Author Topic: Sharing More Art From The Last Federation  (Read 7837 times)

Offline x4000

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Sharing More Art From The Last Federation
« on: December 19, 2013, 09:45:26 AM »
Original: http://christophermpark.blogspot.com/2013/12/sharing-more-art-from-last-federation.html

The Last Federation is a really unique game in that it is a strategy/tactics game set inside a simulation game.  Check out our first sneak preview about it, or our preview discussing simulations in the game.  Also our recent podcast with Space Game Junkie with lots of other details, the description of your role as an independent agent in the solar system,  details on the alien races, and information about the "butterfly effect" in the game.  Oh, and the forums for the game are filled with lots of other detailed tidbits, too.

Hey folks!  I figured I would share some art with you today, although first I'll share some various news updates about the game:
  • We have now completely finished the design of v1 of the simulation of the game, which is really exciting.  Coding on that is about 95% complete, and will wrap up probably by the end of the first week of January, thereabouts.
  • As I mentioned on the forums in the discussion about the last post, I did find a way to make the Andors more interesting as a race.  They went from being generic good guys to being waaaay over the top goody-two-things on your feet.  They now provide a lot of unique and interesting strategic options for you, and also contribute to the butterfly effect in some really interesting ways.
  • Writing-wise, Erik has been hard at work on all the text that the alien races have for different things, such as how they feel about you or each other, and what they say on "chatter" when various stuff happens.  This really brings out the character of the races in yet another way, and makes everything feel more alive, which I'm very stoked about.  I wrote generic lines just as stand-ins, but having everything said in-character for the various races is super fun.  For instance, what the Thoraxians say about a race they hate due to war is really different from what the Burlusts or the Andors or Peltians say, even though they are all talking about the same thing.
  • On the design front, we've now moved into the GUI even more heavily than we were before.  Previously there were a lot of open questions internally about how to represent certain things, and now those are really getting narrowed down in a way that I find both exciting and relieving.  They really let you get a good sense of what is going on in the simulation, and they let you do it in a way that isn't just a bajillion overlays on one screen, but is instead using a variety of specialized screens to really show you information in the most concise and easy-to-understand format for whatever your question at the time is.  Still a lot of work to go here, but it's coming well.
  • On that same sort of note, Josh has been working on "Intelligence" screens that are text-based, and which are kind of like advisers in Civilization or SimCity.  These screens let you get at information on a specific topic in a text-based format, which is useful for both certain types of players and for certain circumstances.  We're doing this in-character as kind of a dry computer report, so that particularly makes me happy there, too, as that increases the ambience again.  As with the extended GUI screens that Blue and I are working on, the Intelligence screens are really aimed at letting players answer questions that they have in as quick a fashion as possible. 

    And I don't mean just new players: I mean when a player wants to know "what is going on militarily in the solar system lately," they can either look at a text report, or they can look at a graphical representation.  This is important because just looking at the current state of things doesn't always tell you the entire story. 

    It's like with SimCity: you can look at your current state of your city, and that tells you a lot.  But you need overlays for things like fire and water coverage, for instance.  And if you want to know what your utility usages have been over time, or budget over time, then there are graphs for that.  These things all help you answer very critical questions, and arguably you could not play the game very well without them, even though technically you spend most of your time in the main city view.  Same kind of deal with TLF.
  • On the art front, Blue and Cath have really been ripping it up in general and are doing their best work yet, and quite quickly as well.  The original scope is pretty close to being done, and so we're getting into a lot of the nice-to-have elements that I had hoped to be able to do but was not sure we could.  That's really pleasing to me, because that really helps us extend the sense of place and of variety further.  Versus just seeing tiny graphics for the various planet types and having to imagine what is there, actually seeing a couple of views of them that stoke your imagination even more.
  • With all that said, the outstanding GUI stuff and our need for internal testing pretty much mean that the alpha can't start until mid-January, as opposed to early January.  We really can't let it go any further than that, because we want to release the 1.0 of the game in mid-February (and really, there is no good reason at this point we should not be able to).  Anyway, so that's what is up with the schedule.  We're aiming to have things in a really advanced state by the time alpha starts at all, so that we can have a (comparably) relaxed month-long alpha like we did with Bionic Dues, versus something more rushed like Skyward Collapse was.
Okay, so here's some art!

