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Think Tank

Discussion in 'Civ3 Future Development' started by Blue Monkey, Jan 15, 2021.

  1. Blue Monkey

    Blue Monkey Archon Without Portfolio

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    Felt like we need a thread for sharing random thoughts, discussions not evolved enough to require a dedicated thread, relevant updates on other off-forum aspects of our doings, etc.
     
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  2. Civinator

    Civinator Blue Lion Supporter

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    It should be taken into account, that a thread, that is similar in many aspects, is existing here since many years: Steph´s Workshop.
     
  3. Blue Monkey

    Blue Monkey Archon Without Portfolio

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    Similar to which thread? Perhaps you placed a comment here that responds to a comment in another thread?
     
  4. Civinator

    Civinator Blue Lion Supporter

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    Similar to the complete project to improve Civ 3.


     

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  5. WildWeazel

    WildWeazel Carthago Creanda Est

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    Yes, both Steph's workshop and IndieCiv are largely similar in concept to our "new game engine" path. I'm sure we can find a lot of good suggestions by trawling those sections.
    Steph had some very ambitious ideas from the start. The game he was designing seemed more like a 4X + grand strategy framework that borrowed core concepts from Civ. Things like a totally different terrain system, or a separate map scale for combat operations, that went well beyond the Civ model.
    Jimmyh to the contrary seemed to be going for more of a straight clone, taking suggestions for improvements along the way.
    Interestingly they both went with XNA/MonoGame. Maybe that was the best free thing there was at the time. Unity would have been in its infancy back then
     
  6. Ozymandias

    Ozymandias Archivist, redux Supporter

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    Two points:
    1. Steph presupposed that he code obtain access to the Civ3 source code (and we all know - especially Yours Truly - how that worked out.)
    2. Failing that, he planed to use his own (unfinished) "Turn based game engine, SGF (StrateGames Factory) as a base." It would, frankly, have been a mess of an effort to build an AI game engine alongside any game at the same time - and his plans were quite ambitious.
    My (ex-)professional opinion is that not even a well-funded company would have tried this: it would have been the equivalent of building a large factory while drawing up the blueprints - and also debating exactly what the factory was going to produce, all at the same time.
     
  7. WildWeazel

    WildWeazel Carthago Creanda Est

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    Yes, I agree Steph tried to do far too much. My thinking has been to design "Civ but more abstract", that is all the same concepts but rules and systems that avoid assumptions about how they will be applied, and an open modular design that can accept added features with minimal rework.

    For example, instead of a unit type having fields for a tech prereq and a required resource, it has a set (any size) of "things that can be had by a player" which could take any form: multiple techs or resources, a building in the city, a great wonder, type of government, a diplomatic agreement... Then if someone wants make a mod with a new type of requirement, it's just a matter of adding the logic check (ideally in a mod script)
     
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  8. Puppeteer

    Puppeteer Emperor

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    My early ideation is that this would be handled by a rule that can be in Lua. Units would have a rule collection, actions would have a rule collection, etc.. And of course there could be some rule templates or parameterized rules, so maybe a 'requires' rule that allows adding techs and resources, either none, one, or, or many of each. So you wouldn't *have* to use Lua for everything, but it's there if you want to get fancy.

    Edit: For example, maybe somebody wants unit X to require having 5 workers or building Y to have 5 buildings. The latter is present in the civ3 ruleset so we'd probably have a parameterized rule for that, but for the unit one a modder could have Lua count workers and then give thumbs up or thumbs down. It could get as silly a you need five cities named with a word beginning with a capital "O"; whatever Lua can do can be a deciding factor.

    Edit 2: And I just realized I can demo the rule paradigm in Civ Parade. Marching instructions will be rules.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2021
  9. Ozymandias

    Ozymandias Archivist, redux Supporter

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    I'm unfamiliar with Lua, but my gut feeling is (remains) that we should take an OO approach using the most readily accessible language, which I'm guessing means Python. Even though I "grew up" with C, my very first job included - and this is written with my right hand over my heart and all that - 8 bit chip coding for firing up industrial burners. Which is a roundabout way of suggesting that we don't need to use a language which is targeted for either "getting as close to the firmware as possible," or geared towards however one might define AI these days (I'll engage in a little bit of hyperbole: I don't see any compelling reason to apply either "top-down" or "bottom up" application of Bayesian logic here ;) )

    Remember that we are, in large part, re-implementing some fairly shoddy, late 1990s ( ! ) code.

    I think that the inheritable nature of Classes and Attributes is a natural fit, both for any initial implementation as well as further roll-outs. Honestly, I don't even think we're going to need .dlls.

    Granted, this POV is in concord with my having already worked out a series of logical paradigms which can "force" the game's "AI" into significantly more "intelligent" - genuinely emergent - behavior. My guestimate is that (with 100% = "machine intelligence ") my methodology would easily hit the 80% mark. Furthermore - depending upon both audience and context - the following terms would be genuinely interchangeable:
    • Rules
    • Logic
    • Algorithms
    • Constraints
    • Behavior
    I'm hoping that I won't need to present a complete design to convince anyone - but have already begun putting together parts of a framework for it (this was via email, so, with apologies, I know that Puppeteer hasn't seen it.) Time/energy permitting - and with juggling and/or dropping either or both of (1) a recap of what's known about AI unit build manipulation, and (2) my already on life support "Terra Fantasia" mod - I'll keep putting together notes about how "intelligent / emergent" behavior can be accomplished by applying a set of surprisingly simple, and consistent, set of 100% modable Rules. I can state this, with certainty, because every value in the game is a variable, which is either:
    1. Pre-defined in an editor; or
    2. Dynamically reset, in-game, by an (equally modable) superset of combinable conditions which I've already begun to as "States": A Civ (or a sector of a Civ's territory) might be in a State of "Peace." Or it might be in a State of "War Preparation" + "Defensive."
    Even better, nearly every game condition I've been able to think of - so far - requires nothing more than applying simple logical - and often, even simple mathematical - operations to the variable involved. And please do recall that I've already mentioned that pretty much everything I've thought of can be a variable. Take that one simple step farther, and the changing of these variables, in an editor much like @Quintillus's, can directly affect the way an entire AI Civ behaves.

    Accordingly, "Traits" like "Commercial" or "Military," and boxes checked in a, "Build Often/Never" section suddenly become (sorry, but I can't resist) a game changer. ( :D )
     
  10. Vuldacon

    Vuldacon Dedicated to Excellence Supporter

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    In the CIV Game we have 2D Maps with 3D Units... Do we plan to stay with that?

    Personally, I like the 2D Maps with 3D Units. I have played many games in 3D and they have their place but there is a beauty to 2D Maps with 3D Units that adds more appeal and mental desirability especially with Turn Based Games.

    In essence, as Eric has pointed out, other than being able to have the additions and changes we want, it is the AI behavior that will very seriously make a profound difference.

    What to use, Unity or Godot? Both could be used but what is best and why?
     
  11. Civinator

    Civinator Blue Lion Supporter

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    I think we should defenitly stay with that. This is the main reason, why I´m still modding Civ 3. I have absolutely no fun with units laying in all different directions across the map with the table top presentation used in Civ 4-6 - and additionally there are thousands of units for Civ 3, that should be used. Interesting could be a better zoom sight of these units in battle.
     
  12. Vuldacon

    Vuldacon Dedicated to Excellence Supporter

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    Just a Clarification... I would like nothing more than to have a New Game Engine that could identically play any MOD that has already been made and that also had all of the additions and changed we all want including AI Behavior.
    Eric and some of you may disagree with me here and perhaps you understand what I do not but in my opinion this will not realistically be possible due to the differences in the Game Engines.

    From the point of view that the CIV Game Engine does Not offer the many additions and changes we want, it is "Broken" and needs to be Remade.

    IF we can keep the basic things we use such as Units for example, we would not need to change how they are made for use. Same thing in other areas. We need to be able to use the "Tools" and things that have already been made.

