Wednesday, July 25, 2007


The last couple of days I've been trying to get a release of Ember out. It seems I've finally succeeded. First I had to tackle my box crashing all the time. Turns out that it wasn't the SATA card after all (but not until I already had ordered a new card from the local web retailer). Apparently it was the VMWare network kernel module which didn't want to play nice with my Mandriva kernel, resulting in random kernel panics. After applying a "vmware any-to-any patch" it seems to work a little better, even though I've had the box lock up after applying it.
Moving on, of course a lot of different problems would rear their ugly head once I started testing on Windows. Some of them had to do with lousy memory handling on my part, but some seemed to originate from the Ogre GPU code. I've disabled specular normal mapping with Pixel Shader 1 for now, since it seems there's some problems in how Ogre handled my scripts for that.

After all this however I finally managed to get a working version of Ember out. Version 0.5.0. The main news is that it's using Ogre 1.4.3 and CEGUI 0.5.0. The latter means that the gui now has a lot more capabilities than before. There's also a lot of changes going into this release, such as a new entity editing framework. And a lot of internal restructuring to make for a better foundation.

I'm going on vacation now for two weeks or more, so this is pretty much the worst time to do a release. But I'm so sick of having to wait for it; I just want to get it out there. All bugs that are sure to appear as people start using it (and I know people are, even though only a very few turn up at IRC or the forums) will be handled once I get back.

Oh, and another thing. We've started a trial of Launchpad, which is the Ubuntu project management tool. I've put up some initial blueprints and bug reports there. I think the tool has a lot of potential, but it remains to be seen if we're really gonna use it. The entry for Ember can be found here. All bug reports regarding Ember should be posted there from now on.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


As always I end up with all kinds of problems getting a working version of Ember out. I use VMWare Server to host an Ubuntu image on which I build the linux autopackage version. The last week however I've been experienced random kernel panic locks up of my main box. I initially thought it was caused by a faulty SATA chip, but now it seems it's caused by the VMWare network module. Oh well...

All is not bleak however. I've been working with the extremely talented Jayr Kalugin with gettings some more bling into Ember. We've focused on creating some nicer trees, and using more advanced materials with normal maps. I think the initial results are very promising, even thought there's still a lot of work to be done.

Keeping up with the make-it-look-nicer theme I also went over the foliage code. Ever since I changed how the terrain was handled some time ago it's been broken, and I've been reluctant to fixing it since it's basically one big client side hack: it doesn't take into account new areas such as the path to the village, resulting in grass where there should be no grass, and it's not supported on the server. However, it's one of the things that people notice the most, and which I get a lot of questions about. So, in order to present some nice screen shots of the upcoming release I fixed the broken implementation. It looks quite good, but is very resource hungry.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


After releasing the beta 1 of 0.5.0 I've gotten some nice feedback from both Al and Simon, mainly related to gui and user interaction issues. As a developer it's too easy to become accustomed to all the quirks and inconsistencies in the interface, to the point that you don't notice them any more. Therefore it's great to get some fresh outside perspective on the player experience. I've fixed most of the issues in cvs and should publish a beta 2 soon. I still haven't looked at getting it to compile on Windows though. Hopefully roger will be able to provide me with a working compilation solution.

One thing that's still bothers me is that the world doesn't look as good as it should be able to. There's still a lot of rough edges and bad lightning. The main reason for this is that I've focused on providing other functionality, such as editing and underlying frameworks for scripting, model definitions etc.. There's tons of things that could be done to improve the look, chief amongst them is to make better use of shaders. Currently there's pretty much no shaders used at all. In previous versions I've used shaders for the terrain, but since I got some strange artifacts on ATI cards I disabled that. Using shaders I would get a much better looking terrain, as well as a nice speed boost (since I don't have to do the multipass texturing I do now).
Another thing which would improve the look a lot would be some normal maps on the characters. The current vertex lightning makes them look very blocky and jagged. With normal mapping and per pixel lightning it would be possible to give them a much smoother look.
As I've gotten the entity editor in a working state I'm gonna take a closer look at some of these issues. It's a shame not to utilize the many, many nice features of Ogre.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


I've added two improvements to Ember that I think a lot of people will appreciate. The first is finally putting in checks so that the camera never dips below the terrain. In the end it wasn't that hard to do, I just had to make sure it wouldn't bring everything to a crawl due to massive ray checks. It's still not perfect; when the camera is close to the ground it will still show some of the underworld as it pokes through parts of the terrain. I'll see if I can enhance it to use a more smoother algorithm for positioning the camera a little bit above the terrain.
The other thing I added was terrain decals for showing where the avatar was heading when using the "move to" functionality. It looks really nice and adds some visual hints to the user. Some screenshots of it in action.
Right now it's used for the movement marking only, but it could be used for all kinds of nice in game markings.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


I finally got a beta1 of Ember 0.5.0 out. An announcement can be found here. No Windows version this time since I haven't even began looking at the windows build. And also because I got some offers on helping out with the Windows build.
It's always hard to do a release, mainly because I have to halt adding new features for a while and focus on fixing bugs and handle package peculiarities. Basically all development is put on hold until the release is out. Now, this has gotten better as I now have more helper functions in place, but it's still a break from the normal progress.
This last week I've focused on finding and fixing all of the lingering memory corruption issues. I've managed to hunt most of them down I think.
I also reworked how binreloc was integrated. This only applies to Linux builds, and basically means that Ember can either be built as a normal UNIX app with hard coded paths, or as a "relocatable" app where all paths are relative. The main issue is that the "ember" script was meant to be run if you wanted the relative paths functionality, while the "ember.bin" executable was meant to be run if you wanted the standard behavior (for example if you compile from source yourself). This is of course unnecessarily confusing, so it's now changed so that the "ember" command will always work.