Starting Alpha 12 wip cycle

It’s been a long time since Alpha 11, but at last, Alpha 12 is entering its public Wip cycle! Starting from today, you can find a link to fresh Alpha 12 wip build on Discord.

Long story short – lots of coding, game design, artists interactions and debugging went into Alpha 12 over the past year. There are several new big changes and improvements in the game:

  • Sheep farms, Sheep, Pastures, Wool, Gambesons!
  • Reworking object picking (aka hitboxes) UI/UX
  • Reworking HUD UI/UX
  • Waterfalls and multiple water levels
  • New text localizations – French, German, Spanish, Polish and Turkish
  • And as always – a lot of smaller features and improvements

Here’s a video highlighting main features by Wychor on the official Knights Province channel – make sure to subscribe!

Now let’s look into these features more closely.

As always, a word of caution – anything described below is not final and can change during or after Alpha 12 release.

Sheep, sheep farms, pastures, wool and gambesons

One of the things that bugged me from the early days of this project, was that Leather Armor, albeit looking cool in all those modern movies and TV series, was not actually period correct. It is Gambesons that were mainly used. Now with Fences that were added as a prototype in Alpha 11 we can finally do that – add Sheep, Wool and Gambesons. Each piece deserves a separate paragraph to introduce and to explain:

  • New kind house is added – a Sheep farm (this is one funny name that may stay or go). There works a Breeder who tends to the Sheep. Sheep farm has a new unique thing about it – it has a backdoor, through which a Breeder can access the pasture.
  • A Sheep farm needs to have a pasture next to it. Pasture is an area on terrain next to the Sheep farm, enclosed by natural obstacles or other buildings and fences. Pastures can be shared between several Sheep farms, but as playtesting showed, they work out best when they have size restrictions of 4 – 80 tiles.
  • When the Sheep farm is complete and has a breeder inside and enclosed pasture next to it – then Breeder can bring out baby sheep! They will graze in the pasture slowly growing up and growing wool on them. The rate depends on the pasture terrain – unfieldable terrain tiles provide 0 nutrition, fieldable tiles are x0.5 nutrition and grassy terrain tiles are x1. However, the main source of sheep nutrition is grain that Breeder gives them.
  • Once sheep are mature and wooly enough, a Breeder will come inside the pasture to trim them for Wool. Raw wool gets processed right in the Sheep farm by the Breeder and gets turned into hanks of wool (called Wool in the game, for short). It’s a new ware in the game. Wool is produced two at a time.
  • Now serfs can take Wool from Sheep farms and bring it to a new house – Clothmakers, where a Tailor (new profession) will take the Wool and turn it into Gambesons.
  • Gambesons are now used instead of leather armor to equip tier 2 warriors in the Fort.

With that in mind, the old leather production chain (CowFarm -> Cowhides -> Tannery -> ArmoryWorkshop -> LeatherArmor) is no longer in use. Cowhides, Leather and Leather Armor and Tannery become obsolete and are removed from the game. The sheep concept is a testbed for all other animal breeding concepts. So changes to the meat production line and stables are also on the roadmap.

Better object picking

With fences having a bigger role now, it was time to rework object picking – a way game detects what object should get selected when a mouse click occurs. Now you will be able to select more of in-game objects – fences, trees, ore decals. Selection precision was also improved – now the objects are being selected by their shape, not by the footprint on the terrain. Here’s a developers view on the object shapes:

Updated objects HUD

There is also a new HUD for selected objects. It has more focus on the object’s avatar and is intended to be closer to the final looks it will get in the future. It is still in the prototype stage.

Sidenote: Apparently, finding a good UX/UI artist is really hard. I have been searching for several months now with mixed success.

Waterfalls and support for multiple water levels were added

Now there can be up to 4 different water levels (each with its own waterbody setup). Water shader was also slightly improved. Setting up waterfalls is a chore, but I’m hoping to improve and streamline that process based on your feedback.

This change also caused the rework of the way waterbeds and shorelines are set up – now it’s dynamic and depends on the actual tiles that are covered with the water. So there’s no more “underwater” surfaces. Any surface can be a waterbed now – even hot lava xD.

