[Development] Presenting my project! Engine for making games like WC3 custom maps

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Hi there! I'm working on a game engine with the goal of recreating & expanding the WC3 modding scene. I've been working on it for a few years now, and I hope you can have a look and say what you think :)

Updates:
Update 1 - Hot-reloading
Update 2 - UI & starting work on the Level Editor
Update 3 - Terrain Editor
Update 4 - Entity Editor
Update 5 - Script Editor
Update 6 - Pathfinding

I got the idea from having played a countless number of WC3 custom games back in the LAN-party days. I absolutely love the creativity and variation that comes from the old world editor, and I'm not surprised to see that many of them have inspired games of their own (TD’s, MOBA’s, etc). The curious thing to me is that there’s plenty of games that try to recreate specific WC3 maps, but I haven’t really seen an effort into making something that recreates the growing ground for all of those maps. And, *drumrolls* - that’s where my project comes in! :)

Here's how it looks (WIP):

FirstGif.gif


My project is an engine that lets you make maps similar to WC3 custom games. I will start by making a series of maps myself, probably including a TD and Hero Siege. Just like in WC3, the game will allow any modding of these maps - all maps you play will be downloaded and modifiable. There’ll be the same network play support. However, as opposed to WC3, my engine will be built ground-up with modding in focus. Here's some improvements I plan to bring, when compared to WC3:
  • Online community: Perhaps the most interesting part for prospective players. You and your friends need a way to find new maps to play, and there’ll be a server browser for that. I hope to have a lot more options for discovery than in WC/SC, including ranked lists (ordered by votes/popularity/release date/etc), features like “Map Of The Week”, and a shuffle function that lets you play through a series of maps without having to return to the browser in between.

  • Voxel graphics: I’m not an artist, and I’m guessing most modders aren’t either. Voxel graphics lets you easily create & tweak models and tilemaps. I use MagicaVoxel for creating my models, it’s free and very easy to use.

  • Scripting: Instead of a home-grown scripting language, I’m using C# for scripting. This has a long list of advantages, including better performance, better tool support (Visual Studio), more online tutorials and resources, etc. I’m also planning to create a Trigger Editor that will be fine for most of your scripting needs, but you can use C# for more advanced work.

  • Deeper modding: You can change more than the map rules. For example, if you want to make modifications to the pathfinding algorithms - or even transform the entire game into a FPS - this is possible through normal map scripting. You won’t have to resort to third-party tools.

  • Hot-reloadable assets & scripts: This lets you swap out models and scripts without having to restart the game. When it comes to tweaking & balancing, this makes a world of difference.

I’ve already come a long way with the technical groundwork needed for the engine, but there’s a lot to do before I can release anything. Most of the tools are yet to be written, and then I need to create some actual games. But, as you can see in the screenshots, there’s at least something to show for from all the work so far :)

Since I’m making this for people like you, who either like playing or making games like these - what would you like to see in a project like this? Is it something you’d be interested in testing when the first alpha versions come out?

If you’re interested, you can follow my progress on twitter: @ollhax. I’ll probably get around to create a website etc once I figure out a name for the project :)

TL; DR
I’m making a game engine that aims to be a stand-alone version of the WC3 custom map. It will offer better online community support, C# scripting, and a voxel art style. Tell me what you think!
 
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There are two problems:
1) Voxel graphics. Unless this field advanced a whole lot while I didn't look, this is far less feasible than polygons, both for the engine and the modellers (if you want decent graphics, that is).
2) TL;DR goes at the beginning, not the end.

Other than that sounds good.

Are you using UE4/Unity?
 
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There are two problems:
1) Voxel graphics. Unless this field advanced a whole lot while I didn't look, this is far less feasible than polygons, both for the engine and the modellers (if you want decent graphics, that is).
2) TL;DR goes at the beginning, not the end.

Other than that sounds good.

Are you using UE4/Unity?

Hey there! Hrm, interesting about the voxel graphics, what makes you say that? I agree that the end results may have less mass appeal than high quality poly models, but the problem is producing those high quality models. This is a trade-off which lets more people in on making art.

