be materially completed by that point, too. We'll thus be working hard on the AI War 4.0 Unity changeover, and I'm sure racking up lots of tweaks and feedback on the CON expansion before it officially releases with AI War 4.0 in August.

And those are the updates! If you have time to test and let us know if you find any problems, we always appreciate that, but with our PAX 10 submission getting ever nearer, we're in greater need of that now than at any other time. What a difference a win like that could make to our business in general, and the visibility of Tidalis in particular. So we've really been burning the midnight oil getting all the stuff ready for that as much as possible, and I think that really shows in a positive way in the polish jump between 0.800 and 0.850.

Thanks for reading!

--Christopher M. Park

New & Updated Levels

  • Adventure levels 73-76 have been added to the game.
  • Many levels for adventure mode that previously just had numbers now also have names.
  • The offsets on a number of the cutscenes have been fixed, and there is now a new cutscene for level 31.
  • The difficulty of adventure levels 16 and 22 have been adjusted downward.
  • The two advanced tutorials on scoring and combos have been updated.

New & Updated Art/Music/Sound

  • The title menu has been updated substantially with new animations and art aspects.
  • The game engine has been given a major upgrade to support keyframing of sprites, which lets us do all sorts of cool effects without extra RAM requirements. We'll be making use of this in future Arcen titles, too.
  • The scaling down of the game board on monitors that are too small now looks vastly better thanks to Bilinear filtering on those textures instead of the normal Point filtering (that is normally used for the sake of having pixel-perfect sprites).
  • The scaling and rotation of sprites in general, and the movement of uv animations, is now noticeably higher quality, also thanks to using Bilinear filtering here instead of Point.
  • The HUD buttons and controls now have crisper graphics all around; more changes are still coming here on the window parts of the HUD, but the main menu portions and those rounded style of buttons are now fully updated to be significantly crisper and prettier.
  • There is now a 1 second effect that plays on a board right after you win or lose (except when it's in the yellow tutorial-style losing).
  • Other minor art tweaks abound.

Gameplay Additions

  • Added key-bind for manually marking a tile (default: M) and another for clearing all manual marks (default: LeftControl+M). Currently only works with the keyboard cursor.
  • Implemented Smart Drag Mode toggle on settings menu. The straightforward but perhaps confusing explanation is: When smart drag mode is enabled and you are using the mouse drag to change block directions: once you have moved the mouse over a block and then changed the direction of another block, further mouse movement over the block will not change the direction unless you release the drag button and start again.

Gameplay Updates

  • Reimplemented logic whereby crossing the boundary of a block while direction changing will point the block in that direction, regardless of the dx/dy of the mouse cursor from the last frame (which might give a different result).
  • Mark-tile-under-cursor and load-item-into-cursor keyboard commands (defaulting to M and 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, respectively) will now use the mouse cursor's location if there is only one local well and the keyboard cursor is not active (i.e. no keyboard commands have been issued in a long time and the keyboard cursor is not showing. The keyboard clear-all-manual-marks command (default: LeftControl+M) now also plays nicely with this by not activating the keyboard cursor if it is already inactive.
  • The way that scoring works has been changed a bit.
  • When a white blocks is in a chain, it now causes the combo multiplier of that chain to be doubled. This doesn't have any effect on future chains in the same combo, however.
    • Having multiple white blocks in a single chain doesn't cause this effect to be any more pronounced.
  • The first block in each chain is now of value 10 times the combo level of the chain.
    • Previously the first block was 10 times the value of all the blocks in previous chains, plus 10, which was a bit extreme.

New Level Editor Features

  • The old Board Name field has been split into new Display Name and File Name fields.
    • The Display Name is what is shown in the application (and can contain special characters, as well as being localizable), and the File Name is what is stored on disk.
    • The old trick of putting underscore (_) at the start of a filename to make it invisible in the levels listing is still alive and well, but now those levels don't appear with an underscore when players actually play those levels via the adventure mode.
  • There is now a new Authored By field that allows people to "sign" levels with their name or nickname. When a level has an author filled in, that author is shown directly underneath the name of the level whenever anyone plays that level.
  • The Theme Editor now has a Save And Test button that makes it vastly faster to test themes.
  • The palette windows for the Theme Editor, Adventure Editor, and Level Editor are now smaller and better positioned from the start to be less obtrusive.

