Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Good Morning, 

It's been awhile since I've posted anything but work has still been progressing, my two main focuses have been GUI for ship designer and the research system. This post I'll just do a quick summary of the ship designer changes and there will be a post later for the research GUI and it's system as there is a lot to that one :)

Here is what ship designer looked like before I started this work

Here is a mockup of possible what I'm aiming for, this is with a module selected to show the details of that module (not in-game yet):

This might be a little overdone with the lines and extras but would like to try it in game as they all actually show some useful info at a glance but they might be removed if it appears too much. 

Some of the main changes are adding backgrounds for the stats which I think really help and grouping the stats by type (Movement, Hull, Power, etc). I also moved the preview stats to the left which seems to work better as on some of the larger stat names it could overlap which was no good.

The hull selection list has also been updated, mainly focusing on the stats and how to display them. Now the research system adds a lot more variation to the hull options I needed to show more stats and in a useful way. I was mainly thinking if players care when the ship has 10hp or 100hp then realizing it only matters how much it compares to other hulls, i.e. "It's twice as strong as the cheaper one". So along those lines hull GUI has been changed to be bars (tooltips can still show the actual figure), these get the values by finding the highest value for each stat that any hull has that is available to the player and basically displaying it as 0-100% of the best available one.

Hopefully at a glace this will make it easier to choose what you are looking for. One thing I'll be paying attention too when testing is how it feel as tech advances and the bars actually change for hulls that haven't changed stats. For example if you get new hull for Battlecruiser that has twice the HP as your previous best design that previous design will now be half a bar (it used to show a full bar). So it should always show up to date information but it will be a dynamic comparison. I will need to see how it will feel as a player, as I can't think of information been displayed like this in other games but think it should work.

Here is a current screenshot of what I've been able to implement so far, very much a WIP and nothing final but starting to feel more developed:

I've also done a lot of work on research systems and the GUI. Halfway through it was redesigned as I began to see limitation to the initial approach, so I'll talk over that with some before and after screenshots next blog. 

Happy to answer any questions or feedback in the comments.
Til next time!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Hi All,

Sorry for the lack of information lately I've been having a little break for dev work and had a Hawaiian holiday during that :). I was finding it hard to be motiviated for dev work outside of my full time IT job but every time I went to play a 4x game I just find myself thinking about what it do\don't like and would add or avoid in my game...

One thing that keeps bugging me in games I'm playing are the combat mechanics, using Gal Civ III as the latest example are complete combat rounds. The fact that if you attack it's either a total loss or victory (perhaps with some loss). I'm my game its more like Civ V (not one unit per hex though) in that you can attack, do a little damage each way then wait to next turn. I like how this allows harassing or testing the enemy strength, without having to commit to a total loss if you estimated strengths wrong (or the GUI estimate isn't detailed enough). So I get a bit more motivation for mine when I keep seeing this or similar in turn based games, I just want to have some starship skirmishes! :)

On another front I've done some design work especially toward research and tech systems in the game. Current system is looking a little complicated but very dynamic and interesting... I will start adding the features and test to see if too complicated or hopefully works well.

The process might look something like this:

1. Design the customized module you want. Pick using the amount of points researched in the stats you want. i.e 3 pts dmg, 2 pts accuracy, 5 pts cost reduction, etc. These modifiers have diminishing returns shared across all stats so it will be adifferent result if you pick dmg then accuracy second compared to if accuracy is first then dmg.

2. Once design complete you order a prototype from a research corp(s). This will lock in the stats you have chosen but each corp will produce a prototype with stats chosen and also a random modifier based on corp stats (some corps could be more reliable and consistent results or others more random but have chance to produce higher quality prototype)

3. Pick the prototype you like (can discard ones that didn't work out as well) for a ship you are designing. Ships can go through the same prototyping stage allowing variation from ship builders (you could still keep all the prototypes produced to use in your fleet if you want but only mass produce one variant)

4. Now comes the interesting part... Once you have a module up to a certain modified level you can research the next tier, lets say you have fission reactor up to required level then you can research Fusion reactor based on the last (or best) completed fission module. This will inherit the improvements from the fission reactor and add it to the base stats of the fusion reactor.

4a. So here you have a choice to research the next tier module so you get the base boost offered from the next tier or continue to refine the fission reactor for small increments but those improvements will add good bonuses to the next tier fusion reactor. The base bonuses are stacking so if fission reactor has a 40% boost researched and fusion has a base of 100 it's base will be 140 and then if you research 40% for the fusion reactor you get 196 instead of just 140, which will continue to stack throughout the tiers this can accumulate to large differences in the later tiers

4b. You can always start a new branch at any time, you could even simultaneously research a high output reactor and a low cost, high reliability one, and continue these through each tier. This will very quickly provide you with 2 quite different variants from the same base module

Now Corps will always have their versions of modules and pursue their own research so first you don't always have to design the modules if a corp has one you want already. They also might have higher tech available then you would want to pay for, so you could have an expensive high tech fleet or a cheap larger one. Corps could also have their own ships for escort\defense of their property (research stations, freighters, etc) and will probably be using cutting edge tech as they don't have to pay for licensing costs for their own stuff. All this to be balanced of course with lots of trial and probably AI games to watch how easily a change give a team an advantage.

One way I plan to avoid it been to much to micromanage is by having module modifier research take a decent amount of time and not much can be done to decrease the time, research capacity will expand parallel as empires expand so more projects simultaneously not increase research speed. We don't want to be redesigning modules\ships every 10 turns... and because prototypes will cost a decent amount it's not economical to research a new prototype every tech that you complete.

I'll leave it there so this post doesn't get any bigger, it's a bit of a brain dump so if I missed explaining a critical point just ask and I'll hopefully explain it, once I have the framework in I'll try to provide some screenshots to show it better hopefully :)


Tuesday, 7 April 2015

I've uploaded another demo version v0.091 (once moderator approved in IndieDB) with fixes and some more useful AI for anyone interested. I've also done a video blog as a test to see how it goes and if it helps explain where I'm up to and what I have planned better then just a blog post.

And Part 2 as I crashed the game (fixed now) during recording... lol

Don't hesitate to offer any suggestions or feedback on the format, also if you would like a video blog detailing parts of the game you specifically want to know about just let me know!


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Hi Everyone,

Got another preview release for anyone who is willing to try it out. Added piles of stuff since my first demo including: Ship Design, Sounds, Damage, Research, Etc though some at a very early state.

If you want to provide any feedback on the general feel, would love to hear a general Pros\Cons summary or even just 3 points below:

* The first annoying\incomplete thing you noticed
* After playing a bit the most noticeable\incomplete thing you found
* First or biggest bug you find

I hope this release will convey a little more of the feel of the game I'm aiming for even though still very incomplete.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

It's time for another update this one I will detail some background data structure changes I've been working on and why. Also I've done a first pass on textures for a station and the freighter.

I've also updated the module status GUI details too, still unlikely to be final but better than just plain text:

Most of my recent focus has been to get shipyards implemented. To do this I've had to restructure some the custom objects I was and adjust the way the were linking to each other too. This really highlighted to me why programmers often do data design first and will layout all the data they want and how it will link with other data. I think it would save quite a bit of work if you get it close to right first time... oh well I'm still learning :)

Now I might get a little technical in data structure terms but read-on if you're interested!

This first involved the 'Ship' type, originally just had the single 'ship' object and that was working well but as I planned how stations were going to work I realised it's going to work a lot better if a create a parent object type called 'unit' then 'ship' and 'station' will be a subtype of this. the unit object would manage selection, scaling, combat, etc as these actions are shared with ships and stations. Ships have unique functions for movement, internal damage (may change later), designs, etc. Where as stations can have sectors for research and shipyards (can add production stations later too if I decided to), constructions and has a different base type for design\stats. I've completed most of this work now and have the base station type working correctly ready for expanding the functions for stations!

The other structure change was the 'Market' object.  Previously this was linked to the planet object as each colonized planet would have a market. however I now wanted markets for shipyards so construction materials can be delivered with my current trade logic and orders can be placed etc. Again this involved changing a lot of the way markets were linked and created. Now Markets are just linked to the grid directly as anything on grid can can share a market if it exists (don't want to have inter-grid trading as that is been to fiddly). I'll even create a market on grid for consturcion of ordered stations, probably a limited market so corps don't start placing random orders for items in open space, but it will use freighters to deliver station parts to the construction site without having to change much of the trade logic.

