This article sums up what I’ve learnt so far developing the procedural map generation system of Reactor Heart. What I expose here should not be considered the last word on the topic since I’m still looking for the way to enhance the system. In the beginning, I made lots of rookie-mistakes and learnt a lot overcoming them; I hope it proves useful for you and If anyone knows, I’ll gladly accept any suggestion to make my system better.

When I started developing Reactor Heart I realised immediately that I had to create an infinite universe able to automatically expand itself. With a Restricted world I wouldn’t have made so far so I started my research gathering information on many articles and white papers about procedural generation.

The first idea I came up with was create a giant sector generator to allocate planetary systems, asteroids, and many other things. So I began to code function to create the planetary system basic elements: planets, asteroids, moons, minor satellites, etc. The planets were circles with a variable length radio, the moons were the same but much smaller and for the asteroids I used and algorithm to create an outline with a logic and more or less round shape.

PlanetWithMoon Asteroid AsteroidPlanet

With those elements I defined the soon to be planetary system generation in which planets were located in determined orbits round a centre (Where I’d set a Star). They were defined with a random angle and distance from the  center, restricted within a reasonable ranges to set them coherently.

 Generation

The generation system worked as expected with the exception of four issues:

  • The whole process lasted 15 seconds
  • The shapes of the asteriods didn’t match what I had in mind.
  • The generation of each asteroid took a lot of time using the algorithm I designed.
  • Due to the random location of the asteroid, lots of blank spaces might occur.

For a limited map, 15 seconds are trifle since the generation is done once. For limitless universe where the users are expected to travel for hours that’s unacceptable. Moreover, the asteroids shape was kind of rhomboid and the system needed a lot of time to generate them.

The first issue I mended was the asteroids’, which was the most obvious one. I created an asteroids’ editor in which I could pre-design a set of asteroids and save them to load them later in the game. Without the asteroids generation equation, the loading time improved enormously. It did even better when I added pre-processing while exporting the files in the editor. In addition, the asteroids’ shape were more coherent and, when combined, bigger asteroids with cool shaped were generated.

Despite fixing the asteroids issue, the loading time was still not good so I had two possibilities:

  • Work on revamp the algorithm by means of parallelism.
  • Lessen the generation system complexity.

In systems where Real Time generation was mandatory, they reduced the “unit” size and hence, reducing the amount time necessary for the generation. At first, my “unit” was the sector size and to follow this philosophy I decided to make it smaller. The sector would be an space of 6×6 chunks (the planetary system was 50×50) that might be occupied by a planet, a planet with some moons or asteroids, a cloud of asteroids, a nebula, a Star,etc.

The system worked wonderfully. And I managed to reduce the generation time to a mean of 0.007-0.1 seconds using this new method (and with some low-level optimizations in the process ).

Tip: The use of profiling tools like gprof is very helpful to seek those functions that do most of the calls and see which part of the code you should try to optimize.

SectorSystem

I haven’t parallelized the system yet though I’ve designed it with an eye to the future to make it easier for subsequent versions to integrate it.

And that has been my experience so far.

After lots of bugfixes, we have now an stable version of ReactorHeart, ready to play. We invite you to test it, do comments, opine and send us pics of your space creations. We’ll thank any report of bugs you may find while playing.

 

We’re going to make a gallery with a selection of the community’s creations. Send us your pics to the contact mail and maybe your image will appear with your nick/name in the gallery.

 

For the #TLP2k13 participants I’ll be at your disposition to listen opinions, suggestions, questions,.., on saturday morning at 10:30

 

As usual, follow me on @nesvi7 to get the lastest updates.

 

Linux 64

Reactor Heart's Pre-Alpha #3 Linux 64 download

Windows 32-64

Reactor Heart's Pre-Alpha #3 Windows32-64 download

 

Crystal

 

After last month exam period hiatus, we’ve resumed ReactorHeart’s Development, and this time with a number of news about the project.
To begin with, this year Francisco Viña and I (Nestor Viña) will give a talk in the annual festival “Tenerife Lan Party 2k13″ about how has been the project since the beginnings,its current status and what’s scheduled for the near future. For further Information, see this.
Of course, we’ll bring our first merchandising generation (reserved for a few selected people :D )

camisetaReactorH

In addition, we’ve decided to release the first, though alpha, playable version for the TLP 2k13 opening date, in the 1st of July, so stay tuned.
This is the work we’ve been working on, so we’ve focused on the massive bug fix and details, as well as  on other new features. Here is the changelog since the last update:
  • A helluva number of bugfixes
  • Added basic mining system
  • Added some new minerals
  • Mineral spawning frequency fixed
  • Added first set of crafting schemes(needed materials+crafting = result)
  • Added painting system
  • Enhanced shades

 

Now the blog is being translated to Spanish, so there will be a Spanish and an english version in no time.

 

We owe many thanks to The TLP 2k13 organization team, Innova7, for giving us the opportunity to have a place in the event.

 

Here are some images showing the latest updates:


Crafting
NaveNesviRojaZul

This time, we bring the spaceships ‘ landing and takeoff effects.
Basically, these are the changes:
  • Whenever the spacebar is pushed,  while the ship’s on land, it takes off.
  • If the ship’s flying, it lands as long as there are no obstacles.
  • Crafting system bug fixes.

