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December 18th, 2017

A month from launch

It feels weird – it's been now over a month since TAGAP 3 launched. Feels really weird, to be honest.

TAGAP 3 has had three major updates, the latest of which launched last week! Huge thank you to everyone who has reported in bugs and glitches, with your help, TAGAP 3 keeps getting better and better!

Whilst the launch of TAGAP 3 hasn't made nowhere near as big of a splash as TAGAP 2 did back in the day, it's been chugging along nicely enough. And honestly, slow-burn word-of-mouth rep is how things work here in freeware land with non-existing marketing budgets.

What am I working on right now?

Something currently codenamed "TAGAP Engine 4.0". Emphasis on ENGINE, mind you. I can't go into any details on what this will be used for, obviously, but I can tell you a little bit of what I've tinkered with so far.

Obviously TAGAP Engine 3.0, as used in TAGAP 3, is what was used as the very base code. So, the project started with copying TAGAP 3 into a new folder and gutting it to the ground. Yup, everything was removed, aside from a couple of sprites and textures left in as testing stand-ins.

The first few weeks I've spent on completely reworking how the engine handles lighting. In case you haven't noticed, the lighting system in all three TAGAPs is the same. It gets the job done and its super-fast even on the oldest potatoes, but it's still basically a hack created by overlaying basic OpenGL rendering elements.

The new setup is a 'double-pass' lighting system. First pass renders the global darkness pierced by the cast-off-lighting – and the second pass creates the light flares. What results is a lot smoother and natural-looking lighting system that preserves black as black. And when it's combined with the existing global lighting system, you can have quite nice lighting details.

All of this has been made possible by moving more and more of the rendering from the classic to modern OpenGL and shaders. And naturally this has opened many doors, especially effects wise. For example, the previously CPU-side vertex mesh water waviness effect is now more precise and faster fragment shader.

That's about it for now, but even at this early a stage, one thing is clear; whatever we are doing next will be powered by a faster and more capable engine. Only time will tell if Intel Graphics gets a heart attack from this one as well.

Playlist

Playlist is a regular feature in our Penguin DT blog; A chance to highlight cool games both old and new that I've been playing. As always, I believe 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 actually playing games. The rest of the free time? There is no such thing, it all belongs to TAGAP!

Now that the TAGAP 3 crunch is over, I've actually made a concentrated effort to dial down my TAGAP work a bit – you know, to rest my brain and reload my batteries. This means I've been playing games a bit more than before, starting with a re-release of one of my favourite feel-good games of the previous generation: de Blob.

If you don't know the de Blob, it was a THQ published colour-splashing platformer released exclusively for Nintendo Wii – with the sequels arriving on all consoles. While I never got to play the first game through – I didn't have a Wii – I did get to try it, fell in love with it and bought the sequel immediately it came out. And I'm beyond thrilled that the resurrected THQ Nordic brought this colourful ball of joy back.

In the game, a colourful world has been invaded by 'inkies' that suck out all the colour. And the only way to save the world is by re-colour it back as de Blob, a goofy platforming... well, blob, that can absorb colour and use it to re-colour everything. And you do all this while listening to the funkiest soundtrack you've heard since Interstate '76 and ToeJam & Earl.

All in all it's one irresistibly feel-good ride of joyous vibes and well worth re-visiting. If you've never played it, do give it a go.

Funnily enough, I noticed certain... similarities between de Blob and... TAGAP 3. I first played the sequel whilst in feverish state from bronchitis, so it was a bit of a blur – but it clearly stuck with me, at least on subliminal level. I say this because it seemingly influenced design of TAGAP 3's warmongering Pluto – for example how the oppressiveness is accentuated by plastering all propaganda with bar codes or how similar the design of Comrade Black is to The Funky Warlord.

I've always thought it's important to know one's influences and I was surprised I hadn't realised where all this came from. So thank you for this, de Blob!

What's next?

For TAGAP 3, more patches!

For the TAGAP Engine 4.0, overhaul of the special effects engine to take full advantage of the new shader-oriented rendering.

In games? I'm finally playing that darn Resident Evil 7 – the game that triggered my year-long RE marathon.

And of course, stay tuned for the obligatory Penguin DT GOTY rankings once we get to January. The year delivered some truly amazing titles and picking my favourites isn't easy – unless I choose TAGAP 3 as the winner in every category.

Until next time,

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin