I’ve reached a milestone of sorts; the Nagce Valley is in alpha test. There is still quite a bit of work to be done before release but the map is playable for the most part, but still in need of detail work, a lot of detail work.

The focus of this first round of testing is to identify any issues with the fields, the animals, or the functional areas such as sell points and silage bunkers. With one exception, which I’ll talk about in a moment the testing is going very well, and the issues are all relatively easy fixes. While any issues we find need to be fixed in GE they are often easier to spot in game. Having a few extra hands to help me spot any problems is a considerable help so big thanks to Norm and Spud for committing their time to my project.

The test process for the fields is pretty strait forward; pick a field, set up an AI worker plant, hit H and sit back and watch what happens. I’ve already mentioned I do not really use the AI all that much in game play so why use them in testing? Of the three ways to work a field, player hands on, Course Play or AI helper, the AI is undoubtedly the weakest link. If the AI can get the job done then there shouldn’t be many issues for the player or Course Play. The second reason is that some of the issues I’m looking for are easier to spot when you can sit back and watch someone else doing the work rather than doing it yourself.

The numerous though relatively easy to fix issues that we’ve found so far are gaps in the terrain detail, uneven field edges, and uneven terrain. The gaps in terrain detail appear as strips of grass within the field and in addition to looking out of place would essentially be implantable regions of the field. Though the uneven field edges do not pose any real threat to game play, and some degree of unevenness is desirable, too much unevenness just looks sloppy.

The uneven terrain is the one to watch for, often not as easy to spot as the other two, but probably the more jarring experience in game. Imagine this, your planting rye on field 5, you hit a gully, bouncing your MF8700 a bit but no matter the Massey’s got a nice Air Ride seat, not much of a bother at all. That is until you look back and see that the same gully also jarred the Horsch Pronto 9 DC you were pulling so much that there is now a bald spot on your field that didn’t get planted.

All in all these are all easy though tedious issues to find and fix. The most challenging issue that we’ve uncovered so far is a dead zone in the middle of field 7 where the AI refuses to work. The AI worker starts off on field 7 without any issues, runs to the end of the field, turns around and comes back down the field on a new row as expected. About 4 or 5 rows in though the AI stops mid field, turns around and heads back to the edge it just came from rather than completing the row. This behavior carries on for two or three rows and then the AI goes back to running complete rows. The end result is a large gap in the field that did not get worked. We have not observed this behavior on any other field but it is consistently repeatable on field 7. It happens every time, in the same spot, regardless of the equipment being used or the task that was being carried out. Run the same mission in CP or hand on and there is no problem, no unworked area all goes as expected.

As CP and player hands on are unaffected it’s not an issue with gullies or gaps in terrain detail like I spoke about earlier. Initially I thought that it may be an issue with the field dimension markers but I’ve redone those several times and the problem still exists. The field is a perfect rectangle so I don’t see it being an issue with the field shape. The most promising lead came from a tip on the FSUK forum. Apparently the Gold Crest map has several worker collisions on it presumably meant to keep the AI workers out of certain areas, and that these collisions may still be present on starter maps built off of the GCV map.

Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case with the NLD starter map that I used for NV, or at least it’s not readily apparent that it is so. According to the FSUK post the worker collisions should be visible in the scenegraph which is not the case on my map. It’s possible they are still lurking about somewhere but I’m not really sure where I’d start looking. I could play around with the original NLD starter map but I think I’m better served sidelining this issue and continuing on with the development of Nagce Valley.