Tidalis:0.900 Beta Release

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Notes From The Producer: June 26, 2010

PAX 10

Now that we've made our PAX 10 submission and it's possible that contest judges could be looking at the game at any time, we're being extra super careful about not introducing bugs or instabilities into the game, which is why the long time since the last release. The networking work is in full swing, and that caused a lot of internal changes and intermittent issues that we (hopefully) got all ironed out before this version.

Networking

So, what's the deal with networking? Well, it sort of works now. As in, we haven't taken down the in-game warning not to use the networking, but if you're inclined you can connect to another player, send a board across the wire to them (even custom boards), and you can play for a few seconds. The longest I got was 34 seconds before a desync. That's okay, though, this release isn't about the networking: I just wanted to let you know that it's coming real soon, and in most respects is nearing completion. My goal is to have it polished and working really well for a release on perhaps Monday.

Static Backgrounds

Is your netbook or older computer having trouble keeping up with all the fancy new art an animations that Phil has been putting into the visual themes? No worries! There is now a "use static backgrounds" option in the game settings which dramatically reduces the graphics load from the themes themselves (as in, it cuts GPU time in half even on my very nice GPU). And if the background animation just bugs you in general, you can also use it for that reason. For most computers the animations should run just fine, and we're really pleased with how much life and vibrancy they bring to the game.

Adventure Updates

The adventure story is now more than 2/3 implemented into the game, and we're really pleased with how it's shaping up. The adventure levels are up to level 87 now, too, which is closing in on our end goal of 114.

Finding an adventure level to be too hard or frustrating? Whenever you lose an adventure level, there is now a Skip button that appears. You can use this whenever you want, as many times as you want. Skipped levels will show up as yellow on the adventure map, so that you can go back to them later if you want. We discussed a lot of ways of handling this, but in the end we decided to just let the player do as they wish and not be beholden to any sort of "skip credits" mechanic or similar.

Art Updates

Boy, there are a bunch of them once again. Enjoy! :)

New VS Modes, Co-Op-Specific Modes

Our selection of VS modes is now complete, with Endurance and Freeform being added to the existing Garbage Blocks option. Lots of flexibility and fun options of there, especially with Freeform.

And now we've also implemented two out of the three co-op-only modes that we've got planned. "Sun or Moon" mode is particularly interesting, I think, but the Vaporizer mode is also cool.

New Game Style!?

Yeah, we thought we were done with game styles, too. But in working on the Endurance VS mode, it quickly became obvious that the mechanic from that would make a good game style in general. So we present to you... the Speed-Up game style. It adds some speed-increases-over-time, which is a cool new option to have.

Player Options

If you're adding a second player for local play, you might notice that there is now a window with details for that. The handicaps and the co-op item options don't yet do anything, but those are a preview of what's coming shortly, sometime in this next week. Those will also be available for network play and (regarding the handicaps) in solo, as well.

What About Server Listings / Matchmaking?

Well, we had been hoping to use the Unity Master Server for doing simple server listings while we wait for Impulse Reactor v2. Turns out, for various reasons that won't work. So now we're dropping back and evaluating both (mainly) Smart Fox Server and (to some degree) Neutron. We'll see what shakes out, but the hope is to have something robust that we can build more functionality into over time beyond the basics, and which we can also make a part of AI War 4.0 when that comes out in a few months.


Next prerelease will be quicker to arrive than this one was, in just a few days. Enjoy!


--Christopher M. Park

New & Updated Levels

  • Adventure levels 77-87 have been added, levels 5 and 10 have been updated.
  • Basic tutorials 2 and 5 have been tweaked.
  • Cutscenes 35, 37, 39, 42, 46, 47, 50, 54, 59, 60, 64, and 67 have been added, and 36 and 39 have been updated.

New & Updated Art/Music/Sound

  • Segments 10-14 of the adventure map have now been visually polished, which completes the visual polish of the adventure map.
  • The Forest, Forest Night, River, Night Marsh, Night Marsh Variance, and Rainy Mud Flat themes have been visually polished and animated to a great degree.
  • "Static background" versions of all the themes have been added (see below, in Misc).
  • The Snowy Lowlands, Windy Mountaintop, Temple, and Tidal Wreckage themes have been visually updated.
  • There is a new, static intro loading screen, which lets the game load faster before it gets to the fully-animated title menu.
    • A different random character is now shown on each time the game is loaded, and the static intro image cross-fades into the animated title menu when the loading is completed.
  • The "Place Color Block" item images have been updated to be colorblind-friendly.
  • Both Pit Monsters and Eaters are now fully animated as they eat blocks.
  • Both Sick Blocks and Cured Blocks are now animated when they are triggered. Sick Blocks are also now animated in general.
  • The keyboard cursor is now animated so that it is easier to see.
  • All of the color block images (for all sets) have been polished.
  • There are now sound effects for both flipper special blocks, for sick blocks becoming cured, for cured blocks and sick blocks being triggered, and for when players try to drag across a block that is direction-locked.
  • The fog on the adventure map is now animated.

