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Tiny Combat Arena, a simulation-lite, yet fun polygon-shaded flight simulator

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Asid:
One Year of Early Access
Fri, February 24, 2023



Hello! I can't believe it's already been a year! Tiny Combat Arena's reception and sales, even in its Early Access state, has wildly exceeded my expectations. I can't say thank you enough to you and the people who made this happen behind the scenes.

When I posted the Early Access description over a year ago, I had planned for the Early Access period to last for 12-18 months. We're now at the start of that window. I'm further behind that I'd like to be, but the pace of work has picked up recently for several reasons.

1. Vehicle AI uses real and extremely performant pathfinding
Vehicle AI pathfinding now has a proper and high performance solution. With this in mind, vehicles are free to move around when before any kind of vehicle movement was buggy and performance intensive. The new AI pathfinding also allows for maps to be much more interesting, since a practically infinite flat plane is no longer a requirement, and they can follow/avoid terrain features such as roads or forests.




2. New terrain and terrain tools in development
This is a really big one. In the past couple weeks, I've brought on a technical artist with experience and a love for retro games, to help with terrain generation and map creation.

Terrains have been, across every
version of Tiny Combat that has ever existed, a nightmare that would keep me up at night. While I was making steady progress on a new terrain, I hit a wall where I realized that I just don't have the time to do this myself. I used to say that tooling for terrains had just evolved in a different direction from what I needed, and that to make the terrains I wanted I'd literally have to make new tools from scratch. That's where they come in! In the past couple weeks, new tools have been developed for Blender to create terrain in ways that I could only fantasize about before.

Below are some very early WIP images of a redo of the largest island on the Sand Island map using the new technology. I'm really excited for what this means for future map development.

Parametrically drawn features such as flat areas on which bases, towns, and buildings can be drawn.


Parametrically and non-destructively cutting unique features such as canyons into the terrain.



3. The campaign framework is in place
Long overdue considering that this was meant to be a core aspect of the game. My vision for Arena had been for smaller individual Arena missions to be stringed together across a larger campaign map. With the terrain being taken care of, this lets me focus on the Arena mechanics, their missions, UI, and filling in the missing gameplay features.




What's coming?
The old roadmap post is still relevant, so I recommend checking that out. Almost all aspects of it are in progress to some degree, with a lot of tangential work such as the new user experience, control tweaks, and many other changes immediately post-release to address the most pressing problems, and bugs having been completed in the last year.

An update on everything on the roadmap:

    Expanded Arena Map UI - The Arena map now has a proper camera, but the UI for drawing bases and other strategic information is still in need of a rather large overhaul.
    Campaigns - The functionality is done. The only thing missing is content.
    Finished Sand Island Map - See above. A new developer has been brought on to create terrain tools, finish the map, and create new maps.
    Air defense and Defensive Structures/Units - Internally, these have been called "tactical targets" and are in progress right now.
    Improved Offensive and Defensive Missile Combat - No work has specifically been done on this since then, but is in progress right now. Flares will get some tweaking, chaff will become functional, new UI has to be created to give the player information to dodge missiles, and finally all the necessary AI to make this fun. Missiles are a very multi-faceted issue.
    Custom Loadouts - Custom loadouts are already completely possible and supported within the game, it's only lacking UI. Since then, it's now possible to select loadouts in instant action and before flights in Arena, but a dedicated UI for creating new loadouts is still to come.


While still not "strategically" important, I've started working on all the missile related items needed to get AI, both ground and air based, firing missiles. I know it's a year late, but it was one of those things that as a developer
just isn't really wasn't that important to where I was in the game to have them done. However, between player feedback and hitting the point where mission design is going to become relevant very soon, it's time.




It's nice too that this stuff is really fun and motivating to work on.