Reactor heart (RH) already has a working crafting system. Finally it will be possible to use minerals in the shipbuilding process. It’s a simple, swift and straightforward system designed to be entertaining and stimulate the creativity. The steps to craft anything are as follows:
  1.  Activate the crafting button: it will show up the panel with the items available to craft.
  2. Choose an item: Once we choose an item, the required resources to craft it will be taken out of the inventory and will be added the selected item.

 

The crafting panel has been devised to be adaptive, with different resolutions and with animated components. The inclusion of this graphic element in the UI, brings an attractive design inspired by the industrial mechanics imagery which has a connection with the crafting functional concept. The skin of the old inventory panel have been changed to follow the crafting panel’s aesthetic.

 

The resources requirements for each piece is still a work in progress. In addition, we have to design the definitive crafting scheme. Anyway, enjoy the video:

Conceptual image
The conceptual image is linked to an idea’s development whose elements try to define it in broad strokes. In the artistic creation field it’s quite common to use it as first resource to represent the idea.
In some way, it impress the essence with which the final realization, only keeping in mind the minimum basic aspects needed to be able to configure the mental image.
While it’s true that the conceptual image must be understood as the first draft; useful as an example of the full idea’s development, in some spheres of the plastic creation, the image,captured in any given format, becomes so relevant that it’s seen as a final work (conceptual art). Nonetheless, in most of cases, it keeps being part of the artists’ scratch pad, which is used to make note of their ideas, in a graphical way, and subsequently develop them.
Summarizing, we may conclude that:
 
The idea is the inspiration’s product. This one creates mental images that right after we can develop and capture in graphical images, giving as result the Conceptual image.
 
Imagen conceptual: Paisaje Planetario 1. © Francis Viña - www.reactorheart.com

Imagen conceptual: Paisaje Planetario 1.
© Francis Viña – www.reactorheart.com

 

The Draft and the Sketch

Draft:
 
The first note made in the draw is called draft. The draft tries to simplify the idea, in this sense it’s closely related with the conceptual image, even to the extent of treating them as homonyms. Within the representation context, it doesn’t offer an accurate depiction of the product but an schematic approach of the idea. Thus, visual and primary appealing prevail over the figure’s proportions.
 
Bosquejos en editor de pixel y técnica tradicional grafito. © Francis Viña - www.reactorheart.com

Bosquejos en editor de pixel y técnica tradicional grafito.
© Francis Viña – www.reactorheart.com

The draft execution, in traditional art, is easily identified since it is carried out by mean of pencil, ballpen, fountain pen, and so forth; done on paper, without rejecting the digital tools (Image processing programs, vector graphics editors, pixel art creation apps, etc.), essential today, given his versatility and fast response in graphics generation, mostly due to printing methods, as well as the fact of being able to publish on internet using compatible image file formats.
Bosquejos en editor de pixel y técnica tradicional grafito. © Francis Viña - www.reactorheart.com

Bosquejos en editor de pixel y técnica tradicional grafito.
© Francis Viña – www.reactorheart.com

 
Sketch:
 
If the draft provides a slight vision of what the artists have in mind, the sketch brings a more detailed and refined idea. And that’s the reason why is considered things like shading, lighting, colour, texture,etc. And also its own composition in comparison to the final format in which it will be made. The sketch is intended to show unbiased and decisive information of the work to be represented. Nevertheless, it is subject to future modifications that may appear during the creative process. Regarding the realization, the tools and means are the same as the ones described in the previous section.
The sketch as a resource belongs to the set of universal instruments to express ideas. Thus, it is obvious its use in the videogames graphics’ creation.
 
Bocetos: Técnica bolígrafo. © Francis Viña - www.reactorheart.com

Bocetos: Técnica bolígrafo.
© Francis Viña – www.reactorheart.com

 
One of the current plastic trends in this field, put us in a retro visual aesthetic,where the usage of pixelated images coexists among others with a degree of realism by far higher and with much more graphic power. It’s not surprising the boom of tutorials explaining, with a wealth of detail, the exclusive techniques to create high quality sprites. In this sense, we can observe how the sketch can be straight rendered by means of specialized computer applications on the pixel art technique or on image processing.
 2Articulo Pixel Conceptual Art

CalimoComposicion ComposicionMineralesPixel

 

Hi everybody,
This time, with the typical set of screenshots, I bring a video that offers details about the features present in Reactor Heart so far. Likewise, the following changelog summarize these features available in the current pre-alpha version:
  • Now the engines can be rotated.
  • The characters displays animations when walking to any direction.
  • Jawkings are set up automatically along with the terrain generation.
  • Now the engine got a fire animation when started.
  • Improve in the interface effects. Giving a much better user experience.
  • An error block shows up whenever a regular block is not placed properly.
  • Optimized  terrain generation algorithm (9s to 0.2s)
  • Added the piece “ship tip” to the inventory to set it up independently.
  • Added the sound system with some samples.
  • Now the prefabs’ editor  precompute the structure to accelerate the arrangement process.

 

Screenshot488783Screenshot338342

BocetosPA2-1BocetosPA2-4

Finally we’ve launched the website to proudly release last year worth of work. So far we haven’t published anything related to the game so it would be much appreciated any kind of comments or tips regarding the website itself as well as features in the game subject to change and you deem they need to be fixed or changed because it may offer a better game experience.  Keep in mind the current version is still an alpha release and it’s under heavy development (we’re still two in charge of the whole project). We will update this blog and the indieDB page  as soon as possible  with new contents (someone said gameplay videos..? :D ). To keep you updated in a  more regular basis, please follow me on twitter (@nesvi7).

 

LaunchSketch