AI Design & Finite-State Machine

This recent days there have been no post since our main writer (Miguel) was on vacations, but now we are back and stronger than ever!! and even more so since there is so little time to finish this TFM and also present the project to the Playstation Awards!!

Today we are gonna tell you a little about Artificial Intelligence (AI). Since this game is a turn based tactic game, the AI is one off the most important parts even more for you will almost always be playing against machines (we aren’t going to rule out the possibility off you playing against another person in local or through the Internet)  and if the AI is not “Smart” enough there will be no challenge making the game boring and repetitive, making the game to easy.

A complex AI takes quite a lot of developing hours, and it can make the machine fail at any time, but luckily, there are a lot of ways to create complex and complete behaviors without the need to complicate the code to much by making a “State Machine”.

A “State Machine” is a set of “instructions” or “paths” with which we can guide the AI, with transitions into other states so the AI can know what to do in certain cases and what to do in other time, for an simple example we here have a small diagram that shows the beginning of the guards “State Machine” AI:

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                    Scheme design of the Guards “Machine State”

Has you can see we have 5 states: Guarding, Attacking, Healing, Hunting and Hiding. In each of this states the AI will make decisions based on the logic that we code in it.

Each of the arrows between the states represent the “Triggers” or conditions that have to be met so the AI (The Guard) can go into that state, except for the Initial or starting state arrow which is represented by a simple arrow that goes into the “Guarding” bubble, indicating this is the starting behavior for the AI, so if the Guard is in the State “Guarding” the Trigger “See an Enemy” and the enemy is within certain reach, this will make him switch into the State “Attack”.

But all of this can become quite more complex if in every one of this states we add another “State Machine” to tell the NPC what to do when he is in that specific state, like say the AI is in the “Attack” state, the AI can choose what to do depending on the internal State Machine of the “Attack” state, making the NPC take cover, use a skill or simply get close to the enemy and deal one last punishing blow before dying, meaning that if we are not careful enough when making this type of “State Machines”, the AI can get so complex that no one would be able to understand how it works.

So has you can see the “State Machine” initial design should be made simple and should not be coded, just make a simple sketch in a book or in PC (Xmind is a good tool for PC), just make sure not to make a super large “State Machine”, try not to make it larger than 5 options, and try to keep the “Triggers”  simple, even more since at the time wen you start coding it, it will become quite complex even though at the time of sketching it looks simple, just remember in programming a good motto is “Divide and Conquer”.

And thats all for today, we hope that you liked the post and we hope to make a incredible AI so you can have a lot of fun with our game. And has you know by now you can always leave a comment or get in touch with us by Twitter  @ProjectDinamita, Facebook a Dynamite Project or through here 🙂

One of Three: Tala, The Red Wolf

During the last months of work since we finished the Master at U.P.M. we have been toiling away, working in the prototype and finally some of the fruits have been starting to show, the HUD has started to take shape, the first map is almost complete and the protagonists are been made little by little.

And in that note, today we are going to present to you Tala, The Red Wolf, silent like a hunting wolf and deadly like a snake. Here are some of the concepts, that are being used to model her character.

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Concept art full body Tala

Dressed in loose clothes and with a hair cut made with a knife, you could confuse Tala with a boy from afar and that is precisely what she wants. She is a little more reserved than Francis and Clyde, and it’s hard for her to express her ideas, mostly since she is not to skilled in English and also she doesn’t trust her companions. Even though, her steely glance says quite clearly that she must not be underestimated just because she is an Indian woman, and doing so will result in death.

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Facial Concept art facial

The experiences have taught Tala that there is no place for Indians in the New America the white people are building and if you are also a woman, not one person is ever going to respect you. But there is something that she nows very well, that a Knife to the throat, makes any man cry like a baby boy.

In Vault Bandits, Tala brings in the stealth factor to the team, being capable of moving around without being noticed, capable of hiding in boxes and other places so she can execute an ambush on the guards. Her skill with a Knife is unmatched and she can end the life of anyone in the blink of an eye, but take into account that Tala is not strong enough to carry the body’s, something that Clyde will have to handle.

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What would be a outlaw without a scarf?

