Author Topic: Custom Ark reward emails are out!  (Read 601 times)

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Custom Ark reward emails are out!
« on: September 27, 2017, 10:50:32 AM »
If you're one of the 11 people who have a Custom Ark as part of your reward, please note that I've just sent an email to you from my email address, cc'ing Blue along with that.

All of the modeling for the ships of the base game is complete as of last night (yay!), even though not remotely all of them are actually in the game just yet, so it was time to reach out to folks about the custom Arks.  They represent 11 out of the 21 custom "art things" that people requested, and they're both the most expensive (for a backer) and complicated (for us), so it was a natural place to start.

We'll be getting to the other three categories in the next 1-2 months, depending on what the response is from the custom ark folks.  For reference, these are the other three categories of art things:
- Custom Derelict Fortress
- Custom Flagship
- Custom Gold Merc Paint Job
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Re: Custom Ark reward emails are out!
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2017, 10:51:19 AM »
For posterity (or simply later reference), here's the generic part of the email about this reward tier, so folks know what to expect:


IMPORTANT: I know that this email is super-long.  If this is something you just don't have time to deal with right now, or don't have interest in actually getting, please let us know rather than leaving us hanging.  You can skip down to the "Next Steps" section and there are a number of options that are way simpler for you if you're short on time.

Now, on with things...

Obviously our schedule has been a bit all over the place with the pace of the sequel, but things are steadying out these days; and the good news is that we just have finished up the last of the main ship designs, so now we're starting into backer rewards.

There are 11 of you that have custom Arks as rewards, and the idea is that these are something that go into the game for any player to be able to choose as their Ark when starting from the lobby.  I'd like to get yours all designed and integrated before the end of this year, if possible.

So what exactly are the design parameters here?

On the art side:
----------------------------

- Basically it needs to be work that Blue can accomplish within about 14 hours of total work time.  You and her can have some back-and-forth on what is more or less time consuming, and you can choose what is most valuable to you out of that.

- If you have some general ideas for her on things you'd like to see, then including some visual references (links to specific images with notes on what you like about them) are really useful.  If you say something vague like "a Borg cube," bear in mind that has been rendered a bunch of different ways over the years.  Google images is your friend.

- NOTE: If you'd prefer to just have a repaint of the existing Ark with colors of your choosing, we can also do that.  You can then skip most of this email, since most of it is about modeling as well as texturing.

On the design side:
----------------------------

- If you want to have custom stats, then that's something you can work out with Keith a bit later.  We're not doing any new custom coding for this, but there's a lot of flexibility there nonetheless.

- If you have something that is super underpowered or super overpowered then we'll have to figure out a way to make sure that that fits into the interface properly without scarring any new players or otherwise destroying balance.  That will be between you and Keith, and will be a bit later on.  First let's get the art settled.

So, what happens next?
----------------------------

1. First of all, we need some specs from you.  What is it you want to see, in a broad sense?  If you want to be very specific, that's fine, or if you just have a general emotion or a game or TV or movie or book series that you want to pull some inspiration from, that's also fine.  But the more you can use google images or other sources to give Blue something visual to go on, the more likely you are to get what you actually want.

2. Blue can then do a few "thumbnail sketches" for you that are teeny tiny little napkin-style drawings that see if you're having proper communication between the two of you or not. 

2.a. If you're not happy with the first round of thumbnail sketches, then please clarify what isn't really working for you.  Is the shape wrong?  Should it be a bit more threatening, like a space lobster instead of a space slug?  Is it too happy of a color red?  Were you imagining something that was taller?  Is it missing guns along the sides?  Etc.

2.b. You can go through up to 3 rounds of total thumbnail sketches with Blue before we have to say "good enough," if we want to keep to a general time budget.  Often a single round is plenty, so it's really a matter of how clear your specs are at any given stage.

3. Next step is that Blue will do a more detailed sketch of this, from the top and side.  This will still be a very scruffy/sloppy sketch, and it's meant to focus on shape and color and what elements are actually included (guns, windows, etc).

3.a. If something isn't quite right, you can comment on that and she can make adjustments pretty easily since this is a sloppy sketch.  Here again, up to 3 rounds of this.

4. Next comes the actual 3D modeling.  This is slower, and depending on what the workload of Blue is from other Arcen work, other people with custom Arks in the pipeline, and so forth, this could take anywhere even up to a month.  Could just be a day if things are pretty clear, but this represents roughly half the hours that Blue will be putting into this project.