Among other noticeable improvements

In-game changelog – now you can see what is new and what has changed since previous builds.

Improvements in AI city planning – e.g. now AI will try to restore road/building plans if the worker building them dies

New music track (Bells) by Juan I. Goncebat

New maps by Wychor (Lake Plateau, Erlond, Nile)

New animals for new waterbodies

New terrain surfaces, including cave floor with 3 different stone densities (had to revive my Substance Designer skills)

Grain fields render performance improvements (from 9 fps to 46 fps!)

Further Alpha 12 plans

  • Playtesting and tweaking sheep/pastures/fences/AI interactions
  • Upgrading all the missions to the new non-leather/gambesons flow and non-singular waterbodies setup
  • Creating a sheep-oriented mission for the Introduction campaign
  • Fixing Alpha 12 bugs (https://github.com/Kromster80/knights_province/milestone/9)
  • Getting HUD wrapped up (continuing the redesign and/or adding missing bits)
  • Lots and lots of smaller fixes and improvements

Download links to new Alpha 12 wip builds will start to appear in the Discord #new_versions channel (along with changelogs). Give them a try! I’m looking forward to your feedback on Discord

There’s also a new channel for Knights Province videos – The videos on the channel will be about announcements, development updates, map highlights, and more. Right now the channel already has some playlists with mapmaking, development and gameplay videos made by other KP community members. Let us know if YOU are someone who makes KP videos and would like them featured in the official playlists.

Posted in News | 17 Comments

HUD redesign – work in progress

So I’ve been working on the Knights Province HUD redesign lately. It is a two-fold endeavor – design and programming. Here’s how it goes:

Some terminology first – typically, HUD is a short for the Heads-Up Display – GUI elements that pop up over the “world” view, showing some general information and/or the selected objects info. Here and below I will be specifically referring to the in-game object’s HUD that appears when an object gets selected (a house, a unit, a tree, etc).

So basically I’m quite content with the current blocky HUD. It was always planned to be a temp solution. Something that can be slapped together and work. Grey at first, recently it got nicer with colored background textures and subtle shadows, but still – it is a temporary solution. It serves its purpose of being a “sketch/prototype” very well. I’m glad to have it functional and would like to keep it that way. However changes are due.

What was the push for the change? Fences and sheep!

Looking at other games (specifically Age of Empires) I always liked the idea of being able to select every major object and trees to see its info. Now with fences it is doubly important to be able to select them and view their details (e.g. player ownership).

HUD design and coding is one part of the endeavor. Object picking in-game is another one. Suffice to say – it took some noticeable amount of time and effort, but now it seems object picking is working rather well and is future-proof (with improvements already queued).

Back to the HUD topic though. Being able to select more kinds of objects meant that the HUD needed to be updated to show the new objects in a pleasant way, or, even better – redesigned! Being so used to the existing design I would not be able to radically change it without taking a long break from the game development and coding, so I have had to hire a freelance artist to help. Just_bu stepped in. Below are just some of the sketches (ideas) she has made:

You may notice they have an odd style and gamma – this is intentional. On this stage we were generating UX/UI layout sketches. Seeing what needs to go together and what can be moved. Checking out the balance between form and size.

Unfortunately, Just_bu had to move on to a higher priority project some days ago. Now I’m posting the vacancy description once again, hoping to get a new pair of hands on the case. Important to say – Patreon donations helped to cover the costs. Big thank you, patrons!

After running some research and seeing different UI ideas, I saw that Knights Province UI tended to gravitate towards certain structural layouts. Being reasonably sure about that, now I’m starting to update the game engine too. Refactoring old “rigid” forms into more flexible “modular” design. Here are some modules I have isolated as example in the old UI:

And after some extensive research I was able to create the following table, that covers most of the in-game entities and the HUDs they need (a fragment):

It contains the entities (rows) and modules they need (columns). Pretty straight-forward. With just minor complications arising from allied/enemy states and cross-module dependencies. No road-blocks though – just a lot to code and refactor! xD

One of the bigger and nicer HUD elements I wanted to cover in more detail is an object’s avatar. It is going to be a central piece of the new HUD. I’ve chosen to reuse the in-game 3D model for it (instead of hand-drawn graphics), to speed up and ease up the development. The model gets rendered into its own texture and post-processed with a nice glow effect.

