Projects » Shining Online » Development Notes

Development Notes

Raw development notes from Shining Online. Newest changes at the top.


  • Movement grid now flashes.
  • Movement grid now takes land types into account when calculating the
    movement grid.


  • Updated movement grid to take entity team into account. Players can pass
    through other playable characters but not enemies. Likewise, enemies can
    pass through other enemies but not player characters.


  • Rebuilt the pangolin xml tileset loader to remove the dependency on libxml.
  • Added a "tsx" tileset loader (from Tiled). Can now export tilesets from
    tiled and load them straight into the game, or convert them to binary for
    faster loading.


  • Updated movement grid to take other entities into account.


  • Basic movement grid is now calculated at the start of the player's turn. It
    doesn't take buffs or land effects into account yet.
  • Movement grid is now rendered in the correct position. It's ugly, but it
    shows. The current rendering system made it pretty easy to integrate, so
    that makes a nice change.


  • Created a Shining Force style movement calculator. Basic obstructions are
    working correctly, and there is also support for land effects. I'm not
    convinced land effects are 100% accurate, but they're close enough for now.


  • Added a custom resource for storing UI definitions. These were previously
    treated as raw files by the resource manager, which meant they couldn't take
    advantage of resource caching or preloading.


  • Added custom event for working with Entities. Only used by the UI at the


  • Can now give an item to another character. It's a little dodgy but it works.


  • Fixed a couple of bugs with the inventory menu not switching states
  • Started work on the "give items" process.


  • Updated another two screens to use UI binding. Removes a LOT of code.


  • Cleaned up some internal loading code to remove a lot of copy/pasted code.
  • Update stories to support a rules directory, as well as a single rules
    file. Over time the rules system has grown and a single file isn't really as
    readable as it used to be.


  • UI elements can now be shown or hidden based on the result of an
    expression. This is useful for things like "hide weapon icon if no weapon".
  • Added "original" data storage to UI definitions. This is to prevent data
    binding from overwriting the original interpolation statements.
  • UI builder can now rebind elements. Useful for when data has changed and the
    UI needs to be updated but not rebuilt.
  • Updated a couple of screens to use the new data binding setup. Makes the
    panel code much smaller and easier to read. There's a slight performance
    hit, but it's not noticeable at all in release mode.


  • Added the expression evaluator as a service. Added some very early
    integration into the UI builder, so UI text can now contain expressions like
    ${ leader_name } and have it replaced with the correct text.

    Next up – entity data binding!

  • Entity data binding is now working! It's still more of a test implementation
    than anything robust, but it's possibly to dynamically set a UI element's
    text to an entity's field value entirely from UI configuration values.

    For example, a UI text element can be set to show the main character's
    weapon name using an expression in the definition file, rather than having
    to compute it via code. There's a slight performance hit, but it means the
    UI definition isn't tied directly to internals and can be updated without


  • Started work on extracting the expression evaluator from blam to its own
    module. This will then be used to add some simple (and I do mean simple)
    binding capabilities to the user interface module.

    The plan is to be able to bind an entity field to text label, but with
    support for basic logic (e.g. hide_if, show_if) and some simple text


  • Accidentally fixed a UI bug where elements were getting added to the
    renderer twice.


  • Finished the rebuild of the message box system and integrated it into the
    script engine. Everything fits together much nicer now, and it makes more
    sense to have input handling in a screen (like every other interactive
    feature) than in a background action. Still not sure what I was thinking


  • Started rebuilding how text messages are displayed. Currently works using a
    background action, which isn't really a good way to do it at all. Also fixed
    word wrapping and added automatic sizes. Next step is integrating it into
    the scripting engine.


  • Spent two days fixing UI interaction bugs. My least favourite thing.


  • Got the town menu animating correctly and working fairly well. Can use it to
    open the status screen and and inventory screen. Transitions all work and
    can be configured.


  • Extracted a bunch of common screen functionality to a common class that
    other screens can extend. Wraps up the resource manager, rules database and
    animation systems. Should have done it ages ago.


  • Character summary screen now takes weapon and armour stats into account.


  • Character magic screen now shows information about a character's spells (MP
    cost, range and power).


  • Started work on item tooltips. Lots of info to squeeze into a small space.


  • Finally got font style resources working, so everything in the UI can now be
    customized. Really simple fix and I'm not sure why I didn't think of it in
    the first place.


  • Fixed a couple of major bugs with older status screeens. Mostly fixing where
    functions have been moved around and tidied up.
  • Finished process for dropping items. Windows and text need polishing and it
    needs to feel a bit better, but otherwise it works.
  • Added some very basic helpers for storing strings in data files. Can replace
    pre-defined tokens from within the string. Might make it possible to replace
    any component field, but that seems like it could cause issues further down
    the line.


  • Spent far too long fixing a bunch of animation issues with the offline
    inventory screen. It's starting to become a tangle of states and event
    handlers which isn't great. Slowly getting there.


  • Started work on dropping items. Can select an item to drop and select "don't
    drop". All animates (mostly) correctly. Dropping the item is up next.


  • Improved the table UI builder slightly. Things like column alignments and
    cell padding can now be set via a config file.
  • Tidied up the offline equip process. Displays a proper message box when
    attempting to equip something in a slot that has no valid items.
  • Item list is now correctly filtered when equipping weapons and
    accessories. So weapons no longer appear when trying to equip an accessory
    (and vice-versa)


  • Menu screen can now configure its appearance. Probably should have used a ui
    definition file for this, so it might change in the future.
  • Menu tooltips can automatically resize depending on the text being
  • Cleaned up a few bits of graphics and completely broke text rendering in the
    process. Whoops.
  • Fixed text rendering. That's what I get for being lazy.


  • Messed around with some menu effects, but nothing looks particularly
    good. Going to try animations and "pulse" effects to see if that helps.


  • It's finally possible to equip an accessory! There's a little bit of polish
    to add, such as showing correct stat increases if an accessory has more than
    one buff, but otherwise it works. Windows are animated and icons show
    correctly. Hopefully adding weapon equipping will be easier now the hard
    part is done.


  • More work on equipping items. Lots of UI animations and interactions which
    is a bit of a pain. Slowly getting there.


  • Menu transitions in and out are now working nicely. Fixed up a few animation
    bugs at the same time.


  • Retooled how classic menu animations work. Can now fade the menu in, move it
    in or expand it from nothingness. Animations are configured by the story's
    "rules" file, so it's possible to change how the UI behaves without
    modifying any code.


  • Created a generic "Hook" system for adding and removing event handlers at
    runtime. These are similar to the events system but are self-contained. The
    main reason to do this is for UI callbacks, such as listening for when a
    menu item is changed or when something is selected.


  • Team list screen now activates the top panel correctly. Can move around the
    item and highlight items. Next step is the action menu that appears when
    an item is selected.


  • Team list can now move between characters which updates the top inventory
    window. It works quite well.


  • Created the team list table with some basic up/down scrolling. Shows the
    character name and their basic stats. The team list is used when managing
    items and selecting who gets something from a shop.
  • Team list scrolling is now animated. Also supports left/right scrolling,
    although it's not as flexible. I'll probably revisit the table renderer in
    the future, but for now it works ok.


  • Table now has borders and simple background. Naturally things have gotten
    far more complicated than they need to be, and now there is a full
    UiElementStyle class with a bunch of extra stuff.
  • Sped up text rendering slightly.
  • Updated bordered panels to support hiding and showing of title area.


  • Started work on a very basic table display for the user interface. Tables
    will be used in the team list, as well as in the magic and item sections of
    the ui. It's going to be a pain to build, but it'll be better than manually
    building a table from dozens of individual requests (which is how the magic
    screen currently does things).


  • Added jingles when a character joins the force. Correctly stops and restarts
    the main music.
  • Fixed a bug in the build process where files weren't being copied, which
    meant parts of the script engine were running very out of date code.


