Author Topic: 9/28: What we've been up to.  (Read 925 times)

Offline x4000

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9/28: What we've been up to.
« on: September 28, 2016, 08:32:58 PM »
Pablo: He's been working on the revised AI War intro theme, and holy smokes it gives me chills.  He sent me a text with a cell phone video showing it playing and all the instrument lines, and even with that crappy audio of a phone video it was amazing.

Blue: She's been modeling away on various "prestige ships" for the most part, but also doing a bit of animating today.  I'm really excited with how her stuff is turning out.

Keith: He's been working on more "stuff for the actual game" in terms of coding and whatnot.

Cinth: He's finished the race-based ship design stuff, and is at least a goodly ways into the AI side of it (I haven't looked, I confess), and from what I've looked at in quick fashion and what we've discussed I'm really excited about it.  I haven't gone through in detail yet and vetted it enough to go onto the design document, but it's really good stuff that should paint a really good picture of the goals for the start of alpha.

Me: I... have been driving myself nearly to tears every day, lately.  It's just so incredibly depressing and frequently upsetting, I don't mind admitting.  "Visual representation of too much stuff" is driving me mad in general, although I've had detours into various "framerate versus detail" issues and "why doesn't that batch" issues.

I don't like the tradeoffs between clarity, beauty, and completeness that I keep coming up against.  The original AI War was absolutely something I loathe looking at at this point, and a lot of that comes from the fact that you spend almost all your time zoomed way the heck out.  It kills my sense of immersion and scale.  Sure there are a bajillion little icons moving around, okay fine, but it doesn't give me any sense of true scale to have that there.  Sure there are some ships that are drawn larger than others, but overall I don't really get a sense of TRULY massive ships, personally at least.  The small ones have to be big enough to still be visible, and with pixel art there's only so much you can do.

I also don't like how the color requirements that get created by throwing "player color, mark level number and color, and action status (attack-move, FRD, etc" all into the icons causes.  It makes it so that the ships can only be identified in far-zoom mode by shape alone, and that's just no darn good.  It also makes it so that when you're zoomed in during Classic, you can't see important info like the mark level or action status, so you're at such a disadvantage that you need to zoom right back out again.

I HATE the artificial divide between far zoom mode and close zoom mode.  I want more of both things to cross over more organically, without turning both into an unintelligible circus.  It feels like a herculean task, or a logical impossibility, to the point where I've been really inclined to throw out mark level, player colors, or both for the sake of visual clarity.  But those things then cause problems of their OWN, so I've been more recently looking into a better way of handling that instead.

What is scariest is how this can play into delays to starting the kickstarter.  The kickstarter needs to be freaking super compelling from every angle, and it also needs to neither be i) lies and misleading stuff like you see with a lot of games nor ii) underselling what we can actually do here.  The paradox that this creates for me is palpable.

And then there are 100+ forum threads that I have yet to respond to, and in some cases yet to even read.  Ho-lee-cow.  And I still need to do a bunch of other sections of the design document.  And have a video and all the rest of the kickstarter stuff ready for next week.  I've been spending an inordinate amount of time on visual stuff in the last week and a half, but I feel like that is so important for the video and absolutely one of the things that will help us reach the goal for the game.

So, life continues to be strange and uncertain and scary.  That said, I'd really be enjoying the work here if I wasn't so stressed out from the schedule.  And even despite that, I'm really having fun with a lot of the work.  One thing that I do have to keep reminding myself is that things don't have to be perfectly optimized for purposes of the tech demo.

Anyhow, back to it.  I think I've finally had the breakthroughs conceptually today that will get me out of the rut that I've been in, but it sure cost a lot of time to get here.
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Offline Captain Jack

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Re: 9/28: What we've been up to.
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2016, 08:53:06 PM »
Yeow, sorry to hear about what this is doing to you Chris. Anything I can do to help?

For what it's worth, I love zoomed out mode in AI War; it's quite pretty thanks to the planet backgrounds and the icon work. I confess though that my playstyle relies on capital ships and superweapons over fleetcraft, which probably colors my opinion a bit.

Hm, I need to finish that discussion with Cinth we had... erk a week and a half ago. Where HAS September gone? I had some points to make to him and then life happened.

(any chance I can listen to Pablo's work in progress?  ;D)

Edit:Also holy shit you should not make responding to every thread much less reading most threads a thing. Companies have community managers for a reason. While I applaud you for wanting to be part of the forum's conversations, you have better things to do. A few threads per week are okay if they're directly relevant to the part of the project you're working on, but you should get someone you trust to keep you up to date on forum happenings.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2016, 09:03:07 PM by Captain Jack »

Offline x4000

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Re: 9/28: What we've been up to.
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2016, 09:24:17 PM »
Cheers Jack.  You've already been helping a ton, which I appreciate.  In terms of all the threads, well, I hope to get to them.  I can't do that on everything all the time, but I'm a speed reader and can get to a lot of things.  My typical rate is about one 100 pages of nonfiction per hour if it's semi-familiar information along these lines.  But it does mean I miss things, and the responses are obviously far slower.