Avatar being rendered into its own texture with glow and antialiasing is somewhat performance costly, but I’m hoping to optimize that later on, when it becomes accepted (cos who knows, maybe new UX artists will bring in superior HUD ideas that do not involve avatars).

Here’s another wip example – Store HUD getting “modular” overhaul – wares module is now common between it and the Camp, Fort and Barracks (all houses with “a lot of wares” stored inside):

Objects HUD redesign is a “soft-ball” of sorts. If it goes well I plan to redesign other in-game GUI elements (minimap, build menu, etc.) later on (maybe in Alpha 13). Main menu redesign is lower priority (think Alpha 14 or later).

Once the big HUD overhaul/refactoring is stabilized I will be able to release new Alpha 12 wip build (with beta sheep and better fences and waterfalls and other nice features). So, armed with that, work goes on!

P.S. And as always, I’m happy to read your comments and discuss on Discord 🙂

Posted in Live progress | 15 Comments

Short 2020 overview

2020 is nearing its end. Thank you everyone for following the project!

What about code?

2020 in commits

What about gameplay?

2020 in highscores

Happy New 2021 Year! Let’s hope it will be a much better one! 🙂

Posted in News | 3 Comments

Alpha 11.3 update

Here’s a third minor update with a bunch of bugfixes and small improvements:

  • Fixed a crash when ordering to attack an already demolished house under FOW
  • Minor naming changes (lance > pike, pike > halberd, house > building)
  • Smooth scrolling for lists
  • Fixed a bug when a keypress would leak from reassignment of a hotkey into a players name editbox in Options menu
  • Fixed crash on loading a savegame with fences being built or attacked
  • Fixed small memory leak on hotkeys resave
  • Fixed harmless junk text getting written into settings on hotkeys resave
  • Fixed crash on reopening Highscores after GFX reinit

Knights Province Alpha 11.3 (installer)

Knights Province Alpha 11.3 (7z package)
Posted in Downloads | 16 Comments

Alpha 11.2 update

Here’s a second minor update with lots of bugfixes and small improvements:

  • Fixed stone stockpile placement after house get demolished
  • Fixed error on loading a savegame with a dead group assigned onto a quickselect (Ctrl+0..9)
  • Fixed a couple of minor memory leaks
  • Changed “erase” to “remove” in various MapEd menus
  • Don’t list the horses in the map maker when selecting the resource for wagons #283
  • Messages with buttons should allow for no glyphs #282
  • Fixed mines placement locations visible behind the FOW #270
  • Fixed a bug when Save/Load of the mission unlocks every profession in the school #267
  • Added script action UnitUnlock, like the HouseUnlock #279
  • Fixed a bug when Stonecutter was unable to mine the stone from map corners #281
  • Possibly fixed error on game start when GetDocumentsPath was returning extra slash on the end
  • Calls to Action.(House/Group/Unit)OwnerChange if the new owner is the same as old one will be logged and ignored
  • Fixed stockpiles “auto (collect)” behavior (it was reversed) #266
  • Fixed error in saving a mission from MapEd with default human hand preceded by empty hands
  • Lasso selection should expand a bit when made close to map edge #278
  • MapEd places units under rotated camp wrongly (when applying skirmish) #272
  • Fixed ability to queue the last (5th) unit in the School #280
  • Updated list of patrons in Credits
  • Allowed for grain on snowground25% terrain [#284]
  • Added some snowground25% terrain to Winter Stand to equal out the starting locations
  • Improved KT panel layout a bit
  • Fixed dust puffs locations offset after canceling a house plan (also responsible for crash if they were to be spawned outside of the map bounds)
  • Fixed crash on unchecking Skirmish setup options in MapEd
  • Adding faulty savegame into the crashreport in case a crash occurs
  • Fixed crash on scanning or loading a map with empty script file
  • Fixed CRC calculation being 1-off
  • Implemented undo history depth in MapEd (default 512) [#286]
  • Slightly improved GUI of Records\Global layout
  • Added points assigned for each place into highscores (will be filled once KT is updated)
  • Renamed “Rank” into “Place” in highscores
Knights Province Alpha 11.2 (installer)

