Author Topic: Tiny tease screenshot (okay, several, plus a small info dump, turns out).  (Read 15829 times)

Offline x4000

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Re: Tiny tease screenshot (okay, several, plus a small info dump, turns out).
« Reply #15 on: October 29, 2014, 10:15:08 AM »
Thank you for such a long and detailed response. (It's 3 sides of A4 after trimming, feels more like a full interview. Much more detail than I expected)
I've cross-posted it back to eXplorminate and will see what questions they have about it later.

My pleasure. :)  And thanks for continuing to broker.

What is planet mood? Will the planet get annoyed with your growth/wars/terraforming? Interactions with the planet was a core feature of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (SMAC, the beloved 4x of yesteryear) In it certain buildings and policies harmed the planet - which could then attack you with mindworms- and certain victory conditions involved communicating with the planet. Will the player be dealing with the planet in a similar way? How much of a similarity is there?

I'm honestly not prepared to fully comment on this one yet, as my designs on this have yet to be integrated into the prototype and thus I don't have a good sense of what might have to change.  I don't want to say something on this that might turn out to be woefully incorrect, particularly given the high standard that SMAC sets.  All that said... yes, you will be interacting with the planet in several ways, and the planet responds back in kind.

The broad concept right now, without getting too specific: To some extent, it is like SMAC.  In other ways, this is actually like AI Progress from AI War -- even reverse AI Progress, depending on how you play.  The mood can be a force that is helpful or harmful for you and other races as well, and unlike AI Progress isn't something that just works against you.

Take the above with a big grain of salt, because things like interface clarity, fun and understandability, etc, may cause revisions.  I'm familiar with how SMAC did it, and I think that was great, but I'm interested in a more robust system.  The trick there is making it more robust without making it complicated for the sake of complexity, if that makes sense.  That's why I'm reluctant to talk too much about specifics prior to actually having a prototype I'm happy with on that part.

The diplomacy mini-game sounds interesting... I'm not sure if the description won me over. Comparing it to SMAC, how tricky is it to code language/parsing as well as mini-games *and* different content (3 leaders) for each race? I know a lot of effort goes into something that when it works you aren't supposed to notice. (It just feels fluid, thematic and adds to immersion).

That's definitely one of the challenges, yes.  In terms of the language parser, I already have coded that myself.  It's a fairly straightforward process that is more akin to encryption (well, technically hashing) than it is to literal language translation.  So that kept it quite simple on that front.

In terms of handling the language for the various leaders, that's something I still have some major figuring-out to do with.  Scope creep with that can get insane if I'm not careful.  I have a variety of potential approaches, but I need to further refine them as well as get a prototype of the most promising one and see how that fares.

SMAC Faction editor, with diplomacy 'fluff' the sentences/pronouns/etc that give a little life to a leader:

How easy is it to make the races say more than a single scripted line every time? (How do you stop a language mini-game getting repetitive without lots and lots of writing to draw from? How do you add lots of text and then see how the game parses the text you enter? I'm curious about things like translating to French, I assume you need good linguistic and coding skills to handle diplomacy. It'd give me a headache anyway.)

Nifty!  I had not seen their thing before.  In terms of doing the overall parsing in the style you're describing, I'm afraid that is one-language-only, as not all languages even see similar structures.  I'm not sure that I'm keen on having the sentence structure always be so darn similar as it is in SMAC, with just words popping in and out of stock phrases.  If you look at a lot of the things that are said in TLF, all of that is hand-written and there's a lot of freaking text because of that.

If the game were ever to be translated into any other language, it would have to use a more brute force approach like that.  And that brute force approach is frankly better for true variety, anyway.  Exactly what my plans are in that regard I don't yet know.  In terms of races saying more than a single scripted line every time, that is my hope.  Depending on the number of different kinds of lines, that becomes increasingly feasible the fewer overall sentiments that need to be written.  If you look at what we did with text in Valley 2, for instance, there are sometimes a dozen or more options for what get said in each situation.

There are serious pros and cons to all the approaches, so again it's something I have to continue to study and refine.
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Offline x4000

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Re: Tiny tease screenshot (okay, several, plus a small info dump, turns out).
« Reply #16 on: October 29, 2014, 10:15:53 AM »
Aw, I'd wanted to play as the spire. The rest does sound pretty interesting, though! Terraformer races in Master of Mana were my favorite, and it sounds like everyone is doing it here :)

You bet!
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Offline MaxAstro

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Re: Tiny tease screenshot (okay, several, plus a small info dump, turns out).
« Reply #17 on: October 29, 2014, 12:20:13 PM »
Fun but overpowered. Malakim spreading deserts with automagically spawning oases, trade routes and a movement bonus gave them a distinct advantage. Beautiful to watch your terrain spreading though. (Especially if you've got a battle between Malakim deserts and the snowy arctic wastes of the Illians and the Lizard's swamps. Or Lannum turning land to sea more actively)

Don't want to derail the thread, but I had to do a double take when you starting naming Fall from Heaven races and mechanics and associating them with a game I'd never heard of before.

