A change in direction for Unleashed.

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A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by mhenr18 on Sun Mar 25, 2012 9:14 am

The following is the introduction for my design specification for Line Rider Unleashed.
I've had something of a change of heart.





Released in 2008, Line Rider Beta 2 revision 6.2 was the last released version
of Line Rider designed by Bostjan Cadez. It was the last in a series of refinements
made to the Beta 2 codebase and was well received by the community.

The next major revision to the title was Unbound, which wasn't well received by the
existing community. This left most people still using 6.2, which by this stage was
starting to become dated. A Silverlight revision was released, but it wasn't well
received either.

Around this stage, I started to tinker with decompiled source from 6.2 and made
changed that didn't drastically change the feature set, instead opting to refine
the usability of the engine based on (then) current usage patterns. Things like an XY-snap
that locked lines to the X or Y axis were introduced as a response to the growing
popularity of XY tracks. The zoom limits were modified as a response to the
"superzoom" hack of 6.1, where the editor could be made to zoom in further than normal.
Unlike the other new versions of Line Rider, these builds were well received.

Other changes were made, continuing this state of refining the current feature set.
6.7 was the last of these refinement builds released by me before I started growing
bored with the engine's current state. I attempted to introduce new things in
my unfinished 6.8 and 8.0 builds, but they weren't well received by the community and
didn't address the things that people were still longing for like improved performance
and stability.

Beta 3 was released by inXile, however the same things continued to happen - new features
were shunned by the community and longstanding concerns weren't addressed. It was still
slow, it still had stability problems and tracks were still incompatible between different
operating systems and player versions.

Line Rider Unleashed is a total rewrite of the engine that makes addressing these longstanding
concerns the number one priority. However, it also seeks to bring changes into the
engine that allow Line Rider to always stay evolving.

I made my first changes to Line Rider as a hacker who wanted more from the engine, and I
firmly believe that Unleashed should enable users to modify the engine as much as possible
in order to extend its lifespan. EA's SimCity 4 was released in 2002 and is still popular
thanks to user-made content even though it has been unsupported by EA for some time. I
believe that Line Rider could last for even longer.


What I'm proposing is that I implement basically nothing new in terms of features for Unleashed.
It would be super fast, super reliable and tracks would be cross-platform. Everything else would
be done using mods. This means that it's not up to me anymore to make changes to LR - if someone
wants to do something new in LR, there wouldn't be a need for them to make their own version. They
could just write a mod and plug it in to Unleashed. The opportunities that this opens up are far more
than I'd ever imagined before.

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by WishLine on Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:16 am

Okay, I have no fundamental objection, personally. (Although I'm still asking after self-recording tools, grey guide-lines and other such changes :P - when you say 'implement basically nothing', does this mean none of those things?).

The idea of allowing people such freedom to customise sounds great, the only thing that the community would have to catch up with would be what is allowable in 'formal' line riding - TOC, competitions, and MotW.

If we developed a sort of 'community standard' of showing which mods are allowable and prohibited in official settings, as they are created, then I see absolutely no reason why this would work.

In fact, the freedom it would bring about would be unparalleled.

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by Hedgehogs4Me on Sun Mar 25, 2012 12:02 pm

@ Wish: I'm pretty confident that contests will either have their own mods (for CotM, specific people's contests, etc) or be for strictly unmodded versions, or at least versions that make strictly graphical changes so that the .sol still works on unmodded situations (MotW, ToC, etc). I don't know how we'd test for stuff like drawing tools, though. We might be forced to become more tolerant of that.
However, if people do enough modding, I don't really think it'll matter what's accepted in contests. If people want to do stuff for a contest, they'll use the mods specified, and if they don't, they can go nuts. :P

@ mhenr: I have some stuff to ask you over MSN, as I'm not sure how much you want to reveal quite yet.

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by TheRevTastic on Sun Mar 25, 2012 12:24 pm

Well since it's mods now, do you plan on making it so you can open up a menu and tick on which mods you want on or want off?

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by StingReay on Mon Mar 26, 2012 9:54 pm

Hedgehogs4Me wrote:or at least versions that make strictly graphical changes so that the .sol still works on unmodded situations (MotW, ToC, etc). I don't know how we'd test for stuff like drawing tools, though. We might be forced to become more tolerant of that.

This is implying that LR:U will use the Shared Object Language (what SOL stands for!) format for saving, which is actually a proprietary format used in Flash. I'd expect a lighter-weight, more portable format where each track is a different save file. Hopefully mhenr could shed some light on this as in my opinion a new save format where each track has its own self-contained cross-platform binary save file (ASCII files are much, much easier to hax) is the best way to go.

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by [senpai] kevans on Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:08 pm

I thought you said that LRU wasn't going to support plugins....
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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by Cereal on Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:09 pm

I'm excited.

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by efrazable on Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:17 pm

Cereal wrote:I'm sexually excited.

