I’ve implemented a navigation stack for screens in the game.
It used to be that when I would press “Play” in the main menu, the active screen would be changed to the episode selection screen. After pressing “back” there, it would say “open main menu” to return. All screen transitions were hardcoded in both ways like that.
Now when I press “Play”, it pushes the next screen onto the navigation stack. The “Back” button on the next screen doesn’t need to know where to go back to. It just tells the navigation controller to “pop” from the stack. The connection is now only one way and that makes it much easier to add new screens or change the order they are presented.
There are a few special cases, such as cutscenes, which effectively disappear once they are done. Other than that, the system is really simple and it only took an hour or so to implement, including the debug window shown above.
Last time I managed to make nice improvements by using multiple threads. As I’ve been adding more and more assets, the load time has crept up again since then.
This time I did two things.
Instead of decoding all PNGs and cropping them on each start, I do it once and write the result to disk as cache. Next time I just compare timestamps and load the processed image directly. This is much, much faster. The final release will have only the processed images in a PAK file.
Second, I profiled the startup sequence and found that a lot of time was spent building fonts. In particular, it was the Material Icons font, which isn’t even used when the game is run normally – it’s only for editor icons! I wanted to keep dynamic loading for the other fonts so I just replaced the few icons I actually needed with prerendered bitmaps and got rid of the icon font.
Loading times are really quick again which makes iteration much more pleasant.
New graphics for a static enemy unit that’s actually been in the game for a while. Do not touch. It gets angry!
The sentry turret is a big chunk of solid cold steel. When it smells danger, it gets mad. We don’t know how it works. The aliens probably don’t know it either. They just place these things around their camp site to keep them safe. Except they don’t, of course, because you brought grenades with you. Right? Right!?
After putting together a quick moodboard, I started modeling the basic design and created a few different variations. I quite like the wood texturing on those.
However, when I saw them in the game I realized there was something missing. Wires! The poles look so lonely without them…
Pre-render sets of poles with wires included. This would reduce variety and the textures would be much larger.
Pre-render wires separately, place them in the editor. Less memory usage but the size and direction is still fixed. Also extra precision work required for placement.
I decided to make the wires dynamic.
The first thing I needed was to define anchor points for each pole to attach the wires. I did this in Blender by adding Empty objects and giving them custom names.
The Blender export script then looks for those objects and writes their projected positions into a XML metadata file.
The game loads the metadata, the pole rendering code looks for the nearest neighbour poles, tries to match their anchor points and renders the wires.
All of this took about 3 hours, one of which I spent hunting down a problem with the anchor locations. It turned out I had changed their parent nodes in the Blender hierarchy and the parent inverse offset was wrong.
Another small task done: road signs. I went looking online for good textures or vector shapes of US road signs and found a great resource here. Picked a few that I liked and put them on 3D models. I had to do the rounded corners and UV maps for each sign separately to match the curves precisely. Not that anybody will ever notice at this scale. It’s just something that had to be done. Quite a tedious process, but good for podcast listening.