    Ideally, the New Game Engine could basically play MODs that have already been done but not without adjustments... that is OK because we really do Not want to make the same Game Engine but one that is far Better for all New Games and that could play existing Games with adjustments. I am certain that a Game Engine that could use most of the Work that has been done would be well received.

    To stay motivated, Not being absolutely locked into trying to duplicate the CIV Game Engine (and its unknown factors) with our desired additions and changes would not only be easier but better from an ongoing development position.

    There have been "Headaches" enough working on Games just trying to get around the problems we all have had using the Original Game Engine to make a Game as we want it. We have had to accept and or work around problems to gain what we have wanted. IF we can make a Game Engine that allows the Use of the "Tools" and existing Units and Graphics Work, we will have a Winner.
     
  13. WildWeazel

    WildWeazel Carthago Creanda Est

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    Python is rarely the wrong answer, but the game itself would very likely be C# because that's what the most relevant engines use. Godot also has a scripting language called GDScript that's similar to Python, which could serve as the mod interface. Lua would also be a good choice for mod scripts, if @Puppeteer can make it work, because it's simple and already very common for game mods specifically. There's always the option of C# for both, but that's a bit less user friendly. Of course, let me make it clear now, scripting of any kind is to be for advanced use cases only.

    Yes, the idea is to reuse all artwork except for user interfaces. We can support higher resolution and more colors (for new art) but the perspective will be the same.

    Puppeteer and I are studying that now. I think Godot will be better, because it more inherently supports 2D and is completely free and open source.

    What do you have in mind? I would like to have more zoom levels. We have to keep in mind that all our unit animations are sized for Civ3 terrain, but Puppeteer's parade demo shows they don't look too bad scaled up a bit.
     
  14. Puppeteer

    Puppeteer Emperor

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    On scaling, yeah Godot (and probably Unity) has optional automatic enhancements for better scaling up and down. It made a tremendous difference. (See videos below)

    Lua was designed from the start to be an embedded script language and Python wasn't, but there is IronPython for .NET, so I guess that could be looked at as an embedded script for mods.

    C# is a syntactic descendant of C and C++, but you don't have to worry about memory management, buffer overruns, preprocessing, or linking. It's very analogous to Java in those ways. But the real power for our needs is the support frameworks and libraries including graphics (Godot/Unity), embeddable scripting (Lua/IronPython), and so forth and so on. And it's multi-platform so PC, Mac, and even the new ARM Macs will be able to run it, and possibly even tablets and phones in theory, although I don't imagine 4X controls being feasible on mobile.

    In these videos, the leftmost 4 samurai are half-scale, then the next are 1:1, then each group of four is 0.5x scaling bigger. (0.5, 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, etc..)

    "Bigger square pixels" scaling:


    Mipmaps and maybe something else for enlargement scaling:
     
  15. Vuldacon

    Vuldacon Dedicated to Excellence Supporter

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    I think most people will want to use the same Unit Scale as the Units have been for existing Games.

    If the Terrain is the same, setting Units to a much larger scale would look rather awkward on the Map not to mention larger pixels detract from the intended esthetics.

    Does this mean that the interfaces used in existing MODs cannot be used? That includes a huge amount of Graphics and prevents playing existing games with the New Game Engine.

    Nothing wrong with having the ability to change the Scale for Units provided the Engine plays the existing Units at the scale they were made for.

    From what I have gathered, I think Godot would be easiest to use but does lack the provided "tools" and long time developed Tutorials for Unity.
    Definitely from a Programmer point of view, I can certainly understand that the Code you write is yours and not shared with anyone else such as Unity. This brings up a Question... will the Game be free to the Public or are there any plans to sell it?

    For several reasons, I believe Godot will ultimately be Best to use, however it may require more time to develop the Game we want... "Learning Curve" = Time. But of course you Programmers know your personal feelings and thoughts about it better than I.

    I like the "Packages" Unity has from the start along with the support and tutorials that seemingly would speed the process of developing our Game.