One google search later explains the reasoning, but still confused the heck out of me for a moment.  :)

...And now I'm going to lose an entire day playing FfH again.  Thanks guys.  :p

Offline DrFranknfurter

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Re: Tiny tease screenshot (okay, several, plus a small info dump, turns out).
« Reply #18 on: October 29, 2014, 12:45:19 PM »
Thanks for the replies. I hope once the mechanics are in the game you'll be tempted to give a few more teasers as to how planet mood works. I can see in my head how it could work... especially with the AI Progress analogy. But how that works depends almost entirely on what mechanics that number is hooked-up to and how it's presented to you. (units, terraforming, events, global-warming, luck...)

I'm glad I could show you something you haven't seen before with SMAC. I used to edit the .txt files manually rather than using the editor to make silly OP races (like the Borg), change the pace of the game or enable satellites from early game techs. But I thought the faction editor was a nice way of showing the broad *feel* of a faction that you get from just a few bullet-points of text. (The Hive described as ruthless when someone is complimenting them, it only goes downhill from there.)

Nasarog wants me to do a LP nearer the release. I've not done an LP before... but first things first, everyone not a developer will have to wait for January to join in the beta fun... or whenever I can weasel my way into an alpha/beta... and am then free to talk about it (NDA dependent obviously).

Oh and on the side-topic:
I've poured quite a few hours into the different Fall from heaven mod-mods. Orbis/Rife/Master of mana. Only Master of mana is still active (I think), with work progressing slowly towards a *very* different game than Civ4, or the original mod, or even other versions of the same mod-mod. (Also it's a 4x game side-discussion in the thread for a new 4x game, not too off-topic IMO... and yes I love undead races too, mostly for having unique mechanics - like robotic/lithotrophic races in not needing food. But I dislike the inability to gain xp on mindless minions and having generally terrible troops... but that's just balance stuff, seasoning to taste. The dish itself is solid.)

Offline x4000

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Re: Tiny tease screenshot (okay, several, plus a small info dump, turns out).
« Reply #19 on: October 29, 2014, 01:14:31 PM »
Thanks for the replies. I hope once the mechanics are in the game you'll be tempted to give a few more teasers as to how planet mood works. I can see in my head how it could work... especially with the AI Progress analogy. But how that works depends almost entirely on what mechanics that number is hooked-up to and how it's presented to you. (units, terraforming, events, global-warming, luck...)

Right, for sure.  I plan on doing lots of videos as well as written-up stuff in advance of the launch of this one.  We learned with Valley 1 that there's a fine balance between too-early (when things are changing and people think you might be insane) and with Bionic with too late (when there's no time left to show).  Of course, this project isn't changing so much as Valley 1 was over its period, but still.

I'm glad I could show you something you haven't seen before with SMAC. I used to edit the .txt files manually rather than using the editor to make silly OP races (like the Borg), change the pace of the game or enable satellites from early game techs. But I thought the faction editor was a nice way of showing the broad *feel* of a faction that you get from just a few bullet-points of text. (The Hive described as ruthless when someone is complimenting them, it only goes downhill from there.)

Nice!  That does sound like fun. :)

Nasarog wants me to do a LP nearer the release. I've not done an LP before... but first things first, everyone not a developer will have to wait for January to join in the beta fun... or whenever I can weasel my way into an alpha/beta... and am then free to talk about it (NDA dependent obviously).

We don't put people under NDAs, but if we do a period of a few weeks where it's invite-only, we may ask that people hold off on posting stuff for a bit.  But sounds good, and I plan on doing some LPs, too.
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Offline DrFranknfurter

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Re: Tiny tease screenshot (okay, several, plus a small info dump, turns out).
« Reply #20 on: October 29, 2014, 02:18:20 PM »
We don't put people under NDAs, but if we do a period of a few weeks where it's invite-only, we may ask that people hold off on posting stuff for a bit.  But sounds good, and I plan on doing some LPs, too.
I quite like the direction some developers are going with the dev-streams. Firaxis, Stardock etc using twitch to broadcast some early builds of the game then posting it up on youtube. (certainly got me interested in their newest games... however I feel about the actual product.)

So yes, I think it's a good idea from a marketing standpoint. Even if it doesn't get a massive number of views (just a few hundred for some of the Sorcerer King dev-streams on youtube for example.) I wouldn't let it get you down. Even if it's <100 views some of those will be reviewers or others that can spread the word if they like what they see. And it'll be great material for students of game-design in the future to peek into the mind of a developer. (Independent of the game's success).

With Bionic Dues... I've only put in 17h according to steam (better than half the games in my library actually, top 20/70 but not top 10), but I really enjoyed those hours and those couple of games. I should go back and play it on hard. I'm sure it's a different beast once the enemies match your abilities... only I can picture the frustration of wanting to do a 'perfect' run. Something I don't feel with AI War or TLF... not sure what the magic difference is between them. Perhaps it *feels* less forgiving of mistakes, rather like Tidalis in that respect. The difference between difficult and unforgiving. I'm not sure it's all marketing... even if I can't put my finger on what the difference really is... I really would like to be able to put it into words better. Oh well, I still hope you go back to it one day when you have cash and time to spare on pet projects and give it a nice expansion, something to get me racking up the hours like with TLF and AI War. Until then I await whatever you end up calling this game. (...I still like the name Spectral Empire. But I'm terrible at naming things. I keep almost posting in the name thread then deleting my suggestions/opinions for being rubbish. Names really aren't my area of expertise.)
« Last Edit: October 29, 2014, 02:21:14 PM by DrFranknfurter »

Offline x4000

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Re: Tiny tease screenshot (okay, several, plus a small info dump, turns out).
« Reply #21 on: October 29, 2014, 02:24:20 PM »
Our main backlash with Valley 1 wasn't a lack of interest, rather it was too much early coverage on big sites and then having to publicly defend every sort of design shift we made during prototyping.  Plus everyone constantly guessing what was final and what was not.  We got tens of thousands of views on videos, plus various articles and interviews, and that was a mixed blessing.  I prefer being able to work in private a bit more until things are past a certain point.

It also makes sense on Bionic Dues, I'm not saying it's all marketing.  But we really had a very low amount of press at launch, mainly because we sprung it at the last second during a busy time of year.
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Offline DrFranknfurter

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Re: Tiny tease screenshot (okay, several, plus a small info dump, turns out).
« Reply #22 on: October 29, 2014, 04:54:15 PM »
I find the line between public and private is confusingly blurred when comments are online. Any formal-sounding statements can be quoted, misquoted or (like the old quotes I commented that referenced risk-style features) be out of date quickly but don't clearly show when they were said, for what game/beta version they apply or in what capacity the words were uttered.

As a Developer it sounds very hard to change your mind. (I'd hate that, science is all about changing your mind when the evidence changes). Even if it's the right decision for the best of reasons... it's all about perspectives, having 'lead dev' on your forum sig makes each post sound like a formal declaration to some. Off-the-cuff comments, hopes and ambitions can become counter-productive if they are misinterpreted or taken as promises. It's like saying "Speaking as a formal representative of his majesty... teas should have two sugars" Little comments have added weight when a conversation isn't person-to-person but Title-to-title be it King-to-king or Developer-to-customer etc.

So yes, with all that in mind... I'll be updating the little preview as the game moves on. I know it's not a massive press article but the chat here feels more like a press interview for some reason... perhaps it's just my perspective because I'm thinking of how to edit everything that's been said and I've seen down into a single steam post... of something like 2000 words. Something that I can update and hopefully use as a review with the same character limit. It's easy to want to put everything in... the concise bullet point bit is tricky. As is knowing what to quote and how much context to provide with the quote. (Keep everything and run on to lots of pages, cut too much and risk butchering the true meaning).

Anyway, let me know if you think I've said something wildly wrong at any time. Stardock did... we worked it out more openly than is probably best from a marketing standpoint... PMs are probably best for those sorts of dirty-laundry conversations if they get a little too emotional. Hindsight and perspective... best not to wallow in the past and see how things can be better in the future. (Unless you can prevent future problems by fully analysing the past... grr... clarifications of absolute statements with seemingly obvious but not actually explicit words is a good example of such annoying over-analysis of words)

Anyway, I hope you have plans in place for marketing, the steam release window, interviews lined up when you have something ready to show them... etc. whatever it takes to make the game reach the right audience at the right time. It's a shame some titles haven't reached their full potential not due to mechanical/gameplay problems but the whirlwind of outside market forces. Still, they're part of the catalogue... each good game released is an opportunity to show the others to a new audience. Some games in the back catalogue will cater to a new market years from now if the gameplay is solid.

