All Out War : 4025 Redux

Well, as always things don’t always work out the way you planned.

We were supposed to have a contract with a client to do his community website in Flex but that fell apart which was a little annoying.

So anyway, I’ve put my time and effort into finding a new job, which is easier said than done although I have a recruitment agency apparently talking to Monumental for me, and, amongst other things, reworking the design for All Out War : 4025 into a new game provisionally, and imaginatively, entitled All Out War : 4050 ;)

First though, because I’ve had the time and focus for AOW, I made some changes to the original game for the odd one or two that still play the game (and believe you me they are ODD). The changes seem to have gone down well.

A bit of history. Flash back to 2003… *cue wavy 1960s time travel effect*

The original game was created by a guy called Barry Whitely, who did a fine job of putting together a nice tick based browser based strategy game with semi-real time combat elements. He made a decent amount of money out of it, especially when we took over, and gathered a fair sized player base.

Sadly the game never got out of paid-beta, there were some design flaws not least with the unlimited points based research system which caused a lot of problems with the completely persistant nature of the game,  and the hyper-aggressive nature of some of the player base which spoilt it for everyone really. On top of that, it was my first solo active massively multiplayer project which I had to desperately redesign features and impliment them on the fly while trying to both fend off the player base and simultaniously extract useful ideas from them.

Needless to say, I worked all hours, screwed it up big time and ended up destroying the game and losing most of the players.

So we basically pay for the hosting and keep it going for old times sake, web hosting doesn’t cost much these days, even with a dedicated server, so it basically sits there playing for the one or two diehards.

One day, I plan on doing a proper post-mortem on it because even though I screwed up, I learnt a hell of a lot and I think it would be really useful for other people.

One day…

So fast forward to today…

I’ve been playing around with some Flex lately because I want to use Flex/Flash for the new version.

I think the new version of the game should follow elements of agile software development and in particular eXtreme Programming , such as releasing small improvements and often.

In the case of the new version, I plan on seperating the game from the overall accounts by using an Arena System similar to Ferion‘s where users sign up to an account in an overall portal, and then join active self-contained arenas, the results of those arenas is fed back into the portal account thus giving a semi-persistant feel to the game while retaining the closure of having an end of game scenario.
I think it should work as a good compromise for this style of game.

So development-wise, I decided to build a Flash-based version, using Flex,of the new combat system, and in order to do that I’ve broken it down into sub-projects. The first of which is to create a Flash Map Viewer for the AOW 4025 maps.

These maps are tile maps with the map data stored as an XML file and the tile graphics stored as 50×50 pixel images for each tile. The typical map size is 125×125 tiles so each map is approx. 6250 x 6250 pixels.

This was one of the problems of the original, the combat system was implimented using Internet Explorer DX Filters. Originally designed, I believe, before CSS was common, IE’s DX Filters were designed to fill the need for proper image manipulation at the browser side, such as opacity, rotation, etc.

AOW uses them mainly for rotating the vehicle graphics and for the most part they worked fine.
The problems come because a) they’re Internet Explorer only and b) the maps were generated in their entirety in the browser which worked fine in IE 6 with image caching handling most of the problems, but IE 7 seems to have a serious problem with too many images and slows down to a crawl, IE 8, which was just released, is better but not as good as 6.

So I’m using Flash instead and so far it looks promising. With a bit of help from 8-bit Rocket, I’ve managed to put together the start of a map view in about 2 days, which isn’t bad considering I have next to no experience with ActionScript.

Map Viewer Project screenshot

Map Viewer Project screenshot

Although it doesn’t show much, and doesn’t look that impressive, I’m actually quite pleased with it. It loads up the XML map data, stores it in a Map Descripter object, then generates all the tile objects for the tile map, loads and caches only the graphics needed, draws only what’s needed, and reacts to resize events.

I know it’s only loading from my PC, but even so it loads pretty quickly and, according to De Monster Debugger, runs at an average of 50 FPS. Which isn’t bad I think.

Next step is to impliment scrolling and then a better interface for the maps.

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