Iteration 21

Put out Iteration 21 about two weeks ago, but finalized late last week. Happy about that and then once again hit my “post bigger update” slump. I did a bunch of house keeping type things – making new assets and prepping others.

I knocked together a new ship – I had a fairly unfinished ship that I chopped up, combined with other parts and textured to create a “bounty hunter” corvette. It turned out pretty well – however it is a bit lacking in detail compared to some of the other ships. Adding this new ship meant that I re-balanced some of the bounty hunter fights and then even further modified one of the missions and to flesh it out some more. I almost forgot that I did this – I guess I’m a bit more absent minded than usual.

Speaking of new ships – I put in a ship that’s been hanging around – unused – for a few years. It was driving me a bit nuts – its shape wasn’t working for me when I looked at it in game – so I actually cut it in half then took the front half and flipped it 180 and then re-attached. Now the new carrier looks pleasing to me. I spent a bunch of time on tweaking its texturing to finalize.

And speaking of new assets – I needed a “destroyer shipyard” so I split up the existing “frigate shipyard” into a smaller platform, and re-purposed the original shipyard as a destroyer shipyard. Oh the things we must do when there’s no 3D modeler available. I’m glad that the model was so versatile and detailed to be able to create a smaller asset from it.

Other things – re-balanced /scaled missiles and torpedoes. Re-scaled all the fighters – decreased them by another 25% – I’m happy with their scale now – they look fairly small compared to larger ships :) And scaling them down has the added benefit of making them survive fights against larger ships – since they are 25% harder to hit in a sense. I prepped and tweaked a bunch of other assets – including scale.

So now that I look back at the above I actually did more than I thought – and today I started on new story content. Its getting close – I’m nearly done adding ships/stations/etc into the game that have been sitting in my dev build – exciting times – but a big challenge is coming up – how it all ends and begins.

New content nearly ready

I thought that the new story content would be finished today. What was left was final play testing and balancing. During play testing a few issues popped up – one was pacing. The mission went a bit too quickly into a huge battle, I added a slightly smaller battle ahead and spaced out the subsequent battles more via timing. Then I got my butt kicked, which – by itself – not terribly surprising was surprising to the how much, it was a slaughter. The other aspect was that there is an optional “secondary mission” that needed some ships and that just wasn’t going to happen either.

So I thought about this and listed my options. The usual approach would be to tone down the attacks and reduce the number of enemies, but the fights felt really epic. So how could I keep that epic feel but give the player more tools for survival? The answer was more defensive platforms. So I whipped up a few more via Blender and modding/chopping up some existing ones to make variants.

Speaking of existing platforms – an earlier mission has the player dealing with defensive platforms that create mine fields, these shoot small but fairly fast moving mines. There’s also some bigger mines that I wanted to use here, but didn’t have an asset/method to get these larger mines into the game world. So I stumbled upon the idea of “building mine fields” like you build platforms/stations in the game. I don’t think it is too big of a stretch or immersion breaking, the method feels fairly reasonable and logical and about 30 minutes later it was in the game – easy peasy.

I hope that adding more defensive platforms, and this new “build a mine field” method only makes this mission more epic.

Bits of new content and happenings

A bit of new content has made its way into the game, about 10-15 minutes worth – so fairly short, more of a transitional stage to set the mood and offer a bit of new surprises. After that I got a bit stuck on the story, I have a general idea, but I just have to slog through it.

Since the slog was very rough going I decided to put in multi controller support. This was brought up again on Steam forums (was brought up before on Void Destroyer’s “official” forums and on Kickstarter feedback prior), but this time, with the slog I decided it would be a good time. 