Next I'll be working on the GUI, orders and building functions for shipyards. this might be a time to revisit my ordering GUI as I want the planet and shipyard order menus to be the same and current planet one I don't think is very user-friendly. This probably goes same for the market menu, I'll have them shared and current version really needs some work to be more useful.

I've also done some adjustments to galaxy generation keeping planets a bit closer to their parent star and changed the lighting\brightness to reflect this. There has also been plenty of little additions or balances I've done as I've noticed them :)

Now on to ships and texturing... one of my least skilled jobs but still learn some tricks as a I go. though I'd say if I get anywhere with this project a texture artist\modeller is probably the first outside help I'd jump at. Here is first pass at the freighter I was doing and WIP for the station. So neither textures are finished but at least it now looks better than no textures at all.

These were taken in editor so don't show specular maps or proper lighting.

As alway happy to hear any comments, queries or feedback anyone may have to offer?


Monday, 8 September 2014

Hey Guys,

Just an quick update, I've still been progressing well on this and am getting a little excited at times with how it is looking if I do say so myself :) I've been working on the research system, including the GUI (still programmer graphics), some early resource and trade balancing. I still have to implement some of the research options so they actually effect the stat you researched, some are working as planned though.

I've also added a basic 'next unit' cycle, so when you finish moving something it will select and focus the next available ship to move. Adding this makes it start to feel much more like a game and less tech demo-y! It's amazing how even quite simple things to add make it feel so much more playable.

I plan to release another public build in the near future but I won't promise an ETA just yet as I'll probably just get distracted adding more and not meet it anyway ;) I could get back to updating the changelog on the blog but not sure if it was worth doing? Happy to hear any feedback or questions from anyone or if a few people would really like another build I could focus on that?

Token screenshot of the current research screen, mainly to show what you can do, not the awesome GUI I have in place...

Monday, 21 July 2014

Hi all, I had been holding off from a blog hoping to have a new demo release to go with it but time seems to be dragging on and I keep working on other things but not always fixing the base playability or stability just yet... oh well.

Overall I've added quite a bit since my last blog, including but not limited to: Missiles, post processing effects, turrets, sound effects, started research mechanics, module sizing, mixed planet population races, ship crew race, planet habitability (temp, gravity, atmosphere, etc)... so I've haven't been idle with it. I did quite a few fixes and performance increases too, though probably added a few things that need fixing in the mix there too :)

Here is a quick example of the post processing effect, this hasn't been tweaked at all for stars it looks way better but a bit strong on the ships a planets probably but cool to know what can happen at least

Here is what it looked like without:

Below is what some of the combat can look like now, certainly a lot better than what I start, might do a video later, as it looks better in motion:

And here is another example of missiles but also showing what I hope to do with research, though a lot prettier GUI of course! Basically you choose individual stats to research but each level has diminishing returns but is infinite though going too far wouldn't be worth it. Technically this way can't run out of things to research, also other stats for the same module still get a diminished return so you don't just automatically choose the first 5 level for each stat until it isn't worth the effort anymore you have to choose whats most useful and go for that first.

Each stat can have a different return so if damage would usually be the best thing to research you can decrease the value of research to make it more of a choice between other stats, Also you wouldn't have all stats available for research with each module but just the most useful ones for that module type, this is all just specified in the techs themselves (I don't want to have 10 choices and really you'd only even pick 3-4 of them)

This is still early stages, but to progress in the the tree itself for new module types, you can have prereqs and what level that prereq must be on, i.e. totally made up but say you want to the 'super mega blaster' you need to research 'mega blaster' MK X first (9 levels of any mega blaster stat) and also could have another prerequisite of "weapon theory" lvl 5 as well. After you have the Super mega blaster you can still continue to research 'mega blaster' if it is still in use and you want to improve it more.

This is all subject to change and testing\balancing of course but is what i'd like in it, would be great to add some tech randomization too but need to do it properly if at all so not planning that feature yet. I'd be happy to explain any more details I may have left out if anyone has questions?