    We all basically want the same things concerning a New Game Engine where we can have the additions and changes we all have wanted for years... I am sure each Member here is happy to be a part of this endeavor for the base reasons we all agree on. That said, there are no doubt sub-modalities involved with Motivations. An example is If I were a Programmer I would certainly want what I create to be mine and not be forced to share my Hard Earned Work with Unity because they Own the Engine. That in itself is enough motivation to use Godot but there are more personally motivating reasons for each of us involving the creation of this New Game Engine.

    What I am saying above is we probably all assume we are all motivated by the same reasons to make a New Game Engine. Over All, I believe that is basically true. I am merely interested in knowing what motivates each Member on a more personal level to have a better understanding of the collective motivational strength regarding this endeavor. "Will it Stand the Test of Time" or be abandoned after a "Good Try".
     
  16. Puppeteer

    Puppeteer Emperor

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    I admittedly am not the most reliable person in this project. But I have been on the forum since I think 2001–ok the forum says 2003 but I'm pretty sure I was reading before CivIII's original release but didn't buy & join until right before Conquests came out–and I keep wandering back here periodically.

    I retired in Oct 2019, and my life has been in flux a lot since then as I was waffling on when and where to move, and then the pandemic delayed and drew out that process. I've already downsized, sold my house, and am living in airbnbs in scenic places. I do have some business to take care of over the next 3-4 months as I need to establish my domicile in a new state, get all my registrations cut over, health insurance set up, and hopefully get vaccinated, but all that is far from a full-time job.

    What motivates me:
    • Personal interest - I've come back to civ III several times, and I think I spend more time programming around it than I do playing it. I get a kick–and new knowledge–out of decoding the data, working out how it does what it does, and translating it into a newer form for reuse.
    • Others' interest - I do tend to lose steam on something after 2-3 weeks, and if I realized nobody else is really using what I'm doing I can quickly lose motivation and move on to the next shiny thing.
    • Staying employable - I'd like to not have to work for anyone ever again, but I might need to. I enjoy various programming and computing projects, anyway, but I try to direct myself to stay current with tech relevant to my career and possible future needs; I don't want to be hopelessly outdated. Which is why a lot of my previous work is in languages and using techs that doesn't totally make sense for making a Civ III accessory; it was as much about playing with the tech as it was playing with Civ III. I shied away from C# for a long time, but I've definitely supported its deployment in production, so I may as well get better at programming it myself, too. Pointing to an open-source C# project that I contributed to would be good resume and interview content. And if we do get to unit testing, integration testing, and automated build pipelines, that definitely contributes to my future employability.
    As for my view on others, WildWeazel has been talking about making a clone game for years and certainly talks like he understands programming; I don't expect him to suddenly change his mind. Quintillus made and has kept up his editor for quite a few years now. I think both are more consistently regular features here at the forum than I.

    The rest of you, I'm not sure if you have any programming experience in particular, but y'all are definitely long-term regular contributors in the mod community, very knowledgable about the game and what the intended audience of this project want, and clearly care about the game and any improvement on it over a long term.

    As far as the project's survivability beyond any or all of us, WildWeazel, Quintillus, and I all seem to be very interested in open-source development under the MIT license, so if we all–all in this private board–suddenly find better things to do and never return, the code and record of our goals and progress is publicly available and licensed for others to continue. Unlike IndieCiv and any other Civ III-alike project I've heard of.

    (The IndieCiv code is shared on GitHub, but there is no license provided, so I'm not even looking at the code because it could taint my own contributions to this project since it's not licensed for redistribution or reuse in other projects. So anyone wanting to take that project and run with it would put their project in copyright claim peril.)

