Newsletter August 2015

A Helping Hand

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Welcome

Hello, and welcome to this month's Von Neumann Defense Force newsletter! I'm Hanno, VNDF's lead developer and chief newsletter engineer.

Those last few weeks have been productive ones, and a lot of visible progress has been made. I can't take credit for all of that though, as another developer has recently joined the VNDF team!

Let's dive right into what happened since the last newsletter:

  • Introducing Chris Gill: For the first time ever, a second developer has joined the team.
  • Another Round of CLI Improvements: It just won't stop: The command-line interface has gotten better yet again.
  • User Interface Improvements: The user interface has been improved, and a lot of information that was previously only available via the CLI has been moved to the graphical interface.
  • Window Resizing: The game window can now be resized, and it actually works like you'd expect.
  • Better Physics: The navigation work that begun a few months ago keeps moving forward ever so slowly.
  • IPv6 Support: The VNDF website and the game itself can now be accessed with the new version of the Internet Protocol.

Have fun with this month's newsletter and please email any feedback to mail@hannobraun.de. Do you have any questions about VNDF in general or the contents of this newsletter specifically? Please let me know!

Introducing Chris Gill

I'm excited to introduce a new member of the Von Neumann Development Team: Chris Gill (GitHub, Twitter)!

Chris has been a reader of the VNDF newsletter for a while, and offered his help after the July newsletter. I'm very happy to have Chris on board, and he already did a lot in his first month, as you'll see throughout the rest of this newsletter.

Doubling the team size from 1 to 2 has required some adjustments, as communication and project management can no longer happen just inside my head, but the transition has been remarkably smooth. I'm looking forward to keep working with Chris, and I'm excited to see what we'll be able to do over the next few months.

Another Round of CLI Improvements

The command-line interface has proven very valuable since its introduction. As I hoped, it allowed me to prototype new features with minimal effort on the UI side.

As one of his first tasks, Chris went to work on adding new useful features to the CLI. By pressing the up and down keys, you can now navigate through the history of previous commands. It has also become possible to edit a command using the usual keys used for text editing (Left, Right, Home, End, Delete and Backspace).

User Interface Improvements

Being able to quickly prototype features is all very well, but eventually, established features need to be moved to the graphical part of the user interface. This was another area that Chris focused on over the last few weeks, with great success. Among other improvements, a lot of information that was previously only accessible from the command-line interface is now visible in the graphical interface:

  • A ship's id is now displayed above the ship.
  • The navigation data (position and velocity) of each ship is displayed next to it.
  • The ship's current velocity is also displayed as a straight line originating from the ship. Eventually, we hope to extend this into a full-blown course prediction, taking scheduled maneuvers and gravity by celestial objects (which aren't in the game yet) into account.
  • If a ship is sending a broadcast message, it is visible below the ship.
  • Ships are now color-coded. The player's own ship has a different color from other ships, making it easier to make sense of what's going on.
  • Finally, the camera now follows the player's ship, so you can no longer lose your own ship because it flew out of the screen.

Here's a screenshot that shows off all those improvements:

Two ships, with information about them displayed next to them

(click to see full size)

Window Resizing

It has long been possible to resize the game's window, but now, thanks to Chris, it actually works correctly. The game will use all the available space to render its graphics.

The game window running maximised on a 4k monitor

(click to see full size)

This is the game with a fully maximised window on the new 4k monitor I have in my office. This actually showcases another problem, as the text and symbols are way too small at this resolution, but one problem at a time.

Better Physics

Navigating through space has become better yet again: Since last month, it's possible to schedule multiple maneuvers in advance. Now, those maneuvers no longer change the ship's velocity instantly. Instead, they apply a thrust in the direction of the maneuver over time, like, you know, a real space ship would.

IPv6 Support

As technically inclined computer users are likely to already know, the currently dominant version of the Internet Protocol, IPv4, will no longer provide enough addresses to connect all the devices to the Internet that will require connecting in the future. I've made sure that Von Neumann Defense Force will keep working by adding support for IPv4's successor, IPv6.

This also solved some problems that occured when players were already connected via IPv6. From now on, both versions of the protocol should work smoothly.

See You Next Time

Do you have any questions about this newsletter or Von Neumann Defense Force in general? Send them to me! I'd love to do a Q & A in some future newsletter.

Thanks for reading, and see you again for next month's newsletter!