(Sorry for my walls of text, I do ramble. I've not got any more questions for the moment, I'm content to wait for the next trickle of news as you prototype features and see how it actually pans out. Even saying that, I feel like a reporter who's just put away the pen and paper but hasn't actually switched off the microphone. I can see how annoying it must be sometimes, and how nice it is to have less of a spotlight, quiet forums are more relaxing for exactly that reason. You can let your hair down... figuratively)

Offline x4000

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Re: Tiny tease screenshot (okay, several, plus a small info dump, turns out).
« Reply #23 on: October 29, 2014, 05:07:44 PM »
It's all good!  I don't have any problems changing my mind, but I hate having a pressure to not do so.  Hence just the strategic sharing when we are ready, etc.  We're looking at a launch in April or May, so we've allocated quite a lot of time to a combination of polish, marketing, interviews, LPs, and so on and so forth.  We hit a pretty good balance of that with TLF, and I hope to do so again, but without the rush at the end that was caused by TLF's timeline slipping so much thanks to combat.  Fingers crossed.
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Offline ScrObot

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Re: Tiny tease screenshot (okay, several, plus a small info dump, turns out).
« Reply #24 on: October 30, 2014, 05:38:36 AM »
Regarding having shared building models and differentiating between races, could a simple system be put in place where the generic building models are given primary colors and/or a highlight color or two that are automatically applied to that race's buildings? Then, even if those models are the same, Burlust buildings have red and black trim, Andor buildings with blue and white, etc? That might be a nice little visual spice that could be scripted and not require additional art assets. *shrug*

Offline DrFranknfurter

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Re: Tiny tease screenshot (okay, several, plus a small info dump, turns out).
« Reply #25 on: October 30, 2014, 09:44:12 AM »
I like the idea ScrObot... a quick search and I found this comment from TLF about having different cosmetics for the same ships:
http://www.arcengames.com/mantisbt/view.php?id=15939
"Unfortunately, based on the way that we do the hue shifts, that's not something that is really possible now.

If this was a big desire, then in the future we could theoretically add a second layer that was colored that people could adjust on their flagships. A layer or two, depending. But right now that would not be possible. "

I suppose having an additional layer or two to buildings that is based on race colours - beyond the previously shown hex borders- would let you tell the race cities apart if they somehow managed to grow into one another (and therefore had no undeveloped edges to show race ownership). I'd certainly welcome it.

Offline ElOhTeeBee

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Re: Tiny tease screenshot (okay, several, plus a small info dump, turns out).
« Reply #26 on: October 30, 2014, 10:16:35 AM »
Aw, I'd wanted to play as the spire. The rest does sound pretty interesting, though! Terraformer races in Master of Mana were my favorite, and it sounds like everyone is doing it here :)

You bet!

YES

About how much of this post do you at least want to try to make work?

Offline x4000

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Re: Tiny tease screenshot (okay, several, plus a small info dump, turns out).
« Reply #27 on: October 30, 2014, 04:16:12 PM »
Regarding having shared building models and differentiating between races, could a simple system be put in place where the generic building models are given primary colors and/or a highlight color or two that are automatically applied to that race's buildings? Then, even if those models are the same, Burlust buildings have red and black trim, Andor buildings with blue and white, etc? That might be a nice little visual spice that could be scripted and not require additional art assets. *shrug*

I suppose having an additional layer or two to buildings that is based on race colours - beyond the previously shown hex borders- would let you tell the race cities apart if they somehow managed to grow into one another (and therefore had no undeveloped edges to show race ownership). I'd certainly welcome it.

It's... a possibility.  It requires a lot more in the way of extra draw calls just for this, but only for those kinds of tiles, and the payoff might be substantial.  So... I don't know, maybe.  Combining these in the main dictionary actually means it wouldn't be any more draw calls at all, come to that, but rather it would be more on the pixel fill rate.  Though probably not much at all.

I'm not sure.  It's certainly a possibility, and it wouldn't require us doing a complete retool of the art or anything.  It would be something that we'd probably add later on if there seems to be a need for it.

Aw, I'd wanted to play as the spire. The rest does sound pretty interesting, though! Terraformer races in Master of Mana were my favorite, and it sounds like everyone is doing it here :)

You bet!

YES

About how much of this post do you at least want to try to make work?

No satellites, but there are some ground-based buildings you can use to adjust the temperature on the planet, as well as the atmospheric mix.

