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July 26, 2017

0 A.D.

New Release: 0 A.D. Alpha 22 Venustas

Wildfire Games, an international group of volunteer game developers, proudly announces the release of 0 A.D. Alpha 22 “Venustas”, the twenty-second alpha version of 0 A.D., a free, open-source real-time strategy game of ancient warfare.

 

Easy Download and Install

Download and installation instructions are available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. 0 A.D. is free of charge and always will be. Although you might find some people selling copies of 0 A.D., either over the internet or on physical media, you will always have the option to download 0 A.D. completely gratis, directly from the developers.

How to Download 0 A.D.

Instructions for Windows

Instructions for Linux

Instructions for OS X

Moreover, you can redistribute the game and modify it freely as long as you abide by the GPL. You can even use parts of the art and sound for your own projects as long as you abide by CC BY-SA. No “freemium” model, no in-game advertising, no catch.

Top New Features

  • Remake of many models, animations and textures, two new music tracks
  • Configuration-free Multiplayer Hosting
  • Capture the Relic Gamemode
  • Aura and Heal Range Visualization
  • Twelve new maps, including scripted enemies, rising water and a tutorial
  • Espionage Technology, Team Bonuses and Hero Auras
  • Petra AI Diplomacy and Attack Strategies
  • Summary Screen Graphs
  • Cinema Path Editing
  • Buddy System

A complete list of user-relevant changes can be found in the changelog at https://trac.wildfiregames.com/wiki/Alpha22.

Capture the Relic Mode

A relic is a wagon that holds the sacred remains of a great leader. Like to have your armies boosted or construct buildings with a discount? Venture into the unknown and secure these priceless items before they fall into the hands of the enemy!

The team that manages to keep all relics for a manually set amount of time wins the match.

Catafalque.png
Spartans guarding a captured relic

Capture the Relic
A Catafalque captured by three enemies (10MB Super-HD)

New Graphics

Hundreds of models, animations and textures were handcrafted to replace the lower quality art. Together with the improved icons and new main menu backgrounds, both new and experienced players can (re)discover 0 A.D..

Damage Variants and Scaffolding present (only) Carthaginian buildings in new variety:

Scaffolding
Scaffolding at construction sites (21MB Super-HD)

The new unit models bring both visual and gameplay balancing improvements. Here we present the never-seen-before Ptolemian Infantry Champion Pikeman:

pikemen.jpg
New Ptolemian Infantry Champion Pikeman (11MB Super-HD)

New Music

The original soundtrack was extended by the songs “Tale of Warriors” and “Sunrise“. You can hear the former in the trailer.

Listen to or download the entire 0 A.D. soundtrack at: https://play0ad.com/media/music/ .

Lossless quality versions can be found at https://trac.wildfiregames.com/browser/audio/trunk/music/.

Configuration-Free Multiplayer Hosting

This release of 0 A.D. brings hosting multiplayer matches to the mass of players. It features a new “STUN” option that enables most players to start a match without any prior internet router configuration.

STUN Lobby
STUN option when hosting a lobby match

Aura and Heal Range Visualization

Aura + Heal Range
Mauryan Hero Healer Chanakya (23MB Super HD)

Finally players can judge the effect range of aura bonuses and healing abilities of their fighters and supporters. A solid line indicates an aura, while the plus-symbols indicate the heal radius.

New Maps

Players of the new release will be able to enjoy the game in twelve new worlds!

New Tutorial

A new tutorial, that can be started from the “Learn to Play” option in the main menu, was put in place to help beginners find their way into the game mechanics.

New Tutorial
New Economic Walkthrough

New Scripted Maps

Three new maps come with scripted events that shape the story of each match.

On Danubius, teams are separated by the Danube river, which is defended by reoccurring Gallic ships that focus the players fleet and land invasion forces.
Each side of the river comes with a Gallic stronghold that spawns attackers until it is wiped out by the players.

