Computer-Aided WCTO -> Timeline Update


Vice Admiral
It is time for a re-evaluation of the road-map:

Phase 1: Establish a working, static html/css board which successfully overlays the grid on a background, and puts ships in grid cells. Being static, I expect a hardcoded change is necessary to move the ship to a different cell. I also need to work out how ships that are larger than cells will work (since images typically aren't positioned based on their center), and how to handle multiple ships in the same cell.

Phase 2: Generate database format, and take apart the CSS/html, causing it to be formed using php. Create a 'test' game in the database, which successfully repositions the same ships when viewed. (While present, don't yet worry about users, validation, etc.)

Phase 3: Insert in a jquery (javascript) layer which adds in things like the mouse-over info (possibly retrieved using Ajax and php, or perhaps just pre-loaded and hidden. Ajax-style coding is new to me, but I want to try it out on this project to speed it up and also to learn)

Phase 4: Develop the ship order database storage format, and code the game engine to process the orders correctly.

Phase 5: Add one final layer to the system, including 'games' 'turns' and 'users' such that the system can keep track of who is playing in which game, and knows to run the turn order processor when a given game's "we're waiting on X players" counter empties out.

Phase 6: Populate object database with the ship/environmental/missile templates.

Phase 7: Test and add new features per request.

So we're wrapping up phase4 right now. Some features were kicked out, temporarily, to push for a beta. As we all know, those include most capital ship weapons, tailing, friendly fire, line of sight, and asteroids. We also haven't considered the ramifications of stationary bases, but I'm fairly certain just making them cap ships with 0 max speeds should be all we need.

Let's look ahead:

Phase 5: Well, I ended up teaching it about 'games' and 'turns' back in phase3/4, so that is more or less done. All we really need to do is teach it about users and pilots (which I've decided will not be the same thing). The run engine already knows how to run when all orders are in, so the only thing really missing here is the actual ship->pilot->user associations, the entire pilot class, and a user tracking system. For now, the ability to boot users from a game if they take too long is not being coded, as I feel that falls in with 'administrator tools' which is not yet on my road map.

Phase 6: Hmm. I've somehow already finished phase 6. It ended up being necessary to really do any work in phase 3 and phase 4. As such, we are going to scrap the old phase 6 entirely. I'll go through and do the database updates that Ironduke pointed out as part of either phase 5 or whatever is next. We also don't yet have asteroids or flak templates put in yet, nor most of the bases.

Phase 7: We are going to rename Phase 7 "Beta 1". This will be the first "full functional" version of the game, meant primarily for debugging. At this point, once we are in Beta 1, you guys will be able to play out fighter-based dogfights and scenarios. The caveat is that, at the moment, only I will be able to initialize the game, since it will involve hacking the database to start a new game. We'll probably work on a 'post here to start your game' system.

We are likely then going to see a drop in coding effort for a while, as I have to soon focus on non-WCTO work.

I will then work towards 'Beta 2', likely with a new road map announced. Beta 2 will be intending to add back in:
  • capital ship weapons
  • tailing
  • friendly fire
  • line of sight
  • asteroids.
  • Advanced Pilot Skills (as the current phase 5 is only going to include 'rookie/normal/elite' top level bonuses)

The next phase, 'beta 3' will be necessary. This will add some simple in-game administration abilities, such as tracking if a player is taking too long for their turn, and being able to transfer control of a ship over.

Once beta 3 is done, we'll move through some quick RC's, and then the v1.0 of the automated WCTO.

Now, in parallel to this, anyone is welcome to start working on the 'gamebuilder', which is, as far as I'm concerned, an independent project. If no one volunteers, I will start working on it somewhere in parallel with beta 3. This would be the set of tools to let you guys set up your own games and just play.

Also, I am already envisioning a version 1.5 of the game, down the road, with a relatively improved UI. I'm sticking with our current UI mostly because it is fast and easy to develop, but once I've let the dust settle for a while, I want to move a lot of the order screens out of those pop-up windows, and into a series of slide-open panels from the side and top of the screen.

Looking at the timeline, I suspect we'll be hitting the following goals:

Phase 5 completion: mid-october

Beta 1 release: end of october

Beta 2 release: February-March time frame

Beta 3 release: April-May time frame

V1.0: July

V1.5: Christmas 2011?

Keep in mind that I fully expect you guys to actually be playing and enjoying yourselves with it with the release of Beta 1. Additional volunteers/coders would obviously pick up the pace and/or improve this timeline.

The only thing that I think will be noticeably lacking in the gamebuilder system, for which I don't have any proposed time frames at the moment, and which may slow down/hold back rapid game play.


P.S. I think we need an updated acronym for this. Maybe AWCTO for 'Automated WCTO'? Suggestions?
You bet it has been offline! I've done all the initial play-testing with physical ship counters and printed maps, and I still have all the material here. :D The last version of the game map and ships actually looks very nice, but it would be way too costly to mass produce. (And we're not even talking about copyright infringements yet, haha!)

So, WCTOO? Why not... I'd like to keep the WC up in front, since it's a Wing Commander game, after all. Even if it's just a little fan game, I'd like to keep that tradition. :p