    As far as my own questionable reliability, what I've already done is publicly posted, MIT-licensed, and commented hopefully well enough to be of use to someone else to pick up and use even if I disappear. And I'm putting extra effort into modularizing it in ways that it can be used in pieces or as a whole. So there's a SAV/BIQ reader in at least two languages, a Flic reader, a PCX reader, a map tile layout algorithm, and some demo animated sprites-from-Flics out there already. Also a decompressor for the BIQ/SAV format.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2021
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  17. Quintillus

    Quintillus Archiving Civ3 Content Supporter

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    That's a great summary, Puppeteer. I'll second the losing steam if there's lack of interest (which is part of why it's great that there are multiple programmers involved, and not just one as has previously been the case). And despite having made editor updates since 2010, I've also historically been sporadic; there have been a couple times I've had multi-month absences from CFC, with the longest being about six months. Usually that corresponds with when I'm somewhat burnt out on editor updates, and also have other things going on in life that are interesting. The latter is not a major danger for the next few months.

    Briefly touching on a couple other points: There should be no commercial element involved; if there were it would have to be a clearly different game than Civ. There was an XCOM modding community that was going just fine until they tried to Kickstart some further modding efforts; Firaxis's parent company took negative notice at that point. I agree with what Puppeteer has posted about having it be MIT-licensed. The CivOne project has already seen some benefits from going that route, including both contributions from additional members, and since the creator SWY has been away for the past year or two, a fork to continue adding patches until his return.

    As for scripting, I like what WildWeazel said about it being for advanced use cases early. One of the elements that Civ III does really well is that its modding is approachable to non-programmers. In my previous exploration of this area, I've followed a very declarative approach, inspired by the event systems of games such as Railroad Tycoon II and Europea Universalis IV; an example of an event is:

    Code:
    EVENT CongratsForSurviving
        CONDITIONS
            TYPE Turn
                Threshold = 5
                Operator = Equals
        FREQUENCY
            100
        SCOPE
            ONCE_PER_CIV
        EFFECTS
            TYPE Show Message
                Title = "Your Civ is Still Alive"
                Text = "Congratulations on surviving until turn 5!!!"
                Option = "OK"
                    Effect = None
    This is less powerful than a Lua or Python script (although it could possibly refer to Python/Lua scripts for its conditions or effects), but the goal was that a non-programmer could look at it and perhaps some basic documentation that tells you things such as "Frequency is the percentage chance of this event happening", and figure out how to add events without much more difficulty than by editing Civilopedia files. I have some OO-based Java code that handles the parsing of events like these, although I never built it out very far in terms of what conditions or effects are possible.

    But I also think this should be something we look at relatively late, once we have the core elements of gameplay and being able to utilize existing scenarios working somewhat well. A new game that can handle events but whose core gameplay elements don't work isn't much good.

    N.B. I'd been exploring this in late 2018 when "BIQ/SAV Tools" was the only avenue I was considering, and if we go along that path it would be more appropriate to pursue it sooner than if we pursue the "New Game Engine" path.

    I agree that we should keep the same standard formats (FLC, etc.) so that existing tools and assets can be re-used. At some point it may be desirable to offer enhanced versions (full-color units_32.pcx files instead of 256-color, for example), but the base line should be compatible.

    I also wholeheartedly agree that we shouldn't be locked into 100% matching everything. I'm reminded of when I was first working on map support in my editor, in the spring of 2011. I had it working pretty well, but noticed the forest tiles didn't follow the same rules as the game or Firaxis's editor. So over the course of several weeks I tried to figure out exactly what the algorithm was that Civ III uses to choose which forest graphics to use. It was exhausting, and I never did find the answer, nor did anyone reply to my forum posts about it with an answer, so eventually I threw in the towel and implemented my own algorithm that chose among the valid options in a pattern that was semi-random. But you know what? No one has ever complained that the forests don't look exactly like they do in game. It's good enough to design the maps with, and I still have my sanity after giving up on exactly matching how Civ III does it.

    Particularly since, as WildWeazel mentioned in the "New Game Engine" thread, this is going to be a passion project, it's important not to get caught on compatibility headaches like the forest rendering algorithm that won't really matter; they're a great way to destroy motivation - and we'll have plenty of interesting and important things for a long time.
     
