Tidalis:1.008 Beta Release

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Notes From The Producer: December 9th, 2010

Has it really been three months since our last Tidalis update? Sure looks like it. The last update for Tidalis was uploaded two days before my son was born, so that fits. To say that a lot has happened in the intervening time, both for me personally and for Arcen as well, would be a massive understatement.

One of the big things that's happened for Arcen since the last Tidalis release is that we ported AI War over to the Unity 3D engine. Specifically, a newer version of the Unity 3D engine than Tidalis has been using. That engine upgrade is faster, less buggy, and all around better—but it was also a huge undertaking just to get AI War upgraded to it and fully stable. We wrestled with an intermittent sound-related crash issue for OSX for a couple of months in the newer version of Unity, and that was a big part of the reason for the delay of upgrading Tidalis.

Now that we've got our engine level code for Unity 3.1 to a rock-solid place with AI War, we've backported it all to Tidalis. This includes an enormous number of under-the-hood changes to our sound, music, and graphics pipelines. The game will access data off the hard drive much less frequently, the graphics rendering is amazingly faster, and parsing of things like savegames and level files is 10x or more faster (though that's not super important, given those already parsed in less than a second, anyway).

Of course, with any major upgrade such as this, there is the risk of introducing new bugs—hence why this is a beta update rather than the next official. If things go well with people who test the beta, then we'll update the official version in the next few weeks. This version includes a small number of bugfixes from reports of issues on 1.007, too, so that's another incentive to try the beta if you had one of those few problems with the prior version.

Also in this version: support for a second keyboard controller. This also means that you can map two gamepads to keyboard controls and thus control the game comfortably with two gamepads for two players (using external gamepad mapping software that ships with most modern gamepads—not the game directly, to be clear). It also means that, technically, you can have three players per computer during network play: two on keyboard/gamepads, and one on the mouse. We're still calling it a 1-4 player game, but technically you can now squeeze in up to 6 players if you are so inclined.

That new extra-keyboard-player feature is our free DLC for the next official update, and it's some rather heavy-lifting code-wise, so there's a possibility that might have introduced some new issues, too. But in our internal testing, we're not aware of any issues from this or the engine upgrade, at this stage.

If you do run into any bugs, please let us know in the Tidalis section of our new Idea Tracker. But, good or ill, we'd like to hear how the new version is doing for you. If there are issues, we can correct them, and if it's doing great for you we'd also like to know that, so that we can gauge how comfortable we are with the new release in terms of readiness for an official update that would go out to all customers, not just those interested in helping us beta test.

As always, thank you for your support and help!

--Christopher M. Park

New & Updated Levels

New & Updated Art/Music/Sound

Gameplay Additions

  • Added support for 2nd keyboard player, on 2-well local play the input will go to the mouse-controlled board. The defualt bindings are KeyPad 8/5/4/6 for up/down/left/right (respectively), KeyPad0 for emit, KeyPadPlus for drag. A few other of the 2nd-keyboard binds also have defaults, but most do not; if you're actually using this you'll probably need to think through which keys go where anyway.

Gameplay Updates

New Level Editor Features

Misc

  • Upgraded the game from Unity 3D 2.61 to Unity 3D 3.1. This leads to many performance benefits, most notably with things like reading text files, etc. Tidalis is a fairly light load anyhow, so this is less of a noticeable upgrade than with AI War, but it's still nice. It makes the loading of the adventure map pretty instantaneous, for instance.
  • Full in-game resolution switching is now supported on OSX, thanks to the upgrade from 2.61 to 3.1. This is a lot more convenient and functional, and the ability to use the external Unity 3D resolution-configuration tool has been removed.
  • Upgraded to the new Unity 3.x font placement logic, from the old Unity 2x logic. This fixes a number of issues with fonts having some letters on the edges sometimes inexplicably cut off when rendered in paragraphs (like half the lowercase "l" character, commonly). It also creates some new font positioning issues that we need to clean up before the next official release.
  • Upgraded the game to the new GameObject-less graphic rendering style that we developed for AI War. This is vastly faster particularly when there are a lot of moving objects on the screen, or a lot of particles or things that are getting created and disappearing, etc. On some of the themes, this literally quadruples the framerate on our test machines, and in cases of extreme load with a lot going on we're now able to get 200fps where we were previously lucky to get 10 or 15 fps.
    • This may also fix some various small bugs with the image rendering for things like theme animations getting out of sync sometimes, but that remains to be seen for sure.
  • Upgraded the game to the new sound playback system that we developed for AI War. This preemptively prevents any crashing issues over time that might have come up with the new version of Unity (as happened with AI War), and it also puts less load on the disk IO during general gameplay, also contributing to a higher framerate when a lot is going on, especially on computers with slower hard disks.
  • Updated the updater to use the new more flexible style of updating that AI War uses, that allows us to better load-balance updates to the game.
  • Since people are having lots of trouble with shift getting "stuck" and that sort of thing, remapped LeftClickActsAsRightClick from LeftShift to Z.
    • The in-game tutorials, and the game manual, have both been updated to note this.

Bugfixes

  • Previously the "multiply objective magnitude by number of active boards" logic could be performed twice, thus resulting in 4x objectives instead of 2x objectives in co-op mode. Fixed to be very sure to not do this.
    • Thanks to Valeroth and Andyroo for reporting.
  • Previously the "continue adventure" menu's entry for the save being played would not update to reflect progress unless the app had been restarted since the progress, and continuing from that save without a restart would thus lead to that progress being lost. Fixed to force-update the continue-adventure menu whenever it is shown.
    • Thanks to Valeroth for reporting.
  • Fixed a bug that would crash on startup if the settings.dat contained stray newlines.
    • Thanks to Engelbrekt for the report.
  • Put in a bugfix to an issue that could cause a very rare crash on first run of the game.
    • Thanks to TheMachineIsSentient for reporting.

Internal Programming Notes

Tidalis