ExpeditionZ – Tech Demo Update 3

We have been working on the tech demo for about six weeks now.

More UI tests, working compass

Some of the things we did since the last update:

  • Labels hovering on towns with their name
  • Decrease depth of field of view during night
  • Torchlight during night
  • Pause time button
  • Show hour of the day
  • Allow docking ship in town
  • 3D town scenes (then ditched)
  • Working compass
  • Test title screen and flow
  • Test event popups
  • Test town Popup
  • HUD relayout and temporary UI elements
  • Test “New Campaign” screen and flow
A storm sinks the ship

Another aspect we also invested quite a bit of time on, was changing the whole water system to use a different library. Even tho we are not using all the features of the plugin (the entire refraction system, for instance), it has allowed us to display foam in the shorelines, create the Storm scene with big waves and simulating buoyancy on the ship, as well as some additional effects.

ExpeditionZ – Tech Demo Update 2

We have been working on the tech demo for about a month now.

Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 10.36.28 PM

Some of the things we did since the last update:

  • Added (and then broke) a minimap system where the game world gets unveiled as you explore.
  • Add a “journal”-like thing to the HUD, displaying the date, location, supplies, mood, and weather info.
  • Add a day/night cycle, time goes by and is reflected on the lighting conditions of the main map.
  • Moved away from the fantasy land and into Earth
  • Added “rain” particle effect for when it rains.
  • Decided to go 3D for the main map view instead of the antique map aesthetic. Invested quite a bit of time on making the water look fine.
  • Added instance-able test towns including test town view.
  • Added temp title screen.
  • Acquired and imported Earth’s terrain elevation data (mainly from 2000’s NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission), for a sector including the Caribbean, Central America, and part of South America.

Along with these developments, I’ve been working on finishing the GDD and the plans for the completed Tech Demo. We are focusing on finishing a test scenario, and soon we are going to have more involvement from a cool 2D artist to bring the UI to life. The title screen painting is also being worked on now.

ExpeditionZ – Tech Demo Update 1

We have been working on a new version of Expedition for a couple weeks now.

Exploring the test map

After some initial brainstorming sessions, we set to create a game based on the original Expedition, but streamlined and more focused.

What we have so far is a ship sailing in a test fantasy world, you can also land, walk around, and board back your ship.

Along the way, we also experimented with some simple Line of Sight / Fog of War thing, but ended up ditching it in favor of an automap currently in the works.

Some simple fog of darkness

Stay tuned for more info!

Expedition: Mass Units test

I decided to perform another test of Phaser running on a 800×600 Canvas, multiple units on screen each one moving randomly. It seems to work fine with around 500 units which should be fine.

Mass Units Test

100 Units – 60 FPS


500 Units – 40 FPS


1000 – 30 FPS


2000 Units – 15 FPS


5000 Units – 7 FPS



Expedition – Real time test


Wanted to get this off my head.

Made on phaser, seems to work fine but not sure how it would work for long voyages on the Atlantic, would have to test with big maps.

Basically you can rotate your ship and the speed depends on the difference between the wind direction and your heading (needs some tweaks so that it’s not linear)

Also, wondered how the art would work on this top down view. Worked a second version using the current 8 directions pixel art and ocean animation (that one needs a bit of work but is much more at my grasp)



Voyage – Better forests and rivers, darker land

Toned down the palette a bit on the ocean and grass tiles.

Also added forest and “plains” variations, replacing the fixed tropical palm trees and brown patches of land, also put some trees in front of them mountains to make them blend a bit better.

Started working on the rivers, gotta do some big changes on the model to pick the tiles based on the world model instead of the player’s perception (since the field of view can greatly affect it). That is, there may be a river tile you are not seeing to the east of the one you are seeing, the game should be able to pick a river fragment expansing eastwards, but right now it relies on perception data so it cannot know.

Another things to work in related to rivers:

  • Linking together patches of river so they flow continuously
  • Adding support for lagoons which will be a mix between the beaches and river models.
  • Differentiating shallow ocean water to rivers.

As I feared, I’m ending up investing more time on the Java version of Expedition/Voyage than I anticipated, I just cannot release something half-baked… I’m even considering completing a bigger scope for it and releasing it as Expedition… my mind just keeps spinning and spinning.