To put in multi controller support – I needed multiple controllers – fairly obvious eh? So I went to Best Buy (I didn’t want to wait for Amazon to ship one to me) and bought a very simple/inexpensive Joystick. So now having two joysticks, multi controller support was fairly quickly added. It is pretty neat – I mapped the joystick in my left hand to control lateral thrusters and the right to control ship turning. Player’s on Steam (that were requesting the new feature) gave it some paces/tests and reported favorable outcomes as well. One player even requested that I add controller support to Tactical mode – to me a bit of an odd request, but there’s no in game reason why not, so that will be added a bit later. Having multi controller support makes me want to purchase a fancier HOTAS type device(s), but for now other issues are more important.

Iteration 20

With the boss fight complete, and the story being at the point of a fairly easy cut off point – I called Iteration 20 done. Next up iteration 21 :)

So as usual at the “end” of an iteration I do play testing, during which I tend to make tweaks and add polish. I did a few of these and I’m very happy.

The first one was the way that ships target, prior – ships tended to get the absolute nearest target within weapons range. This meant that battles often looked like swarms of ships versus one unlucky – closest target. A slight – pick from 4 nearest randomly – tweak and battles are a bit more varied. A added bonus is that ships now last longer (not having so much fire focused on them) which helps in the – make battles longer – department. This also means that players piloting ships will have a greater chance at survival – taking out some frustration from that game play (getting blown up) and at the same time making the tactician player – the one issuing orders – a bit more valuable since focus fire isn’t a given as it was before.

Another tweak was where turrets aim on a target. Prior to the tweak – turrets aimed dead center on a target. This was fine back in the fighter versus fighter days. On a small target – hitting dead center isn’t as apparent/visible. But on larger targets this becomes a fairly glaring/obvious thing. Especially on the new mega huge boss. A tweak later and turrets aim points get off set a bit. But turrets weren’t the only ones to do this sort of aiming, so did missiles, and so did ships themselves (whether dog fighting or larger ships with cannons as their primary weapons). These too were tweaked, and the change is very noticeable.  Battles look a lot more organic with fire being spread over a target’s hull versus focused on one central point. And since fire isn’t dead center – there’s a greater chance at missing – which is actually a good thing. The same reasons as above with the targeting tweak – battles have a chance at lasting longer and  once more it gives the player piloting a ship a greater chance at survival via dodging.

The flip side of this – and a constant reminder that Void Destroyer is a bit of a different beast, when piloting a ship – the player’s guns should aim dead center – otherwise it looks incredibly goofy for the turrets to fire off to the side, it feels even more odd. So once again things have to be tested at least twice, once from the RTS perspective and once from the so called “first person” perspective. Can’t say it isn’t amusing though.

With the new enemies – we welcome back shields. Shields were added to the game a while back, but then taken away and not seen for over a year or more.  Shields in Void Destroyer – are unique – they aren’t a bubble that covers the entire ship – like in Star Trek, they only cover a particular area. So the new shields combined with the “don’t aim only in the center” tweak have a nice synergy – they get a chance to be hit more often. A tiny tweak – but having a very big impact.

A few tiny tweaks post iteration 20 – gravity drive has been tweaked so that the AI doesn’t start attacking a target – while still in gravity drive, which resulted in some strange behavior as ships at high speed would alter their paths. And I finally got around to working on the – decide to use gravity drive or normal engines – code for targets that are somewhat far away. Before the decision – based on distances – was incredibly simple and flawed. Now the full distance of both options is calculated and compared, so this should eliminate some anomalies.

Adding the new shield code got me excited to create a KS update video, but while making it I realized that it was more fun watching it than hearing me talk over it. So I made a trailer, then made the “talking” update.

Here’s the links:

Trailer Video

Talking video

What’s great is that the trailer was picked up by RPS and they wrote a article about Void Destroyer. Getting more exposure is always a great thing for a fairly unknown project like this one. I hope that one day people mention Void Destroyer along other space sims and RTS games, like I often see done with other more known projects. Here’s a link to that RPS entry (what I think is funny is that this piece appears nearly a year after the first one they did – during the end of Kickstarter – last year). Either way – its a big deal to be mentioned since there are many many interesting indie projects fighting for these spots. I hope that one day I’ll take these for granted, when Void Destroyer is super popular – a man can dream – for now they are minor miracles.

