May 13th, 2006

It turned out that I had a bit more work left than anticipated.  I found a bunch of minor bugs and tweaks, which I addressed this past week.  I think I finally got all of the issues ironed-out so that the game engine is stable.  I don’t expect to make too many code changes at this point.  I still need to create the demo version and modify the way I store the graphics.  However, those changes should not affect the game engine.

I really need to get some solid testing done now.  I will try to play a network game with maximum clients to stress it a bit.  We have been playing a lot of network games lately, so I don’t anticipate any problems.  The average bit rate for a game will vary.  There are a few factors that increase the bandwidth requirement.  The most important two are number of players in the game and the number of players on a team.  The more players on the team, the more data that gets sent to each client since allies can see each other’s units.  Having allies also means that you see more enemy units too.

I used the network analyzer in Windows to see the bit rate.  A 4 on 4 game has an average bit rate around 20 kbps per client.  This value reflects a lot of action taking place.  I believe most of the units were moving or fighting.  It will be much lower during idle parts of the game.  I think that a 56 kbps modem should be able to handle the worst case bit rates on the client end.  The host will require broadband at some point.  It really depends on the previously mentioned factors.  A 1 on 1 game requires very little bandwidth.  On the other hand, a 4 on 4 game with 7 clients could potentially require an average bit rate around 140 kbps on the server.  A 56 kbps modem just could not keep up with this type of game.  I don’t think this will be a common situation, though.  Hopefully, people that are playing such a large game will expect that the server needs to be broadband.

In addition to testing, I need to get the remaining content finished.  The artwork is coming along nicely, but I think I will end up getting most of the troop art at once.  This means I wont have much of a warning and I think it will take a few hours to get the art into the game.  It will be well worth it, so I don’t mind.  The game should really come to life when the troops have an animated attack.  I will finally be able to tell my melee and casters apart too.  I am definitely looking forward to it.  I just hope I get the art done in time for my demo’s target date.  I am getting anxious to finally release this game.

To be fair, I still have some content of my own to finish.  I only have 3 of 21 campaign boards done.  I could use a few more skirmish boards as well.  At least I have a bunch of the campaign ideas written down.  Also, I can always release a few of the campaign boards with a future release.  I am planning to add some more content with releases, anyway.

The cool thing with the campaign game is that I can do things that aren’t possible within the skirmish game.  For instance, I can put the buildings of the enemy player in better locations.  I can also trigger different AI behaviors that work outside the rules of the skirmish AI.  These two types of AI work together too.  Well, more precisely, they work independently of each other.  So the campaign groups will not be drafted into the skirmish army.  This combination produces a challenging and fun game.  I also throw in a storyline to give a sense of higher goals.  I hope that others also find these campaign boards enjoyable :)
Speaking of that, I really need to get some of my beta testers to play the campaign game.  We have mostly been focusing on the network game.  Now that the code is pretty settled, I will start hounding them to play :)  In fact, I think I will play them again too.  It has been a while since I played the campaign boards and a lot has changed.  Plus, they are fun :)

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