First off, all of the alien political screen backgrounds are now fully complete -- colored and everything.  Way to go Cath!

Acutians:

Andors:

Boarines:

Burlusts:

Evucks:

Peltians:

Skylaxians:

Thoraxians:


Next up are some random GUI elements in a working document.  This isn't complete, but it does give you an example of the overall style that a lot of the game's GUI will be, and how much more detailed is is compared to our other games.  Also it shows the awesome alien icons in their completed format in the upper left.  Blue did a really tremendous job with this!


I wish I could show you some screenshots of combat, but that will need to wait until early January.  The actual artwork and design work on that is all complete, but we haven't had time to code it in yet, and the design palette windows don't have all the elements quite arranged as well as they will be in the actual game.  But suffice it to say, I really love how it looks.

All of the in-game ship hulls are now done as well.  There are 30 overall ship hulls, although each one of them gets used for a variety of procedurally-generated ship types that are unique to each particular playthrough.  Blue and Cath did all of these together.  Here are a few examples:

Your flagship:

A frigate (shown actual-size, while the flagship above is actually scaled down some):
A "normal size" pirate vessel (again shown actual size):
Bear in mind that all of these ships are shown with red running lights, whereas in the game itself that is not the case.  Normally the running lights have their color shifted based on what their race is, or if they belong to your mercenary fleet.  We're doing this with true hue shifting in this game, versus the diffuse coloring that we used in AI War.  It makes it so that we can do some really fancier effects, as you see above.  Basically the quality doesn't drop or get darker, the color just shifts on the spectrum.

For example, this is the actual color that your flagship (and your ships in general) use:


It's the same graphic that I posted above, just using the in-game HSV shift.  Note the lack of quality loss.


Anyhow, that's it for today.  Enjoy!
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Offline Mick

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Re: Sharing More Art From The Last Federation
« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2013, 10:50:09 AM »
Really looking forward to this. I hope the press pays attention to this one.

Offline chemical_art

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Re: Sharing More Art From The Last Federation
« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2013, 12:07:19 PM »
This sounds really exciting.


This is the first post to cause minor alarm bells to go off, but it could be due to me misunderstading. What I read is that if you don't dive deeply into both current and over time specific graphs, you can't play very well.

I hope for "normal" difficulty the information provided by the summaries is enough. I expect reading the detailed info is needed only for advanced play.

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Offline x4000

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Re: Sharing More Art From The Last Federation
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2013, 12:14:56 PM »
For normal play, I would say there are very few specific screens that you need to use.  Probably:

1. The main view, showing where the planets are, since that's where you move around.
2. The racial actions screen, so you can see what they are all generally up to at the moment.
3. The race attitudes view, to a lesser extent, so you can see at a glance how everyone feels about everyone else.
4. The combat view when you are in combat.
5. The market, black market, contracts, and political deals screens.  Really these are all more "places you go" than something like an interface screen.  Honestly that's true f #1 and #4 on this list, too.

And there are other things that you may want to look at, like the chatter screen or whatever, but it's by no means required.  At the simplest level of play, the game state is X, and you go to location Y and take action Z, which changes the game state.  Repeat until you win or lose.  Which of course is a horribly simplistic explanation, but that's more or less how to look at the flow from as far zoomed out as possible.

At a very advanced level of play, you're looking at more detailed data and anticipating what is likely to happen in the future, and then exploiting that to get the result you want.  Given that most of our hardcore fans are going to be looking for an advanced level of play rather than a casual experience, I feel like all those screens are needed for alpha.  But that's not the same as saying that someone who wants to get into it just to basically play some combat and see what sort of story develops can't ignore most of those things.