Pablo's WIP is just on my phone, sorry, I don't have an easy way to get that to my computer (iMessage is strange).

But here is a WIP of what I've been working on with the ships.  Note that the big indicator there for the squad is empty right now and will have some pertinent information in it.  This also looks way cooler in motion. :D


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Offline Cinth

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Re: 9/28: What we've been up to.
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2016, 09:36:06 PM »
Cinth: He's finished the race-based ship design stuff, and is at least a goodly ways into the AI side of it (I haven't looked, I confess), and from what I've looked at in quick fashion and what we've discussed I'm really excited about it.  I haven't gone through in detail yet and vetted it enough to go onto the design document, but it's really good stuff that should paint a really good picture of the goals for the start of alpha

It's not like I took everything and gave it to the AI (or did I?).

I need to finish that discussion with Cinth we had... erk a week and a half ago

Just reply to that particular email.
Quote from: keith.lamothe
Opened your save. My computer wept. Switched to the ST planet and ship icons filled my screen, so I zoomed out. Game told me that it _was_ totally zoomed out. You could seriously walk from one end of the inner grav well to the other without getting your feet cold.

Offline Draco18s

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Re: 9/28: What we've been up to.
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2016, 10:58:22 PM »
Just want to highlight this post as I had an Idea that you might want to glance at (there's a TLDR), Chris.

Offline kasnavada

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Re: 9/28: What we've been up to.
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2016, 01:19:09 AM »
Good to have news =).

But you should seriously not worry so much about the forum for a while. It's not like the discussions are going to disappear before you have time to get back to it.

I just hope you'll find whatever you think is missing and manage to start the next step =).

Offline Pumpkin

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Re: 9/28: What we've been up to.
« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2016, 02:10:04 AM »
Thanks for the update!

Don't bother with the forum right now. Nearly everything discussed is for post-KS. Or at least post-KS-launch. I'm sure you could complete and refine the design document during the KS, and not prior to it. You already had great ideas (and killed the strangest ones); I think the "new features" section is appealing enough. AI War with 3D and Mods can sells by its own, anyway. ;D
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Offline Misery

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Re: 9/28: What we've been up to.
« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2016, 04:16:41 AM »
Good grief, that all sounds bloody frustrating.

Wish there was something I could do to help, but heck if I can think of anything.  Not exactly my area of expertise.

I'll agree that the forum is a bit overloaded right now though.  We almost need some sort of big compilation of all of the communities final thoughts on each topic, or something, for easier reading.  Something so that you DONT have to read every freaking post of every thread and can just see the major points and dive in further if you need to.  I dunno.  No idea if something like that's even viable.  But the way it all currently is just seems like a big impossible wall to basically anyone trying to read through much of it.  There's just too many posts and it's going to get so very much worse as this goes on.

Offline Yavaun

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Re: 9/28: What we've been up to.
« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2016, 06:16:49 AM »
Wow you've got one hell of a problem there. I really want to offer you a solution but it is hard to come up with one. The thing is I've already discussed the zoom scale issue with my group (just curiosity) a while ago before AIW2 announcement and we didn't come up with an actual solution - just the realization that it doesn't hurt to embrace it.

In short:
  • Compared to other games (SINS, Supcom)  AI Wars Icons are AWESOME. Game's perfectly enjoyable on icons level alone.
  • High icon fidelity is important, actual ship models for common fleet ships  tend to be obsolete (lack of micromanagement emphasized this).
  • What is NOT obsolete: The FIREWORKS. In such a scale of space combat the one thing which gives me my awe is the back and forth of massive volleys, dozens of ships exploding each time they're exchanged. Combat action is more important than the combatants.
  • Mega ships(golems, home commands, etc) add another dimension and don't require icons. Give them all the modeling work and love.
About the combat action vs combatant part: One way to follow through on this is to make the fire animation and FX part of the icon, for it's the most important visual part this functionally feature misses out on. For example, how awesome would a N Railpod be if the shot visually charged across the whole body (lightning scars surge the icon's surface) before leaving the ship? And then imagine thousands of them next to eachother charging in synch.
Another great and underestimated way to enhance your ships aesthetical appearance is sound effects. AIWC didn't really have that many which is a shame because they'll always work, on every zoom level and even when you're not looking at all (e.g. becuz you're busy macromanaging your interface).

Still, that's probably not the solution you've been looking for and I bet you can find a much better one. Just know that I'd be perfectly happy to play AI War 2 with icons for ships again (if done right).