Danubius
Danubius (9MB Super HD)

On Extinct Volcano, players have about twenty minutes to rush their enemies until the water starts to rise.
Attacks and marches will become risky as the water level can rise suddenly anytime.
Units below the sea level will drown and buildings become unusable, so you better get the ships ready to evacuate!

Extinct Volcano
Extinct Volcano (9MB Super HD)

On Polar Sea, there is virtually no vegetation, so players have to use their initial wood treasures and market wisely.
Wolf packs reappear from time to time and look for meat. Any kind of meat!

Polar Sea
Polar Sea (11MB Super HD)

Notice that these maps have not been optimized for computer players.

New Regular Maps

Wild Lake
Wild Lake (15MB Super HD)

Corinthian Isthmus (4)
Corinthian Isthmus (4) (8MB Super HD)

African Plains
African Plains (15MB Super HD)

River Archipelago
River Archipelago (15MB Super HD)

India
India (12MB Super HD)

Arctic Summer
Arctic Summer (13MB Super HD)

The Botswanan Haven and Cinema Demo map are not depicted here.

To live up to its title, the unique “Survival of the Fittest” map was reworked to spawn heroes, some never-seen units and to become exponentially more difficult in later stages of the game.

Espionage Technology

After having researched the Espionage technology, players are able to bribe a random trader of a selected enemy,
letting it share its vision and thus supply potentially invaluable insights into the enemy’s home base.

The diplomacy dialog is used to select an enemy and initiate the conspiracy.

Team Bonuses

Each alliance between players now confers bonuses upon the allies, depending entirely on their choice of civilizations. For example, if you choose to be an ally of the Macedonians civilization, you get 20% more sales when bartering resources at the market. The exact team bonuses can be found in the History section of the “Learn to Play” menu and in the changelog at https://trac.wildfiregames.com/wiki/Alpha22#TeamBonuses.

Hero Auras

Many heroes’ auras were added and rebalanced that require players to decide more wisely which leader to announce.
Wish to see what our “Swag” aura can do? Play Iberians and have a great experience discovering new additions at every corner! The details are revealed in the Structure Tree of the game and in the changelog at https://trac.wildfiregames.com/wiki/Alpha22#Heroes.

Petra Diplomacy and Attack Strategies

Like to play single-player games with bots?

The AI bot, Petra, became much smarter this release. It can strategically plan attack and defense strategies depending on the different types of victory conditions (Conquest, Regicide, Capture the Relic, Wonder Victory). It also fully takes capturing into consideration.

The economy of the AI was improved as well. Petra now avoids establishing trade routes that cross enemy territory and researches economic technologies sooner.

Find a complete list of changes at https://trac.wildfiregames.com/wiki/Alpha22#PetraAI.

Team Notifications

To improve the cooperation between players, chat notifications have been added that inform allies of tributed resources and researched phases.

Summary Screen Graphics

The chronology of all military and economic game statistics is now visualized in the summary screen. Track your and your team’s progress throughout the game on a graph and derive factors that decided the winner of the game.

Summary Charts
Summary Graphs

Buddy System

Keep up with your friends and locate them in-game with this feature.
As a host, you can optionally prefer buddies to become players in the match setup and allow only buddies to join running games as observers.

Cinema Path Editing

With Alpha 22, our map editor Atlas has received new controls to create and edit cinematic camera paths (like the ones seen in the release trailer).
Try the Cinema Demo scenario map in the game and in the Atlas to see an example.
Consult the Atlas manual for further instructions: https://trac.wildfiregames.com/wiki/Atlas_Manual_Cinematics_Tab.

Cinema Path Editing
Cinema Path Editor

Under the Hood

Creating a custom mod of 0 A.D. has become easier. Hobby developers can now add new resource types and match options with a few keystrokes or debug AI matches by simulating many games in a row.

