Author Topic: Greetings & Planned Patching  (Read 4243 times)

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Offline PlotinusRedux

Greetings & Planned Patching
« on: November 12, 2014, 06:46:57 AM »
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  • I've just joined this community.  I loved SMAC in its day, but hadn't played it since sometime in the early 2000's.  I was hoping CIV:BE would be a SMAC reboot, but all it did is make me miss SMAC, so I downloaded it from GOG and here I am.

    I have a lot of experience patching old games like this, and it's kind of a hobby I enjoy.  Whereas Yitzhak is fixing bugs and gameplay logic--the important things--my initial efforts are going to be at improving the graphics and UI.

    My son wants to play this game because he's heard me talk about it, but he can't tell what's what and doesn't get why modern UI staples don't work.

    So, my first priorities are:

    (1) Add a resolution setting to the .ini file.  DirectDraw=0 will run the game at desktop settings, but at the cost of slower rendering, and since the UI doesn't scale, at high resolutions it can get too small.  I want to be able to pick the resolution the game runs at.

    (2) Smoother scrolling and zooming.  The scrolling is jerky and the zoom zigzags as a result, and the zoom needs to be tied to the mouse scroll wheel.

    (3) Enabling higher resolution and eventually 32 bit color image files.  Higher resolution isn't that great if it's just zooming up low res source files.  And even low res files are severely limited by the 8 bit color palette, which precludes subtle shading.  I can't draw a decent stick man, but I can run the existing files through filters that will improve them and provide the capacity for any graphic artists in the community to create hi-res, full color images.

    (4) Adding a toggle that shows the yields of all tiles like most of the Civ games have, and changing the terrain info box to show info on any terrain under the mouse.  I can't tell what terrain will produce what, and SHIFT-right-clicking on every square is annoying.

    (5) Adding native ALT-TAB windowed mode.  You shouldn't have to run a third party program for that.

    (6) An option to scale the UI up at high resolution modes.

    Those are just my initial pet peeves with the graphics and UI.  I've got the base graphics classes reverse engineered already, and except for the 32-bit color, it should all be fairly easy to achieve.  Getting 32-bit graphics will take a bit more work because SMAC uses palette indexes for things like transparency and shading, and every individual instance of that will have to be changed.  A compromise might be 16-bit color--still paletted, but with 64k colors instead of 256.

    If anyone has any pet peeves with the UI or graphics I didn't cover, let me know and I might include it.  I'm really just now getting back into SMAC, there's a lot I don't remember about it, and I never played SMAX.
    « Last Edit: November 12, 2014, 07:38:35 AM by sisko »

    Offline sisko

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    Re: Greetings & Planned Patching
    « Reply #1 on: November 12, 2014, 07:37:37 AM »
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  • Welcome to AC2, PlotinusRedux!
    I think one of the biggest drawbacks for new players is the UI and the graphics side of the game. So, i'm sure your project will get positive feedback from many players.

    Quote
    If anyone has any pet peeves with the UI or graphics I didn't cover, let me know and I might include it.

    Finding a way to edit the graphics of the units (which are stored in an unusual file format - caviar) is a long time ambition of the modding community. If you have the skills and the will to give it a try, then you should add this to the bottom of your list. See this thread for your reference: http://alphacentauri2.info/index.php?topic=7866

    Also, I'm not a programmer so I can't help you in this area, but if your need anything forum/community related, just let me know. You'll have my full support.
    Anyone else feels like it's time to fix the faction graphics bug?

    Offline Lord Avalon

    Re: Greetings & Planned Patching
    « Reply #2 on: November 12, 2014, 09:50:37 AM »
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  • (1) Add a resolution setting to the .ini file.  DirectDraw=0 will run the game at desktop settings, but at the cost of slower rendering, and since the UI doesn't scale, at high resolutions it can get too small.  I want to be able to pick the resolution the game runs at.
    Greetings, PlotinusRedux. Do you mean, for example, "Video Mode=1024"? That's the first line in my Alpha Centauri.ini.
    Your agonizer, please.

    Offline PlotinusRedux

    Re: Greetings & Planned Patching
    « Reply #3 on: November 12, 2014, 10:44:07 AM »
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  • sisko, the PCX format SMAC uses for graphics files is so old that the ability to have 256 colors instead of 16 colors is kludged in.  I don't think the format supports color depths > 8 bit paletted at all, so yeah, using a format supported by modern graphics editors makes sense.

    Avalon, you may have "Video Mode=1024" in your .INI file, but all the code does with that is "if mode < 1024 use 800x600 mode, else use 1024x768 mode."  If you increased that value to 1280, you'd still be running at 1024x768, because all it checks is that the mode is > 800. 

    If anyone here hasn't put DirectDraw=0 in their .ini file, you really should try it, as long as your native resolution isn't so high that the UI becomes too tiny, that one thing improves the graphics by 100%.

    Offline Lord Avalon

    Re: Greetings & Planned Patching
    « Reply #4 on: November 12, 2014, 11:37:13 AM »
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  • Ah, I see. I think I had the DirectDraw=0 in there at one time, but probably switched to Video Mode due to the tiny UI issue.
    Your agonizer, please.

    Offline Yitzi

    Re: Greetings & Planned Patching
    « Reply #5 on: November 12, 2014, 02:41:46 PM »
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  • I've just joined this community.  I loved SMAC in its day, but hadn't played it since sometime in the early 2000's.  I was hoping CIV:BE would be a SMAC reboot, but all it did is make me miss SMAC, so I downloaded it from GOG and here I am.

