Project Ant Dev Update – 29/07/15

Would you look at that? It’s almost as if I planned it! Not only have I managed to make it to a second dev update, but I’m also posting it (almost) exactly one month after the last one! Note that this isn’t a guarantee of monthly updates. They’ll happen as and when I have interesting stuff to talk about, and believe me, there’s plenty of interesting stuff (at least, interesting to me) in today’s post!

Sights, Sounds, and Smells!

My last dev update heralded the release of build v0.2.0, which was dubbed the “It’s almost like a game” update. The focus of that build was on getting some really basic game functionality working: Main menus, pause menus, saving and loading, that sort of thing. I’m pleased to announce that in the next couple of days I’ll be finishing off v0.3.0, entitled the “Sights, Sounds and Smells” update. As always, if you’re interested in testing the build, get in touch at tom[at]rekabmot.com

This time around the focus has been on adding a little bit of quality to the current experience, as well as adding in a system that’ll eventually develop into one of the game’s core mechanics. See the bottom of this post for a full change log, but for more detail on some of the biggest changes in this update, read on.

Sights

You may have spotted my last post showing off my first real attempt at character animation. The game now contains 3 different animations: walking, sleeping, and working. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but it covers some of the biggest actions the ants currently perform. Over the next few updates, expect to see more animations for climbing, eating, idling, and of course, combat.

dig

Ants at work

Next up, the interface has been skinned. I’m using some fantastic free assets from Kenney, which really help to make the game look less like a Unity prototype. There’s still more work to be done on the interface, but what we have now is a definite improvement.

The existing ‘work’ particles have been replaced. Digging and building rooms uses a nice puffy white smoke effect, while harvesting food sources spills little chunks everywhere.

harvest

Don’t drop it!

Sounds

One of the most obvious and important changes in this update is the inclusion of sound. The game is accompanied by some open source backing music found on Open Game Art. A series of clicks and pops when interacting with the interface or using tools, and stereo sound effects when ants dig or harvest really help in bringing the game to life. To me, sound is one of the most important aspects of a game – even more so than graphics in most cases. Try playing your favourite game on mute, and see how much of the experience is lost. So while Project Ant’s soundtrack isn’t going to be winning any prizes, having some sound is a really big win for me.

Smells

I know you’ve all been dying to know what on earth I’m talking about. Smells in a game? Not smells for us, unfortunately, but smells for the ants. One of the core game mechanics is going to revolve around Pheromones.

As ants move and work around the world, they will leave pheromones behind. Over time, Pheromones will decay unless refreshed regularly by passing ants. Pheromones will be used by the ant’s AI to guide them – at a high level, they will give ants an indication of which parts of the world are safe, high trafficked areas, and which places are potentially dangerous and unexplored territory.

In game, the player can view pheromones in a handy overlay as seen here.

pheromones

I love the smells of Ants in the morning

Pretty cool huh?

And the kitchen sink

So that covers the big ticket entries, but that’s far from an exhaustive list. Check out the full changelog below.

### v0.3.0
#### New Features
* Music added to main game
* Sound effects added to UI, tools, ant building
* New animation: working
* New animation: sleeping
* Added credits page
* Add "Zoom to home" button (key binding: H)
* Add pheromones and pheromone overlay

#### Improvements
* Improved walk cycle animation
* Added key binding to move camera with arrow keys
* Skinned UI panels and buttons
* Replaced selection overlay sprite with proper UI 9-slice image
* Refactored selection to use ray casting
* Rooms can now be placed to auto-link with existing tunnels
* Room names have proper spacing
* Add icon to indicate when in build mode
* Fix bug with camera boundaries while middle mouse panning
* Better particle effects for building and harvesting
* Added golden haze to queen to make her more visible
* Resource counter was being truncated at values > 100

So, that about wraps things up for this update. The project has surged past the 200 commit mark, and has been going for over 5 months now in it’s current form. That marks the longest I’ve stuck with any single personal programming project. Maybe it’s time to drop the self-cynicism? Hmm, maybe not yet. Keep watching this space though, plans are already being put together for the next update, and if all goes well, it’s going to be a cool one!

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