The Windows and macOS helper libraries have been updated to resolve security issues. Several ways to cheat in multiplayer games were plugged. If you couldn’t play the game before due to a crash, try this release!

Make sure to checkout the options page and hotkeys, since new entries were added there as well.

Why “Venustas”?

“Venustas” is latin for “attractiveness” and was picked to match both the foremost feature of the release (the new models and animations) and the release numbering (V being the twenty second letter in the alphabet).

This time we will not ask the community to find a name for the next release, Alpha 23. We have decided that we will name it after Ken Wood, one of the founders, who passed away in 2006.

Support Us

The work is still in progress and can use every helping hand. You can support us by translating the game into your language on Transifex, contributing art or code or simply by donating.

If you experience a technical problem with the game, please report it at trac.wildfiregames.com. This is also the first address to visit when you wish to dedicate some of your time to help patching the code.

Got any further questions or suggestions? Discuss them with other players and developers at the forum or talk with us directly over IRC. (The “C” stands for “chat”) .

Subscribe to 0 A.D. Development News

Contact info for press, bloggers, etc.: aviv@wildfireCAESARgames.com without the capitalized name of a well-known Roman dictator, whose family claimed to be the descendants of Venus.

by Nicolas Auvray at July 26, 2017 10:59 PM

GearHead RPG

GearHead: Caramel Combat System

Today I tried to figure out how attacks and other such effects are going to be modeled in GearHead: Caramel. If you’ve ever checked the GH1/GH2 source code, you’ll know that the old GearHead attack routine is a confusing mess of spaghetti that handles everything from beamswords to smoke bombs all in the same place. On the other hand, Dungeon Monkey Eternal has an elegant modular effects system where complex actions can be built up from simple components. Unfortunately, I don’t think the DME system is going to work in GHC without some major modification.

The two big problems that DME doesn’t have to deal with are moving areas of effect and chain reactions. In GearHead, an area of effect attack will sometimes deviate from its intended position. Also, effects often lead to additional effects: a body slam can result in the charging mecha taking damage, a mecha’s engine can explode causing damage to units around it, etc.

Here’s an example of the sort of complexity the GearHead system should be able to deal with: A Harpy launches three blast-radius missiles, each at a different spot, to take out a cluster of enemies. One of the missiles misses and deviates by a few tiles. Another of the missiles is shot down by an enemy’s anti-missile system, exploding several tiles short of its intended destination. One enemy is trapped in the blast radius of two missiles, taking damage from each. It suffers an engine explosion, further damaging its nearby allies.

by Joseph Hewitt at July 26, 2017 01:47 PM

Zero-K

Zero-K v1.7.7.8

To stick with the theme of crazy Defender changes we've cooked up something that few thought was even possible. Defender now has a reload bar. Trident is another benefactor of this change and its fancy new bar even convinced Angler and Hacksaw to make the switch to Defender-style independent reloads.

Aside from the Defender we have mostly been working on polish, fixes and stability. Constructor movement is much improved with the application of raw move. The crash reporting system is working well as the engine seems to have become much more stable over the last few months. A noticeable performance boost should be noticeable thanks to the fixes for this ticket: https://springrts.com/mantis/view.php?id=5672.

Balance



Flail:
  • Removed weapon AoE [?]
  • Movement speed 106.2 › 105 elmo/s

Angler:
  • No longer has to use all 4 missiles at once [?]
  • Delay between individual missiles in a salvo 0.40 › 0.32 s
  • Range 750 › 820 [?]

Hacksaw:
  • No longer has to use both missiles at once [?]
  • 100% faster vertical aim [?]
  • 16% slower missile speed [?]

Solar Collector:
  • No longer toggleable manually (still closes on damage)

Increased the footprints of some units. This reduces their ability to clump so whether it is a buff or a nerf depends on the situation.
  • Roach, Tick, Flea and Skuttle footprint sizes increased to 2x2 (up from 1x1).
  • Buoy, Hammer, Thug, Outlaw and Felon footprint sizes increased to 3x3 (up from 2x2).

