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Working on: Day 1001 (33) - Fall 2011 in Pics (59 / 110) - Zuma Blitz - Fall 2012 in Concepts (64 links)
Team: Americana Dawn (as Lead Programmer)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Gemcraft: Chasing Shadows Strategy - Turtling

The two gems do a max of 1k damage (0 on these swarmlings), but it's the orb that cleans them up.

Note: The damage boost on the orb was removed a day after it was released but I'll still leave this post up here for historical purposes.

The new Gemcraft Chasing Shadows is finally out, and after a few hours found a viable strategy to power level early game. They added quite a bit of new features, including dropping gems on your orb to increase its damage done to monsters (before being banished). Which is specifically what this post will cover here - turtling.

It works wonders on levels with lots of swarmlings (B3 being a notable example), where they have low hp and you can anger them a lot to jack up their XP. And even more if you spend shadow cores to up traits Haste and Beacon Storm (the latter giving you free XP if the map doesn't spawn any).

  • You're gonna need a bit of mana reserves for this one (be at least lv10 first). Level up Fusion and Mana Storm as high as it can go, and True Colors when you unlock it. Getting bunches of Achievements will help with this one.
  • Create a grade one gem, drop it on your orb to increase its damage, until it's minimum damage is at least the hit points on the first few waves. Use red / green if possible, since they grant more minimum damage on the orb. If you have spare mana, you can repeatedly balance betwen angering the next few waves and upping the orb damage.
  • Start the first wave - the first pack of monsters should hit the orb and die instantly granting you mana.
  • Use that to keep upgrading your orb damage to keep up with the increased hp in later waves. If your mana's near full let it level up first.
  • If there are giants on the field, you have more than enough mana to create high grade gems and have them specifically target Giants (Bolt is useful here). Don't use anger on them - they don't give out enough XP anyways.
  • One you see the last wave and no giants are there, you can use high strength gems to upgrade both the orb and incoming monsters. (Higher grade gems dropped to anger them uses up more mana, but it has a larger XP multiplier and more monsters compared to a wave angered to the same HP with low grade gems.)
  • Plan appropriately if there are some special conditions you need to meet to complete the stage (like wizard tower levels)

Angering them enough times gives enormous amounts of XP and causes their armor to go through the roof (several thousand when angered enough), but as long as your minimum damage is a bit under their HP, it's no bother since the orb usually one shots them. If they don't they get another pass but it's not like they'll survive the second time through. The number of beacons on the field don't matter, as it doesn't stop this strategy from working.

Considering that it nets tons of XP (as in tens or hundreds of thousands) in the first few map tiles, and that it detracts heavily from its intended purpose of the game (it allows you to complete maps without placing any gems in towers at all), it might be nerfed in the future.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Goleman Library + Quad

Just another day this semester where I do tutoring sessions three days a week in the morning related to Computer Science. It's 8am and it's about to open... except it's cloudy, I see this view, and took this image after giving it a second thought.

(The original Goleman Library's entrace was in this direction, the new one seen here is on the left side)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Americana Dawn: Macrobattles and a Dynamic World

Foster's team defends against a infantry rush.*

The distinguishing feature of Americana Dawn is the focus on large scale battles, also known as macrobattles. These battles are similar to most turn-based tactical games, such as Advance Wars and army battles in Suikoden 2. Although most large battles are based on historical battles, there are some minor skirmishes using this system that can take place during the game during missions and side quests.

Players control a variety of units, historical figures and officers known as 'Elites', who are both customizable and have a diverse set of skills to handle various situations on the battlefield. Units fall under eight general unit classes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses:

  • Brave: Melee warriors that can deal additional damage when flanking an enemy
  • Infantry: Ranged gunman that can control cannons and utilize buildings and towers to their fullest
  • Cannoneer: Artillery with large area of effect attacks and is best used for taking out fortifications
  • Calvary: High movement/evade and excels in hit and run tactics
  • Ranger: High sight range, and can detect units in cover or in buildings
  • Rifleman: Sniper units that can pick off calvary and lone units with ease.
  • Sapper: Can construct defensive structures on the field
  • Commander: Can boost nearby soldiers' morale.

The key element in these large wars is using the environment or the enemy's weaknesses to your advantage, whether it is ambushing cannoneers and using infantry to steal their artillery, or using cover to recon and find a weak spot in the enemy's defenses. There is no 'right' way to win a battle, but you have a limited number of troops at your disposal.

All skirmishes take place on the world map, and decisions from battles are persistent; Your choices on the field determines how the story unfolds. Any elite character killed in battle is permanent and may affect dialogue and future missions. Similarly, collateral damage can directly harm towns and establishments for the duration of the game, so if a shop is destroyed when retaking a city, you deny yourself the goods and any sidequests it has to offer.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


The animation loop generated in Americana Dawn while trying to script the Braddock Scene. It's done with a custom scripting system in the game, particularly since I didn't want to put the effort into using another preset scripting language (such as lua) and getting it to work properly with what's already in the game, including how it's stored when the script is saved into a map file.

