Grumpy's Developer Blog/Vlog
What you are about to witness is game design on a shoestring budget. Sector 13 is powered by the blood, sweat, and rears of a currently unfunded but ardent group of developers.
Our unpaid free time goes into this. So please keep that in mind when comparing us to other projects.
Thermonuclear war (with video goodness):
One of our heavy weapons is going to be an area nuke, a rocket that detonates in a massive explosion. Today I spent some time messing about with a possible explosion effect for it. Not everything is there yet. Perhaps it needs another type of lens flare and light rig. The sound is definitely placeholder. But, I think the main concept is sound.
The nuke is not an "obliterate everything this side of the moon" type of weapon. Rather, its rather much smaller for game balance reasons.
Two real life facts:
1. Nukes in space don't cause an EMP pulse unless they hit a large pocket of atmosphere. So gameplay wise, they won't be shutting everything down with a massive EMP blast. (I'll ignore the fact that we are also going to have atmospheric arenas too. I'll burn that bridge when I get there. Or rather, I'll explain it away in a shield containment system or something to that effect. After all: the warring factions don't want to contaminate the area that they are trying to conquer.)
2. Its really freaking hard to find examples of nukes in space. This old video is the one that keeps cropping up:
The real explosion is probably quite spherical. But thats not a very fun shape. Also, we are hardwired to see a nuclear explosions as some kind of mushroom cloud, because all the pictures we have seen of it are in atmosphere, and under gravity.
Messing around with purely spherical explosions produced meh results. It needs a mushroom-esque appearance to sell the fact that its a nuke. The end result of today's work is in the video below. As stated previously, there is always room for improvement, and it might change drastically in the future. But its nice to see a concept on the right path.
I kinda like the way you created that explosion, its not identical to a nuke under atmospheric conditions and it still spreads in a circle like pattern and you get a small mushroom effect for a split sec it seems and dissipates. Nice job. I guess another hard part is damage modeling for things the nuke hits 🙂
Much like how Quake and Doom don't have a lot of level destruction with their high powered weapons; Our game won't have you reducing the arena to itsy bitsy pieces, simply because it'd be unplayable after a few missile volleys. But we do hope to show catastrophic capital ship destruction at some point in time. Area Nukes will help with this.
The Needs For Speeds (with video goodness):
A couple of weeks back Ryan (lead developer) gave me updated tools for editing ship maneuverability, and today I got some time to sit down and iterate on our data. But rambling about a bunch of numbers in tables isn't all that productive, as all of them will change during the balancing phases. Instead, here is the gist of our work on velocity and maneuverability:
Starfighter combat games suffer because we are influenced by what we see in movies and racing games. The problem is two fold; velocity and arena density, but I will only explore the velocity aspect today.
1. Racing games are a very controlled environment, usually without weapons, and the cars only move on a 2d plane rather than in all 3 dimensions. Navigating in racing games is (in general) easier than in a 3d space sim.
2. Movies are scripted sequences where you are passively taking in the scene. So jetfighters / starfighters can travel very fast, and the arena can have an artistically beautiful but very unbalanced placement of structures.
As we have consumed these medias over the past few decades, we have built up as set of norms in our heads about how fast a spaceship should move, and how open/closed the arena should be. This translates poorly to games because the speeds are too fast for controlled flight, and the arenas are too open for interesting interactions between players and obstacles. Starfighter combat games have to find a magical middle road, where velocity and maneuverability are controllable but not so slow that they feels completely alien to how it is portrayed in other media (I will talk about arena density in another post, but it is another critical factor that needs to be gotten right).
The way we have solved this issue (and we really have solved it. Now its just a matter of fine tuning/ balancing it for the different starfighters) is by iterative design. When our multiplayer was up and running a few years back we quickly realized the problems stated above. The problem solving is fun to perform, but boring to explain as its all about changing numbers, and then hopping into multiplayer games and shooting the crap out of teammates. (It also intricately ties into how structures are built and laid out in the arena. You don't set up scenery to look nice, you set it up to be playable, but more on that in another post.)
An unwanted side effect of faster speeds it the illusion of size. Our new speed makes structures feel much smaller than they actually are. The starfighters travel 600-900 km per hour (370-560 mph) at max speed. So traversing a destroyer that is 2 km in length takes 4-6 seconds. This makes it feel less dramatic. With proper game design players should feel the need to skim close to the surface of large structures. This will make the actual size of stuff more apparent.
Is this multiplayer only? Or will it has some singleplayer bit?
Bleak answer: Not right now.
Long answer: It depends on what your definition of single player is.
- Offline mode: The multiplayer maps can be played offline against AI bots. So you are given a simple instanced mission to complete. But that isn't honest single player.
- Co-op multiplayer: We are hoping to include co-op game modes like "vs Goliath" where you and a few friend go against a lager ship of the fleet. There is a simple instanced mission, and teamwork is key to achieve it. Again, not honest single player.
- Honest story driven single player: We'd love to, but we currently don't have the time, team strength, or funding.
Hopeful answer: The Sector 13 Intellectual Property is designed for Single and Multiplayer starfighter combat/adventure (and in the long term FPS features as well). As in: we have created a Sectored Galaxy with a lot of interesting places to explore and explode We are considering expanding into the story driven single player realm after the multiplayer game. If we get funding that allows us to do both things at once then it could be packaged into one game. One of Ryan's favorite games is freelancer, and he has been mumbling about wanting to do something in that vein for a while now. And personally, as the writer on the team, I'm not adverse to doing more story driven content. Our only hindrance is funding, and once we solve that the rest will be mead and honey (in a sado-masochistic kind of way).