UI



  • Added reload bars for the special reload system used by Defender and Trident (as well as, now, Angler and Hacksaw).
  • Added a setting to remove non-terminating commands (guard and patrol) from constructor command queues when they have a command added to their queue. Guard orders now cancelled by further commands unless they are given just after Guard. Enabled by default, lives under under `Settings / Unit Behaviour`.
  • Camera fast/slow movement can be bound as a hotkey in the misc hotkeys menu.
  • Builders now take a straight path towards their repair/reclaim/construction targets (if possible) and are much less likely to become stuck. This behaviour is already present for move commands.
  • Factories now draw an arrow indicating their exit direction. Drag the mouse to change their exit direction.
  • Added an option to show build ETA for icons on strategic zoom.
  • Added an option to set tooltip opacity.
  • Waiting units now have an overhead icon to indicate that they are waiting.
  • "catching up please wait" now shows server time and a more accurate ETA.
  • Enemy resign votes no longer show vote buttons.
  • Unit value lost/killed is now tracked by endgame graphs.
  • Added an option to deselect units that start retreating (default enabled).
  • Add an option to make retreating units treated as different selection rank (default enabled, rank 1).
  • Units now obey direct orders when retreating - the unit is still considered retreating during that time (for selection rank override and icon purposes) and will resume retreating (potentially getting deselected) after it becomes idle.

Miscellaneous



  • Roach, Tick, Skuttle models are 20% bigger. This change does not affect game mechanics. Flea is similarly 10% bigger.
  • Replaced 2D tree sprites with 3D models on some older maps.
  • Added boxes for Trojan Hills v03.
  • Zombies now raise commanders from the dead.

Fixes



  • Fixed being unable to go back to the default camera if it was changed to another
  • Fixed Smart Bombers disobeying manual fire state override
  • Fixed tooltip overlapping the minimap when looking at ping on the default layout.
  • Fixed a COFC free mode crash.
  • Fixed a crash when killing a nanoframe and using old engine.
  • Fixed double click attack move no taking into account mouse movement.
  • Fixed teamcolors looking very similar.
  • Fixed gesture menu with raw move.
  • Fixed keep target with line move.
  • Fixed Limpet using a weird metal chunk for wreck.
  • Fixed Mace leaving a lingering green trail.
  • Fixed a crash when a spectator moves to a player team (with cheats).
  • Fixed many shader errors.
  • Fixed bombers circling a target unable to reach it properly.
  • Fixed Cobra aiming from hunched position (potentially thinking it's blocked).
  • Fixed Flea burrowing while attacking.
  • Fixed a chicken queen morph crash.
  • Fixed Stardust not prioritising close enemies.
  • Fixed construction at zero storage when on a team of players who are also constructing.
  • Fixed cases where very low income (eg from just a factory) would not be spendable without storage.
  • Fixed Pylon and Zenith tooltip description not updating.
  • Fixed disabled economy units income icons not updating.
  • Fixed some cases where missile OKP failed to work against rapidly incoming enemies
  • Fixed killed nanoframe debris tooltip showing full value.
  • Fixed Engineer commander failing to shoot at very close targets.
  • Fixed weapon lights rendering.
  • Fixed crashing unit translations.
  • Fixed shield colours.
  • Fixed Circuit AI to obey unit disabling.
  • Fixed Crude player list showing dead teams as alive.
  • Fixed tactical AI getting stuck on useless targets such as Solars.
  • Fixed Engineer commander and Infiltator spider having bad walk animations.

July 26, 2017 11:45 AM

July 25, 2017

GearHead RPG

Party on Mecha Beach

A progress video for the new map renderer that I’ve been working on in Python. Layering and transparency work with the mecha traveling through the water. Also, the water now has a nice beach border around it. All of this took way too long to get right. As I’ve said before, if you’re thinking about getting into game development yourself, seriously consider using an established engine instead of trying to roll your own.

