XCOMRL

Tune Up

by Kyzrati on 20120511 , under ,

Rogue Engine X, which was originally blazing fast, just got a little slower***, but it's going to be worth it!

Several months back I was fretting over what to do about the low readability of square fonts when you have long text strings or even a paragraph to read. After all, it's hard for the eyes to quickly parse that kind of unusual arrangement of characters--too much empty space. Eventually I threw out the idea of multiple fonts as not necessarily worth dirtying up the elegant and extremely efficient console-handling code in the engine.

Then a little while back jday brought it up again over on #rgrd and reminded me how important the text is in X-COM, so I started to think about it again, and realized that if it's not done now, it ain't gonna happen. Well... it's already happened, so I don't have to worry about that anymore!

Seeing as how it's going to revolutionize the upcoming UI, I had to fit it in now or the entire layout would have to be redesigned in the future. And revolutionary it is... think about all that extra info which can fit in there! The HUD will be twice as informative; the in-game log will be easier to scan; reading descriptions and stories won't torture your eyes; map overlay text will be a lot more readable, and more readily distinguishable from the map ASCII... the list goes on.

In order to keep the speed reasonably fast, the engine restricts the narrow text font width to exactly half that of the square glyphs so it lines up nicely for the rendering system--a bit limiting, but it still works out. Compare the appearance of these windows:

The command list. Though this particular window eventually won't exist in this form, it's a good example of how much easier it is to scan a list written using a narrower font.

...is now...
 
The inventory screen.
...is now...
The log window. You guys haven't even seen this one yet! Text message work is still ongoing, and I haven't chosen colors yet, but this is a prime example of how reading a bunch of wide text would be quite annoying. In case you're wondering what the hell is going on, this is an X-COM rookie deathmatch in the sandbox =P
...is now...

Note that the specific fonts shown here are of course just something thrown together for testing.

One advantage of the new system is that the game now supports an unlimited number of fonts, which the engine organizes into sets that can be easily modded in through a configuration file. So the UI will now be able to introduce different individual fonts for different purposes, wherever it happens to work well aesthetically.

Look for a modest R6 soon.

In other news, I see that Xenonauts is kicking butt on Kickstarter after only the first couple days. Makes me jealous, and has also gotten me fantasizing about doing something similar with X@COM one day. Thinking realistically, there's not quite the same potential fan base for a non-graphical remake, but it doesn't hurt to dream! It'd be pretty amazing to attract enough money to develop X@COM full-time for a bit. Of course, to get on Kickstarter I'd have to rebrand the game (and perhaps instead tack on the original X-COM content later on as an unofficial "mod"). Not really a big deal, since it's just a bit of text, and my ultimate goal is to take this far beyond the original anyway. Meh, who knows.

***Okay, maybe not just a little slower... The required changes ended up dropping the REX rendering loop to something like 40% of its original speed. Sheesh...
2 comments more...

2 comments

  • Todd Page

    Nice! That was the only thing that kept me from loving 100% of Cogmind.. having to squint my old-man eyes to see anything on the screen. New font looks great.

    When your game is all text, you cannot underestimate the significance of a good font. (Learned that one the hard way)

  • Kyzrati

    Hey Todd, thanks! If you've got a large screen, Cogmind does come with much bigger fonts, some almost twice as large as the default, but you have to swap them in manually in the fonts directory. Check out a screenshot here. There's no support for eye-friendly narrow fonts, but at least they're larger!

    I like font design, but I haven't had a chance yet to do some good ones for X@COM.

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