Ugh - really have to be more regular with the updates. Trouble is, dev time is limited and so there's always one more bug to quash or one more feature to set up for the next programming session. Mea culpa.
However, since the last update there's been a fair amount of progress.
First up, never say never. For example, not long ago A TU1 player listed the features he'd like to see in TU2 including larger battlefields. I replied that this would not be possible due to 'technical difficulties' - as in the game was pretty much hardwired for areas measuring 4096 x 4096 units. Well, sure enough, walking to work one morning (unfortunately I can't yet lead the life of a fulltime dev), the little voice started telling me that actually, levels twice the size would be a good idea particularly with fortresses taking up so much room now. I grumbled and prevaricated, but after much grimacing, I broke the working code and then remade it. The result is that levels now feature an 8km square playable area with distant tiles stretching off for another 4km beyond that (think Total War landscapes). This very much helps enhance the expansive nature of the virtual world.
And the world is derived from two bitmaps - one for terrain height deformation and one for terrain tile data. Each level uses a small section of these two world defining bitmaps (the level is made up of 3d tilesets). Still working on having the tiledata handled intelligently so that it can handle complicated tile combos, but once sorted this should speed level design immensely and help avoid the hell that is building and testing custom polygon soups. Here's an example of a simple tilemap/heightmap result below;Test level; looking south from the edge of the playable area. The two sections of heightmap and tilemap that are used to generate the level geometry are in the top left corner (Note: there is a path leading up into the mountain - which can be seen in the tilemap - but it's not visible from this spot)Rough deformation test - this landscape wouldn't be playable due to the steepness of parts of the terrain, but it shows that the terrain build/deform routines are working ok - at least this far (note the heavy tank moving into the trees bottom middle-left)
The expansion of play area also has a follow-on benefit in that it makes possible a feature I've been turning over in my mind. That is, giant land based cap ships. In other words, towards the end of the game, the scale of combatants takes a leap with multi-gunned, slow to turn, 'ships of the line' manuoevering for broadsides + torpedo launches against fortresses. Could be technical difficulties though - we'll see.
There have been other advances - particularly fortresses and a revision of how they work, but it's late and I need to 'power down' for a bit.
Until next time.