I’ve been without the internet for a little while so I spent a good part of that time refactoring some of the UI code.

I quickly identified a distinction between widgets that hold a single other widget, and widgets that contain many other widgets. These are Containers vs Layouts. Obviously a widget that holds one other widget is a container, something that holds many widgets only does so for the sole purpose of positioning them, therefore it’s a layout.

This brings me a Container class that the Window now inherits from. Containers don’t seem to have a clear way of doing a hierarchy as each positions them differently. The two I have now, a Tetris like stack that I call Box (I might rename it to TetrisLayout) and TableLayout don’t even store their widgets in the same manner.

The UI code is really starting to look slick. It’s actually got more code than the current state of the graphics engine and more than 4x the code of any of the celestial mechanics and AI stuff I’ve already done.

Scrolling Box Complete

I’m pretty sure I’m now 99% complete with the scrolling boxes. There were a couple of bugs; one which was interesting.

Because the  box essentially draws its contents onto a render texture, the render texture created is the size of the screen. Then, as the box is scrolled, basically the region of this texture that’s then drawn to the boxes quad is updated.

What I found was that I was drawing the contents at normal window position on this texture. So a box close to the edge of the screen would result in the contents being partially drawn offscreen. Which is fine. Until you scroll and then the “region” of the texture you’re drawing is actually not on the texture. Graphical glitch.

Easy fix was to just draw to 0,0 on the texture and accommodate this in the region calculation. It also means that I can use a much smaller texture; probably the size of the widget contents. However, there would be a problem if that widget changed it’s size, I would then need to regenerate the texture, or resize it; and I’m concerned about the overhead needed. For now the screen dimensions cover all possible cases, so I’m using it until there’s performance problems.

I’ve also enabled mouse wheel and touch-pad scrolling via SDL2. So that’s pretty handy, makes it much more usable. I’m basically trying to recreate everything that people are used to.

Scrolling boxes

It’s badly coded and needs some fixing up; but it works:

Scrollbars working
Scrollbars working

I’ve also been working on documentation of the UI system and need to complete that. It took far too long to complete the above because I had to keep going back over code to figure out what it was meant for.

Emergent Gameplay

I was reading a very very long AAR that begins with the original Crusader Kings and it got me thinking about emergent gameplay. In short I think of it like things happen in the game that the developer/designer never outright sort to accomplish, but rather it occurred simply because the game is structured in such a way that it can. On it’s own.

For example, in the linked AAR, there’s all sorts of things happening that are sort of emergent. You piss off a vassal and then later he revolts. Now; that may not seem emergent but consider: You grant title to someone else and you piss off a vassal who has a claim there. Then later; when the man you gave the title to begins to dislike you due to the size of your demesne, he concocts a plot with your spiteful wife to kill you; and it only succeeds because they can draw your pissed off vassal into the plot as well.

That’s emergent. Games like Dwarf Fortress definitely show emergent gameplay. These are the sort of games that inspire my own; and so I’m thinking about it’s inclusion.

So obviously, I can just program in emergence. Instead I need to program the game mechanics in such a way that it’s very very hard to predict how all the bits and pieces will affect each other. This allows these bits and pieces to affect each other in a consistent manner, with affects flowing on. And these affects aren’t always known from the outset of a decision by the player.

Nothing that I have planned features this to a large degree. Sure, the economy affects the budget affects the military; but these are known affects to the player. If I increase research budget I get more theoretical knowledge; this helps practical knowledge, this produces new technologies for my military. So I need something more.

When I look at both Dwarf Fortress and Crusader Kings I see the following:

  • The “emergent” behaviour is seen from characters
  • The game is in a large part organised around the characters
  • The “emergent” behaviour comes from interactions between characters

When I then look at something like Hearts of Iron; there is no emergent behaviour and the game is very little reflective of characters. But this also leads me to a revelation; the game must be completely open for emergent behaviour to be seen and for it to make sense. So, in HOI3 for example, the Commanders don’t show any behaviour, just aptitude for warfare, and you put then in a place where their skillset is most useful. But they are unable to defect; ignore orders or anything like that. This is because the game is very narrowly focused, and for good reason, mostly because of the historical accuracy, you can’t have people off doing whatever they want.

The Last Boundary is focused toward a long time span, and a high level. So it’s hard to find somewhere where I can put the ability of having emergence…

Table Layout 99% Complete

It can never truly be 100% complete; but it’s pretty close. Cellpadding and cellspacing are in place as well as options to draw the borders. Elements are also positioned within their cell.

Table Layout 99% complete
Table Layout 99% complete

Now that I’ve got some way to position elements I can start working on text boxes; then the very tricky scrollbars.

I haven’t planned these out; but I think scrollbars need to handle a single…. Box, or Cell element. Every frame, the contents of the box or cell will need to be drawn to a texture, and then only the visible part of the texture is drawn to the destination; the scrollbar would adjust the region drawn. I can’t think of another way to hide the parts that are “offscreen”.

Table Layout 80% done

I spent the bulk of my available time this weekend writing the code for the Table Layout. It ended up quite a bit different from the design; chiefly because I found there was no need for an abstract row. The TableLayout class itself handles all the row…ing.

I just need to add some things like cellpadding, cellspacing, rowspan and colspan. Maybe some method to draw borders; though I might use a specialised DataTable class for that.

TableLayout is working
TableLayout is working

UI System Overview

I’m now about 60% done on the UI system code. I’m also only about 80% complete with the design though (I was tired of design and needed to code).

I have to admit that designing everything first was something I haven’t done before and it helped immensely. I don’t know why I never did it before but I will definitely be doing this for future systems in the game.


Down-Sizing to Realise the Combat

I’ve been working on the UI quite a bit and have started to get all of the components together in UML. The number of lines going back and forth is very confusing, but luckily I have no diamonds.

So as work continues steadily on this I’ve been thinking about the next steps after the UI is completed. My TODO list says that the next part is Game Logic which is essentially the largest part of the game. There’s ecomomy, combat, resources, technology which is all then followed closely by AI. Essentially, it’s the game part of the game.

In order to realise a piece of my game; I’m tossing around the idea of making a smaller, combat focused game to begin with. It would probably be focused in a single star system; maybe not even randomly generated for now (maybe even the Sol system). Something along the lines with both sides having a certain number of points that they can use to increase their Admirals abilities and their actual fleets technologies and units. Then it’s just a matter of clicking things around.

This idea also looks like it can readily be expanded to add the economic and diplomatic pieces on top; followed then by technology.

First is to complete the UI system anyway.

UI Progress

I’ve made some more progress on the UI; it’s now possible to have it textured. The textures are variable dimensions and there’s a few different options on how to handle resizing (stretching textures or repeating them etc).

EDIT: I’ve got some performance problems doing this because a single texture for like the border needs to be repeated a whole heap of times. It seems like resizeable windows may not be doable, instead I will need to use statically sized windows. I’m sure there’s another way…