Category Archives: Game Updates

Giving tactical mode some love

Tactical mode as it was looked a bit too cartoonish. My intent is for tactial mode to look “cool” yet “utilitarian” (read: no frills military look). I also wanted to distinguish tactical mode by having a different approach to light in it. I wanted everything to be clearly visible unlike the ship mode where light came from the sun. However when you turn off light then you lose a lot of the coolness and detail (from the shading). So I came upon an idea, turn on the light for the majoirty of the model, and turn off the light (in game dev terms when you turn off lighting you make an object fully visible) on the model’s wireframe. I also changed the background color to be much darker. The result looks much better in my opinion.

Tactical mode - before and after
Click to see full size

Iteration 3.5 and a Twitter account

I wasn’t planning on releasing iteration 3.5, instead the plan was to release iteration 4 in about 2 weeks, however extended a very generous offer to show banner adds of indie projects for free on their site. I jumped on the offer and in hopes of the increased traffic I “finished” two new tutorials that I’ve been working on to ease players into the game. My plan is to ask gaming communities for feedback on how effective the tutorials are in the near future. There may be some gaps that I’m missing because I’m too close to the project. I hoped to ask my wife to run through them, but simply ran out of time this Sunday. She’s the perfect candidate since her gaming world involves Solitare and a week long obsession with Zuma years ago. If the tutorials teach her how to play the game then they’ll teach anybody (which is my goal).

Also in the vain idea that those same new visitors (and repeat guests) would be interested in following me on Twitter I joined up Follow me on Twitter. Quite honestly if you asked me before I started this project whether I would have a Twitter account I’d probably roll my eyes, but nowadays I definatly see a use for it to help me spread the word and communicate with those who may be interested in this project.

I hope you download iteration 3.5 and test out the new tutorials and let me know how they work out. The plan is for Iteration 4 to also include a combat basics tutorial.

Objectives and Tutorials

The basics of objectives are done, I can add either a “destroy this” objective or a “press this key” objective. There is a gui showing a list of current objectives and their descriptions. There is feedback to the player when an objective is completed and a new objective has been added. There is also a “pop up window” that stops the game until the player hits continue which will mostly be used in the keys tutorial (hit F2 to change to chase view etc etc) to highlight to the player the new action he/she is to take next. I’m pretty happy with what I have so far, but… doing this work I realize how far I have to go before I have enough tools programmed into the engine in regards to story mode, I’ll need more objective types (the more I have the bigger variety of missions I can create), game cut scenes, dialogs, triggers, special AI for special ships.. etc etc, a big list. Also I need to start thinking about where to store the tutorials, for iter 4 they may be stored in the C++ files thus stored in the .exe file itself, later on they really should be in an binary, XML or just plain text document for easy editing.

What is next is to write out the first tutorial, after that I will have to create new types of objectives for the tutorial detailing how to build ships, the tutorial that detils how to build stations, and how to take advantage of the tactical mode and script those tutorials as well.

Started work on a “Objective” and “Objective Manager” systems

Objective manager holds objectives, every once in a while (eg: every 1 second in game) objective manager will check whether objectives are completed then display a objective achieved message for the user then look for another objective in the sequence, if exists.

What’s neat is that so far this is pretty easy (thus a nice change to code), the challenge is to make this well thought out, but actual coding is fairly simple. Will have to soon consider how to store mission/objective text, so far I’ve been hard coding it into the C++ files, should really read these in using XML to make it more flexible.

Iteration 3 almost here

I remmember a while back a friend of mine had a baby, I teased him comparing taking care of my cat (then a new arrival as well) to him taking care of his newborn. He would say: Its nothing like a baby! Well if I had friends in the game industry I would tease them now comparing me getting ready to release iteration 3 to them during their releases. I’ve been fairly busy tweaking the game, fixing a few bugs, updating models, play testing, balancing, updating the website with new screen shots and making a new video for youtube. I have to remind myself: it isn’t commercial yet, so you can take breaks (sitting in front of a computer eventually gets to me) and don’t have to keep a ridig schedule.

I keep thinking that if I was a company and had a team I could have someone else do the website and other tasks. Oh well maybe one day!

Iteration 3 – Notes 2

Played for around 10 minutes with the new progressive difficulty with only the “Alien” ships spawning (no pirates) and the game defeated me. I had a destroyer up and through the gate came 1 destroyer and 3 frigates, some corvettes and fighters. My tactic was to set all my ships against the enemy destroyer and while I piloted mine destroyer attempting to destroy the frigates. It didn’t work out so well. I tried to position my destroyer in such a way that the beam weapon attacking me would hit the enemy frigates, it worked briefly, the destroyer is a bit too clumsy. Technically I won the fight, but lost the war, my frigates and destroyers were gone and I didn’t have any resources to rebuild. I made a few mistakes, I could have positioned my defensive base closer the path of incoming enemies to optimize its line of fire, maybe built another one instead of the shipyard and destroyer.

It feels pretty nifty, and these play sessions make me hopefull that the game will be an enjoyable experience and fairly soon! The difficulty needs much tweaking, the shipyard is probably too expensive at this point, I’ll scale it down a bit. The AI needs more tweaking as well, it doesn’t defend itself currently, just selects the closest target in the highest slot on its priority list. I’ll work on putting in AI code so that it will make a choice: continue to target or attack a closer attacker.