Knights Province Alpha 11.2 (7z package)
Posted in Downloads, News | 6 Comments

New maps

Alpha 11.1 was released just recently, yet it already has 4 new maps for download (https://discord.gg/3fsaFAj) and a mapmaking tutorial by Wychor:

Posted in News, Video | 7 Comments

Alpha 11.1 update

Following initial release, here’s a minor update with several fixes and improvements:

  • Fixed bug with hotkeys assignment when Ctrl key was pressed and released before assigning a key with another Ctrl key
  • Ported the rest of FXAA 3.11 implementation (better AA)
  • Reordered render init and error messages
  • Wrapped log creation error into a human-readable message
  • Removed unnecessary settings resave on game init
  • Made hotkey UI buttons wider to fit Russian captions
  • Improved pathfinding efficiency by ~35%
  • Changed unit-house damage formula from “AverageDamage/2” to “AverageDamage/1.5*Morale” (Militia will hit weaker, Knights will hit stronger)
  • Reduced time it takes to make a savegame by ~30%
  • Fixed black shadows in Store house construction site
  • Tweaked and minorily improved some house models
Knights Province Alpha 11.1 (installer)

Knights Province Alpha 11.1 (7z package)
Posted in Downloads, News, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Alpha 11 is here!

It is the most worked-on version of the Knights Province yet (except for Alpha 1, of course). Last release was 7255 and this one is 9043. Almost 1750 bits of changes and improvements went into it.

Main features of the new version are:

  • Manned towers. Now each tower can be manned with 1-3 warriors who will pick up bows inside and shoot from atop at the enemy. Warriors will request food to be brought in by Serf when hungry, otherwise they will stop “working” and walk out, just like citizens do. It is yet unclear how warriors specialization will affect his performance in the tower, or if warriors inside could take a fraction of damage from enemy archers. At the moment, all warriors shoot with the same strength, distance and frequency and stay 100% protected inside.
  • Buildable fences. Now you can build and destroy your own fences (and enemy fences too, of course). Fences cost wood to build and block passage for citizens. Warriors can break fences on their way with several blows. So far it is quite a weak obstacle, but with more playtesting that can change. In the future fences are also planned to be used for cattle.
  • Real Fog of War. From now you can see only what you have surveyed. This is how fog behaves in the majority of the games. Implementation was quite tricky, but the end result is well worth it.
  • Early stages of multiplayer accounts. Registration and mission highscores allow you to compete with other single-player players. More on that is covered in the previous article.
  • New and updated campaign missions. Campaign scripting and persistent script storage between missions, customizable icons and maps. Now allows for more varied custom campaigns. Check updated tutorial, Intro and Hostages missions.
  • Added Russian localization as a test of a text translation engine. More localizations can be made later on.
  • Configurable shortcuts/hotkeys are finally here as well. Almost everything is configurable and Ctrl+Alt+Shift are supported as well.
  • Restyled fish count calculation and display in water bodies. Now it is smooth and informative.

Smaller features are:

  • Return of the fraction of building materials on house destruction. Nice bonus or last chance at building a Stonecutter’s – you decide.
  • Revised and improved several house models and textures.
  • Finally added some leather background to in-game forms. It’s still a work in progress though.
  • Added cinematics and speech bubbles support in missions.
  • Allowed to make terrain highlights (invoked from script).
  • Decal and Objects palettes for the MapEd. As well a couple of new objects.
  • Added support for Buttons in dynamic script messages. Your choice can now directly affect mission flow.
  • Changed how coalmaker’s house works, now the coalpiles need to be set outside.
  • Made AI to attack animal dens.
  • A lot of effort went into refactoring alliances. Neutral hands. Players instantiation and mission setup.
  • Reiterated and improved AI in Skirmish (GDP +17%, Starvation -30%).
  • A whole lot of bugfixes and improvements.
  • New music by Juan (Dark Banners, Harvest, Over the Hills).
  • Campaign Builder tool is included with the game now.
Knights Province Alpha 11 (installer) Knights Province Alpha 11 (7z package)