Lastly, there is no lock that can resist Tala’s handling, making her the perfect explorer to move around without arising suspicions or sounding alarms, perfect to scout the terrain before taking other dangerous actions.

 

But since no one is perfect Tala does have an Achilles heel, and that would be without a doubt the use of firearms, in spite of the fact that Francis taught her the basics of using handguns, but the simple fact that they where made by the white people she hates so much, has made her reticent to using them, but give her a Bow and Arrow and Tala and she will make a fool of William Tell.

And thats all for today, we hope that you liked the post and we hope to be able to show you the 3D model of Tala very soon. And has you know by now you can always leave a comment or get in touch with us by Twitter  @ProjectDinamita, Facebook a Dynamite Project or through here 🙂

Good bye and see you next week!!

P.S. A thousand thanks to María Casillas, a friend of us that helped us a lot with the concept art, all of the concepts we have shown you are hers and of course another thanks goes too María Alea for helping us out with some Scenery concept art and the model sheets we have used to work on 3DS Max. 😀

Stealth Or Destruction?

Welcome back to a new blog post. Today we are going to be talking about one of the most important game Mechanics that have been implemented in Vault Bandits, just like the title hints, it´s about the ability to go around the levels silently or just busting everything and everyone you see.

Even though it´s a turn based Video game, Vault Bandits is not centered only on combat. Thanks to certain abilities of the protagonists, you´ll be able to pull of the robberies has if nothing ever happened, making sure no one detects you. We have been designing the Missions so you can beat them in the most combat/classical/crazy style or so you can do them completely with the use of some cunning, secrecy and patience, just make sure to loot everything from the safety box.

Just keep in mind that going through the levels in secrecy can be quite dangerous, for there are some zones where no unauthorized person can set foot without raising suspicion or making the guards that spot them, rise the alarm, making everyone immediately in the zone your enemy, and making the escape quite more difficult since a lot more guards and enemies might appear to pursue you.

Even though all of the protagonists, have some tricks up their sleeves that should facilitate or help out during the arduous task off passing unnoticed:

-First we have Tala, the most slippery person in the Wild West, able to walk near the guards without been noticed or heard, and who can also hide herself in some places.

–Then there is Francis, the sweet talker, with an extraordinary ability to distract guards and multitude of people with its incessant chats.

–And lastly Clyde, with his bad temperament and rowdiness, able to intimidate all the civilians so if an alarming situation comes up, they won’t even budge.

With the clever use of this abilities, our protagonist will be able to infiltrate in any zone, be it to steal all the valuables, or to kidnap the daughter of a V.I.P. or whatever else that needs to be done.

Of course if you are the type whose blood boils and wants to see rivers of blood, there is nothing wrong with that, after all the Vault Bandits protagonists are armed and now very well how to defend themselves, you could simply start the battle at the start of the level, but remember the protagonist are no super heroes and they can’t be replaced, if one off them dies, it’s ¡GAME OVER!, so remember to use the covers, and all the aggressive abilities that they have, and remember you can’t use your revolver if you run out of ammo, so keep an eye on it.

Of course, there is always the possibility of combining both type of tactics, killing only those enemies that are in the way between you and your price (hiding their corpses so they won’t find it or raise alarms).

But do take into account that all your actions, will have an impact on later missions, be it that you kill to many enemies or you leave to many civilians alive.

That’s all for today!! And has you now, if you have any comments or questions, you can contact us by Twitter at @ProjectDinamita, by Facebook at Dynamite Project or by this same blog. 🙂

Until next time!

Design implementation

One of the critical parts of making a Prototype, it’s implementing everything we have thought off, defined and written in our Game Design Document or G.D.D for short.

The things is that even with the G.D.D defined some questions still arise, like Where do we start? or What do we have to program first??; Well with this post we want to clear some of this questions.

The most important thing in the prototype, is not that it looks good, it’s the fact thats got to be FUN!! XD, after all it’s a game what we are making and for that we need to find is the Minimum Product Value for the game  (nor Most Valuable Player XD), that in this case its like saying “The most important game Mechanics or the things that are essential to the prototype” to get a feel of how the prototype will be like when finished. Just to mention some examples, the Minecraft MVP would be the ability to traverse the world and remove and add cubes around to make anything you want, the Mario Kart MVP would be the ability to drive around the circuit and use the Items or Power Ups scattered about. Everything else, it’s to balance the game, add more options, modeling the scenario and designing the level are basically secondary, at the start working with cubes or planes is enough at the start, after all we only want something that works to test if it’s FUN or not.