Asid:
0.11.1.1 Patch Notes (Testers branch)
Mon, May 22, 2023



New Features:
- Hardcoded escape button to escape on keyboard
- Additional bindable "escape" key is now bound to "Start" on the gamepad by default
- Player can now eject
  + Pilots are now a viewable object (only when ownship ejects)
  + Fixed pilot rotations to face forwards
  + Option to trigger either by hold or triple press
  + When ejecting during Arena missions, pilot is not lost, only aircraft
- Added SA-9 IR guided surface to air missile (SAM) vehicle
  + Vehicle launchers can have a finite or infinite number of reloads
- (JSON) Vehicle turret "Type" property no longer used
- (JSON) Vehicle missile turrets require "LauncherMounts" in the "Model" of the turret
- Completely redone HUD designed for customization and more universal usability
- HUD "Instrument" (TWD and Radar) design changes
  + TWD shows incoming missiles and incoming missile type
  + Can be configured to 4:3, 16:9, or screen edge
  + Three different display styles : Borders, Transparent, Clear
- RWR Codes system to different aircraft can display different RWR symbology labels
- Radar shows lock target type and altitude
- Tape added to the heading indicator
- Pitch ladder (optional)
  + Reacts automatically to field of view (Thanks Vazgriz!)
- Waterline and flight path marker (optional)
- VTOL HUD mode automatically activated when nozzle angle >30 and ground speed <200 knots
  + If in NAV mode, NAV will switch to say VTOL
  + Flight path marker symbology switches to lose the top mark
  + Pitch ladder caged and used as vertical velocity indicator (1 degree = 100 feet/min)
- Input debugger is now part of the HUD (optional)
- Fuel gauge (optional) which displays both internal and external fuel separately
- New HUD is now (optionally) available in the Chase (F3 by default) view
  + When in third person, the HUD takes on a wider format
- Radar and IR missile symbology adjusted and now shows target aspect
- Target boxes have a SHOOT cue that coincides with seeker lock
- DLZ added with very questionable calculations (WIP)
- Time to impact shown on DLZ for previously launched munitions
- Ground targets on the radar appear as indistinct blobs (AAA still has a unique symbol)
- Important ground targets will always be bright and highlighted
- Gunsight shows current range to target, or slant range to ground, along with gun max range
- Added fixed gun cross which situationally appears
  + If no target or A-G, fixed gun cross is replaced by gun piper when aimed at the ground
  + If A-A target is selected, fixed gun cross is always visible
- Blinking incoming missile text on the HUD, coincides with audio beep
- Missile warning ducks the constant lock tone

Improvements:
- Missile seeker diamond now tries to move towards locked target instead of moving only when target has entered seeker angle
- Cockpit SFX slider defaults to 50%
- Flak smoke lingers for longer

Bugfixes:
- Chase/external no longer centered on the viewable's position last frame
- Aircraft control surface animations no longer play after ejection
- Target lists no longer getting clogged with invalid references every level load
- When Harrier engine is off, it reads ambient temperature instead of 0
- Fixed NRE caused by attempting to view vehicles when there are no vehicles

Balance:
- GAU-12 muzzle velocity reduced 1600 -> 1300
- GAU-12 time to live reduced 1.5 -> 1.3
- Normalized the bullet diameter for AI aircraft guns
  + Gsh-23 reduced greatly 10.0 -> 2.5
  + M61/M39 increased 1.0 -> 2.5
- All dumb bombs now have penetration, allowing them to do full damage to tanks on a direct hit
- AV8B countermeasure fire rate doubled (0.2 -> 0.1 delay)
- SA9 tweaks
  + 9M31 MaxRange lowered 8000 -> 5000
  + 9M31 EffectiveRange lowered 6000 -> 4500
  + Turret MaxRange lowered 6000 -> 5000
  + Turret FireDelay raised 10 -> 15
- ZSU-57-2 range increased 5000 -> 6000
- Added SA-9 to several bases in the Arena Demo mission