Voyage: Full Screen mode in Java, extended FOV

Was able to get full screen working using the good old Full Screen Exclusive Mode API, at first tried to accommodate the game to 640×480 but found out the dialogs for buying on stores and transferring equipment wouldn’t work in this resolution unless I invested some heavy work on them.

So in the end rolled back the work I had done for both compacting the UI and scaling the graphics layer manually… now using the original 1024×768 design for the DenziUI, with a small but important twist…

Running full screen at 1024×768 with extended FOV

I duplicated the depth of the field of view, which I think makes the game look much better in my opinion!

Some upcoming interesting things (besides the already mentioned “macro” goals in the previous post):

  • Enhance forests and mountains by using different graphics variations
  • Pick forest/jungle type based on latitude

“Voyage” is born, and how it handles land border tiles

Thank you all for your feedback regarding my last post, after much debating here’s my current mindset:

  • Current version of Expedition, while not covering the whole planned scope, is already a playable and potentially enjoyable game which requires some UX fixes to be shipped.
  • The gameplay ideas which composed the original scope for Expedition are worth implementing in a different format which can be appreciated by a broader audience.
  • I won’t be able to work extensively in the full version of expedition in the following months, thus it will likely be released in 2018.
  • The current version of Expedition can be released soon, freeing myself of the burden of having wasted trillions of dev time milliseconds.

That brings two games I’ll be playing in the following months…

Game 1: Release “Voyage”, the current version of Expedition

First thing I did was rolling back a lot of the changes made in the last months of development on 2012 for both Expedition and SERF when trying to modify the engine to run continuously and show animated sprites, thanks to the power of git (and a well done migration from SVN), I was able to roll back to about the status of the last public version (0.5)

Then after giving the game some playthroughs, I defined 3 macro areas to work in:

  • Minor and effective UX changes: Remove redundant data and interaction steps that were in place to allow future functionalities which will no longer be. Polish appearance without investing a lot of time on it.
  • Polish mini colonization facet: Remove clutter, simplifying the way settlements work while at the same time integrating them with the game winning conditions.
  • Balance game: Experiment with data to ensure the game can be won in around 5 voyages.

Upon examining the Java code I found out it isn’t THAT bad. There’s a nice structure, an engine which was unfortunately not meant to support animation from its onset.


One of the things people suggested and I thought would have a strong impact was adding the “beaches” or land borders to the overworld. I toyed around with many ideas while I familiarized myself again with the code, and in the end decided to include it as part of the “rendering” process instead of it being part of the map model itself. At first I tried to do something similar to what I had done with Ananias walltops: Analyzing different scenarios and deriving rules based on them.


However, I thought that approach may not be needed in this case since this was simpler… doing that “2.5D” appearance for Ananias was sure a lot of work, but here it is an overhead view so I figured there may be a simpler solution. After some googling I found an old article which was pretty useful and in which I based my approach.


What I’m doing is, for every visible water map cell I’m checking the surrounding cells to see if there’s land around. Each one of the 8 directions has a weight assigned as a power of 2 (with some additional tweaks for the ordinal directions), the sum of these weighted values determines what tile to draw over the ocean.

boolean[] mask = new boolean[]{
    upLand || leftLand || upLeftLand,
    upLand || rightLand || upRightLand,
    downLand || leftLand || downLeftLand,
    downLand || rightLand || downRightLand
int sum = 0;
for (int i = 0; i < mask.length; i++){
    if (mask[i])
        sum += POW_2[i];

There’s a map which maps values for this sum with base indexes on the tileset as follows:

POWER_MAP.put(128, 1);
POWER_MAP.put(224, 2);
POWER_MAP.put(32, 3);
POWER_MAP.put(148, 4);
POWER_MAP.put(41, 5);
POWER_MAP.put(4, 6);
POWER_MAP.put(7, 7);
POWER_MAP.put(1, 8);
POWER_MAP.put(47, 9);
POWER_MAP.put(151, 10);
POWER_MAP.put(233, 11);
POWER_MAP.put(244, 12);
POWER_MAP.put(239, 13);
POWER_MAP.put(191, 14);
POWER_MAP.put(247, 15);
POWER_MAP.put(253, 16);
POWER_MAP.put(255, 17);
POWER_MAP.put(5, 18);
POWER_MAP.put(132, 19);
POWER_MAP.put(160, 20);
POWER_MAP.put(33, 21);



Additionally, there are three variations for the beachfronts, what set to use is determined by using a hash function over the location of the cell on the world.

