Finally here – the brand new TAGAP.net!
This is the biggest make-over the site has gone through in ages – if not ever. Whilst the positioning of the elements hasn't changed, pretty much everything else is. Let's go down the list!
The most obvious thing that hits you right in the face is the general design language of, well, everything. As you've likely guessed it, this is the interface style of TAGAP 4. And yes, one of the reasons I've taken my time with the new website was that we wanted to announce the game first.
Whist TAGAP 3 imagery had some of the elements of the 45-degree-strip style, it now takes over from the rounded corners. After all, even the new logo is a 45-degree-tilted square, emphasizing the game being the fourth in the series.
When I started to plan a complete website re-do, the older bonus downloads caused some trouble. See, all the wallpapers for the two first games – and over half of the Weekly Penguin wallpapers – were done either in sub-HD resolution or in 4:3 aspect ratio. Or worse, both. If I wanted the new site to feel truly fresh and modern, I'd had to either axe that old content away – or remaster all of it. Me being me, I went with the latter.
So yes, all official TAGAP wallpapers are now available from 1920×1080 to 4k, whilst the Weekly Penguin wallpapers are in 1920×1200. If the sources allowed it, the artwork was re-exported in higher resolution. If not, painstakingly upscaled them via a process I explained in an earlier blog post.
If you are reading this site on a mobile device, you've likely already noticed that TAGAP.net is now responsive. That's designer speak for 'adjusts to the device you are using' – desktop version is full-wide and has the same positioning as before, tablet version throws side-bar content to the bottom of the page and phone layout stacks everything vertically.
At least that is how it is supposed to look like, do let us know if you're experiencing problems. Whilst I tested the site heavily, I only have a couple of devices to test it with, both Android based.
Though the layout is more complex – having basically three layouts in one – the site itself performs faster than the old one. The initial load takes a little longer, but once the layout is cached, the rest of the site loads a lot faster. Since all styling is inside the CSS, pages are smaller. And since all the text links are done using a custom web font, there are loads less images to load.
HTML5 + CSS
All the features listed so far are mainly thanks to one, single thing; the entire website been re-written from HTML4 with CSS support, to HTML5 entirely relying on CSS. Converting the website was a massive task – the base content, the blog, over 600 Weekly Penguins – it took heck-of-a-long time.
However, the time spent will make things easier in the future. For example, writing new pages easier as I don't have to worry about layout design during the process. Plus, the next time I get the urge to re-do the site, I can get most of it done via editing the CSS.
It's been quite a ride for TAGAP.net – from 2007 to this day. The first version of the site no longer exists – I didn't think to archive it – but I have snapshots from 2.0 an onwards. So how about a stroll down the memory lane. Remember, between these major version jumps, there were several minor improvements and banner swaps.
TAGAP.net 1.0 was, in design, similar to the Extras section of the first TAGAP. It was simple and to the point – and coded 100% in HTML without CSS. Since this version of the site has been completely lost in time, the picture above shows the layout in its PSD form.
TAGAP.net 2.0 was released in December 2007, in preparation for TAGAP 2. Though still all HTML, it was the first step towards the modern times. This is the moment the this very blog started, too.
TAGAP.net 3.0 dates to June 2012. It was basically v2.0 but with space made for TAGAP 3. This was an ad-hoc in-between update, as by this point, I had already started preparing the first major re-do.
TAGAP.net 4.0 was the first major re-build, from November 2013. The entire website was re-coded from plain HTML to HTML4 with CSS, proper TAGAP 3 section was added, the side bar became a thing – in other words, in terms of element placement, it's the basic setup we still use.
TAGAP.net 5.0 was a special build made for the launch of TAGAP 3 in 2017. Tech wise it was an intermediate build with Download and TAGAP 3 sections expanded and the CSS optimized. It took the HTML4 + CSS version as far as possible without a complete rewrite.
And that brings us to TAGAP.net 6.0! I know adding a screenshot of the 'current' site is redundant, but I added in case someone looks at this blog years from now.
Wow, first non-coy TAGAP 4 update! I've been hard at work on two things – new weapons specifically for the enemies and fully function local themes.
I won't spoil the weapons you'll see in the game, as I'm intending to show how things work in motion come December. However, I can say that the creation of the weapon sprites themselves is a time-consuming but rewarding work. I've gone into laborious detail with these, from animating triggers, ejection ports, slides – you name it. And all this is now shaded via digital painting and have reflection masks for that varied, metallic sheen. It could sound like overkill, but when you go into slow-mo and see these bullet hoses mechanically pump out lead and casings, it starts to make sense.
As for local themes, this is a bit more technical. For those not familiar with TAGAP Engine; themes are the atmosphere settings for the levels and cinematics – for example, default interior is a theme and the thunderstorm is another.
In the first game, all themes were global – when a theme was set, it affected everything everywhere in the level. That's one reason why there is a level transition every time you go from an interior setting to outdoors rain. Gradually over the engine iterations this started to shift and with TAGAP 3 we had 'local themes'. However, these local themes only affected the lighting colours, not darkness, rain etc.
And that's what I intend to do with TAGAP 4 – fully functional local themes. This would allow smooth and exact transitions, even with scenes with rifts. Again, 'rift' is an in-engine term for those areas in which you can see from one environment to another. The system is fully functional already, with the exception of how it affects sound (interior-exterior ambience switching and EQ effects cross-fades).
I hear you ask, 'why are you doing this if you could hack your way around it already?'. Well, when the system is fully operational, I no longer have to do special scripting tricks whilst creating levels – I just define the areas that have local themes and rest works automatically. Naturally, this makes map creation that tiny bit faster.
On TAGAP front; now that both Classic TAGAP and the website upgrade are done, it's time to update TAGAP 3 – while work begins on the main antagonist of TAGAP 4!
On gaming front; I just recently finished one of the most anticipated titles of the year, Ion Fury, which rocks. Plus, on consoles, I completed the brilliant Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and now I'm going through the divisive Wolfenstein: Youngblood. Hot take on it – whilst not as good as main entries in the series, for a budget-priced co-op spin-off, it ain't half bad – if you know that's what it is going into it.