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30th March 2009 – Give 'Em the WIP

Mod sea battle
Some J Mods having a sea battle.
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Recently, I have been working on getting islands to render properly during sea battles (where islands can be quite large) and in the game's world map (where they can be quite small). It's quite tricky to do with a game of this size, as I have to make sure it all works on older computers as well as reliably over a network. It means we end up doing a lot of our calculations in fixed-point arithmetic. Fixed-point arithmetic means that we use integers (whole numbers) instead of floating-point numbers. Although floating-point numbers allow for more accuracy and can represent fractions easily, they can be slower for the computer to calculate, lose precision and be unpredictable from one computer to the next.

So, the key question we have to answer is: how big is 1? It might be okay for 1 to represent 1cm in sea battles, but if we used that for the world map game, we might only be able to have a game world that’s 1km square - clearly not enough space for a pirate to make a living in. If you make the scale too big, though, animations and camera movements get very choppy. It feels kind of like I've been trying to press bubbles out of wallpaper this week!

Just the other day, I put the game on our internal 'work-in-progress' (WIP) version of FunOrb in order to show it to a few colleagues. I actually only intended to show it to one 'guinea pig', but when there's a new game working on someone's screen, the whole department can get a little excited. Things quickly escalated into a big battle, as other members of the FunOrb development team jumped in the game to try it out!

Tavern work-in-progress
A very early build of the tavern (with placeholder graphics).
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It is always helpful to see new people playing a game you're working on - it helps you to see the things that are wrong with it, which you have so far been blind to. Even simple things like if you see someone struggling to use your interface can help you to improve the quality of the final game. This 'small' test has given me and Mod Dunk a veritable hoard of little things to fix and improve with sea battles. We have quite a way to go with this game before it meets up to our standards, but we are making progress.

We've also been doing some work on the ports. We have been populating the taverns with a range of sailors - everything from stalwart bonny tars to scum-of-the-earth cut-throats - all of whom you'll be able to recruit for your ship! And we've been making sure that the booty you store in your ship's hold is as 'organised' as every self-respecting pirate would have it: in big piles! (Which reminds me somewhat of my desk...)

Mod Wivlaro
FunOrb Developer
(Current grog level: low)

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