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Archive for April, 2008

Enjoy the release

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

Hi Folks! I just wanted to let everyone know how excited I am that we got this release out the door! First of all it should be fun to have a system that should work on all modern platforms with installers for 5 major platforms (Windows, Linux-32, Linux-64, Mac Intel, Mac PPC).  

Since pyramid just made a post about the artwork, I’d like to talk some about the code. This release should finally provide some polish to the new warp system, some interesting and improved gameplay and very scenic systems that are now populated with hundreds or even thousands of ships each.  To do this we needed to completely revamp the physics system with jacks idea of asynchronous physics simulation atoms.  We also needed to optimize the heck out of the game. Thanks to Safemode’s DDS code, we can load compressed textures directly onto the GPUs without decoding them from png first. And our talented artists just keep on contributing, from beautiful models to high resolution planets! What really needs doing now is for the artists to come together and start generating normal maps for our ships so they appear to have higher detail geometry. Take a look at the starting ship, the llama in game and notice the high resolution bump maps!

And most importantly of all, with Safemode’s contributions to the collision library we are legally allowed to distribute this game again after a brief period where it was discovered that the Crystal Space collision system was using GPL-incompatible code!  So we’re 100% free software again: congrats Vega Strike.   

This occasion also marks the 10 year anniversary of Vega Strike.  If you go back to the archives and find the first blog posts, you can see the first public release was in april of 1998.  With any luck, since this is 0.5.0, that means we’ll have 1.0.0 (the space sim to end all other spacesims) out in 2018 ;-)   

Speaking of game changing features, 0.5.0 marks a very nice place since it allows us to become more experimental in the subversion head.  This means more development focus on multiplayer, which we will allow users to test in spurts (right now public access to the MMO version is blocked…but that’s simply because the server has a few bugs that we didn’t want to delay the release for).  But multiplayer is coming–all of the feature-driven code is there and it’s mostly just bugfixing from here on out!  This means in the next few releases we should start to see more heavy multiplayer integration–and in this release you can setup your own deathmatch servers with the provided vegaserver executable! 

So as you can see the state of the Vega is strong. 

Movies!

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Not yet.

Soon, though.

I’ve been working on the past few week (maybe month?) on getting movies support (using the ffmpeg library to decode pretty much about any format you could think of). I’ve already commited video playback code, but video streams without sound are boring… right?

Lately I’ve been working on getting audio streams out of video files, and it’s been quite some work. For one, I didn’t want all that work to go to waste later, so I’ve been trying to code it in a useful, reusable way. I think I managed to write it in a way that could be reused in the eventual rewrite of the audio system. For two, I’ve been greatly tempted to start that rewrite right now - getting streaming using the current audio system in VS is… challenging. I’ll probably be hacking my way around VS’s aldrv API (the one that handles audio calls).

As much as I’d like to rewrite the entire audio system, the reality of things is that movies are required by many ASAP, so I will struggle hard to overcome the temptation ;-)

The code to handle various codecs, needed since we want ffmpeg to be a compile-time option, has just been finished. I’ll probably commit it as soon as it builds without issue, although it will not be linked to any part of VS.

Those curious to know how the upcoming audiosystem will look like are welcome to peek into that code (src/audio), to get an idea of, at least, the coding style involved.

Stay tuned - you may even get radio support on VS after all! (ffmpeg does support network streaming) *

* disclaimer: theoretically possible, but nowhere near available right now. However, the guys against it have one reason less to think so :-p

Graphics Developments

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

To slightly sweeten the remaining time while (impatiently) awaiting the 0.5 release, here’s a short update on the recent graphics developments.

Support for mipmapless DDS textures for space backgrounds has been enabled in the recent version (thanks go to safemode), which will reduce the memory footprint used by your graphics card and further speed up system loading. Two missing backgrounds have been also added to the data set.

More planet textures have been improved over the last month. Now all 74 exo-planet textures are of high quality (though I think I will go back to the gas planets and remake them after 0.5). The remaining 46 textures are from solar system planets and bodies. Here, the previously existing 2 different data sets have been joined inheriting the best textures and more than half of the solar system bodies have got additional improved textures. While all solar system planets have high quality textures (2048×1024 resolution ), I wanted to keep the remaining bodies as close to the reality as possible. However, freely licensed high quality maps for moons and other significant bodies are not readily available, so the approach was to reduce the release quality resolution requirements to 1024×512. Still 11 maps remain with lower quality (512x), probably until our solar system has been better researched and photographed. Nevertheless, the phase of improving planet textures is considered closed for now, and I will focus on other future tasks.

Finally, new and better planet rings are now available in the data set. They are of reasonable quality so that you may still enjoy them when flying close by. Further, 20 of the upgrade images have been provided with better quality pictures. And last, on your HUD you will notice that 3 indicators - the weapons capacitor charge, the FTL and JUMP drives energy, and the fuel status - have now a text overlay, so you don’t need to remember the meaning of each one.

You may wait for the new release or check out the SVN version to start enjoying the improvements already.
I hope that you will like those changes.