Asid:
0.11.1.2 Testers Branch Changelog
Thu, May 25, 2023


Improvements:
- Pitch ladder graphics and text made thinner

Bugfixes:
- Thrust to weight ratio on STOVL MFD page reads correctly again
- Nozzle (and thrust too probably) should no longer read negative or strange values
- Stick and rudder input no longer persists through player respawn in Arena (very old bug, finally fixed!)
- Fixed uncommanded ejection on respawn if eject was mashed after player had already ejected
- HUD elements should no longer appear behind the player aircraft
- Removed the effective radar range dotted line (was appearing in strange places, may rework this later)
- Radar symbology should no longer clip out of the radar display

Balance:
- AV8B radar ranges increased slightly
  + EffectiveRange 8000 -> 9200
  + MaxRange 10000 -> 14500
 

Asid:
0.11.1.3 Testers Build
Sun, June 4, 2023


Changelog

New Features:
- Working PAPI lights added to several airfields on the Island map
- Added physics props affected by explosions and aircraft engines
  + Traffic cones placed around several airfields
- Added cheat "coneposting"

Improvements:
- Changes to how "ExplodeOnImpact" JSON property is handled by bullets
  + Explosion damage is now done IN ADDITION to impact damage
  + Explosion effect is now triggered only when a bullet times out with "ExplodeOnTimeout" set to true
- Tightened requirements for VTOL HUD mode (<100 knots, >55 degrees nozzle)
- Added LOD to the PAPI light enclosures

Bugfixes:
- Gun cross no longer appears behind jet
- Gun and munititions can no longer be fired after ejection
- Store attachment points correctly account for non-uniform scaling
- Version/Steam connection status text on bottom left now get spaced correctly at 1600x1200

Asid:
0.11.1.4 Changelog
Mon, 12 June 2023



Check out this link for the full news post detailing the changes.

Changelog

New Features:
- Hardcoded escape button to escape on keyboard
- Additional bindable "escape" key is now bound to "Start" on the gamepad by default
- Player can now eject
  + Pilots are now a viewable object (only when ownship ejects)
  + Fixed pilot rotations to face forwards
  + Option to trigger eitehr by hold or triple press
  + When ejecting during Arena missions, pilot is not lost, only aircraft
- Added SA-9 IR guided surface to air missile (SAM) vehicle
  + Vehicle launchers can have a finite or infinite number of reloads
- (JSON) Vehicle turret "Type" property no longer used
- (JSON) Vehicle missile turrets require "LauncherMounts" in the "Model" of the turret
- Completely redone HUD designed for customization and more universal usability
- HUD "Instrument" (TWD and Radar) design changes
  + TWD shows incoming missiles and incoming missile type
  + Can be configured to 4:3, 16:9, or screen edge
  + Three different display styles : Borders, Transparent, Clear
- RWR Codes system to different aircraft can display different RWR symbology labels
- Radar shows lock target type and altitude
- Tape added to the heading indicator
- Pitch ladder (optional)
  + Reacts automatically to field of view (Thanks Vazgriz!)
- Waterline and flight path marker (optional)
- VTOL HUD mode automatically activated when nozzle angle >30 and ground speed <200 knots
  + If in NAV mode, NAV will switch to say VTOL
  + Flight path marker symbology switches to lose the top mark
  + Pitch ladder caged and used as vertical velocity indicator (1 degree = 100 feet/min)
- Input debugger is now part of the HUD (optional)
- Fuel gauge (optional) which displays both internal and external fuel separately
- New HUD is now (optionally) available in the Chase (F3 by default) view
  + When in third person, the HUD takes on a wider format
- Radar and IR missile symbology adjusted and now shows target aspect
- Target boxes have a SHOOT cue that coincides with seeker lock
- DLZ added with very questionable calculations (WIP)
- Time to impact shown on DLZ for previously launched munitions
- Ground targets on the radar appear as indistinct blobs (AAA still has a unique symbol)
- Important ground targets will always be bright and highlighted
- Gunsight shows current range to target, or slant range to ground, along with gun max range
- Added fixed gun cross which situationally appears
  + If no target or A-G, fixed gun cross is replaced by gun piper when aimed at the ground
  + If A-A target is selected, fixed gun cross is always visible
- Blinking incoming missile text on the HUD, coincides with audio beep
- Missile warning ducks the constant lock tone
- Working PAPI lights added to several airfields on the Island map
- Added physics props affected by explosions and aircraft engines
  + Traffic cones placed around several airfields
- Added cheat "coneposting"
- Friendly airfields can be rearmed/refueled at in Free Flight, Dogfight, and Strike
- Sand Island and Expeditionary airfields are now proper (though unused) strategic targets