I've decided to change the way things are displayed on the blog; sometimes a picture isn't enough to describe things, so a short video clip (without sound) might be used instead if the browser supports HTML5. If not, it will load a still image instead.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Lunar New Year 2014

The sign celebrating Chinese New Year at Red Hawk. I'm a day late on saying this, since it occurred yesterday, but I couldn't make it to the Thunder Valley one, which occurred on a Friday. The lion dance was quite short but there were three performances that day (with some slight differences between each of them).

Also, there was no greeter at the entrance, contrary to what it said online.

Note: The lion dance group is different from the one that performs in Thunder Valley / Cache Creek this year.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Americana Dawn: Year One Progress

Preliminary plans to populate a empty riverside area, and will begin construction once sprites arrive.

It's been a year since I joined the Americana Dawn team, aware of the risks involved, and made a list of objectives I was to fulfill in the game. I quickly realized that there was much more to AD than I expected to program, and I anticipated way too much in terms of the team's existing progress; most of the stuff that I saw in screenshots over a year ago ceased to exist, and the old script was 'not to be talked about'.

Although I specialize in programming, game balancing, and creative mapmaking, I must learn to realize that I need to program only what the director wants to have, not what I think it should have, and to implement features according to specs. So I built an in-game editor, cut out most of the hardcoded stuff, and gave her complete freedom to change any aspect of the game, adding in specific features as requested.

Ultimately, I won't be making the maps for the game, only providing game engine fixes and additions, and various tutorials on the editor and game map programming. Given the size of the game world, It's going to be a while before the game is completed.

Completed Tasks

Although the game's deadline came along without a functional demo being completed*, on my end the following requirements were completed during the first year:

  • Keyboard controlled, with mouse support
  • Large maps spanning up to 2000 game tiles wide, per map
  • Flexible sprite control with custom GUI support
  • In-game editor (disabled in public release builds)
  • Condition-based scripting system running at 60 frames/second
  • Possibility of both open-world and linear gameplay
  • Dynamic music
  • Microbattle system, and Large Scale Battle system, the latter which can occur at any time, on almost any map
  • Balanced gear progression system so that each weapon has their strengths and weaknesses and aren't too overly powerful.

*It is possible to create a functional demo with what the game had at that point, but sufficient scripting knowledge would be required, as well as a bunch of sprites, which we didn't have ready.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Glean 2 Crafting Guide

It's still complicated, though not as much as the first game.

Brief crafting guide summary for Glean 2, most crafting data pulled from Glean 2 Guide Wiki, which is actually more like a guide than a walkthrough. But a few notes on on the above diagram:

  • The icons on the top-right indicates what resources are used to craft a certain item and component types. You'll need to have one of the respective blueprint and one of each of the material you are crafting before you can make more.
  • Exact number of resources for crafting a certain item are not displayed here, since it might change between patches, and you'll probably be mining enough that it doesn't matter.
  • Exact components needed for upgrading are not displayed since it requires another image to display all 112 upgrades in the game but upgrades for a certain part use components from only four categories, if it makes it easier.
  • Modular and Mechanism components on the bottom has a number indicating minimum depth needed to find the resources needed to craft it, and require two blueprints to research it, which vary between items. Assuming you already researched the four individual components used to craft it, that is.
  • Depth which gas is found is rounded to the nearest 50 depth (like 0-50, 50-100, 100-150), but are displayed as multiples of 40 for the purposes of making the table compact.
  • There's a chance that Bacteria can spawn above 140M in Aquatic areas, and lava was seen as high as 130m.
  • Uranium is mined from an empty lava pocket.

The tips below are general strategies for maxing upgrades in under 50 planets (the time limitation of the preview):

  • Mine everything that you can get to.
  • Fuel Reserves, Repair, and Radar Pulse are the only useful things to craft. Don't get Oxygen Refills since you'll need the Water for upgrades, and only Water appears from Chests, and they only appear once at a certain depth. Everything else is late game.
  • Find the chests before you leave a planet, since they contain 2 (or more) blueprints each.
  • Focus on Plating / Propeller / Cooling first, as they determine what you can mine, then Item Caps, Resource Quality, and maybe Drill Vibrations, as they don't require modulators / mechanisms. Optics is unnecessary as you can craft Radar Pulse fairly early, which does exactly what a high level Optics upgrade gives you.
  • You will have to get lava pockets and Uranium even though it's below the safe zone based on the best equipment you can get at the time. I suggest you get some repair nanites, do just enough to get the lava and uranium, and make a run for it.
  • In lower depths in Aquatic areas, look for oxygen bubbles coming out of the ground and not from sea grass? Those are locations of Coral Shards.
  • You can grab an unlimited amount of Unstable Isotopes and Oxygen by lingering next to a Aquatic chest at low depths.