  • Tidied up appearance of the character summary panel. Updated it to use
    the new shining-style health bar for health and magic.
  • Updated user interface binders to support multiple field names and
    tokens. This means a field can be "Health: ${currenthp}" and will use the
    value of the `current
    hp` field.
  • Updated UI definitions to use "soda" file format instead of lisp. Lisp is
    still supported, but didn't really make sense to use it for configuration
    when everything else uses soda.
  • Updated character inventory panel to show icon rarites correctly.


  • Cleaned up how gold is displayed so the window can be reused later.
  • Updated textbox to support image backgrounds. Used to make wooden signs look
    like actual wood and not just plain brown.
  • Started designing the inventory screen and weapon/item information
    windows. I really hate it.


  • Fixed how item rarities are stored, so the data can now be queried
  • Updated the team list summary to show correct rarity backgrounds.
  • Created a new shining-style health bar. In Shining Force, once a character
    has over 100 HP (or MP), their bar displays a different colour and a new bar
    colour goes over the original. Hard to explain, but I got it working.


  • Cleaned up interface panels. Not very exciting.


  • Added a placeholder for promotions. Actual promotions are going to be a
    little bit tougher.


  • Added "Cure" functionality to the priest. Status effects aren't present in
    the game at the moment, so it's not particularly useful.
  • Added placeholder music to towns and battles. Music can be configured using
    the game level resource.
  • Updated resource service to support skipping of autoload on a per-resource
    basis. In other words, large resources (like music) can be skipped during the
    initial load.


  • Cleaned up how the character summary panel is built. There was a big mix of
    hard-coded values and access to things it didn't really need. Item icons are
    now built in a single place (IconBuilderService) which reduces duplication
  • Extracted the "Yes or No" question code from the priest screen to its own
    screen. Much easier to ask a question from anywhere without having to create
    a bunch of question handling code manually.


  • Added callbacks for when sprite animations finished. It's now possible to
    add a sprite behaviour (such as FadeSprite) and then call whenFinished
    with a callback. The callback is then executed when the fade is
    complete. This makes it much, MUCH easier to change things when an animation
    is finished. For example, the priest will display a greeting and then show
    the menu once the text is complete. Before, this needed checks in the
    update method to check that individual behaviours had finished. Now it can
    just add a method call and be done.
  • Got "Revive" functionality working for the priest. Needs cleaning up in a
    lot of places, but it actually works properly. Quite pleased with that.
  • Added a proper "Goodbye" message to the priest. There's still curing,
    promotion and saving to finish, but it's coming together. Needs some serious
    cleanup first.


  • Spent the day working on the offline priest screen. Didn't get a huge amount
    done, but got the basic flow planned out and a couple of bits stuck
    together. Have I mentioned how much I had building UI stuff?
  • Extracted textbox transition effects into their own SpriteBehaviour
    objects, instead of hard-coding things in ShowMessageBoxAction. Hopefully
    all of that ugly code will disappear soon.
  • Extracted text typing to its own SpriteBehaviour. All the animation bits
    for the priest UI and starting to come together. Once timings are all sorted
    it should look semi-done. After that I just have to make it work…


  • Made some more improvements to the UI builder and cleaned up panel code a
    little. There's still more that needs to be done, but everything works
    nicely now. Which means I have to actually design the screens properly now


  • Improved the UI builder and loader.
  • UI definitions can now set defaults for child elements. Cuts down on typing
    a bit.


  • Added icons for two magic spells: egress and blaze
  • Added very basic magic info screen to characters


  • Battle now fades in
  • Battle cursor appears after the screen fades in
  • List of battle characters is now sorted by agility at the start of every
    loop (a loop is a complete set of turns)


  • Battles now support placement zones. When the battle starts, team members
    are automatically placed into a zone. Once the zone is full no more
    characters are placed.


  • Added script commands for interacting with the session database. This is
    used to keep track of session-level data and flags.
  • Added script commands for increasing/decreasing the amount of gold the
    player has.


  • Added a script command for fading the screen in and out. Didn't take too
    long to implement, and slotted nicely into existing system. A few extra
    lines changed an instant teleport to one with a fade in/out and a sound
    effect. Nice.


