Progress report: Our two new programmers, Deuteros and Feone (a friend of mine who comes from a MineCraft background) have begun getting themselves familiarized with the current code base and have picked out some goals. Deuteros has begun work on Serialization which is programmer speak for saving and loading to disk. Feone has begun work on improving map generation with an emphasis on generating a larger world map of which the local map is a part of. These efforts are just getting started and will not bare fruit until at least the release after next (aka beginning of May).
I've been mostly getting the new guys up to speed lately, but have managed to get a little bonus feature working which will be in the upcoming release, the simulation of some simple top down light onto some parts of the map but not others. Thus underground tunnels will appear permanently dark while a day-night cycle illuminates the surface. Ultimately this same light will determine if plants can grow and such simulation stuff, but for now it will be purely visual candy. Their will also be a simple toggle for hiding everything which is sunlit, this will make it easy to quickly X-ray vision into the ground and see all tunnels without having to use the level slicing slider tool. All looks to be on schedule for the release at the start of the month.
I'm also beginning to formulate a set of goals for the release after next, to start off their will likely be a big code clean up and an attempt to establish better/clearer code standards as I have been sloppy in a number of ways and our new programmers want to see some house cleaning happen, and I am eager to avoid messy merging conflicts as well.
Feature wise, in addition to Deuteros and Feone's work I will be doing a major rework of the way that terrain is rendered, specifically how the Meshes for terrain pieces are generated. The goal will be to significantly improve performance by making the mesh more vertex efficient AND to make lower triangle count 'decimated' version of the terrain that are show as you zoom out. This is a common technique in all game rendering that allows a much larger area to be rendered without killing performance. If successful the map size can increase several fold.
We are open to suggestions for additional goals as well, and are always looking for more developers, and not just programmers. We have need for many XML files to be made which will form the basis of the world gen, anyone who knows the Nifty GUI system could be a huge help and finally we would just kill for some 3D modeling artists.