Gameplay Additions

  • Added a new Speed-Up game style.
    • In this advanced mode, the speed at which blocks fall gradually increases as you play, making an eventual loss inevitable unless you manage to fulfill other victory conditions (or run out the timer) first. The higher the action difficulty, the faster the speed increases.
  • Added a new VS - Freeform player rules set.
    • Play against the AI, or another player. There are no particular rules, it's just the last player standing. You can use game styles and other Custom Game options to really custom-tailor the type of game you want.
  • Added a new VS - Endurance player rules set.
    • Play against the AI, or another player. Automatically applies both the Speed-Up game style and and Endless time limit in addition to whatever other settings you select. The game gets increasingly fast until someone loses.
  • Added a new Co-Op - Block Vaporizer player rules set.
    • In this co-op mode, every time a player completes a chain it vaporizes the most-dangerous block of the same color on their partner's well. One block is vaporized per every 3 blocks cleared.
  • Added a new Co-Op - Sun Or Moon player rules set.
    • Sun and moon blocks can only be cleared in alternating order: sun-moon-sun or moon-sun-moon.
    • In this co-op mode, one player gets occasional moon blocks, while the other gets occasional sun blocks. Every time a player clears a chain, they one sun or moon item per 3 blocks in the chain (the item matches the blocks in their well).
    • To win, each player must use these items on the well of their partner in order to enable their partner to complete these sorts of chains.

Gameplay Updates

  • Cured blocks no longer turn back into Sick blocks when their score multiplier is triggered. This was too difficult in practice.
  • Using the Fast-forward or Ultra-fast-forward buttons/hotkeys now causes a block to immediately fall, so these can be tapped to quickly drop just a single column of blocks.
  • There is now a yellow highlight that fades in to each column of blocks right before the column gets a block (or blocks) dropped into it. This lets players easily keep tabs, especially in Solitaire mode, on where blocks will next be dropping in.
  • Added bi-directional versions of the place-color-block items.
  • Clearing an Ice block next to a Cured block will now turn it into a Sick block (uses the same range as the direction-lock effect).
  • Sick Blocks no longer cause a row of blocks to fall in Zen, Light-Up, or Puzzle modes.
  • The VS AI is now allowed to play in Zen, Solitaire, and Speed-Up modes in addition to the prior Frenzy and Normal modes.

New Level Editor Features

  • When hitting Save and Test on the Theme Editor, it now hides the entire GUI until any button or mouse click is registered.
  • The Level Editor now has a "Skip Objectives From Game Styles" option in the Edit Level Details window.
    • If enabled, the enabling of game styles won't cause any literal objectives (win or loss ones) to be added to your level. Normally this option does not need to be enabled, but in specific circumstances with game styles such as Solitaire, it can prove quite helpful.
  • The Move Limit slider in the Edit Level Details window has been moved onto the same line with the Distinct Colors slider in order to save space.
  • Added Cure Count and Unchar Count objectives.
  • There are now FlipX and FlipY commands that can be used in the sprite keyframing scripting.
  • Added new objective type for clearing Sick OR Cured blocks, since there was no way to achieve this with existing objective types.
  • New Levels no longer default to puzzle-mode.