  • Sped up the script system by moving some common functions into the main
    script engine (rather than building them in the script engine itself).
  • Also added some custom data structures for storing/retrieving script atoms
    that had a large effect on script execution speed (10x speed increase)


  • Lots of engine and script system work today. Cleaned up the entity system
    internals and added some documentation so I don't forget how it works
  • Fixed a few bugs in LispMax that made defining functions a pain. Also fixed
    a bug where defining a listener would create a stack of script environments
    instead of cleaning up after itself.
  • Added a script interface for working with the map. Can get information about
    the map and tileset, and also set individual tiles on the map.
  • Exiting the current map now cleans data correctly, which means moving from
    one place to another doesn't cause huge slowdowns.


  • Added a few new console commands. world for querying objects in the world
    database, events for listing event listeners and lisp for interacting
    with the lisp script engine.


  • Spent most of the day adding a script command to switch between
    levels. Clearing entities and systems proved to be trickier, as some
    entities are "global" (i.e. outlive the town/battle) and others
    aren't. Thankfully the entity system supports grouping by name. Clearing out
    orphaned components took some work too. It's been a while since I wrote the
    entity system and it would definitely benefit from some cleanup.
  • Likewise, clearing everything from the render system was a little more
    involved than I originally thought. Again, allowing render requests to have
    group names sped this up considerably.
  • All that is left now is to clear out any dead script entities and make sure
    there are no listeners hanging around.


  • Added script functionality for adding and removing team members. Using
    entity/components makes this quite simple to implement as the code only
    needs to add or remove a "TeamMemberComponent" from the entity. Scripts can
    also access this functionlity, so adding/removing team members via script is
    simple too. The same setup is used for adding/removing inventory items, and
    will also be used for magic, enemies and things like that.
  • Fixed a couple of bugs with entity groups and cleaned up the entity system a
    little bit.


  • Made some minor updates to the dev tools so they can be configured more
    easily. It's now possible to specify build targets and file name patterns
    that must be passed. For example, the target "build-images" could be run
    when the changed file name matches "*.png".


  • Built some small tools to listen for file changes. When a file is changed
    the resource files get rebuilt and a message is sent to any listening
    clients. The main game client has also been updated so it will reload the
    resource database when it receives a "file changed" message. Things like UI
    definitions and sprites can now be edited and reloaded into the game without
    any manual steps being taken. It's pretty neat.


  • FINALLY finished rebuilding and re-organizing how the status screens
    work. This has been a complete pain in the backside and taken far longer
    than I would have liked. The main sticking point were:

    • Making sure things got animated in the correct order
    • Giving and taking input focus to the correct screens/panels when needed


  • Added some helper methods for clearing graphics added with the UI Builder
  • Added ability to call a service method via Lispmax. Really low-level and
    will probably break a lot.
  • Updated status screen to load UI definition from disk and automatically
    rebuild when the resource database is reloaded. It actually works.


  • Created a helper service (UiBuilderService) for setting up graphical
    elements from a resource file. It's incredibly basic but means most of the
    tedious UI setup can be done via file and tweaked at runtime.


  • Finally got menus and sub-menus working (somewhat) correctly. It's now
    possible to view the team overview and move to an individual character's
    status section. File this under "things that took waaay too long to do"


  • Spent a lot of time working on backend data – character classes, weapon
    classes and some basic team setup stuff.
  • List of characters now shows correct data for all characters


  • Removed some legacy script functions and cleaned up a few services.


  • More work on status screens and menus. Taking much longer than I would like,
    but the various bits of character information are starting to come together.
  • Added a one second delay to the start of loading which speeds up the whole
    process considerably when running in debug mode. No idea why.


  • Script functions can now check their argument types and throw exceptions
    that contain useful debug info (for a change).


  • Status screen can now display a list of characters, and will clip character
    boxes and scroll between them. This was much easier to do than I originally
    thought due to the animation/rendering system in place. So something I did
    actually saved me time for once.


  • Started working on the status menu. Split each panel into its own section to
    prevent it getting too complex.


  • Story levels can now specify a script file. They can also hook into the
    start, end and on-loaded events.