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by rich on Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:19 pm

TheRevTastic wrote:Well since it's mods now, do you plan on making it so you can open up a menu and tick on which mods you want on or want off?
This, and you might want a tutorial on how to make mods so less tech savy kids can make user mods or custom stuff. Like source sdk with counter strike, any kid could make a map that they could use to play with their friends. I know it might not be like that but I'm sure tons of kids would really be helped out by that.
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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by Chui Ninji on Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:20 pm

YES I approve of this change, assuming I read and understood correctly. Correct me if I'm wrong, but basically it's a massive bugfix overhaul, and new stuff isn't directly built into Unleashed, but it's provided/user created as a mod?
Also, out of curiosity, who actually likes the gray guideline lines idea? Didn't we have them in some other version and like....not use them at all? I just don't understand their purpose, don't hate me ._.

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by mhenr18 on Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:17 pm

TheRevTastic wrote:Well since it's mods now, do you plan on making it so you can open up a menu and tick on which mods you want on or want off?
Something like that.

StingReay wrote:
Hedgehogs4Me wrote:or at least versions that make strictly graphical changes so that the .sol still works on unmodded situations (MotW, ToC, etc). I don't know how we'd test for stuff like drawing tools, though. We might be forced to become more tolerant of that.

This is implying that LR:U will use the Shared Object Language (what SOL stands for!) format for saving, which is actually a proprietary format used in Flash. I'd expect a lighter-weight, more portable format where each track is a different save file. Hopefully mhenr could shed some light on this as in my opinion a new save format where each track has its own self-contained cross-platform binary save file (ASCII files are much, much easier to hax) is the best way to go.
Yeah, LRU will just save using UTF-16 plaintext with new files for each track. It's UTF-16 and not ASCII because LRU has multilingual support. I'm not using a binary format because there's no point in hiding away the track data when you can rewrite the engine.

kevansevans wrote:I thought you said that LRU wasn't going to support plugins....
As I said, I had a change of heart.

rich wrote:
TheRevTastic wrote:Well since it's mods now, do you plan on making it so you can open up a menu and tick on which mods you want on or want off?
This, and you might want a tutorial on how to make mods so less tech savy kids can make user mods or custom stuff. Like source sdk with counter strike, any kid could make a map that they could use to play with their friends. I know it might not be like that but I'm sure tons of kids would really be helped out by that.
It's all Lua. If you've ever seen WoW scripting, it's the same language. There's tons of Lua tutorials out there on the net, and I'll provide the Unleashed API as a reference document.

Chui Ninji wrote:YES I approve of this change, assuming I read and understood correctly. Correct me if I'm wrong, but basically it's a massive bugfix overhaul, and new stuff isn't directly built into Unleashed, but it's provided/user created as a mod?
Also, out of curiosity, who actually likes the gray guideline lines idea? Didn't we have them in some other version and like....not use them at all? I just don't understand their purpose, don't hate me ._.
Yup, you got it. The only new features I'll be introducing now are a colour eraser, autosaving and new playback controls (fast forward, rewind, step forward/back, pause and scrubbing). There will also be a "technical" settings panel that allows you to disable interpolation, show contact points and view some other extra info.

If for some reason you decided that you hated everything and you wanted to remove standard things such as the new additions or even things like the line tool, the modding functionality will allow you to do that.
After the main launch, I'll write all of the other things I was initially going to include with Unleashed (double sided lines, guide lines, secondary tool functionality, scenery filling, etc) as mods.
The modding functionality extends deep into the engine - you could even rewrite the physics engine if you wanted to.

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by StingReay on Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:50 pm

mhenr18 wrote:
StingReay wrote:
Hedgehogs4Me wrote:or at least versions that make strictly graphical changes so that the .sol still works on unmodded situations (MotW, ToC, etc). I don't know how we'd test for stuff like drawing tools, though. We might be forced to become more tolerant of that.

This is implying that LR:U will use the Shared Object Language (what SOL stands for!) format for saving, which is actually a proprietary format used in Flash. I'd expect a lighter-weight, more portable format where each track is a different save file. Hopefully mhenr could shed some light on this as in my opinion a new save format where each track has its own self-contained cross-platform binary save file (ASCII files are much, much easier to hax) is the best way to go.
Yeah, LRU will just save using UTF-16 plaintext with new files for each track. It's UTF-16 and not ASCII because LRU has multilingual support. I'm not using a binary format because there's no point in hiding away the track data when you can rewrite the engine.

Got a point there. If I may ask, would said save files be in a sort of portable XML structure? A lot of modern games make extensive use of this kind of thing.

mhenr18 wrote:
If for some reason you decided that you hated everything and you wanted to remove standard things such as the new additions or even things like the line tool, the modding functionality will allow you to do that.
After the main launch, I'll write all of the other things I was initially going to include with Unleashed (double sided lines, guide lines, secondary tool functionality, scenery filling, etc) as mods.
The modding functionality extends deep into the engine - you could even rewrite the physics engine if you wanted to.

