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

GSB2 Design mode composites (pre-built)

I admit it, it makes me cough and splutter a lot when people say ‘I don’t want to go to the trouble of designing the look of the spaceships, so I just slap down an empty hull graphic‘. It worries me because there are several downsides to this. Firstly, they are missing out a big part of the game, especially a big part of what makes GSB2 new. Secondly it means their challenges, screenshots and videos are going to give a poor impression of the game, because those naked hulls are…well naked, and simplistic looking. My engine can do better! Thirdly (and perhaps most importantly) it suggests that people think the ship design interface is too complex, or fiddly, or time consuming. This is something I’ve been working on.

Firstly we now have a lot of fixes that make composite objects work better, and rotation speeds are fixed, and there is now a handy ‘reset to zero’ button for rotation speed. Plus the interface now only shows color layer options when they are relevant, because always showing three confused people, as there are rarely three layers to adjust…

But something that was suggested, and it was a great idea, was that the game should come not only with all these tiny little widgets, but also some pre-built big components you can drag and drop to make the process quicker. I agree. This now acts as a half-measure between those people who couldn’t be bothered to design at all, and those who spend hours adjusting each fin.  Here is a screenshot of a naked hull surrounded by some of the pre-fabs you can choose from.


Those pre-fabs are ‘composite objects’ and you can just right click on one and split it into all its components. Each one has a big pile of them, and you can delete one, move one, and then regroup as a new composite if you like. You can scale and duplicate/mirror/set colors for composites just like anything else, it’s one of the ship editors best kept secrets.

On that topic, I should probably give some love and attention to nudging people into using the hotkeys on that screen, as frankly I never touch the size or angle slider for anything, its so much easier to use a mouse wheel with ctrl or shift. Here’s a closeup of a composite, made up of probably 30+ components.


I’m going to spend some time today just making a few of these for each race. They act both as ‘quick-fixes’ to otherwise dull looking hulls, as well as a demonstration of the way composite objects work, which hopefully will nudge more people into creating their own. Eventually I’d like to see collections of them in the steam workshop or as lists of mods on the GSB2 website. I can foresee people getting reputations as expert ship designers!

If you just stumbled upon this post, this is a blog about the PC space strategy game ‘Gratuitous Space Battles 2‘ which is currently in beta, and you can pre-order the game and start playing right now by clicking this link here. Tell your friends!

18 thoughts on GSB2 Design mode composites (pre-built)

  1. Apologies if I’ve simply failed to read this somewhere, but I have a question about the shapes (ship components) that can be added to the base hull designs. Are there any factors that should be considered when adding pieces onto the ships that affect gameplay? I’ve assumed, thus far, that changing the ship design with the available components that add onto the structure was solely for looks, but started to wonder if adding affected the mass of the ships hull and played any part in acceleration or movement of the ships.

    I, for one, am looking forward to having some time to “design” some ships. I love that feature. I certainly wouldn’t have the time to create mods (as in the first game), so drag and drop works perfectly for me.

  2. I think having pre-built “modules” are great, but take it a step further and have a pre-built ship or two as well. It’s a double edged sword to spend all the time creating a beautiful ship. While it’s satisfying to see your ship design on screen, it’s also doubly disappointing to see it being blown to bits.

    It’s kind of like the joke: “combat engineers build weapons, civil engineers build targets.” Unfortunately, a ship is both a weapon and a target; but some of us are going to play the game with the focus on the former, not the latter. When you don’t plan to have attachments to the design, it it doesn’t make sense to put too much time on the artistic aspects of it.


  3. Looking forward to having the cash to get the beta (sooooooon). But for those people who don’t want to play about in the ship creator are there plans for random ships?

    Hit a button, get a ship desgin, tweak the ship design.

    (Also helps with the blank canvas problem)

    Anyway I shall wait for soooooooonnnn.

  4. I like the idea of having some pre-built components. I’m not the most visually creative, but seeing some “examples” gives me ideas of other things that one can do with it. For example, I had an “oh yeah, I suppose I could layer these things on top of these other widgets to make this!”

    Along those lines, how difficult would it be to save out our own pre-built components? Like you put together a cool looking combination of stuff, and want to add it to other ships in your fleet.

    Thanks again for all of your hard work! Love seeing GSB2 come together!

  5. Hi Chris

    It’s great to hear that you’re changing the editor so everyone can get into it – and hopefully the quality of the pre-built options will show people what can really be done and set the bar for quality.

    But why spend a day of your time – which could be spent on UI design or bug fixes – making these pre-built parts when you have a growing army of beta testers to do it for you?

    I imagine that most of your current beta testers probably read this blog. I’m sure you have the stats for that. So why not launch a competition tomorrow for the best pre-built modules possible – and make it publicly known that any entries which meet your exacting quality standards will be included in the game when it ships, with the author’s name attached?

    (Unless the answer is that you find the editor fun and you’re looking forward to a day playing with your game. That would be a good answer!)

  6. I kind of hinted it already in last blog comment but in my newest game design (that’s nothing like the earlier design but still a space ship flying game), one of the prime new ideas is that you create things and there’s a financial motivation for the players to make things as beautiful as possible. (Of course the hidden agenda here is to transfer money to pockets of starving artists)

  7. hey cliff, will we have the option to build and save our own prefabs? that would make building themed fleets a lot easier, and would cut down on repetitive part-building. in fact, what about prefabs that consist of other prefabs? just pondering.

  8. I don’t think there’s any way to avoid it, there are going to be some players that just won’t spend the time to build their own ship designs, no matter how easy you try to make it. If the idea of people using ‘naked’ hull graphics bothers you, I think you’re just going to have to bite the bullet and give people the option of choosing a pre-built visual design when they create a new ship in the editor.

    If you don’t want to create all of the pre-built designs yourself, you could always, similar to what one of the other commenters suggested, run a competition for the best-looking ships, with the prise for the best designs, being used as the ‘default’ in-game.

  9. I, personally, have been having a ton of fun toying around with the ship designer. You mentioned something about it in the post, but I’d like to ask for some easier rotation. As it is, I can’t easily get my parts to be rotated perfectly 90/180/270 degrees, and instead have to kind of eyeball it with the sliders or use the mouse wheel. Having a simple numeric field where I could type 90/180/45/etc and simply have the piece rotated by that amount would be boss.

    Along those same lines, having a nice numeric entry for the size of pieces would also be nice.

    Maybe I’m anal about my designs though :(

  10. I personally would love to take the time to design my ship but right now it feels too finicky, with no zoom option, another thing I would love to do is to add hard points so I could make a single dreadnaught to do everything instead of multiple due to the preset hard points, though I think with that there should be a limit on how many hard points you could add so you don’t just make a ship that looks like it is just weapons floating in space. Another thing would be the ability to use visuals from other races, because some look like they would go well with other races.

    1. Yup, the whole ‘use stuff from other races’ thing is something I simply can’t make my mind up on. I think maybe it should be on another tab, because I like to encourage some sort of consistency, but its true that this limits your choices…

  11. In GSB1 the ship length affects the chance to be hit by enemy fire ( a long ship is more likely to be hit than a shorter one). I guess that these additional ship elements don’t affect this stat.
    Will be more diffucult for an enemy ship to sneak throught my ships whose design is full of components all around the hull ?

  12. Can’t wait to buy it… But I haven’t the money at the moment. I think is often the case in that kind of games, people do not take time to build and want to race directly… As superbun said I think the idea of pre-build visual design. This game look so good !!!

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