Misc

  • Delete saved-adventure function changed from control-left-click to an actual button on the continue adventure interface; to use click the delete button and then click the adventure you want to delete (it will prompt for confirmation).
  • Polished Stats window display.
  • Polished Credits display a bit (just removing excess scrolling room at the bottom, really).
  • Added Achievements tab to the Stats Window; it displays all achievements in the game (only 6 implemented as of this change-log entry), and time of completion (if any).
  • Added support for the IsPlushyPile attribute to the Cutscene SpriteDisplay element.
  • Split stats window Stats tab into two tabs: Summary Stats and Detailed Stats.
  • Split High Scores screen into an All-Time tab and a Daily tab.
  • Added level-details tooltips for when the mouse cursor is hovering over an adventure map node (or a level in the Play->Levels menu or the Level Editor level selection menu).
  • Theme select on Custom Game and Quick Game now displays the name of the theme in a tooltip when the mouse cursor hovers over a theme.
  • The descriptions for a number of the special blocks and game modes have been updated to be more pleasant and less clinical.
  • Hitting escape (or pressing the menu button) from the Adventure Editor, Theme Editor, or Level Editor will now bring you back to the menu you were on that brought you into the editor (the adventure selector, the theme selectors, and the select-a-level-within-the-selected-level-set windows, respectively... try it, it makes sense), rather than back to the main menu.
  • Combined Continue Adventure and New Adventure buttons from the Play menu, now if you have saved adventure records it will go to Continue Adventure which now has a New Adventure button. If you don't have any saved adventure records or you hit the New Adventure buttons, if there's only one adventure defined in the game data (which is the default case) it will automatically try to start that adventure, otherwise it will bring up the New Adventure menu so you can pick which adventure.
  • Added Cancel button to the New Adventure "name your save game" prompt.
  • Now pressing the escape key or the menu button (which are the same thing, basically) during a quick game, custom game, or play->Levels game, it will bring you back to the quick game menu, custom game menu, and the pick-a-level-from-the-selected-folder menu, respectively.
  • Added scrolling border indicators on the adventure map, when there is room to scroll.
  • Added "Skip Cutscene" button when viewing a scene.
  • Added "Are You Sure You Want To Quit?" confirmation to the overall Quit button.
  • Added "Guided Tour" window for first time you run the game (until you tell it to stop, basically).
  • Continuing a saved adventure now automatically scrolls the map as far to the right as possible to save the player the trouble of doing so.
  • Added Tutorials phase of guided tour.
  • Added "Restart Guided Tour" button to Settings menu.
  • Updated achievement images from default apple-collectible to something new.
  • Made Quit button use the same "should I be visible" logic as most of the other bottom-of-the-title-screen buttons.
  • Added "Back To Tour" button on top-left, similar visibility rules as the Quit button, but only shows it the player has not made the guided tour "Go Away!" and the tour window is not currently being shown.
  • Made Sampler set (3 levels, currently, may add 1 or 2 more) playable in trial mode.
  • Removed old "do you want to play the tutorials" prompt that would come up the first time you tried to start an adventure.
  • Added 3 new achievements.
  • Previously it was possible to accumulate statistics (which count towards achievements) and check for achievements on tutorial levels and testing levels in the level editor. Fixed to not count stats or achievements in either of those cases.
  • The Game Over / Success message and buttons have been combined with the Rewards section (achievements and collectibles), all on one larger screen that is more user-friendly and allows for players to move back and forth at will between that "Completion Stats" screen and the actual board they were playing.
  • The game now shows appropriate messages on match completion when two players play VS mode against one another on the local machine (an overall game over or success message is not appropriate, but was what was showing before).
  • On the Game Over screen, the game now shows an entry from a random selection of tips.
    • The After Loss and After Win messages now also show on this screen.

Bugfixes

  • Fixed bug in previous version preventing special blocks from being seeded in the initial block population of a level where the block frequencies were set in the editor.
  • Previously the GameLevelSets were all being individually reset whenever the parent list of level sets was reloaded. This was causing some minor inefficiency now, but would have caused linear slowing as more levels and more level sets were added (custom or otherwise). Fixed so that the levels sets don't affect each other, it just matters how many levels are in an individual set.
  • Previously if there was a savegame pointing to an invalid adventure (such as an adventure that had been uninstalled), it would not let the player play any adventure savegames. Fixed.
  • Fixed a missing localization error in the last version on certain types of special objectives (gaining a certain amount of points).
    • Thanks to RCIX for reporting.
  • Fixed several bugs with the handling of dropdown item tooltips with other tooltip-displaying items under the dropdown.
  • Fixed bug where scrolled-down dropdowns were not matching the mouse cursor against the right item for mouse-hover events (mainly tooltip display).
  • Fixed a bug that was saving the TimeLimit value in the place of NumberOfPlayers in high-score records.
  • Fixed a missing localization bug on the keybindings screen and a bug where a few of the buttons were cut by the bottom of the window.
  • Previously, the red or green tinting from after a win or loss was carrying through to the menu screens. Fixed.
    • Thanks to RCIX for reporting.
  • Fixed a number of minor display glitches with scrolling sections of windows.
  • Fixed a bug with overall game over not being calculated correctly in multi-well play.
  • There were several bugs with loss conditions not firing correctly in multi-well vs play. Fixed.
  • In recent versions, often the water was not flowing past in the River theme. Fixed.

Internal Programming Notes

Tidalis