Devblog #12: Prepare for Launch

Good news: Thrive now has its own dedicated launcher. Even better news: there’s a whole new release available as a demonstration of its abilities. This Devblog will run through both, as well as the general miscellaneous updates we post to make sure nobody mistakenly thinks the project is dead.

Release 0.3.4

Thrive 0.3.4 isn’t a large release on the surface, but underneath our programmers have been hard at work on some very important features and fixes. And for the first time, we have a voice-over (by developer MontySpud) for our trailer:

Launcher

As you may have seen on social media, developer hhyyrylainen has built us a Thrive launching program. Why is such a thing needed? For one, the launcher handles downloading of new releases on its own – download and run the launcher, and you’ll never have to manually download a full release again. It also comes with handy links and feeds from our development forum and website.

In future it’ll play a much larger role. Whenever it detects a new release, only changed files will be overwritten. Neither you nor the launcher will have to download the entire thing ever again. Considering the bulkiness of our physics and graphics backend systems, this is pretty handy. You’ll also be able to run old versions of Thrive, as well as manage mods. None of these features are implemented yet, but as always this is one more step in the right direction. We have a separate GitHub repository for the launcher here; if you’re a programmer with Javascript, HTML or CSS experience, this might be something to work on.

Process System Overhaul

Meanwhile, developer crodnu has wrestled with the temperamental process system, the logic involved in collecting and converting compounds within cells. The compound bars featured in the GUI of our last release revealed a strange bug where cells would lose all their starting ATP and remain at near zero from then on. We’ve done our best to fix this and other process issues, so compound changes should now be much more readable.

Lua Scripting Rewrite

As if that’s not enough, we’ve also completely rewritten the way the game handles Lua files. Lua files are the scripting on top of the engine, and until now have been the game’s major performance bottleneck. Thanks to another titanic programming effort from hhyyrylainen, the game now runs on a completely different form of Lua.

It’s hard to state why this is such a major change. We recommend you look at the absolutely enormous list of code changes on GitHub to get the full picture. With this upgrade came a couple of major crash fixes, though we’re still on the lookout for information which could help us fix more. If you have a crash while playing, let us know in the bug reports section of our forums, and make sure you post a screenshot of the console printout. If you don’t, our programmers have nothing to go on to help fix the issue.

Other News

It’s been quite a while since our last Devblog. Many minor things have happened in that time. We’ve collated them below for your convenience.

Unreal Engine Conversion

Not content with contributing two massive lumps of code to this release, hyyrylainen has also been making tentative steps into a potential engine conversion. Since the beginning, Thrive has run on a custom engine built with Ogre and Bullet, and let’s just say it has…issues. Inability to take screenshots, difficulty using alt-tab, large file sizes, and most prominently, endless headaches for new programmers wishing to set up a development build make it unwieldly at best. It’s certainly served us well, but the need for an accessible programming environment drove us to consider alternatives.

The best alternative appears to be Unreal Engine 4. Unlike all engines available when we started building Thrive a couple of years ago, it’s open-source, which makes it appropriate for use in our project.

In the interests of fair comparison, hhyyrylainen is working on a copy of Thrive 0.3.4 constructed inside Unreal. You can find progress and thoughts on the relative merits here. We feel that if it’s possible to develop what we already have in a reasonable timeframe without any major compromises, a complete engine switch will benefit the project significantly in future. Please test it out by downloading here.

To make it clear, this is nowhere near a certainty, merely an experiment. If it goes well, expect to see us moving into the realms of unreality sometime soon. If not, Ogre it is (unless any of you have suggestions for alternatives, and we’d love to hear them).

Website Changes

We recently posted a survey asking for your opinions on our outreach and web presences. You can check out a brief overview of the findings here.

The main findings centred on adjustments to our many websites. Our main website homepage has undergone significant change, incorporating: feeds from our Devblog and development forums, more prominent links to forums and Wikis, more efficient space usage, and of course the good old Disturbance. We’re still working out the kinks, so let us know what you think of it and if there’s anything else we could add.

Our community forums also look noticeably different. White on white was alright, but we decided it was better to showcase some concept art with a more adventurous colour scheme. If this scheme isn’t to your liking, fear not – if you create a profile, you can choose from a bunch of premade themes we’ve worked on. Go to Profile -> Edit Profile -> Settings and under the Forum Theme dropdown, select the one you want to go on a new colourful Thrive adventure.

Subreddit of the Day

Our first step towards more involved self-promotion was the day r/thrive was named subreddit of the day. Exposure to new people is always a tense experience for us – will they see potential in the project or think us morons for pursuing it? Responses to the SROTD post were encouraging, and you can read our own subreddit’s thread on the event – which quickly became the most upvoted submission on the subreddit ever – here.

Expect more news in the outreach department soon. In the meantime, keep spreading the word.

Art Competition

Anyone of an artistic nature might be interested in joining our community forum art competition, running every month in this thread. Submissions can be any form of static visual media you want – digital art, 3D models, pencil drawings, paintings, etc. Users vote on their favourites for each month, and the winning submission each month will be posted to Thrive’s Facebook and Twitter feeds. Winners will also receive time machines to see the completed version of Thrive in 2150.

Terms and conditions apply. Time machine delivery dependent on someone inventing it in the future and going back in time to give it to you.

Latest Livestream

Shortly after the release of Thrive 0.3.3, we staged another livestream showing off its features, discussing random topics and answering fan questions. Despite a disconnected microphone leading to a load of us accidentally talking over hhyyrylainen as he explained the engine, it went well and we all had fun in the process. Schedules mean it’ll be difficult to organise another in the near future, but keep an eye out.

Memes

And finally, memes have started appearing on our subreddit. Memes as a scientific concept are a potential feature of the game in the Society and Industrial stages (and you can read some or join some discussion on them here), but we obviously can’t pass up the opportunity to make our own image-based stupid inside jokes. Does this deserve a whole section in a Devblog? Probably not. Oh well.

That’s it for the latest Thrive news – stay tuned for more in the coming months!

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