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Exit: Behold!

A light at the end of the tunnel...

I’m not sure where to begin. There’s a new mega-release up. With lots of surprises in store! It finalizes the jumping model, and adds a way to lower the point-of-view 1/3rd, letting you pass beneath things at about 22% below head level. It might not sound like much (these figures are adjustable) but even for the default height — that’s a bit on the short side — this comes out to about a full screen at nose length; which will seem like a lot.

The new feature complements jumping, since jumping now requires the release of the ground-based movement inputs. If you do not jump but instead move away, then you are able to squat/hunker down in this way. If running this is automatically done so that you do not have to stop to do so. If pressed up against a passageway or obstruction, beginning to run will pass beneath it at walking speed, at which point you can stop running if you only wish to enter the space. (If you do not jump while running you simply return to a walking gait. This should go without saying.)

There is the beginning of a way to run at full speed. There is no penalty for doing so at this time. It is not possible to run at full speed when there is not room to stand fully erect. Doing so requires that you hold down all three buttons. This release was supposed to add the ability to look behind while running, by holding down either button, so that when they cancel each other out you run at full speed instead. Run for your life as it were. However because a bigger priority was finalizing the jumping model, all efforts got directed at its complement in order to fill the hole opened up in the control scheme…

A secondary goal was a reexamination of the ceiling clipping facilities; or that is, ensuring that you cannot go through the ceilings and bottoms of things. One way to go through the ceiling is jumping. Of course jumping has been possible for a while, so this was to be more of a critical analysis. Still the addition of lowering of the head height to the control scheme came as a surprise. It meant that all of a sudden not going through ceilings would be absolutely critical; as critical as not falling through the floor. So the thrust off this release shifted radically, becoming an all encompassing appraisal of the clipping facilities touching on every dimension, including bugs and/or incongruences in nearly-if-not-every case.

This came as a surprise, but ended up being a really good thing for Sword of Moonlight. Graphically it’s been solid for some time, but in terms of the impermeability of its creations, it’s been anything but. I’m almost embarrassed that it took so long to take a serious look at this after all of the problems that turned up. It’s truly a case of lacking the senses to see the problems before you. I couldn’t feel the holes in the world, but I could reason my way through Sword of Moonlight’s programming; and in the course of doing so I stumbled into more than my share of invisible holes game-side.

But that’s not the only thing this release has in store! Toward the end of the development cycle I got involved in extracurricular activities. I had a lot on my mind, chief among which was how to improve Sword of Moonlight’s performance profile on my own computers. This meant disabling antialiasing, but not wanting to, I devised a simple stipple technique that I reasoned could exhibit the same pros and cons as basic antialiasing; which did. But even better! It works with the pixels that are knocked out of their “textures”. Normally these become second class pixels, unaffected by antialiasing. (Raising the question: should AA even be used at all?) But what was unexpected is, the stippling makes the telltale signs of polygons disappear so that what remains is pure form, pure form in the form of dots. Not pixels. Dots. Dots simulating points of light.

Mid thinking up the stipple technique I thought to tryout an interlacing technique. Not knowing what to expect, I reasoned it ought to halve the pixel calculations, which in theory would be great, since high resolutions tend to run my computers straight into the ground. I knew it would also create the impression of blurring, but wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised that its unbiased motion blur really brought Sword of Moonlight to life. So it seems to be a win-win salve just as long as it doesn’t make anyone motion sick or anything like that! Still in its current form it doesn’t even come for free, performance wise, BUT I have a plan that should actually work to halve those pixels and is more broadly applicable … I’m so excited I’m certain this is the next thing I’m working on. I can’t stress how impressive this effect is. I don’t think anyone will ever want to play a game without it; and of course better performance can only be a good thing.

And what’s more, there just happened to be a problem with jumping/falling breaking down at low frame rates. It may be too soon to say, but the work I did to resolve this issue looks like it may have ALSO solved all of Sword of Moonlight’s timing issues (resulting in a chronically irregular frame rate even under ideal conditions.) I’d never seen it hold a steady 60 frames per second before, but now I do, regularly. I think my video adapter (GPU card) may be responsible for some of the intermittent irregularities, so it’s really hard to say, but the jumping/falling problems are definitely fixed, and I’ve placed an order for a new adapter.

And last but not least, or at least until I recall something else! Xbox-like controller support got added the other day. Previously you’d have to map the Start-and-Select-like buttons to critical functions. Sorry! I just never had an Xbox controller in front of me, and hadn’t really thought about it; although this had occurred to me from time to time. (Still what can you do without a physical controller? or anyone demanding Xbox controller support for that matter!)

SO, what I’m hoping IS that all of this means Sword of Moonlight is getting very close to being capable of carrying top-shelf, prime-time, commercial-if-you-want, video, games. Or at least it feels like this is no longer inevitable, but suddenly something tangible that is almost just within reach…

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