Temperature fluctuations cause deserts to expand and contract, same with ice/snow, and for sea levels to rise and fall.  You can flood out coastal buildings with rising seas if you drive up the temperature enough.

You can't raise mountains, and there's no concept of height in the game (unlike SMAC, and like Civ:BE).  I know that bothers some people, but representing that in a way that was attractive and clear was something we tried and failed to do.  And in the end, we're able to get at the same sort of resultant gameplay without that.

You can clear forests and certain other kinds of terrain, but you can't raise back up natural forests.  However, depending on your race you have one of three kinds of terrain that is unique to your race that you can seed.  So you can draw all the phallic obscenities you want. ;)

I've thought about having land expansion onto water, but I'm not sure yet.  I have a couple of models in which it could work, but I worry that it would trivialize certain aspects of the game.  At any rate, if you find yourself stuck on an island, you can expand your empire via docks, airstrips, and helipads with ease.

In terms of making yourself resistant to atmospheric poisons, that's an interesting concept, and not one I've thought about.  Although, I guess I kind of implicitly have.  The atmosphere is by nature going to be hostile to at least some of the races, because the races have a mixture of partially-compatible or completely-incompatible requirements.  Those that are ill suited to the atmosphere don't just die, but it will slow them down a lot because of their need for rebreathers and other things.  So you can push the atmosphere in ways that will help you (and implicitly some other races that have some similar needs), while pushing out other races.  I suppose that part of that would be to potentially have some expensive tech to increase your tolerance of specific atmospheric elements, although I don't want that to get in the way of the primary push and pull too much.

You can't see the sky, so color picking wouldn't have much use. ;)

So it sounds like a lot of the things you wanted were already things I had planned. :)

Bear in mind that I haven't had time to actually prototype any of the environmental stuff yet, except for the temperature changes and how that affects coasts/deserts/snow/ice.  And basic clearing of land, of course.  But the more sophisticated atmospheric manipulation, and the planting of your own native flora/terrain isn't something I've gotten to yet.  I have plans, many of them quite detailed, but it's a matter of making sure that they actually survive the prototype intact based on them turning out to, in fact, actually be fun.  SOME form of those things will survive, I'm certain, because that's really a cornerstone of how you can compete with the races non-militarily in this game. 

Having other ways to interact with the races other than just military blows and cheap diplomacy is something I'm definitely driving towards.  So many strategy games focus on the military above all else, and kind of let the other elements wither.  Heck, with AI War I made the conscious choice to do almost nothing BUT military -- there's nothing wrong with that approach.  Here I wanted to make the military no more attractive of an option than any of the other playstyles, but at the same time not making it so that the factions are isolated -- they should be in constant competition even when not militarily engaged.  Even if you never actually fight anyone in an entire game, it should be a bitter "battle" the whole time on at least a couple of fronts.
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Offline ElOhTeeBee

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Re: Tiny tease screenshot (okay, several, plus a small info dump, turns out).
« Reply #28 on: October 31, 2014, 12:52:46 PM »
You can't raise mountains, and there's no concept of height in the game (unlike SMAC, and like Civ:BE).  I know that bothers some people, but representing that in a way that was attractive and clear was something we tried and failed to do.  And in the end, we're able to get at the same sort of resultant gameplay without that.
My point was less about the defensive implications of mountain ranges and more about the effect they have on local weather patterns - one of the cool things you could do in SMAC was, well, exactly what I mentioned. I forget whether the wind was east-to-west or west-to-east, but if you were on the right side of the coast, you could raise a mountain range to catch all the precipitation as it blew in, making your side more fertile and turning the other side into desert.

You can't see the sky, so color picking wouldn't have much use. ;)
Throw it in as a bit of flavor text on some sort of high-end atmospheric manipulator, then.

Offline x4000

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Re: Tiny tease screenshot (okay, several, plus a small info dump, turns out).
« Reply #29 on: October 31, 2014, 01:07:56 PM »
Got it, yeah -- I know what you mean in SMAC about the precipitation levels.  The problem with that was that it was very dependent on a certain type of sub-data on the tiles.  There were, what, three factors on the tiles that made them unique?  Precipitation level, elevation, and fungus or something like that?  I don't have plans for a localized weather system like that here, as I feel like it does get a lot more complex in a way that isn't helpful for this particular game.  It's hard to represent, and in SMAC that was never something I felt like was really represented super well, though it was cool as all get out.

Fertility of tiles really isn't too big a thing at the moment, either, at least not at that scale.  Although I may try to sneak some things in, we'll see. ;)
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