Also I’ve decided to work on a tutorial, it will be basic at start, but I feel it is necessary to get more interest and feedback. I wonder if players download the game, find it very difficult or frustration or pointless (since they may not know what to do) then drop it.

Iteration 3 WIP notes

Iteration 3 will feature a more linear game difficulty. Actually one of the main goals is for Iteration 3 to be more game like. Basically spawn points will start with a small “budget” that will increase. Different ship types cost different amounts, it is designed in a tiered way, so even if the spawn point could afford a destroyer it will go down to the lesser ship type so that it will spawn more ships in general and with more variety. EG: a destroyer costs 500, I have 1000, I will spawn a destroyer, now I have 500, but this is below the threshold of even checking to spawn a destroyer so I will spawn a frigate, etc etc.

Basically I want a wide variety of ships to be created and the difficulty to be a bit linear in the beginning then scale up to a certain point, and then remain somewhat static. I’ll throw in some randomness as well so that the spawned forces are not always predictable, also once there is a difficulty slider, the randomness will slide more towards creating more enemies. These spawn points won’t be the only source of opposition in the game, once there are story elements, triggers, special events, this will add to the overall conflict.

Back to the more game like goal of iteration 3, the player will start with less ships than in previous iterations, and won’t have enough resources to build any stations at the start, although the asteroid base can build corvettes and frigates so that the player can start building ships. The player will have a choice, start making smaller ships? Invest in a shipyard to build bigger ships? Build or go for a defense platform instead?

While doing some tests I realize that there is a serious need for a path finding algorithm. Fighter ships that launched in response to the first threat became horribly stuck before being able to reach the hangar bay to dock with the asteroid base. This isn’t the first time it happened, but the asteroid’s base size makes this a more likely occurrence than a carrier, either way I need a some sort of a path finding algorithm (A* etc).

What to do about the sun…

So for Iteration 3 the plan is to convert the world from planets to asteroid bases. This is to accomplish several things: asteroid bases are cooler than planets (in my opinion), asteroid bases achivable scale versus a ship or station is closer to reality and more pleasing to the scale of planets versus ships and stations (currently a carrier is only a few times bigger than a moon, making planets bigger would make planets too close to eachother, the sun is also only about 10 times bigger than the Earth like planet). Asteroid bases are a bit more believable to starting with low amounts of tech, resources, and people under your command. Asteroid bases would also balance out the “pirate” faction which I’ll convert to a rival base faction. Asteroid base veruss another asteroid base is a lot more balanced than planet versus pirate base. Also I can come up with some really neat ideas as to how humanity ended up on these bases in the first place.

So with the planetary system a very easy and obvious, yet neat configuration came into existance, the sun, in the middle of the game world shined a neat ligth on the planets. The planets have a light and dark side. This looked pretty neat and screamed space. Planets that were closer to the sun produced more energy than those that were further. Point being that the sun had many cool aspects. But if I go into an asteroid base type environment where there is no sun this light is gone and so is one aspect that would distinguish bases from one another (the energy production yield). I want the bases to be lit up and have a dark and light side as well, so where would the light come from? For quite a while the idea in my mind is that the game will revolve around a highly advanced piece of technology that all the sides want to posses. So I thought that this object would give off light, and some sort of radiation that the bases would harness.

While spending some time in Blender creating this object, I was basically creating a circular gate, then it hit me… I’m losing a sun, but want to add some high tech object, why not add a sort of a space station that has created or somehow contains an artificial sun. Voila, I have a high tech object, I have sun light, I have the bases power source and I’ve made something that was fairly ordinary in concept (a sun) into a some thing more an artificial sun and a space object that seemingly created it. Pretty good synergy of design right here.

Re-vamped ship models

After releasing iteration 2 I felt a bit burned out from programming and started playing around with Blender. Surprisingly I drew a pretty neat ship. I then drew another, and then decided to do a model re-vamp. Some models have been redrawn from new, some just spiced up quite a bit with more details. The models aren’t at the level I’d like, however they are much more detailed and better than the old, so I’m happy. Now I’m burned out from modeling.

The carrier re-draw that started it

The alien carrier that followed

Using the re-created alien carrier model I re-created the destroyer

The pirate carrier was also re-drawn

Re-drawn Terran fighter.

I told a friendof mine that my 3D modeling skills “leveled up.” The same friend also provided the new turret models. Truthfuly I have to thank SolCommand, I looked a lot at his models and thought “Why are mine so crappy?” and studied what I think are his techniques, thought about them and tried them out.

Iteration 2 – ready for download

The past week or so I’ve been testing and fixing minor issues. I’ve played about an hour or so without any crashes so I think I got a good amount of them taken care of.

You can download it here.

Even putting up a new release is time very consuming…Today I re-created the installer, updated the website, uploaded the installer and created a new promotional video.

What started off as an idea (asteroid bases) turned into an enhanced station building process, new stations, a new ship, changed interface and many other small tweaks. I played a bit of the actual release and am a little bit worried that it may be too difficult (for a beginner) because the player has to activley create a shipyard station now (in iteration 1 a station was there already built).

Next week I start on iteration 3, converting the game world to asteroid bases only. The code for planets will still be around, so down the line they may make a comback (in instant action mode, scenarios, mods etc).