  • Added a bunch of low-level script functions for setting component values. It
    uses reflection so isn't that fast, but it's probably fine for tasks that
    don't need to be speedy. More of a building block for inventory tasks etc.
  • Fixed how Sweeper systems work, so entities now get cleaned up correctly no
    matter what order systems were added to the World.


  • Fixed a couple of appearance bugs (and created some new ones).
  • Fixed the debug console so that up/down keys can be used to navigate between
    previous commands.
  • Added a signpost outside the weapon seller. This is the first new thing I've
    added to the level since scripting was implemented, and it worked
    perfectly. The whole thing is done in-engine, so required no code
  • Designed all of the status screens in preparation for building them.


  • Status screen now fetches character data from the World. Also add a
    highlight border for when character is selected.


  • Stories can now specify a startup file containing all entities that should
    be spawned when a new save is created. At the moment this is used to setup
    character data and initial items. As usual it's a little verbose, but it


  • Stories can now listen for initialization and creation events, which allows
    them to spawn the default entities required (usually the team and their
    initial items). Not particularly happy with how it works, and may change it
    to something simpler, but for now it works.


  • Added the ability for stories to contain their own custom script
    libraries. These are loaded at the same time as the content db and resource
  • Planned out some new startup changes. Stories will need a way to initialize
    things when the player first starts (such as setting the initial inventory
    and character roster).
  • Cleaned up various bits and pieces (as always). Still not sure why the
    when macro is so slow, but sped up the script internals slightly.
  • Added some more options to the text box, so it can now be positioned to the
    left/right/top/bottom of the screen without having specify exact pixel


  • Rebuilt how event-based systems work, so events can send a "target"
    entity. This can then be accessed in the scripting system, so it's now
    possible to have a door that can teleport any entity that touches it. It's
    also much, much more efficient.
  • Spent about an hour trying to track down a bug I /thought/ was about how
    scripts were inherited from templates. Turns out the template file was
    Windows encoded, and the script parser was treating the Windows newline
    character as part of the symbol name. This is why it showed up only in the
    base template and not the level entities (which is Linux encoded).
  • On the bright side, now that's fixed it means the whole event system is
    working correctly and teleporters can be defined in a few lines.
  • Cleaned up some other buggy bits of code and removed some bits that aren't
    required any more.


  • Added a couple of new script helpers for working with lists: nth,
    random-list-index and random-list-item. This is used for the new
    display-random-textbox function, which is used to make NPC's say random
  • Rebuilt the build script to pack stories and resources more
    efficiently. Building a story now takes under a second, as opposed to 30
    seconds before.


  • Added new "Properties" component
  • Added script function for getting an entity's property by name
  • Found a couple of bugs relating to scripting environments. Partly fixed, but
    %self% is still not working as well as it needs to.
  • Update Pangolin.Events to allow object methods to be registered as event
    listeners. This makes stopping and starting processes much easier.


  • Added functionality for pausing and unpausing scripts.
  • Added lisp helper functions for managing processes by ID. Might also allow
    processes to be named, or maybe just store them as a global variable from
    inside the script itself.
  • Test run with one script suspending itself and then being resumed by another
    script worked.


  • More work on getting the scripting system integrated.


  • Split the script system into two parts – one for parsing and executing
    scripts, and another for running background behaviours (such as making the
    screen shake).
  • The current plan is to have a few "top-level" script commands built into the
    engine, and have the rest supplied through library functions. For example,
    there are only two flag commands – one for getting and one for setting. The
    rest is done using some helper functions (such as global-flag-equals? and
    global-flag? for testing flag equivelance).
  • Started work on getting new script system integrated with entities and
    events. It's a little tricker than before, as scripts need to be parsed and
    run in a script process.


  • Started integration of new scripting engine.


  • Added a really simple "shake" effect to shake the camera around. It actually


  • Fixed a major bug with entity creation. All entities created in a stage
    inherit from another object template, but because BlitzMax passes objects by
    reference, building an object from a parent template would affect ALL
    objects that inherit from it. In other words, if three treasure chests were
    defined, they'd all be in the same position. Objects now clone their
    parent's details so this no longer happens.