What’s very interesting is that right after the RPS piece – YouTube was a bit swarmed with “Free Download of Void Destroyer!” videos, it seems that these pop up automatically via bots. I checked one of them out and it wasn’t an actual way to get a pirated version of the game, so would be seekers should be careful and hopefully rather buy the game via Steam. Either way YouTube took them down fairly fast, it seems that this is an issue that happens a lot and that they have their own methods of dealing with. Battle of the bots.

 

In a bit of another more personal news – this week was the Steam Summer sale – the first one that I got to experience as someone selling a game on Steam. There was very little chance that Void Destroyer would be featured on the front (as little as any other unknown game – so basically a fraction of a fraction of a percent), and it didn’t get featured. Still sales bumped up a bit – though prior to that sales dipped, so people anticipated the sale, thus didn’t buy much, bought during the sale, and now will probably take some time to recover before buying again. At least those are my guesses.

Another aspect of the Steam Summer sale is that I bought a bunch of games – at huge discounts. So I recovered a bit mentally via playing a bunch of unique indie games, and one or two AAA games here and there.

 

 

Getting the fleet ready

There’s been a fleet of ships waiting to be put into the game and the time has come. Some were already in the game – for use in screen shots and videos so – not always all the way in, and sometimes causing crashes depending on circumstance (eg: firing a weapon, or dying – the assets not existing or being changed causing a crash). So that is what I’m doing right now, going through the fleet starting from the drones and calling it a night when I got to a destroyer. Making sure that sound assets are right, that particle effects match the projectiles/missiles, that turrets have proper skeletons and that debris exist for when the ship is destroyed.

 

Adding a ship to the game is easy, but adding a bunch gets repetitive, luckily adding a ship includes testing it – something that I very enjoy and I get to add it to a testing map where I look at the fleet as it grows. Though what strikes me is that the fleet as it currently stands is uniform in terms of weaponry – I’m going to have to tweak some ships to be a bit more unique and memorable.

In other news – I spent the week still working on the new story content, this leg of the story had a bunch of particular loose ends to be filled in. Including fully adding some new features to the game engine, and resurrecting some very old features and getting them ready for players that enjoy nosing around into things. The story portion is very particular so I had to think of a few different out comes and plan for those, basically adding “non death” failure states, in case the player doesn’t do what I want the player to do I have to make it clear that the path is back in the other direction. I have to be vague about it here because saying what exactly I did would spoil a bunch.

So as I’ve been working on story content I’ve been thinking more and more how long it takes to add an hour of story game play, it appears to be about a month per hour. I hope that the end result is as good as I think it is (I’m pretty proud of it) but then again maybe it is held up by paper thin illusions? I tend to be very surprised by what players actually do. I’ll have to wait and see. With this content the game should be at about 50% completion story wise – so in thinking of the month per hour time line – I’m really hoping that the ending 50% of the story is going to go much quicker, and it should the way I imagine it, much less talking and much more explosions.

Another bit of news – some new HUD additions, replacing my terrible art, hoping for more very soon.

 

Needs more boss fight

A while back my sound designer sent over “lateral thruster sounds” but they didn’t fit the game too well. They were a bit too shrill and because there were other priorities they were left for later. So early last week we decided to revisit and my sound designer created some more thruster sounds. These times they fit really well, further more he created a mockup vid which alternated the thruster sounds a bit depending on the direction, it sounded very neat!

Long story short they are now in game, along with alternating forward/reverse thrusts/engines as well, so players will hear a bunch more engine feedback. Due to the relatively recent – other ship’s engines sounds don’t play now – change, I could now tweak the engine sounds to be louder (before – with other ship’s engines sounds playing it tended to be too much noise, so I quieted them) so I think that the change helps with immersion and gives more “joy of flight.”

