In the last few weeks, we've really accelerated our work on the campaign. We've been pushing ahead a lot with both the scripting and blocking out the physical level design. One of the problems we've come up against a lot, is that we often need to perform custom edits to the map, which are quite tedious, but not common enough to add a new tool to the map editor for them. For example, something like "disable all the spawners in this region".
This kind of problem is easily solved with a little bit of custom Lua code, but getting the specification of the area we want to edit into Lua is a painful process of noting down and typing out location coordinates. It is also easy to lose track of these Lua snippets, as there is no good place to save them.
To solve this problem, we decided to add a Lua snippet tool to the map editor. This tool will let you drag your cursor over an area, and it will then run your custom Lua code on that area. The snippets are named, and saved in your player-data.json, so you can keep them around for later.
For example, this simple snippet replaces trees with biters.
Currently, there doesn't seem to be a very big scene for community made custom maps/scenarios with custom maps, and we're hoping that the example from the campaign once released, as well as the much improved editor we have in 0.17 will encourage more people to give this a go.
As some of you may have heard, Apple is introducing a new system called notarizing to their MacOS apps. This is a system where you sign your packages and upload them to apple so they can run something akin to a virus scan, and mark it as approved. As of the new MacOS Catalina version, this will be mandatory. Our friends at Valve were nice enough to send us a warning with some info about the process. Up until now, our MacOS binaries haven't even been signed at all, so this seemed like a good time to get on that. To be clear, you could, and can play unsigned factorio binaries on MacOS, but you need to change your security settings to do so (or so I thought).
To test, I grabbed the .app of 0.17.69, signed it, uploaded it to apples notarization server, and got the notarization process to succeed (eventually). I then copied it onto a completely fresh, default settings install of macOS Catalina, double clicked it, and it ran, with no security prompt. Problem solved, right? Well, after that I decided to do a sanity check, and copied over the completely unsigned binary of 0.17.68, and it ran just fine as well, also with no security prompt.
So, at this point, it seems like we don't really have a way to test this process, so all we can do is set things up correctly to the best of our abilities, and see if it works for people. The next Factorio release should include signed and notarised macOS binaries, so if anyone has problems with 0.17.70 security warning on macOS, please let us know. This whole process has been rather slow and painful (just getting the notarizing tool working was a bit of a saga in itself), and doesn't inspire much confidence in Apple's developer ecosystem, so if anyone at Apple is reading this, please, please, make this process better.
Also to make it known again, we are still looking for a macOS developer to join our team, so if you are interested or know someone who is, please checkout the job listing.
For a long time we have been improving the biter pathing, with many iterative changes and tweaks. However we have long had a problem in the moment where a group of biters encounters the players base. I am sure the scene below is familiar to all Factorio players:
This mating dance or whatever it is, has long been a thorn in our side. The reason behind it is quite logical. When moving, the biters are in a group, and everything goes smoothly. However when they see an enemy, they are 'distracted' by it, and individually try to attack it. Since the biters are now moving and pathing as individuals, things start to get messy. The biters find a path, but then there is another biter in the way, so he tries to move and turn around, but there are biters in the way there too, and each of those biters are trying the same thing, so it all goes gets clogged up for a while.
The solution we have decided, which some might consider a 'hack' is that we simply don't make biters collide with other biters. In the engine this was a rather simple change, and was already possible just using normal mods. The result speaks for itself:
There is already some 'separation' logic in the engine to keep biters from getting too close to each other, so in the end we get away with a lot of the benefit of no collisions, without the immediate/obvious problem of biters infinitely stacking. There might be some smaller issues to pop-up with this change, and maybe some balancing tweaks to be made, but we are happy with the outcome so far.
Next week I'll be in Poland for 3 events:
Over the weekend, two of us (wheybags + Abregado) entered the Ludum Dare game jam. A game jam is an event where people make a game as completely as can be in a fixed time-frame (in this case 48 hours). We ended up making a rather Factorio-appropriate gear puzzle game. Check it out if you're interested.
As always, let us know what you think on our forum.