These changes have been uploaded to the GearHead Caramel repository on GitHub.

by Joseph Hewitt at July 25, 2017 03:09 AM

July 23, 2017

FlightGear

Helicopters in Flightgear

The Art of Hover Flight

While most Flightgear users seem to mainly use GA aircraft or airliners, the simulation of helicopters is not only possible but comes with a nice degree of realism. This makes learning to fly a helciopter quite a challenge, but also very educational.

Why not try it out?

Piloting a helicopter is also a nice opportunity to see the terrain in a different way, because usually the view downward is much less restricted than in aircraft cockpits – here a good graphics card to support all the hires terrain texturing and the various vegetation and building overlays that can be enabled really pays off. And of course you can land pretty much anywhere you like, airports are no longer a must, any flat patch of terrain will do. But there are also hundreds of helipads in the FG scenery, located on places like hospital rooftops or oil rigs.

Ready for takeoff? Let’s take a quick look at some helicopters FG has to offer.

Helicopter flight

If you’ve mastered flying normal aircraft and have the idea that helicopters can’t be so different, you’re likely wrong – helicopters are very different.

Normal aircraft are usually dynamically stable – if they feel a perturbation, they return to a stable attitude. Helicopters reach this condition only when they accelerate, but just after takeoff and before landing they move through the air slowly, and they’re in fact dynamically unstable – any perturbation needs to be countered quickly with the controls, or it will grow and the pilot will lose control.

Another thing that takes some time getting used to is that the body of a helicopter swings like a pendulum underneath the rotor. The pilot always needs to recognize when a motion is part of this oscillation and will dampen out on its own and when it is actually part of the flight dynamics.

Yet perhaps the hardest thing to master for beginners is the torque of the rotor. The rotating blades try to yank the helicopter around against their own motion, and only the action of the tail rotor prevents this – so pedals need to be used carefully to counter this effect.

So how is a helicopter controlled?

Unlike in an aircraft, the turbine RPM is usually not throttled. Rather, the angle of the main rotor blades is changed by the collective control- this provides upward/downward motion. The main rotor can be tilted by moving the stick, this provides a combination of forward and sideward motion. It is actually quite feasible to fly a helicopter sideward, or even backward if it is done slowly, only once the airstream becomes fast, the fuselage tries to align with the wind like for an aircraft. Finally, the pedals control the tail rotor action – they can be used both to stabilize the craft against the main rotor torque as well as swing the nose around into a new direction in hover flight.

The final important ingredient to understanding helicopter flight is the ground effect. If the air displaced by the main rotor can’t go anywhere quickly because there is terrain underneath, it forms a ‘cushion’ of air that keeps the helicopter afloat. The effectivity of this cushion decreases quickly with altitude, thus close to the ground the collective actually controls altitude rather than vertical speed. Setting the rotor to displace more air pushes the helicopter upward, but then the ground effect decreases, so the craft settles at a new altitude.

A helicopter is then taken off by hovering into the ground effect, then using the stick to induce a forward motion (which gradually causes more lift on the rotor blades), and only when it is faster than some minimum speed flown out of the ground effect region. Similarly, one can expect and anticipate the ground effect for a landing.

While all these effects are there for any helicopter, the degree to which they make themselves felt differ quite a lot, and so every craft has to be learned separately.

The Robinson R22

If you were to attend real helicopter flight training, the Robinson R22 is the type of helicopter you would most likely encounter – it’s a low cost craft, popular throughout the world as a trainer or utility helicopter. The R22 has a low inertia rotor system, and the control inputs are transmitted directly by rods without hydraulic assistance. This means that the controls have to be moved very gently to avoid overcorrecting, and overall the helicopter reacts rather finnicky. This does seem to make it a bad choice for a trainer, except the idea seems to be that if a flight student masters the R22, she won’t have any problems with a heavier helicopter.

