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November 17th, 2015

Vehicular mayhem

What am I working on now?

It's all about vehicles, vehicles and more vehicles; Some are player driven, others are for enemies and some are special versions for the cut-scenes. There's a reason why I've left these to such a late stage in the development cycle. See, now that most of the engine tech – physics, AI, etc. – is in place, I can build all the vehicle-specific routines on top of that without the fear of some big physics overhaul messing all of the vehicle handling.

Two interesting things came up while working on all these vehicles. First one was a surprising and both good and bad. See, TAGAP Engine had changed so much that most of the vehicle-specific gimmicks made for TAGAP 2 no longer worked. While it's great to see how far the engine has come since then, having to re-do some of these things from scratch is obviously time-consuming.

The other interesting tidbit is that I once again proved myself how planning ahead is always great. One of the vehicles Pablo can use has been in the game as an enemy version for ages. Seriously, years. And for transitions sake I of course need to create a cut-scene where Pablo climbs into the vehicle and starts it up. Now, when I started doing this cut-scene version I dreaded on how I would have to split the enemy version into pieces so we can have Pablo moving the control panels about.

But to my surprise, I had pre-planned this several years ago, I had just forgotten. Not only did I split the sprite into necessary parts, I actually scripted them with proper pivot points and everything! All I really need to do now is to add in the necessary movements and it's ready!

Well-planned is same as half-done, as they say.

Next up; A new principal character, one of the very few I haven't created in-game sprites for just yet. If everything goes on schedule, you will meet this one as part of our annual Holiday Season Goodies media onslaught. Flippers crossed!

Backlog adventures

In case you are new to our blog features, Backlog adventures is a spot where I highlight some of the games I've come across in my lengthier-than-lengthy backlog of previous generation titles. I've always maintained that in order to make games, you need to play them, preferably with a broad scope when it comes to genres, so each day I dedicate at least an hour to my backlog. The rest of the free time? There is no such thing, it all belongs to TAGAP!

I've been blasting through the backlog as if there's no tomorrow. Since I've sort of promised to move to 'next-gen' this holiday season, the days are numbered – but so are the games remaining in the backlog pile.

The biggest positive surprise of this batch likely was Ace Combat: Assault Horizon – and I guess this game was what inspired me to spend so much time crafting those combat vehicles. To sum the game simply; It's kind of like Vanquish of air combat games. Much like Vanquish, looking at screenshots or short clips of Assault Horizon may make the game look bland as heck – there's no grand story, interesting characters or even unique designs to catch your eye.

But much again like Vanquish, when you get your hands on the game, you'll soon find out that it's designed in a way that makes it pretty much a completely non-stop adrenaline rush from beginning to end. I'd go as far as to say Assault Horizon is the opposite of a simulator; While everything is based on real-life war technology, every time the game has an option to choose between 'realism' and 'intense action', it goes for the latter. Like doing barrel rolls with helicopters to dodge homing missiles.

Extra special mention has to be given to the damage models of this game, dubbed in marketing as 'metal carnage' – and for once the marketing buzzwords fit. It's basically a cross-breed of Burnout and Gears of War; The vehicles are stripped to shreds in cinematic slow-mo close-ups, displaying great attention detail, all the while oil and fuel spews out of them – smearing the screen as if a Locust just met a Lancer. And all this happens while a grand orchestra-backed guitar-shredding metal soundtrack blares loud – and all this happens kilometres above the ground.

Needless to say, if you're into pure flight sims or even previous Ace Combat games, this might not be for you at all. However, if you'd like a grand adrenaline rush of epic proportions, it certainly delivers. Also, if you manage to spot the Collector's Edition version in the bargain bins, the grandiose soundtrack it comes with is definitely worth it alone.

To end this edition of backlog adventures, I have to give a special thank-you to the Angry Joe; If it weren't for his review I might have passed Ace Combat: Assault Horizon as a 'regular flight sim', which just isn't my cup of coffee.

So, I guess that's it for this time. This post was a bit shorter than usual, but there are so many TAGAP-related things to do!

Until next time,

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin