Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

New Gratuitous Space Battles video…

I think it’s about time to show people where I am in terms of how the battles look in GSB, although lately I’ve been working on website-integration stuff rather than the battle scenes themselves. This short video gives you a  general impression of how some of the larger scale battles look. You can also see the bits where I play about with the playback time, which is great fun.

Although GSB is really a game about strategy and planning, I know people will judge it at a first impression from how the battle scenes look, which is pretty inevitable, so I’m very open to any suggestions or criticism. The pre-battle configuration and ship-design screens are still a work in progress so I won’t be showing video or screens of them for a while. Everything works, but the exact way in which the GUI will be arranged needs some fiddling, and all of the data is pretty placeholder, so I probably have some hugely unbalanced stuff in there right now.

I’m quite please with how it looks though. If you have a youtube account, please post a motivational comment for me :D

Racial and Ship Bonuses

Something that went in yesterday, but I haven’t put final data in for, is bonuses for individual ships. The actual ship designs are handled by the player (although the game ships with one sample design for each hull), based upon a range of ship ‘hull’s which determine how the ship physically looks, it’s size and base cost and base power production.

The thing is, given that frigates are roughly the same size as each other, I need reasons that a player picks frigate hull A instead of B, etc. So that is where ship bonuses come in. There are currently five different bonus types, Shields, Armour, Integrity, Speed and Power. So if a ship has a 20% power bonus, any power plant modules on that ship produce 20% more power. The Integrity bonus increases the hit points of every module on the ship.

This system us augmented by additional ‘racial’ bonuses which I’m applying to every hull in a fleet, so all the Alliance ships are getting a 10% armour bonus, for example. Hopefully this means that the different races will tend to use different tactics, and play to different strengths.

The individual ship bonuses will encourage the player to pick specific ships for a task, so one frigate might have a big power bonus, and thus be a good choice for beam lasers.  Another might have a speed bonus, and thus be more use for flying out first to intercept the first wave of enemies, and so on. It also means that a player who prefers armour over shields will tend to pick specific hulls within a fleet. In theory, it also means that when you see the enemy fleet coming, you might eventually get a feel for which what strategy he has gone with by looking at the ship choice (you can’t see the module load-out of enemy ships during battle).

This is the current theory and hope anyway, I haven’t spent enough time configuring fleets and playing full battles yet to get it all tweaked.

Splines and how to sell GSB

I’m looking into using some splines for a few things in GSB. The thing is, I need super-fast splines, which I haven’t found yet. Still… it’s my task for the day.

I’ve been reading more and more about the whole piratebay trial and peoples attitudes to it, and their attitudes to intellectual property and copyright. I’m a strong believer in IP and copyright. I’m glad they exist, because they are what enables people to make movies like Star Wars and TV series like Star Trek. I’m glad we have those things.

But increasingly it seems like it’s the ‘general consensus’ that copyright is somehow evil, and that people should have the right to copy anything they want for free. I find this really sad, because there are only two alternatives for me in the future:

1)Use some really harsh-ass DRM to try and force people to pay for the games rather than pirate them. or

2)Somehow engineer all my games so they are based around being on-line to play them, or micro-transactions.

I’ve always lied the idea of micro-transactions because I believe they give more freedom and options to both the gamer and the developer, as long as you can’t ‘buy’ an advantage in a multiplayer game. However, the idea of designing a game to be always-online annoys the fuck out of me. A lot of people have flaky web connections or game outside or on the train, and it also means I have all those people hitting my server all the time they are playing. Plus it means doing a ton of web coding I don’t especially enjoy.

Ironically, there *is* a lot of really cool ways to integrate GSB on-line, which I have at the back of my mind, and would probably do anyway if I was more familiar with web coding. Unfortunately, I’m now looking at this sort of thing as essential and inevitable because I just don’t think you are going to be able to sell singleplayer games on the PC within a  year or so. Stardock recently discovered that even original PC strategy games without DRM get pirated to oblivion, and supposedly stardock are the good guys.

I like singleplayer offline games. I just wish our friends in sweden and their pals hadn’t done such a good job at making that whole genre almost unsellable :( Nice work guys…

Emergent L33tness

I was just testing a new laser blast graphic I added to the game, and had two big fleets of cruisers and frigates flying towards each other blasting away like mad, and noticed that the front frigate (which was under serious attack) seemed to be drifting backwards.

This puzzled me, because although i did once code support for reverse thrusters, I turned it off, and knew anyway that ship didn’t have any,

Then I realised that it was the physics of the blast effect. The number of enemy blasts piling onto the ships hull was not only damaging it big time, it was knocking it slightly backwards. I had forgotten that could happen :D

I wish this game was finished already so I could just sit down and edit some cool videos of stuff like that…

One of the main changes today was for fighters. To get a better sense of huge ships, I scaled all the fighters down by a fair chunk. Now when you add a fighter squadron, you get 16 ships instead of 9, and they are smaller. It does seem to look a lot better. The cruisers never looked big enough before. The AI is pretty fast and it doesn’t seem to matter with a few hundred ships per side, even with all guns blazing.

Things going zap

I’ve got lots of minor stuff done lately. Tiny animated welding drones that hover around damaged ships when they have auto-repair systems are now done. Plus I added a very basic scoring UI. (some art, such as the playback buttons need to be done properly. The whole battle section is pausable, and you can toggle the UI off entirely to just watch the fun.

Look: things going zap:

I need video clips of amazing space battles. Or decent hi-res images. Post any links here if you have them.