I also cleaned up the UI removing redundant info, changing the font for something more readable and relaying out everything to avoid wasted screen space. In the end I decided to support only the “Denzi” 32×32 tileset, which looked pretty good when I added the “beaches” and resized the viewport to 600×450.

I also worked on trying to add a full screen mode to the game. So far I have had partial success on this, I was able to scale part of the game but the engine works by having two layers: one where graphics are drawn (which I could successfully scale) and another one with UI components based on Swing which I think will be too hard to work with. I also found out the current way of finding the screen dimensions is troublesome on dual screens or scenarios where there are system menus taking part of the screen (although I think this could be fixed by using actual window measures instead of display size)


This is a hard one… I’m thinking on ditching fullscreen and make it work just windowed, although I recall some experiments on CastlevaniaRL back on… 2004-2005? which made full screen work without manually scaling (and which scaled Swing components as well)… I’ll have to dig a bit on it and see how it works in modern machines.

I’m planning for a release of this in around 2 weeks.

Game 2: Restarting work on the full version of Expedition

Expedition will play and look a little bit like a RTS, with miniature AI-controller units (and probably lots of them in some scenarios), following the player around an infinitely large world where Exploration is the main concern. It will NOT be a RTS, you will have direct control only over a single unit, and the game won’t focus on finding and exploiting resources on the world, nor placing building strategically or even tactical battles. In a sense it will be more of a toy, a miniature world you can explore with your miniature explorers.

Some initial ideas for the game, although my current vision would be a bit different with smaller looking units and a different art style.

Player created content will be a huge part of it, it will include an editor where players can build their own scenarios and worlds, themed in their favorite series or historical events.

It will feature seedable procedural world generation and most of the features defined in the current roadmap (which will soon be updated to remove some things that defintively won’t go)

Given these requirements, I am still not sure if Phaser is the way to go… I’m considering using Unity for it, but that’s a choice that may still wait for a bit.

Plans for Expedition

The noble history of Expedition goes way back into the past as far as 2009. I invested around 300 development hours on it, and many times I’ve sit to plan its future… now that Ananias is released it’s time to finish it for good.

Expedition was the original Slashware Interactive project (I abandoned my day-job to work on it). I was going to be a great indie developer, but then many things happened when I tried to scale the work I had already made into a bigger product with features to appeal more people (I lacked the experience to create a fully working 2D game engine with Java, and back then there were little options). Simple things such as adding tile animations turned into a hell dealing with threading stuff and trying to make Swing behave, and performance was subpar.

There’s been a public version at the website for some years; it is completely playable but doesn’t include all that I had planned for it. Now I’m wondering again what would be the better approach to finish it, for which I have two main issues:

Issue # 1 – What technology to use

Option 1 – Finish the development from the current codebase in Java

Pros Cons
  • Quicker time to market.
  • No animations AT ALL.
  • No scrolling possible ever.
  • No 2D graphic effects.
  • Not very fun to work in (may cause frustration)
  • Not available for mobile devices.
  • Support for music / SFX is limited.

Option 2 – Remake in JS using Phaser

Pro Cons
  • Can use animations and graphic effects
  • Scrolling is possible
  • Rewriting is always fun and adding the new stuff.
  • Available for more platforms.
  • Start from scratch, may take around 80 hours to get to the current point.
  • JS weakly typed nature may make maintenance harder.

Issue # 2 – What features to include / How to roll them out

There’s a huge roadmap with lots of features I’ve dreamed. But what will be the best approach to release them as a product?

Option 1 – Release a first edition with minimum features.

Reduce the feature set to include mainly exploration focused stuff, leaving aside other stuff for the future.

This first interaction cycle could be summarized as follows:

  • Assemble your Expedition in Spain making the best use of limited resources.
  • Survive transatlantic journey to America braving storms and handling your crew.
  • Establish towns to serve as safe places for your Expedition.
  • Explore the new world looking for native civilizations, ruins, natural wonders, exotic plants and animals, obtaining fame to be rewarded on Spain.
  • Trade with natives or conquer them, obtaining goods to sell on Spain.
  • Survive transatlantic journey to Europe.
  • Be rewarded for your journey, prepare for next voyage.