What you hopefully take away from this:
You can always choose to build upon the strengths of AIW instead of working on it's weaknesses.
Make sure to give the individual projeciles, weapons and volleys as much love as you can!
If you must tackle some weaknesses - you can choose a conceptionally easier one: Sound effects for shots and volleys!
« Last Edit: September 29, 2016, 07:35:32 AM by Yavaun »

Offline Tridus

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Re: 9/28: What we've been up to.
« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2016, 09:01:24 AM »
I don't like the tradeoffs between clarity, beauty, and completeness that I keep coming up against.  The original AI War was absolutely something I loathe looking at at this point, and a lot of that comes from the fact that you spend almost all your time zoomed way the heck out.

I find this perspective interesting, because I *want* to spend all my time zoomed way out. I'm not alone on that: there was a major dustup in World of Warcraft when Blizzard tried to remove a console setting to increase max zoom distance and effectively force players to not zoom out so far. They ended up backing off somewhat on that. (I played a raid healer when I played WoW, so I was very much all into zooming out as far as possible to see the entire battle, because my job required as much information as I could possibly get.)

Zooming in and seeing pretty is nice and all, but honestly, I almost never do it. What I want is the tactical battlefield view so I can make combat decisions, and you get that while you're zoomed out to see the entire battlefield.

I do hope you keep that in mind.

Offline Yavaun

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Re: 9/28: What we've been up to.
« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2016, 09:11:58 AM »
I don't like the tradeoffs between clarity, beauty, and completeness that I keep coming up against.  The original AI War was absolutely something I loathe looking at at this point, and a lot of that comes from the fact that you spend almost all your time zoomed way the heck out.

I find this perspective interesting, because I *want* to spend all my time zoomed way out. I'm not alone on that: there was a major dustup in World of Warcraft when Blizzard tried to remove a console setting to increase max zoom distance and effectively force players to not zoom out so far. They ended up backing off somewhat on that. (I played a raid healer when I played WoW, so I was very much all into zooming out as far as possible to see the entire battle, because my job required as much information as I could possibly get.)

Zooming in and seeing pretty is nice and all, but honestly, I almost never do it. What I want is the tactical battlefield view so I can make combat decisions, and you get that while you're zoomed out to see the entire battlefield.



Yeah if you read my reply you'll notice you're definitely not alone with that. The tactical view is where the game is played. Everything else is just added candy. Chris is trying to solve this chiasm but I think approaching it from the other side would be easier. Then again, I'm curious what solution he'll come up with and present us.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2016, 10:37:42 AM by Yavaun »

Offline chemical_art

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Re: 9/28: What we've been up to.
« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2016, 09:18:53 AM »
I prefer zoomed out gameplay myself for 90% of my gameplay. What I loved about supreme commander was that even while zoomed out you could still see some details. For example at "mid zoom" you could see larger objects and explosions. When fully zoomed out the units had icons and the projectiles themselves were represented as dots. It gave a more abstract yet detailed method to communicate vital data which at the core of what I want.
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Offline Misery

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Re: 9/28: What we've been up to.
« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2016, 09:39:43 AM »
Generally I agree with all of you guys about the zoom thing.  It's just easier to play that way, and the icons absolutely work fine for me.  The "visual flair" aspect comes when the huge fleets crash together with projectiles and explosions going all over the place and other stuff happening.

But of course for something getting kickstarted that's not really enough anymore, is it?  Gotta have that WOW FACTOR.  All that 3D visual.... whatever. 


Offline x4000

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Re: 9/28: What we've been up to.
« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2016, 11:21:08 AM »
Cheers folks, thanks for the support.

Bear in mind that I'm in no way trying to remove far zoom.  Rather, like some folks have mentioned, I want to improve it.  I also want to make the closer zooms (and most importantly mid zooms) more useful.  My contention is that you should be able to have some degree of battlefield awareness at every level, rather than "blind but pretty" when zoomed in, or "just icons and that's it" when in farthest zoom.

A great example of the problem even in AI War Classic is that you can't zoom all the way out and have a perfect view of things -- the icons overlap too much.  So you really need to zoom in and out between various degrees of far and mid zoom, as you pan around.  You may not think about how much you do it in Classic, but basically when you're in the icon view you're still zooming in and out quite a bit just to see what's going on.

My goal is to solve a lot of these problems at once, but we'll see how it goes. :)
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Offline Vyndicu

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Re: 9/28: What we've been up to.
« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2016, 10:39:33 PM »
Definitely a thorny problem ever since the first RTS came out.

Just for fun I decided to look what it was. I was thinking maybe Dune 2: 1992. Nope not even close as I was not born yet to remember this one. Utopia: 1981.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia_(video_game)

Anyway back to zooming level view. I hope you find a good balance between "too much icons" vs "not enough situation awareness".

Like many other I used zoom out a lot more than zoom in. Would be nice if you could "see the flame and smoke" on the hull.