Monday, December 18, 2017

It has to be Xeen to be believed

Hi everyone,

Been a while since my last blog posting, despite regular protestations that I'd be posting more frequently. My bad. At least my development work has been proceeding with it's usual speed in the interim. The just released ScummVM 2.0 spurred me to write a blog posting.

So what's been happening? First of all, as most will know, I finished work on Starship Titanic. So with the new release, both the English and German versions of the game are now officially supported. I've been informed that there's also a French version, but it isn't available commercially (GOG only has the English and German versions). Given that, for now I'm unwilling to spend the multiple weeks worth of effort to add support for it. Maybe if GOG adds it in sometime in the future, support for it can be revisited.

Next, let's move onto what I'm currently working on, now that Titanic is done.. World of Xeen. Support for the game has already improved enormously over the last few weeks. You can walk around the starting town, fight monsters, then leave the town and wander around the outdoors. Even go to the Dwarf Mine and listen to the dwarf's cheesy intro. Not all maps are working yet, but at least it's getting there.

Still lots of other UI bugs to be looked into. I spent much of the past week cramming to implement all the various in-game cutscenes without testing them yet, so there's bound to be problems. The intro/endgame cutscenes for the games are also still only partly implemented. I'll also likely need to do further work on the savegame code, so the engine definitely isn't ready for any serious playing yet.

Anyway, with Christmas holidays coming up, I'll likely take a brief break for a few weeks from my resumed work on Xeen. Much of the work for reversing the game had already been previously done by the excellent work of WizardStan, and then further by myself. As such, a lot of the time I've spent simply implementing remaining missing code in ScummVM and lots of debugging. Since I've already spent so much time in debugging Starship Titanic code to get it working, I'm looking for a more relaxed, cerebral exercise of reverse engineering something fresh over the holidays.

I'll probably return to my preliminary work on the Legend entertainment games, Companions of Xanth and Gateway. Both share a lot of common engine though Xanth, the more recent, has a horrible overlay manager that makes it a pain to debug. As such, I've found working on the earlier game makes things easier to understand in many places. Though since the game uses EGA graphics, understanding how things are being written to the screen does get problematic in places. So a balanced effort reversing both at the same time is called for. An excellent mental challenge.

Everyone have a Happy Holidays/Year end/Christmas or whatever, as 2017 comes to a close. :)

Monday, June 12, 2017

The player is finally home.. the long way round

It's taken so many nights spent slowly debugging the original executable versus my ScummVM implementation, but the final starfield puzzle of Starship Titanic is finally working.

I'm not 100% happy with how the starfield rotates to selected markers when you've locked them in, but frankly, given that I've spent multiple months on disassembling, implementing, and fixing just this one puzzle, I'm just happy at this point that it works at all.

So now with the starfield puzzle finally completable, I was able to initiate the endgame, and see the ending video and credits:
I have to say, there were times when I grew weary of implementing and testing all the matrix code that the puzzle required. But I guess I'm just too stubborn not to see it all the way through.

So what's happening next? Firstly, there are various minor bugs that I was aware of, but hadn't previously gotten around to fixing. I'm currently working into fixing them now For example, I fixed some jerking of text in the end credits, and some black boxes that briefly appeared over the flames in the canal. I've got some outstanding issues with NPC idle animations to look into. The Bellbot also won't currently bugger off if you tell him goodbye :) Once that's done, I'll give it another playthrough just to make sure before it's announced for public testing. So expect it to be soon. For those of you that don't have the game already, the current GOG sale has it discounted. So it's a very opportune time to pick it up.

On a final note, there are couple of things associated with the game that I don't have any immediate plans to spend time on:
* The QSound library the game uses for simulating sounds in a 3D space using standard stereo output. Many know my distaste of working sound code. So I'll leave it as a future exercise for someone else to work on. I've implemented the low level sound calls using mostly the same interface as QSound exposes, so it should prove convenient for anyone who chooses to do so
* The Indeo 4 decoder still doesn't handle cases where transparency information is embedded directly into the video frames, rather than as a separate video track. Since codecs are installed directly into Windows, I'm not even sure which DLL implements the decoder. I'll try and spend a bit of time trying to figure it out, but worst case, it may be something the game just has to live with. The game currently has "best guess" code that estimates what the transparencies should be. It's not perfect, but it's reasonably servicable for now.
* I don't have any near-term plans to do any further work on the German version. I'm simply too burned out over the game, and want to move on from it. I may return to it one day; I'd also welcome anyone else who wants to look into it themselves.