The rest of the week was spent working some more on the current end of the content, the boss fight. I needed a certain thing to do something a certain way, and I came up with some decent solutions. I think the end result is both clever and in game universe fitting :) Can’t discuss it here since that would be a spoiler, but I’m happy – so I accomplished my goal.

Now that the boss fight is essentially finished – the next parts of the story are being worked on – since there isn’t a lull in the story, I need to get those done before releasing the update, hopefully that will be done very soon.

 

Even more happenings.

About two weeks ago my wife and I went on a mini vacation – which came at a great time because my “mouse forearm” was killing me. Every time I’d sit down and move the mouse around a bit it would start to hurt. A few days away from the PC and the pain is gone, luckily. So as far as two weeks ago – nothing much happened though right before the vacation I tweaked some very early content to make it much more epic.

Basically I extended a lot of the fights. The challenge here was that early on the player is either in a single (and fairly fragile ship) or in a big ship with very few guns. So extending the game meant a careful addition of enemy and friendly ships. Some tweaks to the map, some tweaks to how ships exit gates (specifying the “exit distance”) and other fiddling around. It was worth it in my opinion because the early game is now expanded, more dramatic and more interesting. The early game is so incredibly important, one of the biggest reasons is that nearly every player that plays Void Destroyer will play the early game, but much less will play the late game. The late game is pretty good – big battles, boss fights, unique enemies, surprises etc – so I’m glad that the early game got some love to hopefully keep players interested in the game to reach the later game.

 

So this week I spent working on a bit of a house keeping task that I’ve been meaning to do for a while – making some turrets always visible in tactical mode. Before only turrets on a “selected” ships were visible – this meant that some huge turrets (turrets that are attached to platforms, or big ships) didn’t show up in tactical mode – and this meant that the platform or ship model – looked bare and incomplete. This was fixed on Saturday and early Sunday – hopefully not many bugs were introduced.

Then late yesterday and today I spent tweaking the current final portion of content, the big boss fight. The challenge is that at a certain point I need the boss to go through a certain thing, but in 3D space this isn’t a guarantee. So what I did was to disable the ship’s engines via a script, however – this lead to a problem – momentum on collisions, the ship would/could drift – so I had to do a non-cheating way of accomplishing this, and it appears to work… we’ll see :)

Then there’s the matter of actually fighting the boss. What happens with the way I design/create boss fights is that overall I think of a strategy to fight the boss first, then model the boss around that. Noticed the “think” part? Well eventually I have to actually test this in game – and it wasn’t working… until I tweaked some values in the ship’s xml data file.. and voila! Strategy I had in mind is now viable. Only question is whether player’s will figure it out, I think this boss fight is a bunch more challenging than the first. Hopefully interesting and fun in its own way.

 

 

Almost forgot! A few days ago was the 1 year aniversary of the start of Void Destroyer’s Kickstarter campaign. This means that the project is late – as far as my promises and time lines a year ago are concerned. Though I’m sorry that I was wrong and my estimates were (and still continue to be) misleading – I think that the project is – a better project than I envisioned delivering a year ago.

More Happenings

I did a play through of the game and am nearly finished. There was a bunch of little issues I found with the scripting that I fixed. A few more ships have appeared in game and hopefully more are on the way. The first 1/2 of the game is getting polished and “filled” with what I had in mind. Though there’s still some ways to go.

 

I added a fairly unique ship combo – one that I wanted to add for a long time but didn’t have the assets. I had a bit of a bummer moment because the constant – this game is also a RTS gets in the way of some of the intended – memorable moments. For example the new ship combo – happened to die too quickly. This gets looked at by me via these ways – improve the AI so that the ships have a bigger chance of doing damage to the player – thus being noticeable. Tweak the other nearby ships – so that the ship that I want to be noticed – has a greater chance to survive (while the player’s ships are dealing with the other baddies).