    I have a lot of experience patching old games like this, and it's kind of a hobby I enjoy.  Whereas Yitzhak is fixing bugs and gameplay logic--the important things--my initial efforts are going to be at improving the graphics and UI.

    If you can do that, great.  Due to the lack of any sort of version control, in order to have both in a single patch, one of us would have to just send code to the other to combine in a patch (and it'd have to be SMAX, because that's where I've done all my stuff)...but it'd still be good.

    (Also, while my formal name is Yitzhak, I prefer to be known as Yitzi.)

    Offline MetallEater

    Re: Greetings & Planned Patching
    « Reply #6 on: November 12, 2014, 10:59:27 PM »
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  • Awesome! PlotinusRedux, if you'll realize at least 50% of yours first priorities,  you'll give new life to the game(for example: Hd mod for Heroes 3 made this game very
    popular online)Because the most people can't play SMACX due very bad graphics.

    Offline Flux

    Re: Greetings & Planned Patching
    « Reply #7 on: November 13, 2014, 12:26:06 AM »
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  • BUncle and I are slowly working on a Middle Earth graphics/factions conversion for SMAX.
    It would be great to get high quality pictures in.
    Your talent is welcome!
    Left the internet, more-or-less.... Might drop in occasionally.

    Offline PlotinusRedux

    Re: Greetings & Planned Patching
    « Reply #8 on: November 13, 2014, 06:58:07 AM »
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  • Yitzi--

    I'm fine with sending my changes to you to include in your patch.  I'm going to stay away from the places you've been adding code to avoid overwriting any of your changes, and we're working on different parts, so I think we'll be able to just add my changes to yours without having to reconcile any conflicts.

    My plan is to make my changes for both terran.exe and terranx.exe--it doesn't look like the graphics code changed much, so once I modify a function in one it should just be a matter of finding where the linker put the same function in the other.

    BlueFlux--

    Yeah, that's exactly the kind of thing I want to enable.

    Offline PlotinusRedux

    Re: Greetings & Planned Patching
    « Reply #9 on: November 13, 2014, 07:12:30 AM »
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  • Also, is there a lobby where people play this multiplayer?  If not, I wrote an MSN Gaming clone, http://ewarzone.com, for playing these old direct play games, with a custom direct play service to bypass firewalls.  I got tired of running it and turned it over to someone else, but I'm sure I could get this working there and get a lobby devoted to it.

    Offline Yitzi

    Re: Greetings & Planned Patching
    « Reply #10 on: November 13, 2014, 12:07:22 PM »
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  • Yitzi--

    I'm fine with sending my changes to you to include in your patch.  I'm going to stay away from the places you've been adding code to avoid overwriting any of your changes, and we're working on different parts, so I think we'll be able to just add my changes to yours without having to reconcile any conflicts.


    If necessary, it shouldn't be too hard to reconcile conflicts anyway.

    Also, is there a lobby where people play this multiplayer?  If not, I wrote an MSN Gaming clone, http://ewarzone.com, for playing these old direct play games, with a custom direct play service to bypass firewalls.  I got tired of running it and turned it over to someone else, but I'm sure I could get this working there and get a lobby devoted to it.


    No, there's no lobby; if you could make a lobby, or better yet a Pitboss clone, that would be amazing.

    Offline Petek

    Re: Greetings & Planned Patching
    « Reply #11 on: November 13, 2014, 08:07:13 PM »
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  • See this thread for a discussion of a graphics display bug that was never, as far as I know, fixed. Not a major bug, but it tends to confuse newer players.

    Offline Yitzi

    Re: Greetings & Planned Patching
    « Reply #12 on: November 13, 2014, 08:46:07 PM »
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  • See this thread for a discussion of a graphics display bug that was never, as far as I know, fixed. Not a major bug, but it tends to confuse newer players.


    That actually looks like it's not a graphics display bug, but rather passing the wrong thing to the graphics engine.  Which means that the skills needed to fix it are normal .exe modding skills and not graphics-based skills; PlotinusRedux might still be able to do it, but so, probably, would I.

    However, if (as was concluded to be probably the case in that thread) it's just that there are too many techs to display full info for each one, then the only solution would be to have it decrease the text size...and that's something that I think PlotinusRedux could probably figure out how to do better than me.

    Offline Flux

    Re: Greetings & Planned Patching
    « Reply #13 on: November 13, 2014, 10:04:46 PM »
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  • Also, is there a lobby where people play this multiplayer?  If not, I wrote an MSN Gaming clone, http://ewarzone.com, for playing these old direct play games, with a custom direct play service to bypass firewalls.  I got tired of running it and turned it over to someone else, but I'm sure I could get this working there and get a lobby devoted to it.

    Wait, you made WarZone?
    I played TA on that a few times. Lots of fun
    Would be great to see someone play SMAC on it, the only lobby that exists for it as far as I know is GameRanger, which has most games that have ever had multiplayer though.
    Left the internet, more-or-less.... Might drop in occasionally.

    Offline ete

    Re: Greetings & Planned Patching
    « Reply #14 on: November 13, 2014, 10:25:32 PM »
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  • Another .exe modder, excellent :D.

    I have one major graphics pet peeve. From my latest game:

    It seems to be related to playing small maps on a large screen with directdraw=0. Scrolling away and back will cause the tiles to re-render correctly, but it occurs at the start of each turn.

    That game has a load of custom factions so may run strangely for you without them, I can either send it to you or try and get a save with standard factions.

    I also hope you and Yitzi can work together and handle version control nicely. Ideally in a way other developers could plausibly be added to without horrible edit conflict issues, perhaps github or something similar?

    I'm looking forward to 2, 3, and 5 especially.

     

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