  18. WildWeazel

    WildWeazel Carthago Creanda Est

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    It does unfortunately, at least not without manual work. I think that is relatively a very small portion of our graphics, no? I'm only talking about backgrounds, not icons. The thing is we can't scale the UI to different screen sizes with those static images. What do the rest of you think? Is the way the Civ3 UI works at high res "good enough"? Here is what the main screen would look like on my monitor, for instance. Now I'm thinking about what it would take to have a "compatibility mode" which basically forces all UI to stay at Civ3 scale (intended for 1024x768) with a static background. (I really think it's worth modernizing the whole UI system....)

    Let me clarify a few things about Unity vs Godot. You raise some interesting points.

    Unity itself is commercial "freemium" software but it's not a matter of code ownership. You can use the free version and do whatever you want with your code, you still own it. They just charge you for Unity licenses if you make over $100k/year with it, and/or if you want the top tier features and customer support. The downsides for a project like this are that we would depend on a fickle closed-source platform, and anyone who wanted to contribute to C7 or make their own changes would need to set up a (free) Unity account to be able to use the editor and build from source. Not a huge deal, but it's some extra hoops to jump through and kind of clashes with the idea of C7 being an open source project. And I do intend it to be open source, free forever. I have no interest in trying to commercialize something that is based on both a trademarked franchise and the cumulative donated work of 20 years. Plus I doubt we'd ever reach a point where the money would make a difference in getting it finished.

    As far as resources and learning, yes there is a lot more content out there for Unity but I think that's to some extent misleading. Unity has been around and been popular for quite a while longer, so there's a lot of outdated and redundant information. Still probably more learning content than Godot, but Godot is recently booming in popularity and also has a very active and helpful, if smaller, community. Unity also seems to have a somewhat steeper learning curve, if you don't know either. (I can't really weigh in because I learned Unity in a classroom setting, and knowing one helps me understand the other.) Unity packages and the asset store are great, but they're really just a layer of polish on the typical open source method of downloading a ZIP archive from a repository like GitHub.

    As I touched on in the email thread, for me it's elements of both the frustrated modder and my developer holy grail. As long as I've wanted to do this I don't see myself losing interest, though as I've said it's more than I could ever do by myself, so there would be a point where team attrition and real life priorities could force me to give it up. That's where the open source advantage comes in; someone else can always pick it up.


    I want to also address the subsequent posts but alas! real life must take me away from Civ.
     
  19. Ozymandias

    Ozymandias Archivist, redux Supporter

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    I, like so many of us, have been hanging around CFC for 20 years or so ( :old: ) and, without having any stats to go by, it seems that Civ 3 has an inordinate staying power for a game of that vintage (early Mario Brothers, anyone?)

    Any of us who have "been around" for that long - and have delved deeply into the Bowels Of The Beast, along the lines of EFZ, CCM, or Quintillus' Editor (kindly forgive any unintended omissions) - plainly has reasons for doing so. Mine are quite simple: For all its jaw-dropping faults, it's the best - most fun to play - game of the, "Just one more turn" variety.

    I know that we all, also, see the inherent potential, within the game itself: We don't want to ditch the game because the Artillery rules don't work; We want instead, to make the damned Artillery work!

    To this day, I recall being stunned, pretty much the first time I played C3, by how so much of what had been great in C2 had been senselessly pitched away. But, at least, it was arguably an upgrade of sorts, whereas (and, I admit, I speak with little experience, stemming from well informed disinterest) simply wandered off to .... Wherever it is they are.

    Of course, 21st Century GUIs et. al. would be great - but, then ago, I don't know much about the graphics of Chess or Go changing much, across centuries.

    Among us, I know we have the combined "knowledge base" to pull this off. I'm sure all of us either know, or are aware of, others who have reneged on their commitment to, say. help build a mod - But I'm not aware of any such, seated here with us, at this metaphorical Round Table :king: (Besides, it's the only place where I have ever used emojis - :dance: )
     
  20. Civinator

    Civinator Blue Lion Supporter

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    I think the image shown in the screenshot is really "good enough".
    About the Unity/Godot discussion at present I cannot contribute anything.
     

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