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

Shaders, and then on to game data and weapons

I spent the weekend mucking around with pixel shaders. I’ve not used shaders before, and tbh, the documentation for such things assume you already know how they work, which is insane. I was originally hoping to get some shockwave distortion effects in for ship explosions, and although I got it working, there are some artefacts I’m not happy with. I might still use shaders to do some simple stuff like tinting the whole screen certain colours in some of the nebulas (I think it looks kinda eerie). Of course, thsi kinda stuff will be optional for anyone with older cards.

So this coming week I’ll be turning my attention to game play balance issues and getting some proper data in there. I need to knock up a few decent, balanced enemy fleets to fight against and check the game mechanics as they are. My concern right now is that putting a ton of effort into shields and armour may ‘trump’ everything else. A small proportion of shots always penetrate each (lucky shoT!), so they are not absolutes, but still they are probably too beneficial.

One idea I had was for shields to operate only under certain ‘loads’. So say we have a shield with a strength of 20, and its hit by a laser beam with penetration of 11. That beam won’t make it through, which is fine, but I was considering allowing multiple beams at the same time to ‘overload’ shields.
So if you had simultaneous beams of a strength of say 40, all hitting a shield at once (or over some short period) they would knock the shield out entirely for a second or two. That would mean that large groups of frigates with relatively low power lasers could still take down a cruiser, despite its shields if they concentrate their fire.

Right now you have a damage and a penetration value for each weapon, so you might have a weapon with massive shield penetration but tiny damage, which always damages the shield strength a bit, or a weapon with tiny penetration and massive damage, which is easily deflected by a shield, but if it isn’t deflected, does major damage.
Hopefully a wide range of options on equipment like this will lead to the emergence of a ton of interesting ship designs. Maybe :D

6 thoughts on Shaders, and then on to game data and weapons

  1. One thing that needs to checked for when game play balancing is that a single strategy doesn’t work against every type of enemy fleet. In some games i have played, you only need to work out the one golden strategy and it works all the time.

  2. I like the idea of “shield overload.” One problem may be the “gang up” however if most of a person’s ships attack a couple vessels at a time in order to bypass the regeneration (that might ruin a lot of the strategy).

    I’m guessing that some sort of overload should be able to prevent gang up, like a self destruct with a shock wave.

    Maybe different TYPES of shields should be helpful.

    Bubble + Knock out

    Bubble + Only knocked out in a specific location (that PART of the shield)

    Glove (bended around harder to hit) + knock out

    Glove + Specific location

    Also maybe there should be a way to destroy part of the shields. Like for instance if too much damage goes to one part of the ship then that part of the shield is destroyed (no longer regenerates). This could add more strategy as well. If you have the knock out shields maybe they’re stronger but if a part or two of the shield is destroyed you lose the shield, but if you have the partial knock out you keep the other parts of the shield. This might be explained because the generators of the knock out rely on each other. The generators of the partial knock out are more independent.

  3. I would do shields the old “Master of Orion II” style:

    – shields deflect a certain amount of damage points before is fails
    – shields per arc (front, aft, port, starboard, …)
    – shield capacitators (if one is destroyed the maximum shield strength will be decreased permantly)

    on the attacker side you get:

    – normal weapons, are deflected by shields, but shields will loose shields points equivalent to the attack value of the weapon
    – only the shields for the attacking arc are used
    – shield piercing weapons will penetrate the shields and hit armor directly (shields witll keep all energy)
    – enveloping weapons will reduce shieldpower on all arcs, each shield will loose power equivalent to the attack power
    – special weapons can overloard shields, so they lose all power at once

  4. As mrstarware says, the gang up factor might hurt things. You could have an “overload” ship specifically for disabling shields and then your “destroy” ship fitted with no penetration/max damage weapons?

    I like the idea of shields with hit-points and interval regeneration. So if you can out-damage the regeneration it would mean all extra damage goes straight through to armour.

  5. Although not having the gang up factor might hurt things as well, so it’s something that’s going to need to be tested to ensure it’s equally fair. I generally would play with larger fleets of small fast ships.

    As such using heavy weapons or anit-shield weapons wouldn’t fit in with my overall theme. So being able to focus the fire of my entire fleet to bring down the enemies largest ship would be something extremely awesome to watch.

    I know it’s good to not have a ‘golden strategy’ but I think being able to play in your own style and still manage to win is something that needs to be considered. I don’t want to have to say incorporate slow bulky shield depleting ships into my fleet just because I’m forced to, as it’s the only way to take out there shields.

    While a looser idea of my fleet formation would be say more lighter,cheaper ships compared to lesser heavy, expensive ships I don’t want to be forced to have to drastically change my design to over come every challenge.

    i.e. Level/Mission/What ever 1 should not force me to have to adopt a heavy fleet set in order to win but rather force some slight modifications to my cheaper fleet in other areas to give them an equal advantage over the enemy as the heavy build set.

  6. What about a mix of systems? Shields have a penetration rate and a strength rate. As the shield takes damage, the strength (hp) of the shield is reduced. If the strength of the shot is greater than the penetration rate, some of the damage leaks through and hits the shit. As the shield weakens in strength, the penetration rate could also go down, allowing more hits to get through.

    This would allow for added variety of equipment configurations. Weapons with low damage rates but high penetration would be opposed by shields with low strength and high penetration, and weapons with high damage and low penetration would be opposed by shields with low penetration and high strength.

    Bigger ships could have shields that are so powerful, it would require multiple weapons to reach the penetration threshold. I like the idea of multiple weapons hitting the same spot creating a hole in the shields (penetration=0) and allowing damage to pour through. I would have the hole only last as long as weapons are hitting it. For the penetration to return to normal, that segment of the shield would need to stop getting hit.

    This would give large ships an incentive to be maneuverable. I like MrStarWare’s idea of multiple different shield types. Let the player choose between bubble and segmented. A maneuverable ship would want segmented, but a slow beast that can’t avoid firepower anyway will want a bubble, or the inverse, have bubble be the shield small enough to fit on the tiny fighters, and large capital ships have the advantage of access to segmented shields but require additional space for every segment.

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