Misc

  • Added mouseover highlight to adventure map nodes.
  • Added "Use Static Backgrounds" option for those with lower-end hardware and those who just like backgrounds that don't move.
  • Normally when there is an unhandled exception, Unity 3D applications just get all weird and buggy-looking. Now Tidalis internally catches these exceptions in a better way, logs them to a permanent UnhandledExceptions.txt error file, pops open a message to show the player, and closes itself. This prevents a lot of confusion—as well as potential data corruption—in the fairly rare event that an unhandled exception is encountered.
  • Combined Stats and High Scores windows, added tabs for Adventure Stats, Today's Stats, and Session Stats.
  • Added 30 new achievements.
  • X Combos of >= (or > ) Y Depth objectives now count the current combo as soon as it reaches the >=|> Y mark, rather than waiting for it to completely clear.
  • Quick and Custom games now properly show a general description of what type of play is occurring where the name of the levels is usually shown in adventure mode levels.
  • Made AI take better advantage of Frenzy mode.
  • Keyboard cursor movement now wraps around when moved off the board (previously would just not move), and if an item is loaded into the keyboard cursor and trying to move off the board left or right, it will automatically switch boards (previously you had to use the tab key to switch).
  • Added Move Limit, Time Spent, Moves Used, and Blocks Cleared columns to high score tables.
  • Right-click hints mode now highlights any block that could impact a stream from the proposed block (for example, stones block streams, and magnets can move them, etc).
  • Blocks now only count as dropped for objective-counting-purposes (notably solitaire's win objective) and statistics when they are below the top of the board.
  • The Reduced Visual Stimulation toggle now disables most in-game animations (not the theme animations, use the other toggle for that).
  • Added open-chat-popup keybind (defaults to Return) that lets the player enter text that goes into the chat log (same place the achievement-unlocked messages go).
  • Number of Players button now pops up a Player Preferences window allowing more detailed control.
  • Overhaul of help screen.
  • Adjusted rules of what can spawn under water to prevent rising stacks right at the start of a level.
  • The tooltips on the Player Relationship dropdown have been updated with some important notes:
    • IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT VS MODES:
    • Only some game styles, items, and special blocks are available in VS with the AI. All are available in VS with two humans.
    • IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT CO-OP-ONLY MODES:
    • Co-Op-Only rulesets are not shown unless you have two local players or two players over the network.
  • Sprite movement in cutscenes now much smoother between segments.
  • The Before-level popup now has a "START" button instead of an "OK" button.
  • Several changes have been made to the After-level screen:
    • The "View Board" button is now shown as smaller and blue, on a second line under the other buttons.
    • The "Map" button when you win a level on the adventure mode has been renamed to "Continue" to be more clear.
  • Network play is getting very close; a lot of work has gone into that. Boards can actually be synced and played for a little while over the network now, but it tends to desync after just a few seconds, and there are a lot of parts of the network play experience that are still not polished at all. That said, our list of to-do items with the networking is getting far lower, and it's expected that the next prerelease will have those in a fully playable state. Most of the really hard stuff is behind us now with that, knock on wood.

Bugfixes

  • Fixed bug preventing scrolling in the adventure editor.
  • Fixed bug that made adventure map scrolling happen at the edge of the screen rather than the edge of the letterboxed area, which is a very different thing on large resolutions.
  • Fixed bug with boards with editor-defined special block frequencies, where it was possible for a special type with zero frequency to be placed in the initial population.
  • Fixed a couple of bugs with pit monsters that was causing them to jump upwards too fast when eating blocks, and which also was causing them not to play their eating sound effect.
  • Fixed bug where very large scoring chains would actually reduce the total score.
  • Previously the statistics sets had entries for highest-scoring-chain, highest-scoring-combo, and most-blocks-per-combo, but these were not actually being properly tracked. Fixed.
  • Previously, the board objectives were not showing up correctly in multi-board play. Fixed.
  • Fixed bug where AI would overuse fast forward.
  • Fixed a bug where the block counts in chains were being over-reported for purposes of fanfares, stream credits, and similar.
  • Previously loading a saved level with the eater defense game style would add another copy of the default objective to the loss conditions; fixed to only add the default objective if it is missing.
  • Fixed some bugs with it being possible to get blocks above the board in water mode without losing.
  • Fixed bug with some types of floats-in-water blocks (apples, turnips) not being handled properly.
  • Fixed bug where hints mode would not consistently draw block overlays dark or non-dark. Now will use the same dark-ness as the block.
  • Fixed a bug that was sometimes causing things to get offset in the title menu theme in the theme editor.
  • Fixed a bug that was causing theme list resets to take inordinately long.
  • Fixed a bug that was preventing themes from properly being saved on Save & Test.
  • Using a place-block item to replace a block that has already claimed a tile now immediately reclaims that tile for the new block, preventing oddities like "resetting" the progress of eaters higher up in the column.
  • Fixed bug that was drawing grid lines over blocks under water (should always draw those under the blocks).
  • Fixed a couple of errors with uv animation getting slightly off based on certain floating point math.

Internal Programming Notes

Tidalis