But to it's defense, there's some really nice voxel art out there. I use e.g. this a lot for reference:

Antoine-Lendrevie-voxelart-80lv-1.jpg

(I think credits go to Sir Carma!)

It works great for static geometry, but less so for characters etc. I have some ideas how to make it work for the latter part :)

About engines: I'm building it nearly from scratch, using C#. I'm leaning on OpenTK, Lidgren and Skia (and probably a few more libraries I can't remember right now) for some of the heavy lifting, but most of it is custom.
 
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It looks cool..but what's your focus? "goal of recreating & expanding the WC3 modding scene" with voxel graphics? Show me some gameplay of the rts kind before you can claim that:) All I see right now is a Tower Defense.
 
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It looks cool..but what's your focus? "goal of recreating & expanding the WC3 modding scene" with voxel graphics? Show me some gameplay of the rts kind before you can claim that:) All I see right now is a Tower Defense.

Thanks! :) Haha, sorry if it sounded a bit boastful, but it's what I'm aiming for - not saying I'm there now :) Also, to be absolutely clear, I'm not stating that this is a WC3 killer (or even tries to be). I'm simply trying to pick the part I found most interesting (custom maps), apply some spit-shine and make it an experience of its own.

I'd love to show you more gameplay, but like I said, I don't have much to show yet :/ Most of the work so far has gone into the foundation (most of the features listed above, network support, graphics engine, documentation, etc). I'm hoping to make some editors next, and more gameplay after that. But rest assured, there's more going on here than a voxelized TD, even if it doesn't look like it yet :)
 
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I for one would love to test this out. I don't know anything about W3 map making ,so my opinion might be helpful to make a really user friendly map editor.

I (and many other people) have surely thought of playing a game like this...however making it will not be easy. This would be a long term project, and the key is convincing people to make their maps.

You could look at this like a hobby, do it when you can without worrying. Or you could try getting a core fanbase so you can work on this properly. Either way, you will need many more years of work and development, slowly adding more and more stuff. You also need to get lucky.

It is possible, and I hope you succeed ! but this is one of those ambitious dreams...sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't
 
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I for one would love to test this out. I don't know anything about W3 map making ,so my opinion might be helpful to make a really user friendly map editor.

I (and many other people) have surely thought of playing a game like this...however making it will not be easy. This would be a long term project, and the key is convincing people to make their maps.

You could look at this like a hobby, do it when you can without worrying. Or you could try getting a core fanbase so you can work on this properly. Either way, you will need many more years of work and development, slowly adding more and more stuff. You also need to get lucky.

It is possible, and I hope you succeed ! but this is one of those ambitious dreams...sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't

Awesome, glad to know I'm not the only one who'd like something like this :D Some feedback for the editor would be awesome!

Yeah, it's a tricky path. And I think you're right on target about the problem of convincing people to make maps, but it's also about convincing people to play. It's a very chicken-and-egg-y kind of problem. I hope that an inviting editor, a solid foundation and good existing maps (the ones I plan to make) will be enough.

I've started working part-time so I have a few dedicated days a week for this project, which I guess makes it a semi-hobby... so I only have to be semi-worried about cataclysmic failure! ^^
 
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well, the only problem I have is that my PC is kinda old. Other than that if you need some testing or an opinion, feel free to PM. This is something I would gladly do
 
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well, the only problem I have is that my PC is kinda old. Other than that if you need some testing or an opinion, feel free to PM. This is something I would gladly do

Awesome! It'll take some time (probably a few months) before I have anything even vaguely testable, but I'll keep your offer in mind.
 
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Sounds like a very neat project. A more open version of wc3 would be great.

I am curious if you intend this to be an open source project? If not what benefits would this provide to map makers, eg would they retain more rights to their maps, be able to host their own dedicated server, ect. I can see lots of potential advantages to mappers (besides technical ones), but it depends upon what you plan to do with it.
 
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Sounds like a very neat project. A more open version of wc3 would be great.

I am curious if you intend this to be an open source project? If not what benefits would this provide to map makers, eg would they retain more rights to their maps, be able to host their own dedicated server, ect. I can see lots of potential advantages to mappers (besides technical ones), but it depends upon what you plan to do with it.

