Happycake Development Notes:
City Concept, Hexapod
1 July 2004

Sometime soon we need to get started on building the city.  I need to create an editor for making buildings and other city structures, and some way of laying those out on the map.  Or instead of an editor to make buildings, maybe we model them in 3dsmax and write a convex shape export tool to save them out.  Decision still needs to be made.  To help make these decisions, we want to get some concept art done for the city, so we know what we are trying to build.

We've solicited a few artists for concept sketches; we'll look through what we get back, and pick the one we like most to be our city / human-design concept artist.  Here's some art we got from Peter Kim (his home page is http://www.peterkimart.com/):

I think this city concept came out really nice.  It has a good, coherent sense of style, and it's about the right density of big buildings versus open space.  You can pretty readily visualize how the gameplay happens in the spaces between those buildings.  We will want a lot more small/breakable stuff positioned around the city, because the taller buildings are probably too big to get knocked down by the enemies we will have in this game.  (Unless we do some kind of a cut-a-chunk-out-of-a-building system, which is something we have been discussing.)

It's unclear whether we will end up doing vehicles like that tank.  The thing is, tracked vehicles aren't very exciting from a physics standpoint (you break the track with a bomb and... what happens?  The track rolls out from under the vehicle?  Contrast that to a legged robot that falls down hard when you shoot off its knee.)  The stationary turrets on top of the building are good, we're sure to have lots of those firing back at the robots.  Then they get hit blown off by incoming fire, crashing to the streets below. 

We're still waiting on a couple of concept art submissions from other art guys, which we may or may not get...



In other news, Clay did another hexapod.  (Didn't post the first one; there's too much stuff to post it all).  One of my next tasks is to build a working hexapod in the game (made out of blocks) that matches this design, so we can see how the design may need to be altered:

The earlier in-game robots (shown in the first Happycake update) were made just by me typing in some C++ code that creates blocks for different body parts, puts joints between them, puts actuation forces on the different pieces, etc.  This is a time-consuming method and hard to get right, but I didn't want to invest time in writing a tool for it.  Well, we're starting to see designs (like this hexapod) that are definitely complicated enough to warrant a tool.  Fortunately, Atman's physics test application has a pretty good UI for building stuff and sticking it together.  With a few modifications, we can turn it into a passable robot building tool.  Last night, he started some of those mods, and I built one of the legs for this guy in the editor.  Hopefully within the next couple of days we'll get it all put together and have the new hexapod in the game.

There's definitely at lest one problem in this model as shown, which is that the feet are pretty close together -- there's not much room for them to move forward and backward in long arcs, which is what a hexapod needs to really move.  We can fix that by elongating the body a bit, though I think we also might want to make the upper legs longer so that they stick out further (and thus make bigger arcs).  But if we make the legs stick out more like that, it changes the aspect ratio of the robot (wider instead of taller) and it probably will seem less menacing that way.  We'll play with it and see what happens.