5. At this point you'll have something that is probably gray or some other set of basic colors, or it might be split apart into some garish primary colors to indicate texture sets.  At any rate, it's "test paint" that has nothing to do with the final look of the ship, color-wise.

5.a. At this point you can look and make sure that this has the proper shape you're expecting.  If there is something off -- which hopefully there is not, given the work on the sketches earlier -- then there's a limited amount of changing that Blue can do now. 

5.b. Exactly how much she can change is dependent on the topology of the model and what exactly you're asking for, so I can't give any sort of general guidelines as to how much time this would cost from the total time budget, etc.  You'll have to work out things with her at this point based on what seems not-quite-ideal and how long it will take her to adjust those things.

5.c. Note that the ideal situation here is basically a rubber-stamp of you going "yep, that's just what I expected."  The better the sketches above match what you're looking for, and the more concisely you explain what is most important to you in the design, the higher a chance there is of that happening.

5.d. Blue MAY, at her discretion, actually split this modeling part into two bits: a first bit focusing on overall shape and body, and then a second part focusing on any detail additions that might be.  That depends on the model and specifics of the particular process for bringing your Ark to life, though.

6. Next comes paint.  The results will be "final quality" when you see them, but you will be seeing everything in a matte, unlit fashion without things like emissive lights off the ship.  So it will look notably bland compared to the in-game version.  Things that would look metallic in the game, or glowy, or whatever else, will just look like flat colors instead.

6.a. This gives you another chance for comment, and any sort of tweaks.

7. Next comes integration into the game itself.  This will be handled most likely by Cinth, who will optimize the model for in-game usage, create multiple levels of detail, merge textures, set things up using my shaders, and so forth.  The result will be something usable in the game, however it will be... not wholly ideal in terms of how the shader is configured.  He's the first one to tell you he's not an artist, but he can get it in the ballpark.

7.a. Probably before we show you this, Blue will make at least a few tweaks to the shader values to get some artistic feel to it, but if you'd rather have a chance to comment first before she spends any time, then please let us know.

8. After this point, the shader values should be within the realm of "looks fitting within our game," and you'll see things like how matte or metallic things are, how much things glow and what their HDR color spectrum of the glow is, how things look on their shadowed side versus their light side, and so on.

8.a. What we'll do is put this into the public modding package, so you have full access to go in with a version of unity and make any tweaks to the shaders (and textures) yourself, if you so desire.  I'll provide a video with instructions if you want to do that.

8.b. You and/or Blue can tweak some things, and then basically from an art standpoint this is finalized. 

8.c. No take-backs after this point, although you can make your own changes at any point later, of course.  If they are things that we feel like fit the aesthetic of the game, we'll be happy to take those back into the main game.  If not, then you can just keep your changes as your own custom mod for yourself (or others to download).  Keith and I can show you how to do that, if it comes to that, which ideally it will not.

9. At this point you'll be shuffled over to Keith, who will have his own process and questions for you about "okay, now we have this thing that looks a certain way -- what is it called and what does it DO?"  It might just be a literally different visual for the bog-standard Ark, or you might have something else in mind.  There are merits to both approaches.

Next Steps
---------------------------

So!  There we are. :)  There are 11 backers (including you) entitled to custom Arks, and since those are the largest and most complicated backer reward from an art standpoint, we're starting with these.

We'd very much like to have this process wrapped up within 2-3 months from now, so if you can get back to us before too long that is appreciated.

If you'd prefer to just have a repaint of the existing Ark with colors of your choosing, we can also do that, as noted near the start.

If you would like to skip designing an Ark for whatever reason, then please also let us know that so that we can mark you off the list.

If there is some other issue, or something I didn't think of in general, then please just let us know. 

This email assumes that you're wanting to be very hands-on, but it might be that you want to give us a general idea and say "something in that general direction is fine," and then be done with it.  We're open to that, too, obviously, and it requires much less from you.

Thanks for reading -- I know this was long!
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Offline Draco18s

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Re: Custom Ark reward emails are out!
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2017, 12:06:54 PM »
I look forward to seeing the results. :)

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Re: Custom Ark reward emails are out!
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2017, 12:34:35 PM »
I think you should do a video going over all the models now that things are done! (or at least, once everything is "done enough" to show off properly).