Thank you! I'm open to suggestions about anything here, but basically I need some control to get this to work. It's not intended to be a fully open source project, but most of it probably will be (by it's very nature). I need to explain the structure a bit for that to make more sense:

The project is divided in these parts:
  • Engine
  • Foundation(s)
  • Mods (aka "maps", "levels")
My only current foundation is "StrategyGame", which is basically a blank RTS game. When you create a mod, you choose a foundation to build it upon. Without a foundation, your game would start out more like an empty Unity project. Usually though, you'd copy another mod (perhaps one of the standard ones) and just tweak that instead. A mod has full access to the code in the foundations, and can override specific code if needed (see "Deeper modding" in my first post). The plan is to keep my mods and foundations open source, but the engine will be closed source.

About the map maker's rights: That's a very tricky question. On the one hand, I love the idea of a community of sharing. When something has been uploaded, it would be fair game for anyone to pick it apart, learn from it, and potentially change some things and release their own version. On the other hand, I can see that this might limit some modders from wanting to put in a lot of work in their creations. See The Warcraft 3 modding scene and the power of open source. • r/truegaming for some excellent discussion about this matter. I'm currently leaning towards the OP's view (open maps), but I'm very much open for input here :)

Dedicated servers: I don't want to monopolize the right to host a game. You'll be able to host a game and have someone connect to you directly.
 
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Update 1

Just popping in to share some updates :) I've mostly worked with UI the last few weeks, and since that stuff is dry and boring, I'd rather show some gifs of fun stuff :D

Starting off, here's my old trusty giraffe as it looks in MagicaVoxel:

MagicaVoxel.gif

Left side: MagicaVoxel, right side: model loaded into the engine.

Sidenote: You can grab MagicaVoxel at MagicaVoxel, it's free and awesome! (I have no ties to the program more than using it for my stuff and being madly in love with it <3)

I've gone on a bit about hot reloading, so here's some reloading in action:

HotReloadModel.gif

Again, left side: MagicaVoxel, right side: my engine. It works for tiles and stuff as well, which is very useful for e.g. fixing repeating patterns in the grass.

The same, but for scripts:

HotReloadCode.gif

Left side: Script (going over all VoxelModelComponents and setting scale=2), right side: my engine.

Script reloading is quite more complicated, since it involves recompiling the script (C# code). I do this at run-time, then dynamically load the new assembly. I can't just rewrite the current one, so instead I serialize the game state, then deserialize it in the new version of the program. The new code will continue running after a few seconds.

That's all for now, hope you like it! :)
 
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Awesome project!

You've done a lot of nice work here. Add me to the list, when you need test something. :)

I love these kind of "revolutionary" stuff, you don't have fear of failure or, at least, you do it anyway. That is something I support with all my heart, because it fills the emptiness of the world. :D

Looking forward for the 1st alpha. :D
 
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Awesome project!

You've done a lot of nice work here. Add me to the list, when you need test something. :)

I love these kind of "revolutionary" stuff, you don't have fear of failure or, at least, you do it anyway. That is something I support with all my heart, because it fills the emptiness of the world. :D

Looking forward for the 1st alpha. :D

Thanks micca, it means a lot to hear that! :D There's always fear of failure, but I'm having too much fun with the project in itself to be very bothered by it :D

I'll keep you in mind for testing!
 
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Thanks for the kind comments! Just a quickie update:

I'm currently working on UI stuff, needed for the upcoming level editor. There's not a lot of exciting stuff to show right now (unless you like 2d rendering tests and layout systems -_-), but I'll hopefully have more to upload once the editor is starting to take shape. I'm making steady progress nonetheless! :)
 
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Awesome to see you tackle this project! Recreating warcraft 3 is one of my dreams, but I know it's beyond me. I will be watching this with great interest :)

As for network code, will you be making the engine only deterministic lockstep like warcraft? If possible you should add the option to use a traditional client-server network structure, as some maps would work better with that.
 
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Awesome to see you tackle this project! Recreating warcraft 3 is one of my dreams, but I know it's beyond me. I will be watching this with great interest :)

As for network code, will you be making the engine only deterministic lockstep like warcraft? If possible you should add the option to use a traditional client-server network structure, as some maps would work better with that.