The idea is that the smaller the MVP, the more profit we can obtain from the game, since all the work we do after the MVP is done, is to upgrade everything and just make it better since the main and most important things are finished. So you can imagine how there are games witch MVP can take a long time to complete or just be short enough that just can concentrate in adding more and more stuff to make something awesome.

In the case of Vault Bandits and after some months working at spurs (with half the people in UNITY), we can say that we have completed the MVP. Mostly since you can already move the Player Characters, shoot, use some abilitys and interact with the world and even though we don’t have AI (yet, we are working on it ;)), we can still use the enemies to make an idea of how the prototype will end like.

To implement everything we have talked about we went approximately with this order:

  1. Movement: Since we started working on a D&D based movement and have a grid map, we needed the system working as soon as possible since there was a need to verify that all the buildings, enemies, items, etc where reachable by the Main Characters in the map and to make sure how to model everything to work together with this system.
  2. Combat: Secondly there was the need to implement the combat mechanics, mainly the ability to shoot at the enemies and the ability to be struck back by them (after all whats a game without some challenges), an gearing system so the characters could always choose there weapons and items, and of course making all of this available both to the enemies and main characters.
  3. Skills: This one is maybe the one job that took the most time since every characters have their unique skills plus the ones that are common to all the characters in the world, but the good thing is that once they are coded we will have the base game to wich we will be dedicating time upgrading it and fine tunning. But there still is a lot of ground to cover, but at least we can be glad that we made a sturdy base in witch take a lot less time to do things for the game.

Well folks this about covers up the fundamental, obviously there is still a lot we didn’t talk about, mostly the correction of the code and bugs that spring up like rabbits and if you don’t take some time here and there to correct them, well you’ll end up with a prototype thats shakier than  flan in a earthquake.

Hope this helps and if you have an idea, don’t just start coding, like crazy, take your time to plan the code and how it will evolve, otherwise it will fall apart sooner or later.

Goodbye and see you next post.

Welcome To Nothing Ville (English)

Somewhere in some place in the old wild west, a long time ago a small town was constructed and named Nothing Ville. This small town came to be by the sheer necessity off having a post house between the course of two bigger city’s, but even though it’s name seems inconspicuous, it’s got quite a Story that today I shall reveal.

Expansion in the Wild west normally uses the help of a promoter and off willing people that want to start a new life somewhere where they have never been heard off, or simply for the adventure that is to become town settlers, just so the promoters for this new town where Wells Fargo & Co. the biggest administrators of post offices and  transport services by coach car whose services where already covering the grand majority of the west coast since there where no  railroads in this zone. With some time, the town started growing and expanding, adding a hotel, a bank and some other amenities.

But the thing is that even though there was a bank, there where no Sheriffs, only the security guards that where brought to protect the post office and the bank, the two most important buildings in this small town, even tough throughout time there have been multiple attempts of holdups, but I say attempts since all the Bandits that have tried it, ended being hanged like apples.

The town was named after a couple off years when the locals noticed that their town had never appeared in any newspaper, calendars or maps even though they had some interesting incidents happening there, specially all the holdups that ended normally with the Bandits all dead and hanged in the biggest tree in the town, but this fact was actually something planned by the recently elected governor Reynolds, who had been taking the liberty to make the town disappear form all the relevant media.

Just like in daytime live is peaceful and serene, the nights where commonly interrupted  by a gunfight, whispered conversations or a coach wagon racing at full speed to who nows where. The locals spoke of what could be happening but most off them know it’s a bad idea to poke their noses in matters they know nothing about, even more so where there are drawn weapons in the way.

This situation has been happening for quite some time, enough time to make it seem “Normal” to the locals, so anything that seemed dangerous before is now something that is part of their normal lives, giving in this way easy some leeway to the governor so he can keep doing his own business.

But all of this pacific life will be interrupted by the appearance of Three wild savages.

 

This is the small background entry that will accompany the first town that the protagonists will visit (without counting the tutorials and so on…).