  • Added really basic "speaking" effect to text in message boxes. The whole
    thing needs rewriting, but it works for now.
  • Fixed the teleport command to also move the camera


  • Added a basic loading screen & progress bar.
  • Changed story asset loader to use threads so the loading screen can work
    in the background.
  • Modified rectangles so the border can be rounded by a single pixel. Not
    amazing, but makes the HP/MP bars look more Shining Forcey
  • Fixed a movement bug that allowed the player to glitch through walls if they
    pressed two directions together


  • Automated animations working a little better. Not perfect (per-millisecond
    animation not working yet), but can at least move things around the screen
    without having to fuss around with state machines. Can either be done in
    parallel or sequentially.
  • Got a very basic team information screen up and running. Needs some
    interaction and integration with the entity system, but it works.


  • Cleaned up some of Pangolin's internal code
  • Added a horrible fix for z-indexing bug. Player character now appears in
    front of other entities instead of behind everything.
  • Added some more information to the status screen – now displays the amount
    of gold the player has (well, it will once that system is up and
    running). Also displays a box for team status
  • Started experimenting with automated ways to move ui-elements around on
    screen (using "behaviours" / "robot functions"). Not working too great, but
  • Added a new debug console command for listing all loaded resources


  • Added more formatting options to Pangolin's text rendering – it now supports
    wrapping and effects on the wrapped text.
  • Added ability to load fonts as a resource, rather than hard-coding the
    paths. Switched demo 5 to use fonts as a resource.
  • Added a new "rectangle" request to renderer. Can now draw a rectangle with
    an optional border.
  • Started working on a new sub-screen for team management and statistics. It's
    a little different from the standard Shining Force way of doing things, but
    it gives a little more freedom and shows some previously hidden information.


  • Updated bordered box to allow for custom background colour, opacity and
    border image.
  • Fixed bug with how sprite colours are set. This was supposed to allow any
    sprite request to be tinted a certain colour, but wasn't setting the tint at
    all. Correcting it surfaced another bug that tinted everything black.
  • Cleaned up Pangolin's text rendering, so text can have shadows and be
    aligned to the left, right or center.


  • More code cleanup of systems. Cutting away unused & badly written
    stuff. There's quite a lot.


  • Modified scripting system so items can be put into a queue.
  • Added a very basic text window that can appear and disappear.
  • Cleaned entity systems to make use of Pangolin's newer features, such as
    kernel awareness and automatic fetching of component type lookups
  • Made a really simple teleporter gadget that can move the player from once
    place to another.
  • Found about half a dozen bugs, mostly involving the custom template system
    or player movement.


  • Modified camera behaviour class so it no longer uses hard-coded tile sizes
  • Fixed trigger system to evaluate all triggers and then execute them. This
    fixes a bug with treasure chests, where opening the chest would trigger the
    "it's empty" message immediately afterwards


  • Built a really simple tool for connecting to world servers and
    sending/receiving test messages
  • World Server no longer kicks a client after making a ping request
  • Server listener now calls overridable methods when a client connects and
  • Server listener can now accept handlers assigned at runtime instead of
    having to use a giant select/case block


  • Fixed bug in Pangolin engine that would crash app if no camera was
  • Removed dependencies on X11 from world server, so it can now run on a plain
    server environment


  • Added a bunch of tests to the new gateway server, mostly checking that the
    token and server registration system works
  • Cleaned up gateway server and extracted a lot of controller/model code into
  • Gateway server can now assign tokens to valid users, and check that tokens
    are valid
  • Gateway server can now listen for world server connections, ping the server
    and added them to the server list
  • Moved Gateway servering ping into a Gearman task, to prevent server getting
    locked up when a new world server connects


  • Moved a bunch of old world server code into services
  • Converted main server listener to a service so it now works properly


  • Removed some dead test rendering code from the offline town screen
  • Added very basic tooltips to town menu
  • Added really basic argument expansion in trigger evaluation, so keywords
    like "" can be returned as their live value – useful for storing
    flags based on an entity's name
  • Moved treasure chest entity code into a new template file, so it can be
    re-used in other parts of the level
  • Selecting the "inspect" icon on the menu now triggers an inspect event for
    the correct location

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