Thanks! :D

Yup, using lockstep. I did quite a lot of research before ending up with that choice, and I actually had a full state-sync implementation before I went for lockstep. I agree that state-sync is better for some maps (e.g. MOBA's), but in the general case I deemed it easier to go for lockstep since it makes networking almost transparent for the user. You won't have to worry about number of units, tweak network refresh rates, etc.

Since the network sync is handled in a foundation, it can be overridden (or completely rewritten) as you see fit. It's not as easy as swapping out some code, however, since all the entities in the game would suddenly require synchronization code. You might want a server-authoritative model to deter cheating. And depending on what you're after, you might also want some local prediction of your entities, and that is also tricky to get right.

With all that said, I've considered making a separate foundation with a state-sync implementation if the interest is high enough. But, it'd probably be a specialized foundation for a certain type of map (e.g. DOTA or Warlock).
 
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That sounds perfect. The system of having a "foundation" is really neat. I'd probably try my hand at making one myself, since in terms of maps I've always been more interested in making systems than content.

Any estimate on when the project will be in a state to have some modders give it a shot? That will probably also get you a lot of good feedback.
 
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That sounds perfect. The system of having a "foundation" is really neat. I'd probably try my hand at making one myself, since in terms of maps I've always been more interested in making systems than content.

Any estimate on when the project will be in a state to have some modders give it a shot? That will probably also get you a lot of good feedback.

Haha, I'm glad the setup makes sense to more people than myself! :)

About the release date: it's probably closer to next Christmas than the coming one. I would at least like to see a level editor, trigger editor, some very basic maps and rudimentary server browser before I go live. And when I say "basic" maps, I mean "not fun" :p I'd guess it would take a few more months to make something actually good with the tools, but if there's enough early interest I'll sneak out an alpha version before that.
 
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Hey there! Fellow developer here, just dropping by to say that this looks amazing, keep up the good work!

Can I ask you how you implemented the scripting part? I kinda started a project similar to this one myself because of nostalgia (after all, Warcraft's editor is what showed me that programming is my passion many years ago), so I'm really interested in how you decided to do it. I had a couple of ideas about it, one of them being a trigger-event driven system (like WC3), and the other being a script component system (like Unity, decided to go for this one since it's more robust), so I'm really curious to hear how others have done it.

Anyway, it's really great to see that someone is also inspired by Warcraft's editor, I wish you the best luck with your project!
 
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Hey there! Fellow developer here, just dropping by to say that this looks amazing, keep up the good work!

Can I ask you how you implemented the scripting part? I kinda started a project similar to this one myself because of nostalgia (after all, Warcraft's editor is what showed me that programming is my passion many years ago), so I'm really interested in how you decided to do it. I had a couple of ideas about it, one of them being a trigger-event driven system (like WC3), and the other being a script component system (like Unity, decided to go for this one since it's more robust), so I'm really curious to hear how others have done it.

Anyway, it's really great to see that someone is also inspired by Warcraft's editor, I wish you the best luck with your project!

Hey there! Thanks, I appreciate the kind words :D

I haven't actually implemented a high-level scripting system yet (i.e. trigger editor), right now it's just C#. Maps are basically just C# programs that get compiled and run (in a secure sandbox) on the receiving end. When I do implement the trigger editor, it'll just generate C# code (using Roslyn) and compile it along with the rest of the map scripts. I've done some testing and it seems pretty viable.

I chose a trigger editor over e.g. a component system because I think it'll be way easier for modders to work with, and it should also make migration easier for existing WC3 modders. If someone wants to go crazy and do custom stuff, there's always the option to go down to the underlying C# code, either partly (e.g. adding or customizing triggers) or completely.
 
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I support any initiative (good intentionally) to recreate the experience of the World Editor. However, I did not like the graphic, but I read that you are not a good 3D designer. But having engine that supports, and support of the community, depending can appear 3D models and scenarios (for work done by volunteers, etc) of graphic similar to the Dota 2, to project.