Having in mind the previous issue, an attractive option would be doing a first release using the current Java codebase, which already covers most of this cycle (I would still need to invest some time on the exploration and trading parts tho)

Option 2 – Go a little further

Expedition won’t be a graphics intensive game (See issue #3 below). This means it has to be good in other aspects in order to be attractive for people.  Releasing an early version without all the features may just not be appealing enough and make Slashware look bad.

Here’s a summary of some prioritized features from the roadmap that could be added:

  • Autosailing: Follow a direction for a given time or until an event happens.
  • Colonies production: Make towns produce goods
  • Colonies growth: Make colonies grow on size on themselves
  • Military buildings: Allow building barracks to train colonists into soldiers, walled fortresses and towers.
  • Road making: Allow creating roads of different quality. Units can move faster over them, mounted units and vehicles get an additional bonus.
  • Mines: Allow finding veins and creating mines, linking them to colonies.
  • Camping: Add expedition fatigue, allow to make camp for the night, and sleep on the ships.
  • Land Vehicles: Add land vehicles you can use to carry more, restricting movement to some terrain types.
  • River Exploration: Add rowboats to explore shallow waters.
  • Zoomed in areas: Generate zoomed in areas for mountain passes, caverns and towns, allow zooming into them.

Also not included in the roadmap but definitively interesting to pursue:

  • More random events that could happen both in the sea or during land expeditions.
  • Personalized profiles per expedition member and relationships between them

Option 3 – Aim for something even grander

There are many other things from the original roadmap which I consider just don’t fit a concise vision for the game: To make the player experience being in one of the first European expeditions into the new world, that feeling of being tracing new lines into the world map. This is due to an initial biggest statement of Expedition being a “detailed sandbox of the XV century world”, that’s just too big and may be very hard to turn into a fun experience.

These include things like interacting with other European expeditions, traveling to other parts of the world (including visiting mediterranean cities), simulating relationship between the different nations, laying siege to cities (but then expeditions become armies), trading all around the world

There are however some facets that I still consider interesting exploring, may be as add-ons to the original since they’d require more populated territories to work:

  • Piracy: Be a pirate captain, recruit rogues, steal ships, look for buried treasures, attack cities.
  • Religion: Spread your faith in the land, combat infidels.

Issue # 3 – Graphics Style

The game currently supports 5 different graphic styles, where the player is left with the choice of which one to use. Should I instead impose a single choice to give the game an unique character and make development easier?

SwingBox and Curses are ASCII modes where all output is represented with characters, I think only an extremely minor portion of the players will enjoy and understand it which makes it hard to consider a default choice… but interesting enough, if I were to use them then continuing using Java would be a perfectly valid option. (this was the original output mode, and all complications began when I added graphics over it). They work using libjcsi, a java ascii display lib I did years ago.

Then we have the modes with actual graphics, there are currently two tilesets for Expedition, a 32×32 tileset made by Denzi and an 8×8 tileset made by Oryx. Denzi tileset is shown 1x in “Denzi” mode and 2x on “Big Denzi” mode (with tiles being distorted as rectangles in order to fit the screen). Oryx tileset is shown 3x.

The Oryx tileset should have a familiar style. It’s very iconic and does a great job of providing a graphics representation while not requiring a great production effort for new tiles. I’ve thought on using a slightly modified version of it in order to make it feel a bit more unique.

Of course, Denzi tileset is more detailed (specially for the units), however due to the nature of the game engine, the map model and the turn based interaction, the world looks a bit weird on it. May be it would look a bit better with some post processing for the “beaches” to use the corner tiles supplied. May be it’s the color of the sea, I don’t know.

I am not sure about the “BigDenzi” mode… On one hand I think the perspective fits more the higher resolution of the characters, but some people have complained about the distortion on the map. I also dislike having two different scales of pixel art shown at the same time (one for the UI, another one for the map). In any case, the font choice for the Denzi modes is absolutely horrible.

Of all the graphics mode I think I prefer the Oryx one for it’s symbolic potential and ease of extension in case newer features are added.

That’s the current status of things with Expedition… I’m in a bit of a development paralysis pondering these things… if you have any thoughts please let me know, all input is very helpful! Would you play a game with NO ANIMATIONS AT ALL? do you find the basic interaction/gameplay cycle interesting enough?