Tidalis:0.901 Beta Release

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Notes From The Producer: June 28, 2010

Networking

The release notes on this one are pretty slim, but don't let that fool you. The networking is more functional than ever, and we've successfully played the first VS Garbage battle over the internet. I'm happy to report that I schooled Keith in about 30 seconds—but in all fairness, we weren't really playing to play, just to test.

There are still a LOT of things wrong with the networking experience at the moment, but it's just in the polish department from my perspective. Hopefully in a day or two, those will all be finished up and we'll take the warning off the networking section sometime later this week. Right now there are such issues as the winner not knowing when they have won (that message just hasn't been coded yet, it's not even a bug), and chat messages not traveling across the wire (ditto). So actually, all the parts of the networking that we've coded so far are working, well, seemingly flawlessly at this point. There's just a lot more little things that we need to actually code for the networking experience to be anything other than alpha-tester-experience.

Actually, I had planned on having all that networking stuff cleaned up to the point of being very usable by today, but something else got in the way. What was that? SERVER LISTINGS!

Server Listings & Web Hosting Shift

We looked at a lot of options (again—we have looked at these options every few months for over a year now), and in the end we decide to just roll our own. The functionality we're working on is fairly simple, but it's more robust than what we thought we were going to have from the Unity Master server, so that's something.

In order to enable what we need, however, we needed a more robust server; that's the main thing that always stopped us from rolling our own in the past with AI War. Our old hosting plan was a shared environment at Lunarpages, and it just wasn't cutting it for us any longer. I've been a lunarpages customer off and on since the early 2000s, and they have a really great service overall, but Arcen has grown to the point that we have moderately high load on a daily basis (even with our big files already hosted everywhere, and 95% of the downloads not coming from us directly, we're pushing out nearly 400gb per month of data—if you think about the other 95% that's from Steam, Impulse, CNET, etc, that's an intense amount of data).

And we also have spikes on occasion that were already causing the old server to sweat and groan (and occasionally drop forum emails, I think). The idea of adding something like a matchmaking service onto that same hardware was just laughable—and frankly, if we saw a big influx of Tidalis traffic next month on top of the usual AI War traffic, the server was done for in that scenario, too.

So now we're on the Rackspace Cloud Sites service, which costs us 18x more than our old hosting plan did, but which has already made the site snappier, and has let us finally pursue a server listing service. The first rudimentary version is actually in this 0.901 version, but it's extremely raw and mostly just an infrastructure/data-mechanics test. That said, the server listing service has already come along surprisingly far (go Keith!), and hopefully we'll have that in a workable state this week along with the rest of the networking.

Release Date: July 16!

Well, we've near-definitely set a release date for Tidalis now: July 16! In talking with our various distribution partners, that was just what made the most sense. There still is a slight possibility of a tweak to this day, but I really don't expect it to change.

I do have some bad news for those of you hoping for a public beta on Steam: that won't be happening after all, mostly for logistical reasons. We'll be doing private testing with a Steam version to make sure that both the Mac and Windows versions hook into Steamworks well, and that they'll be able to distribute it properly, but Tidalis won't be publicly out on Steam until its official unveiling on the 16th.


That's the news for now! This is going to be a big week for Tidalis, so keep your eyes open for more betas in the coming days.

--Christopher M. Park


PS: Be sure to check out the new Fishing Village animations in this version—Phil has outdone himself, in my opinion. To get surf and wave animations like that in a completely 2D game is just amazing to me. We built the tools for him to do these themes, and then he completely shocked us with what he was able to do with what we gave him; I would never have thought this level of animation possible with our theme builder, but here it is! ;)

New & Updated Levels

  • Adventure cutscenes 72 and 73 have been added, and 67 has been updated.

New & Updated Art/Music/Sound

  • The following themes have been visually updated: Night Marsh Variance, Foothills, Fishing Village.
  • New Finale1 and Finale2 music tracks have been added for use in the upcoming adventure ending.

Gameplay Additions

  • Added keybinds for setting the direction of the block under the cursor (uses the keyboard cursor if that is visible, the mouse cursor otherwise) to a specific direction, defaulting as follows:
    • W - Up
    • S - Down
    • A - Left
    • D - Right
    • This will work as long as you hold it down, so holding down A (or whatever key you change the bind to) while moving across a row of blocks will make them all point left.

Gameplay Updates

  • The logic for when blocks "hard land" after "hard falling" has been tweaked to make more sense with blocks that are rising up in water, or falling more slowly due to eaters or water or similar.

New Level Editor Features

Misc

  • Added items to the the pre-level display.
  • There are no longer any known desyncs in the game, which means that Network Play is now possible, although there are still a ton of rough edges everywhere (the biggest one being that it doesn't tell you when the other player loses or wins).
    • This functionality took a bit of a backseat over the weekend, as we were working on our new online server listing service and there were a few time-sensitive things we had to get finished with that piece of functionality before it got too close to official release time. Now that is all done, and we're back to working on the rest of the polish for the network play in general.
  • Added Find Internet Games button to Network Play Menu, which has the first pass of the online server listing service.
    • There is still a lot we need to finish and refine here, as well, but it's coming along well as of this release, on the new servers that we set up over the weekend to handle the load and extra functionality that this requires (that was a big job).
  • The Debug Allowed Turns Increase (F6) and Debug Allowed Turns Infinite (F7) testing hotkeys have been removed. They were less powerful than the F4/F5 testing hotkeys, anyway, and had innate incompatibility with multiplayer play.

Bugfixes

  • Fixed bug where pit monsters were chowing down during the initial block settling phase that happens before the board is shown.
  • Fixed bug that was letting tooltips show for invisible controls on some windows with scroll areas.
  • Fixed bug that that could cause streams to go in between two blocks on the horizontal axis in some cases.
    • Thanks to jkefka for reporting.
  • Fixed an issue that sometimes had the Game Over screen buttons hanging off the bottom of the screen on the smallest screen resolutions.
  • Fixed a potential unhandled exception error on stream movement.
  • Fixed a crash bug in the last prerelease relating to trying to load certain levels in trial mode of the game.
  • Fixed a bug in the last prerelease that was preventing quick games from being played at all in trial mode.
  • Fixed a bug in the last prerelease that was causing desyncs as soon as the F4/F5 testing hotkeys were used.
  • Previously, the game would crash and be unplayable when an anim.dat file was corrupt. Fixed so that it now shows a temporary error, logs the details, and moves on, instead.

Internal Programming Notes

  • The Debug Output (F3) now includes a lot more information about the individual boards, helpful for desync hunting.
  • The game now has safety-checking code in place to avoid crashing on invalid keybinding definitions in the settings.dat file

Tidalis