Offline TheVampire100

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Re: Custom Ark reward emails are out!
« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2017, 01:18:43 PM »
I'm curious to see with what designs people come up with and how Blue will shape this out.

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Re: Custom Ark reward emails are out!
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2017, 02:31:28 PM »
I think you should do a video going over all the models now that things are done! (or at least, once everything is "done enough" to show off properly).

Good point.  It's still processing the youtube video, so it won't really be fully ready for another 10 minutes or so.  But: https://blog.arcengames.com/ai-war-2-quick-look-at-ship-designs-less-than-half/

------

Since we're now moving into starting the custom Ark backer rewards work, it was suggested that we show the existing ship designs to players. This videoonly shows the ones that are currently "wired up AND uploaded," which doesn't include remotely everything that is complete just yet, but it's a good start.

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Re: Custom Ark reward emails are out!
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2017, 08:28:29 PM »
You should keep the other models that you don't necessarily have use for (like the old science generator) around for modders!

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Re: Custom Ark reward emails are out!
« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2017, 08:29:36 PM »
You should keep the other models that you don't necessarily have use for (like the old science generator) around for modders!

Good point!
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Offline TheVampire100

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Re: Custom Ark reward emails are out!
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2017, 08:46:39 PM »
The Science Generator reminds me of a space station from X but I don't remember which one. If I had to guess it was a trading station.

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Re: Custom Ark reward emails are out!
« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2017, 09:26:38 PM »
Well, I can certainly put that in an unused location.
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Re: Custom Ark reward emails are out!
« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2017, 11:19:52 AM »
I was asked specifically about the Ark visuals and about what the Ark does by someone coming to this a bit more blind (which is fine!), so here's what I wrote up:

Here's the timestamp showing the Ark itself: https://youtu.be/_ZHv_YittJ0?t=1213

In terms of capabilities, it's basically the replacement for your Home Command Station in the first game -- but it's mobile.  It's also the thing you need to bring with you into battle sometimes in order to do hacking, although once you get flagships you can send those instead.  The Ark tends to have a big forcefield around it, although some of the alternate Arks could theoretically do without.  It has pretty decent firepower, so that it doesn't have to be guarded all the time from small forces wandering by.  But any substantial fleet means it will need to have turrets, fleet ships, or something else to help it out.

The Ark generates some important resources, and can do science research.  It can capture planets.  It can generate ships like a space dock.  It's also the place from which warheads are created, stockpiled, and then launched.  It is the center of your fleet, and the place where you, personally, reside as a player.  It's your king-unit in a Chess sense, and if it dies then it's all over (multiplayer aside).

A lot of these functions that the Ark does can also be done by other ships, such as flagships for a lot of the offensive stuff, or space docks for ship construction, etc.  And obviously forcefield generators for that.  So the Ark isn't replacing all of those functions -- but it is wrapping them all up into one be economy-military hybrid unit that is both a source of power and great risk (hey, you can bring it into battle and it's a big help... but that also means bringing your king onto the front lines.  Yikes!) 

Early in the game it's meant to be more on the front lines, because you're facing lower-level enemy threat planets.  Past a certain point you're hopefully able to field some flagships, which take over front-line duties for things like hacking and whatnot.  At that point, your Ark ideally becomes more of a defensive stronghold, with hopefully defense in depth before the enemy even GETS to your Ark.  There are still only certain things that an Ark or a flagship can do, though, and if flagships die then they turn into a husk that can only be revived by the Ark or another flagship.  So in those instances, if you gamble and lose all your flagships in enemy territory... well, you may find yourself leading a desperate raid deep into enemy territory in the late game using your ark as the centerpiece and churning out a mobile fleet as you go, launching warheads and incurring AIP as a side effect as you try to tip the balance back in your favor.

That's a general idea, anyhow.  Things have been evolving a lot as Keith has been balancing the game, and the metagame aspect and larger game flow hasn't been working out quite right yet (too hard to build defenses that mean anything, Ark too useful in a mobile sense, etc), so balancing may make (or may have already made) some of what I said above incorrect.  So grains of salt with all of that, but that should give you an idea, from a design perspective, of what you're trying to create.

