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Special interview #1: Warzone 2100 2.1

Filed under: Development,English von Kreuvf um 16:10:09

As announced in the board I had an interview with DevUrandom about the upcoming version 2.1 of Warzone 2100. First some facts about DevUrandom, then the interview:
Currently he is studying mathematics and computer science in Germany. In his freetime he does sports and is interested in the middle ages.

His first contact with WZ was on the 8th of July, 2005, which also was the day he touched the source-code for the first time. Back then the name was Warzone ReDev and the source-code was hosted at BerliOS. Version 0.1 had been announced on and two weeks prior to DevUrandom immerging into the world of Warzone. He was immediately fascinated by it (it was the only realtime strategy game for Linux he knew of at that time) and the way to design own vehicles by assembling parts reminded him of his all-time-favorite turn-based strategy game Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri.
Some days later his commitment to Warzone started with a huge wishlist and a few weeks afterwards he was involved with the project.

Since then he worked on many parts of Warzone. Currently he is responsible for creating releases (compiling installers, source-code tarballs, announcing on various game sites and notifying Linux distributions).

Some people confuse him with a project leader, which he is not. The core team works fully democratic and those who are considered „experts“ in the area in question are usually getting paid the most attention, with a slight focus on the „older“ members. However, the final decision goes to the person actually doing the work.

Kreuvf: Good day, DevUrandom, nice to have you here today. As you already know I am about to ask you certain questions regarding the upcoming version 2.1 of Warzone 2100.
DevUrandom: Sure, go on.

Kreuvf: The version is scheduled for x-mas 2007 and it was announced as a network-release. Could you explain what that means in detail?
DevUrandom: We want to get 2.1 out roughly at the end of the year. We don’t guarantee that it will be ready to lie under your christmas tree (or however you celebrate christmas, if at all), but that is the target we aim at. The main „feature“ is to get the networking stable on and between all systems, hence the name.

Therefore we will replace the underlying network code with something that is not so prone to differences which may arrise from using different operating systems and 32bit/64bit systems. That system (the author calls it „netprimitives“) is to large parts written by Freddie Witherden (EvilGuru) and currently being merged into Warzone.

Kreuvf: So you will actually be able to have a match vs. someone who uses Linux, someone who uses Mac OS X and someone who uses Windows without any problems?
DevUrandom: That is the goal, yes. As we follow a development model which makes the game more and more stable as the patch version increases, it may not be optimal at 2.1.0, but we always do our best to deliver the best possible gaming experience.

Sidenote on Warzone versioning: 2.1.0 -> major version = 2, minor version = 1, patch version = 0. Major version increases happen only very very seldomly when something really groundbreaking is changed. Minor version may also be called feature version: We include new features into those. Patch version, aka bugfix versions are only intended to fix bugs.

Kreuvf: Besides the changes on the net-code, what other changes are scheduled for 2.1? And how will those changes affect the minimum requirements for Warzone 2100?
DevUrandom: What is already done:

  • AIVolution by Troman: An enhanced AI with learning capabilites.
  • Multiturrets by Watermelon: Droids (which is how Warzone calls the units) can have multiple turrets instead of just one. Think of it like a tank: It has a cannon for long distance shooting on armored vehicles and an MG for close range defense against soft targets.
  • Improved AI target selection (afaik Troman+Watermelon): Droids should select the targets they attack more intelligently.
  • Collision-based hit-system by Watermelon: If a target is hit by a projectile or not is no longer predicted by a dice system. Instead the projectiles really damage only the target which they hit. If the unit that was fired at moves away while the projectile is in flight, it won’t be damaged anymore as it is not hit.
  • The scripting language was enhanced by Troman. It now supports strings, functions with local variables and and and…
  • A system which provides the ability to assign armor to each side of a droid (as opposed to the droid as a whole) was written by Watermelon. This means that you could have tanks which are weakly armored on the top and behind, but very strong on the front. This should support mods with higher focus on tactics. (It is not yet used in Warzone itself.)

Besides the netcode, I am currently working/testing different things with graphics, of which one is a rewritten terrain renderer and another is TrueType fonts. The renderer is a lot in flux currently and techniques of rendering are tried and thrown away a lot, so it may not be ready for the freeze (testing period before the release) and thus not 2.1, even though I try my best.
As the TrueType fonts may be very useful for translations (you can theoretically support every language), I am focussing on that now. (And it is a little bit easier to implement as well, since there are not 1001 ways of doing it.) (Editor’s note: interview was held on 23rd Sep. 2007 and TrueType has by date of publication been implemented by Giel using QuesoGLC) Which brings me to another major change not mentioned yet: NLS (Native Language Support)

If you have tried the current snapshots (or been watching the mailinglist or svn/trunk), you may already have noticed the option „NLS“ in the component selection. It means that now it is [should be] possible to translate Warzone to virtually every language and have users select which language they want while Warzone runs. Before every piece of text in the menus was hardcoded in the executable and things like unit descriptions, mission briefings came in lots of textfiles. Now the strings are all in one location and can be translated more easily. You don’t have to reinstall Warzone to change the language.

Requirements: The new hitsystem may be slightly more demanding on the CPU, but I doubt you will notice that. The rendering techniques for the terrain renderer are too much changing at the moment as that I could give any estimate on that.

Generally we try to support as many people as possible and reasonable. So there won’t be a return of the software renderer and if you have something on par with a Radeon or GeForce card you should be on the safe side. If the renderer makes it in time, Vertex Arrays (VA) will definitely be required, but even TNT grade cards support that as far as I know.

Kreuvf: Wow, that’s overwhelming. That enhanced AI by Troman: In what way will it be „enhanced“? Will it make better tactic-decisions and how does the learning take place?
DevUrandom: You better ask Troman himself about this. I can tell you that it was rewritten from ground up and that it can remember where you attack it usually and with which weapons, so that it can build better defenses against you the next time.

Kreuvf: So the learning does not imply inter-game-learning, it’s more like match-restricted learning – the AI learns for one match and doesn’t save anything?
DevUrandom: No, I think it saves per-map data so it can gain advantage from earlier games and improve its tactics over multiple sessions. What I definitely know is that messing with it is a tough task, even for more experienced players.

Kreuvf: Sounds like a tougher AI – something people have looked for since Warzone’s initial release in 1999.

I want to come to my last topic for today: Balancing. As you most probably know I am a balance-fanatic and all those changes seem, to me, to affect the overall-balancing alot. The question now is: How noticeable regarding the balancing are those changes, e.g. are some weapons that were weak before strong now?
DevUrandom: Especially the hitsystem affects balancing a lot. Long range attacks or shooting on fast moving targets can be quite inaccurate now. The latter applies e.g. to VTOLs, which became quite hard to hit. This was compensated by bigger hitboxes (you may know that from games like Counter-Strike), to make the effect less visible. Long range artillery may also have some problems now. We will try to compensate for that till the release and tune balancing during the 2.1 release cycle and for 2.2 (which is targeted summer next year). But long range shots and shots on fast targets will definitely be harder than before. This should bring in more tactics and help smaller but faster units, like Cyborgs.

Note: I am not too much involved with balancing or playing and neither do I play since the beginning, so take my answer with caution.

Kreuvf: Okay, DevUrandom. Thank you very much for this interview and for exhaustingly answering all the questions.
DevUrandom: You are welcome.

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