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


After watching some star trek online gameplay videos (everyone says it sucks, but the space battles look interesting) I thought I should experiment with asteroid fields in GSB, purely (for now) as a visual effect, just a gratuitous bit of visual fluff which all the ships and weapons ignore.

Anyway, I don’t like just putting stuff in the game until I’m really happy with it. I’m not happy with this yet

But I’m not sure why. I need feedback on it from people like YOU. What looks wrong? what could be improved? Adding shadows is the obvious thing, but for boring technical reasons it would be a HUGE big deal in performance terms. I’d already have done it for ships if it was easy or fast.

Given that adding shadows isn’t an option, what else could be done to make this look more gratuitous and movie-like?

18 thoughts on ASTEROIDZ!

  1. They’re not moving – the should drift slightly. And more should rotate (on more than one axis would be good, but i imagine difficult).

    Also, the parallax seems a little strange – not quite sure what it is though.

    Finally, the ones in the foreground make the battles difficult to see.

    Interesting idea though.

  2. The biggest asteroid should have a huge, worm-like creature protruding from it that randomly shoots out and eats fighters and frigates.

  3. They need to interact with the game in some way, otherwise it’s just visual fluff and the players know it. They should get shot by missed laser cannons, rockets, etc.

  4. Nothing really new to add

    – Tumble over different axis, if that is not enough, then add a little drift
    – I like the parallax shift when you scroll, it adds to the feeling of depth
    – It would be nice if weapons randomly hit large asteroids
    (ie if the shots gonna miss and there is a “large” rock in the way, hit the rock)
    – Maybe have the larger cap ships fly “higher” in the field and the smaller ships can fly “lower” the field ?

  5. The asteroids already add a lot of depth to the game as they are, and they would add a lot more if they had interacted with each other (asteroids could collide and break into smaller pieces). Also – why stop at asteroids – you can always animate the backgrounds, too (like: cloud layer of the planets, moons that would rotate, etc).

  6. They look a bit like lumps of clay. Real asteroids are rough and sandy from millions of years of space dust bombardment. High frequency detail normal maps or texturing could roughen them up. The specular might also be too high, making them look wet.

    The size and density look good, but there isn’t anything in the background to reinforce that you are in an asteroid field. Large distant rocks, or speckled clumps would do the trick.

  7. I guess the main problem with asteroids is their random movement. In an ideal world (or galaxy) they would tumble like people have suggested but that’s not really possible in a 2D game.
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but they’re not all seperate are they? I know this would be hard work and would bump up the system specs a little more, but ideally they all need to move seperately to one another and also interact with each other and the ships. For example, if one hits a ship, the ship is slightly damaged and the asteroid breaks up into smaller pieces. Also, it would be a good way of using up missed shots from ships.

  8. hello cliff! hope the new house is good.
    not bad not bad but…
    what matt said above! they’re too specular, and too light. the ships in that vid are virtually silhouettes, whereas the rocks are bright brown poos! desaturate & darken them, then rough them up, massively reduce the specular. in fact, dusty stuff should almost have no diffuse (N.L) ‘falloff’ term either – if you look at the moon, it looks like a flat disc, not a round ball with a diffuse falloff. to get that asterioidy look, sadly (as you ruled out shadows), almost all the shading should come from shadowing of the fractaly bump onto themselves – almost like a binary image! with a big black ‘dark side’, a light side, and a sort of nice crinkly border between the two (the shadows are nice and complex from all the little bumps)

    but I guess tumbling & shadows are out as you say :( do you support pixel shaders (even ancient 1.x ones?) because in that case you could precompute horizon map shadows relatively trivially (essentially, for each pixel store (at least) a ‘min and max’ angle between which the sun reaches that pixel, computed using ray tracing or whatever from the hires model; at other times, it is in shadow. I think of it as ‘sunrise and sunset’ for each pixel ‘sun rises for me at 4, sets at 6, because of that great big lump over there’.
    then the pixel shader just needs to compare the angle to the sun with the precomputed value, and ouput black or white accordingly. that’s simple enough to even do with alpha test and layers on super old cards, if you can be bothered)

  9. Just ineraction with ships, ships need to avoid, destory asteroids, blasts knock asteroids, asteroids can be used as weapons be pushed (tractor beamed) into other ships or herded as a defensive shield or blown up to create a dust/smoke screen!

  10. Everything I was going to say has already been said. There are some good ideas there.
    Though it would be nice to see a gargantuan asteroid float past in the background occasionally.
    If you make them distributable you could end up with a game that is more Gratuitous Asteroids than Gratuitous Space Battles.
    But colliding with each other is a must, in my opinion. Also, you can’t have an asteroid field with out a danger aspect. Its just silly. There has to be some kind of disadvantage. Visuals are all well and good but unless they make your eyes explode, there not gratuitous enough.
    But to make it truly gratuitous you need interaction between the two. Have asteroids bouncing off shields, fighters and rockets crashing into them and lasers that miss colliding and heating areas of the asteroid (sort of a red glow effect). You know. Mass Chaos.

    Though you could always…
    Asteroid miners… I really need to dust that game off. It really made my childhood.

  11. I’d echo the interaction ideas, though i know that this will cost a lot of processing cycles. The asteroids could restrict the use of lasers (there’s no direct line of sight), allowing missiles to be much more effective.

    It does raise the idea of a battle around a black hole, which affects missiles but not lasers (i know that the physics would affect the ship hulls as well but it’s a game). The tactics of fighting in different settings could be quite interesting.

    perhaps you could model the asteroids as neutral ships with no weapons. The small ships of my fleet would just manoeuvre around them on the way to better targets, but bigger ships might have to clear the field of fire by blasting them. Perhaps have some ship modules relating to fighting in an asteroid belt.

    The video reminds me of an old game “Dark Matter” by Big Toe software.
    It was a fairly straight asteroids update, with jets of dust when you hit the asteroids and enemy ships with beam weapons that cut through anything in their way. The asteroids sprites were rotated at different speeds.
    Nice to to play for about five minutes but no longevity as there was no configuration of ships etc.

    The company seems to have gone but some traces are still there

  12. they give a much needed sense of scale.

    as for interaction – well.. tricky. it’s a 2d game, so they should.. but it’s space, so they shouldn’t.

    if you want gratuitous though, you should recollect starwars when ISDs follow stuff into asteroid fields, they have to blast their way through the rocks. so i would have to come down on the “make them dangerous/make them shootable” side of things.

  13. “What looks wrong?”

    The first answer that springs to mind is “how the game currently looks without asteroids, that’s what looks wrong!”.

    I bought the game even with the rather “flat” graphics because it’s a neat concept and I put a premium on innovative gameplay over nice graphics. But adding an illusion of depth will exponentially increase the visual appeal. Maybe if you put up a new trailer after an “asteroids update”, it’ll persuade some hold-outs to try it.

    If you implement drifting asteroids, you could have explosions affect their momentum.

    If you implement asteroids you could implement other similar floating objects like space junk, comet trails, ice rings, dust, star trek-y “space fog”, etc.

  14. I allways feel stupid telling this kind of feedback to people I admire but…

    maybe the small ships should avoid the asteroids.. would look kinda cool, and maybe have some gameplay impact?

  15. Hi Cliff,

    I think, as some of the other guys mentioned, you should make the ‘roids more interactive. I would like to see the ships actively avoiding them, and getting in position to return fire.

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