It's been a long while since the last update. A lot of things have been going on and a several things are in the works. Before we get into the dev stuff, I want to mention a couple of other related things.
First up; there will be a proper post-mortem on TAGAP 4. I've gone through all the feedback we've received, how we ourselves feel about the game in hindsight etc. I hope to finalise the blog in the not-too-distant future.
Second; My main social media for years has been Twitter. It was to the point, simple and reliable. However, if you've followed the tech news at all, you'd likely know that changes over there have happened and that the focus of the service is mutating into something completely different. Unlike many, I have no feelings one way or the other towards the new owner, but the direction the site is going is making me re-evaluate things.
Additionally, the engagement on our Twitter page has been non-existent for a while. I don't follow these things or obsess about them, but it is a fact that a lot of, if not most of the folks that used to interact with us over Twitter no longer do, for multitude of reasons. Some are restricted from the ecosystem due to international restrictions, whilst others packed their bags and left after the new owner made the site his personal playground.
I have no plans on leaving Twitter nor starting any new accounts somewhere else. I am however hoping I can make these TAGAP.net blogs a more regular thing. This way there is an established flow of dev blog style content here on the site in case the blue bird croaks.
So, these things out of the way;
The mysterious yet-to-be-announced 'next game'. The progress is both rapid and slow at the moment – rapid in terms of engine development and virtually non-existent in the asset creation front and gameplay design front.
Before going into details I want to say that yes, new TAGAP 4 updates are still on the way. This PC upgrade bullshit (more on that later) just has had me in what can only be described as depressive mood, so as a creative pick-me-up I've been focusing on the New Game these past months.
The progress on the new engine has been really fast. Though it is built using TAGAP 4 engine as it's base, it has transformed so much that if I showcased a fully built scene using it, 'this is on TAGAP Engine' likely wouldn't be your first guess.
One of the things I'm most proud of in this new engine is how it is both a complete rewrite of the old systems... but also supports most of the stuff from the past. What I mean by that is even though the new game is venturing into a whole new direction, the support for the old mechanics and gameplay are still all there. You could say it is a multi-genre engine now. I'm not planning to go all out on it and turning it into Unity or id Tech type one-size-fits all thing, but rather want it to perform well in the few things it is made for.
I know this sounds like a ton of teasing, but I want to showcase it proper with a trailer. It won't happen soon, though, for a specific reason.
The lack of progress in asset creation and design is, as I've previously explained, down to me still not having found a successor to my Windows 8.1 PC. The upgrade will inevitably happen and when it does, I'll loose all my graphics software (because Adobe are bunch of cunts). I will therefore move to something else... which will show in the art assets produced. And naturally I want the game to look cohesive all the way through.
This is why the new game currently has almost no new assets – with the exception of special effects like particles and the like. In those cases, in this new version of the TAGAP Engine, the change in graphics software wouldn't matter that much. These effects are now mostly shader-based and though they use a texture as their base, they are manipulated and shaded on the fly, so the shader itself matters more than the source asset when it comes to unified art style. This doesn't apply to sprites and the world textures, though.
The problem in tracking down a new computer is matter of price. Since I'm going to ditch Adobe Photoshop, that means I'll loose its memory virtualisation that is the best in all of graphics software. And that means whatever I'll be using next requires a heck of a lot more memory, especially when working with densely layered sprites in 4k. And tracking down a laptop with both the 17 inch screen and 32 GB RAM is a wallet nuke in the current ever-worsening world. They all are either monster gaming systems with RTX cards hiking up the price – or some 'supposed professional use' systems with some integrated bullshit masquerading as a GPU, but with 1.5x the price of an equivalent gaming laptop.
And no, going tabletop isn't an option, because as a laptop user, that would be way more expensive. In addition to the PC, I'd also have to get a table (really), a dedicated (gaming) chair, a display and a robust keyboard. For real, I don't have any of those.
To think this wouldn't be an issue if both Microsoft and Adobe weren't assholes. But they are. Heck, soon you can't even get a PC that isn't an online DRM mess thanks to Windows 11. More I think about all this, the more I start to wonder if staring at a blank wall would be more productive than modern day software development. When I said the PC upgrade was making me depressive, I wasn't kidding.
I'll very soon reach a point where the engine can't be nudged any further without assets – the engine is a couple of features away from being ready and I have no idea what I'll do after that. I mean FFS, I've already done deep optimisation sweeps to the new features, stuff I usually reserve for the later stages of development.
Playlist is a regular feature in our Penguin DT blog; A chance to highlight cool games both old and new that I've been playing. As always, I believe that in order to make games, you need to play them, preferably with a broad scope when it comes to genres, so each day I dedicate at least an hour to actually playing games. The rest of the free time? There is no such thing, it all belongs to TAGAP!
The one thing that hasn't been depressing has been the games I've played in 2023. Some pretty interesting bangers on the list, all but one from my backlog.
First is Severed Steel by Greylock Studio, a fast-paced indie FPS with a fun gimmick. The game is all about doing stunts – wall-running, wall-jumps, slides, tackles, etc. And to make sure you use them, you'll be dead in a matter of seconds... but are immortal when performing the stunts. It results in some of the most bonkers slow-mo FPS scenes I've seen to date. Give it a go, fun times.
Next; Generation Zero, the fascinatingly unique survival FPS from Avalanche, using their Apex-engine powering Just Cause and Rage 2 for something completely different. It is all about the atmosphere and environmental storytelling. I can't remember the last time I saw a game with sound design this good. Hiding in bush, hearing a robotic buzz carried by the wind and starting scout where it comes from is chilling. The game is advertised as co-op title, but works fine in single player – though naturally it is quite challenging.
Then; Code Vein from Namco Bandai. It is no secret that I do not like Souls-likes – I love a challenge and games that make you re-think your strategies, but I hate games that waste my time. Souls-likes emphasize the latter in the most extreme of ways. Well, all Souls-likes, except Code Vein. I was amazed how it dodged all the issues I have with the genre – hell, even the stamina meter works because of the anime weaponry you wield, for once feeling realistic as opposed to having pneumonia!
To my surprise Cove Vein became the first Souls-like I not only cared to complete, but actually liked. The exception that makes the rule, perhaps?
Penultimately; Foreclosed by Antab Studio – an indie cyberpunk action-adventure title with narrow focus on a short-but-well-executed story. From the presentation to gameplay, it really felt like what I'd imagine a 3D Flashback game to be – if it was made today and wasn't called Fade to Black, that is.
Finally; I'm currently going through one of my 'most anticipated games of the year', void* tRrLM2 (); //Void Terrarium 2 from Nippon Ichi. I've praised the first one to high heavens in the previous GOTY post and the sequel expands on it all whilst continuing the story from the very end of the first game. Good stuffs, but more on that after I've finished it.
For TAGAP; I guess finalizing the new engine. The way it renders things has changed so drastically that some of the most complex rendering tricks of the past – namely the 'rift' system that allowed for display of multiple scenes at once (i.e. windows to the outside, or mirrors) have to be completely re-engineered. I have several ways in mind on how to tackle the issue – I guess the only right way is to try all of 'em and weight the results.
For the playlist; void* tRrIM2(); of course. After that? I guess I'll just close my eyes and reach for the backlog shelf to find out. Being able to do that is the best part of having a physical backlog, to be honest.