So this means layered colored scenery (one of Unbound's high points, at least, in my opinion) would be possible using Lua scripted mods. I'm stoked now.

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by Conundrumer on Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:30 am

mhenr18 wrote:you could even rewrite the physics engine if you wanted to.
dynamic lines letsgo 8D
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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by rabid squirrel on Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:43 am

this sounds like the best idea ever IMO Very Happy

my only concern is physics mods... and distinguishing them. But ah well, we already have that problem.

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by mhenr18 on Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:48 am

rabid squirrel wrote:this sounds like the best idea ever IMO Very Happy

my only concern is physics mods... and distinguishing them. But ah well, we already have that problem.

Cross-platform compatibility means you can just ask for the track file and check it yourself. It's actually easier to tell now.

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by StingReay on Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:50 am

I could see myself as a modder more than a track maker as I'm bad at the latter and given that I'm actually learning to code could do reasonably well at the former. Either way, modding LR is literally one of the best ideas I've ever heard.

We could even have scripted cinematic events in scenery tracks!

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by Traxis on Tue Mar 27, 2012 1:22 am

Line Rider: Minecraft edition with actual support.

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by mhenr18 on Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:50 am

Traxis wrote:Line Rider: Minecraft edition with actual support.

Because I want to allow LRU to be sold on sandboxed app stores (ie the Mac App Store), I can only allow mods limited external access without showing a save dialog.
Mods will be able to write custom data into save files (which are saved wherever the user specifies), however mods will only have unlimited write access to a sandboxed folder - anything inside that folder is fair game but they aren't allowed to write anything outside the folder without prompting a save dialog. It's so that you guys can't destroy a system with malicious code Smile

Later down the track, I'm planning on adding a networking API so that mods can make network connections for things like multiplayer/online backup/forum chatbox within LR.

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by Yobanjojoe on Tue Mar 27, 2012 4:37 am

I still think you should implement that idea where you can have 2 people working on the same track at the same time.

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by Kohuda on Tue Mar 27, 2012 4:55 am

Levers and buttons mod go!

Also, possibility to change certain lines into frames, so that we can have animation.

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by mhenr18 on Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:02 am

Yobanjojoe wrote:I still think you should implement that idea where you can have 2 people working on the same track at the same time.

Do it as a mod when the networking API becomes available.

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by mhenr18 on Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:21 am

StingReay wrote:
mhenr18 wrote:
StingReay wrote:
Hedgehogs4Me wrote:or at least versions that make strictly graphical changes so that the .sol still works on unmodded situations (MotW, ToC, etc). I don't know how we'd test for stuff like drawing tools, though. We might be forced to become more tolerant of that.

This is implying that LR:U will use the Shared Object Language (what SOL stands for!) format for saving, which is actually a proprietary format used in Flash. I'd expect a lighter-weight, more portable format where each track is a different save file. Hopefully mhenr could shed some light on this as in my opinion a new save format where each track has its own self-contained cross-platform binary save file (ASCII files are much, much easier to hax) is the best way to go.
Yeah, LRU will just save using UTF-16 plaintext with new files for each track. It's UTF-16 and not ASCII because LRU has multilingual support. I'm not using a binary format because there's no point in hiding away the track data when you can rewrite the engine.

Got a point there. If I may ask, would said save files be in a sort of portable XML structure? A lot of modern games make extensive use of this kind of thing.

mhenr18 wrote:
If for some reason you decided that you hated everything and you wanted to remove standard things such as the new additions or even things like the line tool, the modding functionality will allow you to do that.
After the main launch, I'll write all of the other things I was initially going to include with Unleashed (double sided lines, guide lines, secondary tool functionality, scenery filling, etc) as mods.
The modding functionality extends deep into the engine - you could even rewrite the physics engine if you wanted to.

So this means layered colored scenery (one of Unbound's high points, at least, in my opinion) would be possible using Lua scripted mods. I'm stoked now.

Nah, I hate XML. <This><[censored]><syntax></drives></me><insane>.
It's just simple plaintext using a custom syntax.

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by Kohuda on Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:25 am

Would it be hard to implement?

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by mhenr18 on Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:27 am

@ Co-op editing?

Not really - I've done it in the Flash version before.

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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

Post by [senpai] kevans on Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:19 am

mhenr18 wrote:@ Co-op editing?

Not really - I've done it in the Flash version before.

HAHAHAHAhAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAhA! Quit kidding yourself, it never happened :|

So how is this "plug-in" thing going to work? Are you going to provide a set list of key words an variables that it runs on and a small language that the source recognizes? or are we going to become serious hackers, learn C, and hope we can decode the files provided?

And I'm starting to assume you're doing this because you too are having troubles with those god damn double sided lines that NEVER WANT TO [censored] WORK! Angry

Meh.... just being paranoid.....
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Re: A change in direction for Unleashed.

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