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Going Forward With Cyclone And Ultra Engine


reepblue

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With the new engine coming along and me noticing limits with Cyclone's current architecture, it's time for me to start thinking about the mistakes I've made and how would avoid repeating them with the new engine. Luckly, Ultra Engine is far more flexible than Leadwerks thanks to smart pointers and the event system. I wish to share some of my plans going forward.

Log, Log, Log Everything!

I personally never look at my log files. I instead look at the CMD output and the debugger to see what's going on. However, end users don't have that luxury. The engine will automatically log its warnings and error messages, but it'll not tell you when that message was printed or the events that led up to it. Creating your own log stream like this will give you far more control over your log file.

// Prepare the log file.
auto logfile = WriteFile("Game.log");

// Main loop
bool running = true;
while (running)
{
    while (PeekEvent())
    {
      	const auto e = WaitEvent();
      	if (e.id == EVENT_PRINT) logfile->WriteLine(e.text.ToString());
    }
}

logfile->Close();
logfile = NULL;

You can easily do add time stamp before the message, so you have an idea when the event actually happened. You can use real world clock time or the current application time.

Do Nothing OS Specific (Unless It's Aesthetic)

Cyclone is a Win32 application. Period. It works wonderfully on Proton and there isn't any reason for me to install an outdated version of Ubuntu and waste time making a native build for Linux that'll only sometimes work. I took the liberty of using the Windows API to create my own Input System, XInput integration, and the Splash Window. I also created a custom DLL for my Input System so the Action Mapper application would use the same system as the game. 

Going forward, I want my code to work wherever Ultra Engine can run on. This means sticking to the API for mostly everything unless I need to use a 3rd party library (Like Steamworks). Still, 98% of your users will be using Windows so you might as well add some nice touches like the application knowing what theme the user is using and dressing your application accordingly like this.

Launch Arguments != Settings

If you've programmed with Leadwerks, you should be familiar with System::SetProperty() and System::GetProperty(). This by default will register a launch argument as a setting and then save it to a settings file. Cyclone works like this too, but arguments don't get saved to the settings file to avoid confusion. 

I never used arguments to override settings. I only used -devmode, -console, -fullscreen, +screenwidth and +screenheight. So, instead of mixing launch arguments with user settings, I think just going to keep them separated and only use the arguments to tell the application how to launch. 

Everything Will Be One

Cyclone ships with 2 applications. One being the main game, and the other being the Action Mapper for key binding. They both share a dynamic library. This is because Cyclone is made using Leadwerks and the Action Mapper is made using Ultra App Kit. I want to make a Console window to remove it from the UI and a dedicated window for graphic settings would be handy. My new approach will make these separate windows that can be called with a launch command. 

Compartmentalize Everything

I ran into many conflicts when adding working on the Flag Run update. Cyclone was structured to be a Puzzle game, and here I was adding clocks and an auto reload system. I had to do a lot of edits to my code to make it work and not break the older maps. 

Because of how Leadwerks worked, I had to do a lot of mixing and cross referencing of classes. In the end, it's all very messy now and it discourages me from adding to it more. My game application code will only create the window, framebuffer and camera. It's also will be responsible handle scenes and emit events. The components should do everything else. I plan to make a component for the always existing camera entity and have it listen to events when to show UI elements or change its settings. I can make the UI and settings components separate too! 

Since there will be multiple "apps" in one application, I kind of have to do this. Thankfully, I don't have to do things like create my own reflection system this time...

Get The Essentials Right, The First Time

When you're making your first game, you generally want it up and running as soon as possible. Everything else critical you'll say "Meh, I'll worry about that later". Why would you spend time on things like an Input System or A Sound System if you don't even know the game is fun? A month or so later, you find yourself figuring out how the new systems you just built should be integrated with the existing game code. It's not funny, it's not fun. 

I already have a game, and I know what works so I don't need to repeat that again. And being that the engine isn't 100% yet, I have plenty of time to get the essentials right. Here is what I'll be spending the first few months on.

  • Ensuring that windows display and activate correctly. A splash window should show up, and the next window should be brought forward 100% of the time. Cyclone has a bug right now which a game window doesn't get brought to the top although I'm using every API call to make it do so.
  • Settings system should be in-place before drawing a 3D cube to a framebuffer. 
  • I have a very good input system in Cyclone already, but it relies heavily on WinAPI to work. I also include XInput code which gets overwritten by Steam Input anyway. The input system will now need to use the engine's API instead of Windows.  This system will work exactly the same as I have it today, but I think I'm going to leave out controller integration for now.
  • I really liked using FMOD, but to lower dependencies, I think I should try the new OpenAL-Soft sound engine. I plan for my new system to read json scripts for sound entries that contain data for the Speaker and close captioning to display on the screen.   

I plan to get cracking within a few weeks! I set up my PC with the RTX 3600 running Windows 10 to develop and stream to Discord! I noticed a lot of slow down with my GTX 1050 running the engine in fullscreen so it's time to use something with more power. I am keeping an eye out for a good price on a 4070 Ti though. :D 

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