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What we're Up To

A quick update to say what's going on. For one thing, there will not be a major client/server update tonight (although there hopefully will be some new missions). I know that's a bit disappointing to some, but our major projects are all currently incomplete, so nothing's really ready yet. Andy and Michael are working on a distributed replacement for Deliverator (which has, to date, been a single lisp process, and recently rather unstable.. we can't move ahead with the economy and Hive stuff until it's stable again), and Ray is working on the next-generation fogging stuff.

A little about the fogging. We recently dropped radar ranges in storms to relatively short range, and I hinted at the time that there would also be graphical changes to tie in with this. Ray's been working on this project for a little while, and things are moving along well. I've always wanted to have more.. atmospheric environments. I know that it doesn't factually make a lot of sense in space, but there are two areas where I've always wanted to implement it: 1) Mining stations.. xithricite dust left over as a byproduct of large scale mining and refinement, creating a green fog 2) Ion storms, with limited visibility and only slightly longer-range sensor data, playing tag with pirates and NPCs in storms could create an interesting and intense gameplay environment. Not to mention the potentials for more specific addons designed to give sensor advantages when visibility is reduced.

To give an idea of what I mean, here's a current development screenshot:


This is a pretty early shot, we still have a lot of work to do, but it gives some impression of an "atmospheric environment". Don't expect it next week or anything, there's still going to be a lot of tweaking to do on the artistic level once Ray has things fully implemented, and then a lot of testing to make sure the fallbacks all work correctly on everyone's videocards. Fogging of one kind or another will be ubiquitous, from the latest and greatest cards, down to the G3 iBook user. It will also be required (not disable-able), as it will be depended-on as a limiting factor of gameplay. Not a lot of point if people can turn it off and see fine ;). All the fogging will be functionally similar, but expect it to look a bit better on the newer cards. We aren't entirely sure of the performance impact yet.. it should be practically nonexistent for "modern" cards (pixel shader 1.1 or better), but it might be a little slower for older fixed-function pipeline boards. On the other hand, we're able to move the clipping plane back to the visibility limit (yay, VO is becoming Turok! har har), so that will result in a definite speed *increase* for those same cards.. so we'll see how it shakes out in testing.

A side-effect of doing fog is that we're also working on further sensor enhancements, to help navigate in low-visibility conditions. Such as, overlaying a backface culled wireframe of the scene over the top, allowing you to "see" your radar data more directly (in cases where radar range was greater than visible range). This could also have major applications for "dark" sectors, which people have periodically requested.

In other news, I'm working on some new missions, and will hopefully have a couple ready tonight. This would include some mission tie-ins for the recent Hive drops that were added.

As always, please keep the ideas coming on the Suggestions forum, and let us know of any problems you come across. Have a good weekend.