The instrumentation is generally simple, giving the pilot an almost unhindered view through the windshield.

In Flightgear, the R22 definitely exhibits the characteristics of the original counterpart. There’s lots of torque which is difficult to compensate, and you need to work a lot for even a halfway decent hover flight. Also, bringing the R22 into level flight with a good trim is far from trivial.

The Alouette III

The Alouette III is an aging light utility helicopter, in service since 1960, mainly used by military forces around the world, used for tasks ranging from passenger transport to aerial ambulance and SAR. Compared with the R22, it is a much heavier machine and hence considerably less skittish on the controls.

In the Flightgear version, the startup and shutdown sequences are implemented and the instrument panel is largely functional. What takes a bit to get used to is that this helicopter has wheels rather than skids, which makes sometimes for a surprise when landing in sloped terrain.

The Sikorsky S-76C

As a medium-sized utility helicopter, the Sikorsky S-76 dating to the 1980s comes with quite a bit of modern avionics aboard. Two turbines pack a lot of power, and the craft also features a retractable gear for better cruise performance.

Unfortunately, the avionics of this helicopter is not fully implemented in FG, but it nevertheless is a nice classy craft to fly.

The Chinook CH-47

The mighty Chinook CH-47 is a heavy lifter used by the US Army since the 1960s, both for transport as well as for aerial assault purposes, inserting troops behind enemy lines.

Unlike any of the helicopters above, the craft features counter-rotating twin rotors which removes the need for a tail rotor. This (and the large mass) make the flight fairly stable and the helicopter feels a bit sluggish at the controls.

Unfortunately, many instruments are modeled in the panel but not actually working, which limits the experience somewhat.

The Eurocopter EC 130

A truly modern light utility helicopter, the Eurocopter EC 130 was introduced in 2001 and is in strong demand around the world. It comes with a modern avionics set and (for its weight) a fairly powerful engine.

In the simulation, the EC 130 is, hands down, one of the most stunning models with a photorealistic exterior utilizing pretty much every rendering effect available. Once in the cockpit, there is a detailed startup and shutdown procedure available that’s supported by the checklist system. In addition, many different configurations and pieces of equipment (such as external baskets or a serchlight) can be chosen. Once you try it, you’ll love it.

The Eurocopter EC 135

Introduced in 1996, the EC-135 is another modern light utility helicopter used for multiple purposes ranging from medical transport and SAR to sightseeing. Powered by two turbines, it packs even more horsepowers than the EC-130.

Both the interior and the exterior of this helicopter show in FG at photorealistic quality. The EC-135 is a truly remarkable piece of work, both in the flight characteristics and visually.

Curious?

Eager to try out helicopter flight now? While the R22 is what real flight students learn with, the craft is very hard to master without the helping hand of an instructor. Since you’re not paying for simulated damage or flight hours, you might as well start with a heavy machine such as the Chinook to get a feeling for the basics of helicopter flight without the complication of rotor torque, and then move on to a ‘nice’ machine like the Alouette III before tackling the really hard craft.

Don’t be discouraged by failures – you’ll probably crash the first dozen times before getting the ride off the ground properly, and it really takes a while to get the correct ‘feel’ for the controls such that good hover flight and precision landings are feasible. This is much harder than flying an airplane.

For a good introduction to the techniques of helicopter flight in FG, see the Flightgear Wiki.

by Thorsten R. at July 23, 2017 10:44 AM

July 21, 2017

GearHead RPG

Going to Cake Square

Tomorrow I’m heading to Incheon for the Cake Square comics festival. I’m hoping to get some work done on GearHead after the festival closes since it’s way too hot to go explore the city. Here’s a shot of some trees I made this morning; I’m not happy with them, but every little bit of pixel art practice helps.

by Joseph Hewitt at July 21, 2017 01:13 PM