Improvements:
- Missile seeker diamond now tries to move towards locked target instead of moving only when target has entered seeker angle
- Cockpit SFX slider defaults to 50%
- Flak smoke lingers for longer
- Pitch ladder graphics and text made thinner
- Changes to how "ExplodeOnImpact" JSON property is handled by bullets
  + Explosion damage is now done IN ADDITION to impact damage
  + Explosion effect is now triggered only when a bullet times out with "ExplodeOnTimeout" set to true
- Tightened requirements for VTOL HUD mode (<100 knots, >55 degrees nozzle)
- Added LOD to the PAPI light enclosures
- Rearm/refuel message now appears at any throttle setting

Bugfixes:
- Chase/external no longer centered on the viewable's position last frame
- Aircraft control surface animations no longer play after ejection
- Target lists no longer getting clogged with invalid references every level load
- When Harrier engine is off, it reads ambient temperature instead of 0
- Fixed NRE caused by attempting to view vehicles when there are no vehicles
- Thrust to weight ratio on STOVL MFD page reads correctly again
- Nozzle (and thrust too probably) should no longer read negative or strange values
- Stick and rudder input no longer persists through player respawn in Arena (very old bug, finally fixed!)
- Fixed uncommanded ejection on respawn if eject was mashed after player had already ejected
- HUD elements should no longer appear behind the player aircraft
- Removed the effective radar range dotted line (was appearing in strange places, may rework this later)
- Radar symbology should no longer clip out of the radar display
- Gun cross no longer appears behind jet
- Gun and munititions can no longer be fired after ejection
- Store attachment points correctly account for non-uniform scaling
- Version/Steam connection status text on bottom left now get spaced correctly at 1600x1200
- Restored the HUD rearm/refuel message when landed on a friendly base
- Fixed errors caused by despawning an aircraft with physics props in its engine wash
- Enabled extra padding on all HUD text so it renders correctly at low scale values

Balance:
- GAU-12 muzzle velocity reduced 1600 -> 1300
- GAU-12 time to live reduced 1.5 -> 1.3
- Normalized the bullet diameter for AI aircraft guns
  + Gsh-23 reduced greatly 10.0 -> 2.5
  + M61/M39 increased 1.0 -> 2.5
- All dumb bombs now have penetration, allowing them to do full damage to tanks on a direct hit
- AV8B countermeasure fire rate doubled (0.2 -> 0.1 delay)
- SA9 tweaks
  + 9M31 MaxRange lowered 8000 -> 5000
  + 9M31 EffectiveRange lowered 6000 -> 4500
  + Turret MaxRange lowered 6000 -> 5000
  + Turret FireDelay raised 10 -> 15
- ZSU-57-2 range increased 5000 -> 6000
- Added SA-9 to several bases in the Arena Demo mission
- AV8B radar ranges increased slightly
  + EffectiveRange 8000 -> 9200
  + MaxRange 10000 -> 14500
- GAU-12 now does 67% of its damage through explosive splash damage
  + Impact damage reduced 15 -> 5
  + ImpactForce reduced 50 -> 5
  + ExplodeOnImpact false -> true
  + BlastRadius 5 -> 10
  + SplashDamage 0 -> 10
- Gsh-23/M39/M61 now do 80% of their damage through explosive splash damage
  + ImpactDamage 10 -> 2
  + ImpactForce 50 -> 5
  + ExplodeOnImpact false -> true
  + SplashDamage 0 -> 8
- The above changes make aircraft guns slightly less effective against armor
- However they will damage unarmored vehicles (e.g. aircraft and APCs) more easily

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