 

During the play through I had a thought – the content that happens near the first 1/2 of the game (the current content) – is in my opinion – pretty awesome. To be more descriptive – it is the core of the game as I envisioned it. There is opportunity for the player to make tactical decisions on what enemy assets to destroy and the player must defend against enemy attacks – yet there is opportunity to actually jump into a ship and pilot it. This strikes me a bit – because I thought – I would love the earlier portion of the game to be this good as well. But this would probably be overwhelming for a player new to the game. Still the early game needs improvement – most notably some early fights are over far too quickly, this will be remedied :)

Happenings

This week has been mostly about a boss fight. This is good news because it means that there is going to be a boss fight. When I prepped a map and an opposing fleet for the next steps in the mission/story – I realized that once it was all said and done, without a boss, it is just another space battle that. So in those terms boring and not unique. With the help of a Kickstarter backer I’ve had an idea for a boss, and was lucky to get an 3D model to be able to put into the game.

 

So the week was spent on tweaking the 3D boss model’s texture/geometry. Adding weapons, defenses, etc etc. I don’t want to say too much because it would be a spoiler, but I’ve added the ability for ships to “turn towards the enemy” in certain ways. The best term is “broadside” attacks – like naval dreadnoughts.

Another unique addition to go along with the boss is the ability to attach “something” to it. Right now this is fairly basic – but it can easily be expanded to support “sub systems” or just plain blowing off parts off of a object – for example a wing of a ship. The biggest issue is that I don’t have 3D assets to support such a thing, but this opens up cool possibilities for future updates.  A bit of a challenge arose here due to the (somewhat) recently added “physical turrets” – turrets that are part of the physical game world – not just visual representations. The physical turrets and the attached object were colliding with each other, causing physics glitches. Had to do a bit of research and filter out some collisions that don’t have to take place.

 

Finally – I hope that there is another surprise waiting for the player – don’t want to say too much, but it is another chance to turn something from fairly dull to memorable.

 

 

A new blog post? whaaattt??

Been meaning to do more posts. There’s a few reasons why it seems that I haven’t been very successful at this task.

 

One of the reasons is that there are now three separate spots that I tend to talk with the community. Here, Kickstarter, and Steam. This section tends to be mostly left behind – as in my guesstimate it sees the least traffic. Another reason – when the initial Steam Early Access launch happened – my work load spiked (now it has fairly subsided) and I got out of the habit of updates. I’ve been meaning to fix this via a grand summary post, but that appears to just add to the whole – “don’t have time for it right now” excuse. I’ve also been meaning to combine Kickstarter updates and toss them here, but again – the whole don’t want to start because it would take too long creeps in.

 

So I decided to make shorter posts about what’s happening right now, and hopefully get back in the habit of weekly posts.

 

Here’s what I’m currently excited about (as in bored my wife telling her about yesterday)- I’ve been working on instant action scenarios while waiting for new ship assets (the new ship assets are by themselves very exciting to me). Anyway – instant action scenarios are a great way for me to design one off maps/missions – I know exactly what the player will have, and I know exactly what the enemy will have. This – as opposed to the more “flowing” nature of the continuous mission structure of main game – where the player can chose how many and what types of ships to build – is a great way of custom tailoring the experience. Still players have a lot of freedom, but I can at least start them off how I want. The other cool thing about instant action scenarios is that they are a great way of being able to tell the story from another angle. I’ve always loved this idea, and I’m happy that I’m able to realize this dream I had a while back. I hope that players see this the same way.

 

This new instant action scenario features a neat little twist – an ability/tactic that the player wouldn’t be aware off – it isn’t documented anywhere – though in terms of the game world makes sense. So it is an added bonus for the player to play this scenario – see the trick and potentially use it in the main game. Have to think of more ways to put these sort of happenings in.

 

Another great aspect of instant action scenarios – is that they let me re-use some ships that I wanted to be unique to the story line. For example boss ships. I didn’t want them to show up all over the place and diminish their uniqueness, but if I have a cool ship – I want to use it more than once. So having a scenario where a unique ship is involved – awesome!