Nostalgia, I wish to recreate a map or game, etc. similar to Noob Map (similar with Anime Fight).

Has? Or will have the mechanism to reconnect the match?
 
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Hey there! Quick update: Still working on UI, and it's probably going to take at least until the summer before I can start posting pictures of editors and more fun stuff. Going quite well though, feels like I'm making good progress! :D

I support any initiative (good intentionally) to recreate the experience of the World Editor. However, I did not like the graphic, but I read that you are not a good 3D designer. But having engine that supports, and support of the community, depending can appear 3D models and scenarios (for work done by volunteers, etc) of graphic similar to the Dota 2, to project.

Nostalgia, I wish to recreate a map or game, etc. similar to Noob Map (similar with Anime Fight).

Has? Or will have the mechanism to reconnect the match?

Haha, yeah, "a good 3D designer" is not a label I'd stick to myself :p I have some ideas how to make more impressive models and graphics for the future, hopefully it'll be more to your taste. :)

Features like match reconnection is something I'm considering. Right now, it wouldn't be too hard to support, but the priority of such a feature it depends on the level of interest among the players. Do you often get disconnections in WC3?
 
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Haha, yeah, "a good 3D designer" is not a label I'd stick to myself I have some ideas how to make more impressive models and graphics for the future, hopefully it'll be more to your taste.

Features like match reconnection is something I'm considering. Right now, it wouldn't be too hard to support, but the priority of such a feature it depends on the level of interest among the players. Do you often get disconnections in WC3?

I had no problem of disconect in the epoch of Warcraft 3, which I remember. But a few match was ruined because of disconect and leavers.

Some argument in favor of having reconnect, are of progress maps. Example RPG and TDs
And dota-type maps would avoid more in ruins because of disconect. Depending for stay cool again, recreate the lobby...
 
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I had no problem of disconect in the epoch of Warcraft 3, which I remember. But a few match was ruined because of disconect and leavers.

Some argument in favor of having reconnect, are of progress maps. Example RPG, TDs, etc.
And dota-type maps would avoid more in ruins because of disconect. Depending for stay cool again, recreate the lobby...

Right, those are excellent use cases. I don't know when I'll get around to it, but I'll most likely support reconnection eventually. :)
 
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Update 2

I'm finally done with the UI system. It took ~9 months all in all, i.e. slightly more time than expected :) What I have is a bunch of standard UI controls (buttons, combo boxes, text boxes, etc). Nothing super-fancy, and I'm playing around with color themes and styles. I'm considering making a video of it all if it's interesting, but for now here's a pic:

ui_test_01.png


This is one of the pages in my UI testbed, displaying the PropertyGrid control. It's one of the more complex and powerful controls (familiar to any Windows Forms/WPF developers out there). When you select an object, it allows you to tweak any public properties. In this screenshot, the red square is selected, and it lets you tweak e.g. the color, position, rotation, and so on. I plan to use it for tweaking unit properties, among other things.

I'm glad to be done with this, because it marks the start of more exciting work: the Level Editor! :D

My goal is to make a editor more like Unity than the WC3 editor, i.e. allowing you to pause the game and examine the state at any time. I believe this would help a lot when you're debugging some weirdness going on in a map. Perhaps make the game save state dumps every few frames as well, which would allow you to "rewind" a game and examine oddities after the fact. If you can't tell, I'm very excited about things like easy and powerful debugging :)

I'm also toying with the thought of allowing per-mod customization to the editor; i.e. a mod can add custom tools and functionality to the editor. It would allow for mold-breaking mods, which sounds pretty awesome to me, but there's a potential problem with it as well. It would allow mod-makers to mess up the editor, similar to how map locking is done in WC3 maps, and I'm on the fence whether I want this or not. As I've said before, I love the idea of an open community of map sharing, but I can see the point in someone wanting to avoid others tampering with their maps. Either for creative control, avoiding hacks, or really any reason. Anyway, I'm very interested in thoughts and feedback about this, as I'll probably choose a direction very soon.
 