Join the Discord server for discussions and feedback – https://discord.gg/ZGrgC6G

Thanks to everyone who helped and supported the development with feedback, testing, ideas and suggestions, critics, mapmaking and everything else!

Posted in Downloads, News | 1 Comment

Substance Designer purchase

Thanks to monthly support from my patrons on Patreon I was able to purchase Substance Designer!

SD is a tool for procedural texture generation. Those nice shingles, wooden beams, plaster and whitewashed walls, grass and lava. Guess what, instead of painting by hand, all those textures can be generated from noise and simple functions!

So I was looking for shingles textures online again. Shingled roofs are so common in the game and they make the most screen area after terrain. Finding suitable textures (free or not) to use in the game is not easy. Every time it’s either a different scale, too low-res, watermarked, has unclear copyright, etc. So when I found another bunch of neat textures I noticed they were not hand-painted, but procedurally generated. That made me think, if those nice textures are a product of an algorithm, surely I can tweak and repeat that algorithm to get the exact result I’m looking for.

Procedural texture generation is not uncommon to me. In my 3D editing app (Lightwave 3D) there’s a procedural texture generation subsystem. It is rather clunky though, for its main goal is to produce 3D volume materials and affect the render pipeline rather than create flat surfaces. Still it’s the same idea in its core – take small pieces and interconnect them into a more complex system (just like you take houses and build towns in Knights Province).

Procedural texture generation captured my mind a long time ago, but until recently I have not met a good working example. Earlier this year I tried another texture generator – Material Maker. It’s free and open-source, it has a great variety of elements and nodes, but trying to create anything more complex than a simple brick wall texture with mortar has put its performance to its knees. It took seconds to refresh even 256×256 nodes ..

So here comes the SD. I first tried it on trial and made myself a deal – if I can create 2 decent textures in it with reasonable effort – I’m buying it, cos that’s gonna be break even with ordering the same textures from freelancers or painting them myself. After two days of tests I was convinced – albeit textures creation is a tricky and complicated job, SD as a tool offers a very good interface and instruments of doing it. I was able to get acquaintanced with SD UI and toolset in a day and after exploring some examples (included with SD and available online) to craft a decent shingles texture for the Fisherman’s house. Soon followed by wood planks texture. The purchase was made.

Having such control over textures allows me to bring my vision into the game much better.

So far the plan seems to be:
 – generate most common and prominent textures (roofs, walls, wooden beams)
 – roughly UV map them to the existing 3D models
– later on, improve the models and do the proper mapping

Posted in Artwork, How things work, Screenshots, Tools | 4 Comments

Player scores

Knights Province has got one more neat feature provided by the Knights Tavern – Player Scores!
Now you can compare your single-player skills with other players.

Scores are calculated by the following formula:

  • Each mission has a ranking mode (min time, max time, best score)
  • Each mission also has a scoring multiplier (some missions give out only 50% of the points and some 200%. Percentage is configurable in KT depending on the missions difficulty)
  • Some missions are excluded from the scoring (e.g. “Alpha 1”, since it is a development mission, not a real one. “Town Tutorial” is also excluded, since it’s very easy to “win”)
  • For each mission a player has played his place is identified
  • Points awarding system is then applied. It is made after Formula 1, but with a bias towards first 3 places. Places get the following number of points: 10, 10, 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. 

The system is not final, but for now it produces rather good results.

The system is not final, but for now it produces rather good results. As usual, test version (r9018) can be downloaded and tried out from Discord (https://discord.gg/cEwJFSY). With that change I’m hoping Alpha 11 is ready to be released in a week or so.

Posted in Sidenotes | 2 Comments