---------------------------

Keith or Badger, please feel free to correct me on any of that, and I can get updated info to the backers at this level.  It's embarassing that Badger knows the game better than I do from a gameplay standpoint, but, well... he's special and I've been focused on a specific slice of the engine work for the game. :)
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Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: Custom Ark reward emails are out!
« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2017, 11:32:49 AM »
Close :)

It's also the thing you need to bring with you into battle sometimes in order to do hacking, although once you get flagships you can send those instead.
For now I'm planning to have only the Ark do hacking, so that the costs can be less focused on hacking-points and more on the literal risk you are taking. Also so that it's never a trivial decision to hack. That said, some of the hacks may just never get done if the only way to do them is to expose the king unit, so we'll see.

The idea with hacking is a bit like having a palantir and deciding you can successfully wrestle with the eyeAI of Sauron ;) I actually toyed with the idea of having the background/lighting/etc change like you were partially submerged in some other dimension (the warp grid) while hacking, but I figured that would be a pain to implement on the graphics side.

Quote
It's also the place from which warheads are created, stockpiled, and then launched.
Not quite: the only source of warheads is hacking silos (plus your initial stockpile). So they're much more finite now, but also no longer cost AIP. Again, moving the cost of special abilities away from points towards risk.

Quote
leading a desperate raid deep into enemy territory in the late game using your ark as the centerpiece and churning out a mobile fleet as you go, launching warheads and incurring AIP as a side effect as you try to tip the balance back in your favor.
All correct except the warheads won't cost AIP when you use them, though they probably cost AIP to obtain (depending on how you set up the circumstances of the hack). And you'd probably wind up spending some AIP taking out some planets or at least warp gates to set up the rescue.

You can also send warheads along with other fleets without the Ark accompanying them, by launching them and moving them with your fleet, but they're exposed in that situation.

Flying with a planetary-scale nuke in the middle of your fleet formation: what could go wrong?
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Re: Custom Ark reward emails are out!
« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2017, 11:53:42 AM »
Keith of course knows better than I am, but allow me to give some advice in a slightly different vein.

The Ark is I think intended to be a jack of all trades, master of none. So if someone who hasn't been involved in the alpha at all wants some ideas, here are some suggestions off the top of my head. If I was doing this (and I'm not), I would pick some of the major balance axes of the Ark and ask for some to be boosted at the expense of the others to fit my favourite kind of playstyle. Then I'd want a visual to capture that.

I think the major axes are Tankiness (broken into Shield Tankiness and Hull Tankiness), Damage, Ship Speed, Construction Speed (for units the ark builds), Resource Production. (Keith, do you agree with that breakdown)?


Lets say I love a heavy-defense style. So I could request an ark whose attributes are Low Damage, Slow Speed, Very Tanky and higher ship production rate. Then request a model that felt like a ponderous but tough fortress (like a turtle).

Maybe I want an ark that trades tankiness and damage for high econ (so lots of bonus resources), so I might look for a model that captured a fragile but technologically advanced spirit (think like a science-inspired butterfly).

Maybe I want my ark to be the ultimate weapon, so I want it to have less tankiness but more damage and higher speed so I can use it for hit and run (and maybe to start with some bonus Warheads too). So I'd want my ark to feel like a panther, sleek and deadly.

Or maybe you miss leech starships, so you could request an ark that had a zombifying gun, but paid for it by being really weak in other areas.

Those are just a few ideas, but hopefully someone might find some inspiration in them!

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Re: Custom Ark reward emails are out!
« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2017, 11:59:36 AM »
Also, for Keith, here's another suggestion for hacking. First, the Ark can always do hacking directly. But the Ark can also produce a "Remote Hacker" that can do hacking remotely, but it has a huge downside. If the hack fails then it temporarily messes up power production (as if a power surge has destabilized everything). So you won't die immediately, but the AI counterstroke will find you very vulnerable.

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Re: Custom Ark reward emails are out!
« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2017, 12:24:53 PM »
I think the major axes are Tankiness (broken into Shield Tankiness and Hull Tankiness), Damage, Ship Speed, Construction Speed (for units the ark builds), Resource Production. (Keith, do you agree with that breakdown)?
Those would make sense.

Bear in mind that the Arkitect reward is the visual work. I'm happy to change their stats to suit the general idea of what the person wants, but those stats and even the whole mechanical basis of the unit is subject to change at any time after that (mainly so we can actually balance the game rather than being stuck with unbalanced units because we're committed to keep those stats forever, etc).

So basically any stat arrangement or already-existing special ability that isn't time-consuming for me to set is fine with me, but it's subject to change down the road.
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