Sector 13 started off as a pure multiplayer space combat game being made by just a few guys in a dorm room at college. However, our aspirations for it have grown over the years and we would absolutely love to build an honest-to-goodness story-driven single player experience within the game world, if we can find the funding to tackle such an undertaking.
Our single player mission design is actually quite unique. Because there are 4 or 5 different factions all waring against each other, our single player campaign is actually 4 or 5 different campaigns where you play as the hero pilot from each of those factions. Several of the missions between factions actually cross over, so when playing for Faction A, your goal in the mission might be to protect a VIP shuttle as it escapes a big space casino. If you play that same mission from Faction B's perspective, your goal would then be to capture that VIP and bring him back to your command ship. Furthermore, if you were playing that mission from the perspective of Faction C, your mission might be to destroy the VIP shuttle before it jumps to foldspace.
Then, imagine playing that same single-player mission in multiplayer. You and two friends all trying to complete the mission for your faction, where the outcome affects the next mission in your faction's storyline.
The single player campaign sounds great and I understand that it takes money to build that type of game and its more cost effective to go with multiplayer combat with no story. We have seen quite a few games go this route, they had moderate success doing this but in the end the community dies off and then you cannot get games. Least with single player you have some reply-ability to it when no one plays multiplayer anymore. Plus its amazing with adding modding does to the lifespan of a game as well.
But I also know I have to be a realist and you guys need to eat so hopefully you can make some money and make enough to make single player campaign a reality. 😉
With great power comes great maneuverability (with video goodness):
Here is a paradox of sorts. An interesting challenges we need to get right. I've tried to capture it on video, but its not as obvious and when you are actually flying the ships.
Watch the clip below and decide which ship has the higher velocity:
The ship on the left is faster, but is worse at turning. The ship on the right is slower, but is better at turning.
How fast a ship can turn is a heavy influencer of the the sensation of speed. This is important when we create the variations of starfighters. The player wont see the objective starfighter speed, rather it will be a combination of speed and turning rate.
It has to do with how fast the screen pans around. Even a large difference in speed won't make objects whoosh around on the screen very fast. But a decent difference in turn rate changes that a lot, and gives the false impression of travelling faster.
So, for our ships that feel fast we also have to pay attention to turning rates, because subjectivity (or game feel) beats objective values in this regard.
...its more cost effective to go with multiplayer combat with no story. We have seen quite a few games go this route, they had moderate success doing this but in the end the community dies off and then you cannot get games. Least with single player you have some reply-ability to it when no one plays multiplayer anymore. Plus its amazing with adding modding does to the lifespan of a game as well.
I could ramble incoherently about this for days. I think our game could take one of two routes with regards to replay-ability. When you sit down at your computer; do you want to be taken on an emotional journey, or to you want to create one?
Games like Bioshock Infinite, Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons, and Deus Ex took me on a journey. To me their stories were the cause for replay-ability. But, I've replayed games like Max Payne, Half-Life, Arkham Asylum, and Faster Than Light more, and that is because they have very good gameplay mechanics. Although a great story makes for an awesome first playthrough, I usually replay a game because of the gameplay mechanics .
And its the same for co-op/bot multiplayer games. In Evolve Stage 2 the hunters chat with each other before they are dropped into the map. That dialogue is some of the best I've heard in a multiplayer game, and really paints a picture of the world they are in. But their old game, Left 4 Dead, is far more replay-able because of the better gameplay mechanics. Payday 2 has well done story-esque events during the mission, but I play Insurgency's co-op more because of better gameplay mechanics.
So, while Story is useful in many different ways, and should be included as much as possible. Making a game replay-able can be done with rock solid co-op or bot gameplay mechanics, and as you mentioned a modding community or at the very least a community that can easily interact with each other through the game (I don't want to mention the option for player produced arenas because we have no way of guaranteeing that we can provide that feature in the first game, but I still do want to mention it because seeing peoples version of the Trench Run would be awesome).
This is the option we have for player retention. Simply put: We have to design our game to play really really well, and allow for community interaction to the extent that our budget allows.
A challenge to die for:
Experimenting with some post processing effects got me thinking of challenge modes. If you feel like the game is too easy, activate one of these modes for an additional challenge. They might even net a small reward if you do well.
Back to the Pixel: Retros the game to 256 colours and 128 pixels in height. Grow a neck beard and talk about how nostalgic it feels while X-wing vs TIE fighter vets look at you funny.
What Dreams May Come: No HUD, and oil paint like effects. I lose myself in this one.
Draw me like one of your French girls: If the French were Japanese, and the girls were war machines. I wonder how an entire game like this would feel? But this effect needs a lot of additional work to look nice, so it would be very hard to integrate into our game, considering how much other stuff we need to get done. Still, a manga starfighter game...Haven't really seen one of those...
Best seen in full screen mode.
And then there could be non-visual effect challenges like:
Vanilla Warrior: No hardpoints or ship upgrades allowed. Your ship is standard, you weapons are standard.
Throttled: Whenever you have no shields your ship's speed gets stuck on max until you have full shields again.
Starwalker: Your shields recharge only when you are looking directly at the sun. (Not available in levels without suns)
Any ideas for more challenges?
A bit of work fleshing out the ore processor.
Going from this:
In the pseudoscience the ring structures are gravity generators that create a linear gravity through the ore processor. A large chuck of ore is but in front of the grinder section.
The or is crushed into smaller chunks that fall into the internal part of the ore processor and are concentrated and collected below.
It flies good in the tests. Now have to see how it fares in a multiplayer deathmatch.