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May 14, 2009

Filed under: tech»coding

Tribal Procedures

Again, click in the window and press space to begin playing. This time, I've added player controls: arrow keys steer and move forward, A jumps and double-jumps, and holding Z while jumping will switch from strafing to turning. Press space again when you're done, to pause rendering and keep it from hammering the CPU.

This time, the landscape is made up of 16 procedurally-generated tiles, each colored differently so you can tell between them. I apologize if there's a pause while you load the page--the noise functions I'm using tend to lock Flash for about two seconds on my machine. There's also some primitive gravity operating on the stars that you can see at the beginning.

I'd been thinking about various game-related uses for this while working on it, and the frontrunner was a kind of "jetpack delivery service" that combined Tribes with Crazy Taxi--hence the control scheme. The problem is that A) it would require an enormous landscape, and B) I'm not really sure how to balance it. For a game like that, players need to enjoy the process of movement itself, while still being limited in ways that don't have a steep frustration curve. You could do it with platforming, but I'm not really sure this engine is well-suited for that kind of thing. More importantly, implementing it well would require building levels by hand, a process for which I probably don't have the tools or temperament.

It occurred to me tonight that a better setting might be underwater--like Seaquest, without the annoying dolphin voice. That would be ideal for use with procedural height and texture maps. It'd be a natural fit for the look of a voxel engine, while still providing a good excuse for fog. It'd be kind of a neat change from the usual genres. And it would bypass one of the pitfalls of doing a first-person game in Flash, which is that mouselook is expected but not really possible due to limitations of the plugin. So I'm going to fork the code and start playing with a different control scheme, as well as a different method of generating the heightmaps that provides a bit more natural variation.

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