Junction Gate Dev Update 02

In this second dev update for Junction Gate, we'll cover the development progress since the Beta 0.0.6 release, answer some questions regarding the current development focus, and look ahead to the next few weeks of development.

Reworking The Grid

As outlined in the 0.0.6 release blog post, the latest version of Chrome introduced a game-breaking visual bug into the hex grid, rendering all of the facilities on the grid flat.

While the bug is certainly frustrating and I haven't been able to fix the perspective, it also represents an opportunity to rethink the grid altogether. The current grid is created with CSS transforms. Beyond the perspective bug, there are also some issues with hex selection, animation, and performance.

The grid issues come at a crucial time. One of the major to-do items on the 0.1.0 Trading release is to have the computer AI be able to build their colonies from nothing into a potential trade partner with Junction Gate. If the way the grid functions changes significantly, it's better to address those changes now, before establishing the rules for the AI to follow.

While I may still go the CSS route, I've recently begun exploring another possibility: a 3D hex grid built in WebGL.

Working in 3D and with WebGL is still very new to me, so I must emphasize that this is still in the early stages of the research and prototype phase, an exploration that may or may not make it into the game. I'm still evaluating performance in the browser, trying to find what the limits are and how the grid might be used in a true 3D environment. What you see in the preview below is not representative of the final state of the grid, just where the experimentation is today.

Commonwealth Q & A

This week, the question and answer section is going to focus on the hex grid itself. Please keep in mind that game development can sometimes be a moving target, so the answers represent current thinking that may change in the future for various reasons, as the Chrome bug illustrates.

1. Why Implement A Hex Grid?

The colony building in Junction Gate Alpha was an incremental game mechanic. While interesting, it was extremely linear and didn't offer much variety or replay value beyond randomized facility names and costs.

The hex grid was implemented to make the beginning of the game more dynamic and strategic. In the alpha, you didn't start making real decisions until much later in the game, but with the hex grid, your first decision is when you place your first facility. As the game progresses, the player's grid strategy will take on increasing importance.

2. What Will The Hex Grid Gameplay Be Like?

It will matter where you place each facility on the grid as each one will have unique placement requirements. Almost every facility will require a nearby power core, but some facilities will have additional requirements like being near an ice extractor or having CommNet access.

The grid itself is also different in every game for difficulty levels above Easy. Some hex tiles will be blocked and will require you to clear them while others could be missing altogether. The variability of the grid shape and the placement mechanics mean that you won't be able to consistently use the same strategy every game; you'll need to adapt to the terrain.

You can see a brief gameplay video of how the grid currently functions below.

3. How Many Facilities Are Planned?

Right now, there are 17 facilities in the game, including variations. The variations are all currently production facilities that produce more, but also cost more.

There's not yet an exact count for the total number of facilities planned, but you could safely assume that it will be in the same range as the Alpha.

4. How Will The 3D Grid Change The Game?

Again, I must stress that the 3D version of the grid shown above isn’t a sure thing yet. A lot will depend on performance and technical aspects. I also need to learn how to use Blender much better than I currently do.

Caveats aside, there are several things being considered:

  • Fully rendered 3D facilities. This will depend largely on my Blender ability and the rendering performance in the browser. It would also be a place where a potential future artist could contribute.
  • Having the entire hex map be on a single level. Currently, the grid is split up into multiple levels: commercial, science, commons, etc. However, if the browser could handle everything on the same level, I'd like to do so.
  • User controlled rotation, panning, and zooming.
  • The grid could also potentially be placed in an asteroid-like landscape. Again, performance and art-design are the key limiting factors.
  • Hex height could play an important role in later gameplay.
5. Will The Player Be Able To Visit Other Colonies Created By The Computer?

I think so. As part of developing the colony building AI, which will be building colonies with the same facilities as the player, I'll need to be able to see what the AI is building, so that functionality will be in the game. However, I haven't yet finalized how or when the player would experience seeing other colonies.

Looking Ahead

In the weeks ahead, I'll continue experimenting with the 3D grid and if it continues to look promising, I'll also begin working on the facilities and then integrate it into the game. Being as 3D modeling is still new to me, this will be a process, but it's one that I hope will bear a lot of dividends.

If you have a question about Junction Gate, ask it in the comment section below or on reddit or social media and I'll include it in the next Dev Update. You can ask technical questions, gameplay questions, lore questions; pretty much anything about the development of Junction Gate.

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