In a design point of view, each level and map needs to have their unique history and details, for this same principle we need to give a undertone to it, so the artistic factor can be given a better focus (if it’s an old town and decrepit, if it’s a big and lively town full of people in the streets or simply a mercantile town) witch can also help us determine the buildings placement and other elements that compose the level.

On the other hand, creating the story also gives us the opportunity to use what we call “Silent Narrative”, that is to say, the possibility of telling a story by decorating the towns with a lot of details that Hint to events that have occurred (per example, bullet holes that show that in the past there had been a gunfight in the area,  a cadaver semi-buried that could show there had been a reckoning), in this way the player could find out a lot of interesting facts of the towns they visit only by observing the environment (giving the need to take a lot more time to watch the scenes to grab all the small and pretty details).

And so whe end this post for today with this little story about design, but don’t fret when the first level is completly finished will be sharing it with all of you through here first! :D.

I hope you liked it and whe will be seeing you again in next weeks post. Bye.

Development Diary #5

Hi everyone, Andres here, from now on I’m gonna be charged with the translation of the posts that my friend Miguel does. Without further adieu, the post.

So at this moment Time doesn’t run it just flies away, and the amount of work we have just keeps on piling, but we are still working hard and chipping little by little at the giant amount of work left so we can make an excellent game and product for everyone to play and enjoy.

This time we have been able to accomplish the next things:

1.- Toon Shader and Fog of War: Finally after a lot of work Andres (Yes, the same that is giving you the translations from now own, by the way, I’m sorry for my bad spelling or bad sentence organization, I haven’t used English in quite some time…)  has been able to finish the characters and terrain shader to give them a more cartoon look… But there’s still a lot of details to cover before we can say the shader is ready for the game, even more since we still want to give a darker toon style, but we are getting there little by little, and more importantly he was also able to make the shader work correctly with the Fog of War cod. The characters are now able to “open up” the map by exploring it, but be careful, you could find a guard that has been looking for you… So think again if you just want to rush in and start a gunfight with the whole town.

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In game basic Fog of War

His next task is to work on the implementation of the AI. At the beginning we wanted to use a UNITY Asset Store package called RAIN that specializes on AI creation, but to do that we would be forced to remake all the existing code that has been implemented for all the actors, and since we don’t have so much time, Andres decided to make his own state machine AI. We’ll keep you in touch with the progress he makes.

2.- Constructing Nothing Ville: The first level develops in the little town of Nothing Ville, and even thought to this day the majority of the level is still a lot of boxes and cylinders, Inés and Santiago are working hard to give us a livelier town with a lot of different structures that you would find in a typical American Wild West Town like some houses, banks, churches and other cool stuff… After that there is still a lot of work to do on the ground and details (wind, vegetation, illumination, etc…) to give the little town a lot of character and make it unique in it’s own way.

3.- HUD And Texturing: After Antonios last post and a lot of happy go merry ideas, we have now a clear idea of the HUD’s design, how to let the player know what’s happening with everything in the screen and their player characters. In this way we want to facilitate you, the player, all the information needed, so you can know how much movements you can manage without trouble or all the actions you can take, but since all the programmers are occupied with other stuff, Antonio is texturing the NPC’s, at least until we can implement the HUD and its corresponding graphics.

HUD sketch
HUD sketch

4.- Testing and Game play: Lastly but in anyway not least important, Miguel has spent the whole week playing… Yeah playing Vault Bandits and testing everything, but here is the twist……. He isn’t using any PC or anything (Crazy HUH?!!!), he is playing in a white board in his house to see if everything is correctly balanced and to test all the possible scenarios that the game can take and  verify that the same level can be beaten in different ways using the unique skills off all the three characters, and also make sure that the game is very fun and deep enough for everyone.

So after a lot of hours of him playing with magnets and a lot of changes to the characters skills, he already has everything ready to program it in UNITY. So maybe with some luck and hope, the majority of the main characters skills will be ready for next weeks post.

Well folks thats all we are going to be talking about for today and this week post. So if you have any question or just want to comment something with us, you can do so by Twitter at @ProjectDinamita, using Facebook at Dynamite Project  or by this same blog.

Bye and until next time!!