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Will there be some kind of beta test in the near future? :D

I'll push something out as soon as I can, but given the scope of this project it's probably gonna take a while. Also, at first it'll probably be more of a "technical demo" than a beta test; i.e. don't expect too much at first :) I'd like at least to have map editing in place (i.e. no units editing, trigger editor, etc) before uploading anything, but before that I need to get some serious groundwork in place.

Anyway, this will be the place where I'll announce anything, so subscribe to the thread if you want to stay updated! :D
 
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Update 3

Progress is moving ahead smoothly, and I now have a basic Terrain Editor in place:

terrain_editor.png


You paint tiles with the left mouse button, "pick up" tiles (get their settings) by right clicking them. There are some options to flip/rotate tiles on the top-left side, all available tiles listed to the left, and level settings (currently only the level size) in the bottom-left.

Here's a little animation of terrain editing in action:

terrain_editor.gif


I've also made it possible to run the map directly from the editor (File -> Run, or Ctrl+R), which should be nice for quickly testing the maps.

The next step is the Entity Editor, which will be used to place and tweak objects on the map.
 
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At the same time, I like your progress, but I also get lose enthusiasm with the graphics. But in the end, if it's something positive you can count on my support.
 
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Very neat. Any plans for early alpha release? Eager to try it out.

Thanks! :D I'd like to add more features before I release anything, but I'm glad you're eager to try it. I'll post more updates here as I go.

At the same time, I like your progress, but I also get lose enthusiasm with the graphics. But in the end, if it's something positive you can count on my support.

Hehe, programmer art tends to have that effect on people! :eek: I'm hoping to eventually beef up the graphics, at least with some animations, better lighting, particles, SSAO, fog etc. Thanks for your support though, including pointing out what needs to look better :)
 
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What will your software license be?

I come two thoughts:

  • If what you've done is a structure, and better graphics and 3D are easy to replace and implement.
  • And another is if your engine will have to be redone to implant good 3D graphics, etc.
 
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What will your software license be?

I come two thoughts:

  • If what you've done is a structure, and better graphics and 3D are easy to replace and implement.
  • And another is if your engine will have to be redone to implant good 3D graphics, etc.

For the engine you mean, or for the mods and user-released stuff? The engine will be free while in alpha/beta state (i.e. probably a couple of years at least), but I'm considering a commercial release. In the unlikely event that I could make a living out of the project, I'd have a lot more time working on it.

Mods released by the user will probably be done in some open/permissive license. That makes the most sense to me at least, but I'm open for suggestions. Likewise, the foundations and mods I make will probably be released under the same license.

About the graphics: I'm intentionally going for voxel art because it has a low bar of entry, meaning even a doofus like myself could make art for the game :D The same goes for anyone wanting to create their own mods and maps. The problem isn't primarily the engine, but the work of making a ton of high-res models. I do think that some better art direction and fancy shaders will make things look prettier, but even so it's going to be a style closer to Minecraft than your average modern shooter.

Personally, I love the style and there's plenty of work being done in the field, see e.g: Voxelart Styles in Video Games
 
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Update 4

Done with the entity editor! That was actually quicker than expected :eek:

entity_editor.png


I think it's pretty much what you would expect; you can place pre-defined entities on the map by selecting them on the list to the left and plopping them down. Box selection is in, and you can ctrl+click to add/remove units to the selection. Properties on the bottom-left, with support for components specifying custom properties. For example, you can make the HeathComponent expose the Health setting, should you want to control the starting health for units. Right side has a minimap (wip), zone selection and a list of units in the map.

Animated twiddling here:

entity_editor.gif
 
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Can't say for sure, depends on how much time I can work on it, how many obstacles I run into on the way, etc. Here's a mini-update though:

script_editor_01.png


This is how the script editor currently looks, WIP but getting there. There's a lot more work under the surface (data format for the scripts + code generation) that's taken the majority of the time since my last update. What I need to do next is to hook up more UI, e.g. allowing you to select between the various triggers/conditions/actions that exists, set parameters, etc.

It looks like I'll be able to take a few weeks of vacation this summer to work on the editor, but even so it's several months from being anywhere usable. After that, I probably need to work on the game code for a few more months before you can do anything interesting with the editor. That's the best time estimate I can give you right now :)
 
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