July 10th, 2009 10:10 Development Diary

Project Update – July 10th, 2009

There’s not been much of interest to write about lately, but work has still been going on under the hood. There’s been a task list sat in front of me for the last month that hasn’t got any shorter, which is frustrating to say the least.

The biggest problem on it is getting the server and client to communicate in a way that isn’t a complete nightmare to update. For a while the server was miles ahead, but now the client side is starting to take shape and the server code is looking like a mess.

The good news is that things are getting done. The bad news is it’s taking a lot longer than expected. It’s a combination of a few tasks being much bigger than estimated, and also a lack of motivation to tackle them. I’ll be making sure the next milestone is more fun.

Terrible Programmer Art

As noted in previous entries, there are two different gameplay modes in Shining Online: online and offline.

Here’s what the offline title screen looks like at the moment. It was a 60-second job in Paint, so it will be changed eventually…

Shining Online - AWFUL title screen

Selecting “New Game” takes the player to the “New Story” screen, where they can select from a list of installed stories to play. After that, it’s up to the story author what happens. Intro sequences will be supported, as will the trademark Shining Force character naming screens.

A break

I’ll be taking a few weeks break to go home to England, so there won’t be any progress for a little while.

Same as usual, really 😉

May 29th, 2009 14:10 Development Diary

Project Update – May 29th, 2009

Let’s see what fun things have happened in the world of Shining Online this week.

Progress is slow but steady. The first online test was conducted this week, with mixed success. Writing software is great when it’s only for a single machine, but once it starts seeing other configurations everything goes belly up.

Thankfully a few tweaks fixed things, and servers and clients were happily communicating across the vast space of the internet.

Task wise things are chugging along, with a few hiccups on the way. The biggest problem so far has been character creation. The Shining Force stats system is quite simple, but there are still plenty of things to keep track of. These stats have got to be stored on a world server, but also transferred to the client machine.

It’s a pain, but it’s getting there.

I think the next milestone will concentrate on more visible things, because I’m sick of looking at memory dumps and database schemas.

Evolution of the Launcher

There are two ways to play Shining Online, online and offline. When playing online, you’ll need to enter your account details somewhere so that they can be verified. If you’re going online, you’ll see the “Launcher” window before the game starts.

The Launcher handles a few key tasks: downloading news, logging players in and checking for updates. If a software update is available, the player can download and install it directly from the launcher. It’s nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.

Once you’re logged in, it’s time to choose a server to join. Once that’s done, it’s in to the game world (eventually ;))

The image on the left is the original version, and the one on the right is the current iteration.

Launcher - Prototype   Launcher - Current Version

Yes, my programmer art sucks.

That’s it for this update. Next week we’ll see what happens when you press that lovely “Play Offline” button…

May 22nd, 2009 14:10 Development Diary

Project Update – May 22nd, 2009

It’s only been a month since the last update, so things must be improving!

Game design is great. Normally you start with some grand idea, and as time goes on more and more features are added to it. Eventually you end up with some fantastic vision of how it’s going to play and all the cool things people will be able to do.

Then you have to make it, and things start going down hill.

Clients and Servers

The “Online” part of Shining Online was always very much a case of “I’ll do it later”. There were other things to do, like designing cool enemies or making bats hit Ken in the crotch.

Seeing as the whole game is being rewritten (again), this time it’s starting from the online perspective. There’s a tonne of stuff involved with this, and most of it involves telling the client what the server knows. Bats are way more fun, but they won’t get players online.

Like most things, the current design is open to change. For those that are interested in these things, here’s a rough idea of how things are supposed to work.

The client connects through the gateway server, which takes care of “global” accounts (i.e. ones create on the Shining Online website).  World servers are where the action takes place. When they’re started, they register with the gateway server so that players can select them.

I doubt the player count will ever be big enough to require multiple servers, but in the future I’d like to release the server code and tools so others can run their own worlds.

Once the player is connected to the world server of their choice, they can start having fun. The world server handles all the game simulations, and passes information to various databases and sub-servers (for zones and battles). It’s simple and probably won’t scale all that well, but it actually works at the moment so it’s staying 😉

Pictures are fun

Development is going well, and so far clients can login and connect to servers. Now all that needs doing is the entire game 😉

For those that prefer explosions to texty stuff, here’s the “World Server” in action:

Super Awesome World Server!

Actually, that’s even less interesting. There’ll be a better picture next update, I promise 😉

See you all next week!

April 24th, 2009 14:10 Development Diary

Project Update – April 24th, 2009

Despite it being nearly six years since the last release of Shining Online, work is still continuing.

Actually, I think I just frightened myself a little by working that out.

The current plan of action is to complete much smaller milestones at a faster pace. Instead of trying to finish the whole game in one go, little sections get worked on and (internally) released.

Today marked the completion one of these milestones, so it’s time for a little progress update.

So far things are coming along nicely. There’s been a few major “real life” things keeping me away from the keyboard, but the project still has momentum.

There’s nothing playable just yet, but I’ve got some of the basic game structure together. There’s been a few experiments with weather and time effects that turned out well.

The real challenge now is to get something playable up as soon as possible, so the gameplay can be tweaked and made fun. The first step is getting maps working, followed by having some animated sprites moving around on the screen.

Tiny Updates

Seeing as everyone else on the planet seems to be blathering about Twitter, I signed up for an account. Now you can get tiny progress updates without having to read too much.

Quick Stats

Seeing as the new mantra is “start small”, there’s not a lot to show right now.

  • 23 source code commits
  • 3,000 lines of code
  • 3MB of raw image resources
  • 92 pages on the project wiki

See you in another six years 😉

December 23rd, 2008 13:28 Development Diary

A little Christmas present

It’s not a demo I’m afraid, but a tiny glimpse at what’s going on with Shining Online. Despite being pretty much silent for the past year or so, we’re still working on it. It’s very slow going, but if all goes to plan there’ll be a lot more action next year. I’m sure I’ve said that every year, so no promises 😉

Anyway, below is a little screenshot of the current Shining Online website. We’re using a wiki to keep our notes and ideas together, which also acts as a complete reference of the game world. The light version of the main site will go live in the second quarter of next year, and after that updates should be a little more frequent. Hope you like the design!

The Amazing Shining Online Wibsite
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