Actually, that's an entirely different way to play -- treating it more like an adventure game, where you just hop in and enjoy the combat as your main thing, and the solar system shifts around you and you see how long you can hold out or accomplish X Y Z goals that are not really the overall goals of the federation.  For some people that will likely be the most fun thing -- for instance, when I play Grand Theft Auto I don't care about the story, I just want to explore the city and run from the cops and so on.  This would be like a more complex version of that, and it's entirely valid to do that.  In that sort of scenario, you don't really care much how the races feel about one another, and you may not even do much in politics.  You might just take a bunch of contracts, and try to build up a big and suppressive fleet, then deal with the assassins of the races you anger the most, etc.

There's a lot of ways you can play this, honestly.
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Offline x4000

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Re: Sharing More Art From The Last Federation
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2013, 12:28:37 PM »
Incidentally, you did get me thinking, though, that probably what needs to be done is a split between game modes in a more official sense.  Basically, having an "adventure mode" and a "grand strategy mode" and an "observer mode" (which someone else asked for, which basically just lets you watch the simulation but not participate).

In adventure mode, part of the nature of that could be explicitly disabling a lot of the info screens so that you don't have that information.  Probably disabling all the politics as well, I'm not sure.  Hard to say for sure.  But basically making it something that you win purely by flying around, doing contracts, and fighting.  We wouldn't have to change much except for the way that races enter the federation, and we'd basically make a lot of aspects of the game more black-box.  But it would otherwise be a perfect subset of the game.

Observer mode would enable all the GUIs, but disallow contracts and politics and fleet building or really you taking any direct actions.  That sort of game can't be "won" as the federation will never form, but you get to watch and see how the simulation evolves and changes.

Possibly a "political" mode actually would also be interesting.  Where basically contracts and combat are taken out, and it's like observer mode except that you get a certain amount of bargaining power each month, and you have to pick and choose where you spend it.  Though honestly this mode is almost pointless, because you can play this way if you're auto-resolving contracts in the normal full game.  So probably scratch this one.

Grand strategy mode would be the full deal.
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Offline Teal_Blue

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Re: Sharing More Art From The Last Federation
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2013, 01:36:36 PM »
The art is really, really looking good!  :)  And i like the idea of the 'modes' that you mentioned. Even the political one you felt sort of was already available in game. The idea of playing just a political game seems interesting to me. Not that all the other ways and combat isn't interesting too, it is just nice to have the different ways to play or even win the game. You mention the 'observer' mode not being winnable, but i am guessing that some low level auto action or auto resolve as you mentioned, could mean that the mercenary fleet does take actions and could over time account for some races coming into the Federation, which could mean a round about way for the 'observer' game to actually win. In those instances, it isn't 'us' that is winning, but rather the simulation 'winning'. :)  Anyway, it all looks beautiful and really, really nice!  Say congrats to everyone, they're doing a great job!  :) I'm getting itchy to try this, and can't wait, but i'm glad it is coming together so well.  :)

-Teal


Offline chemical_art

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Re: Sharing More Art From The Last Federation
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2013, 02:09:02 PM »
Splitting the modes is exactly what I was thinking, Chris. That way you can tailor the modes and balance them accordingly. Or in the case of observation mode, maybe make it have more flare or more efficiently speed up time.
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Offline windgen

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Re: Sharing More Art From The Last Federation
« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2013, 06:31:00 PM »

It seems this thread has a similar theme to the thread brainstorming possible directions for a Valley 2 sequel [1]:  A strategy / some-other-genre game with an alternate game mode that tries to get rid of one of the genres as much as possible.

[1] http://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php/topic,13414.0.html

Offline Teal_Blue

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Re: Sharing More Art From The Last Federation
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2013, 07:13:14 PM »
Perhaps i am misunderstanding 'modes', maybe it is differences in play style to accommodate different kinds of players? Maybe then the different winning conditions changes up too much in the game, after all, I have been very excited to see how it plays, but i'm not too keen on changing it to the point of making it a different kind of game.

Maybe things like 'modes' could be added in a expansion? Where different kinds of play styles and winning conditions (if it all looks like it fits the game and doesn't mess it up) could be added (maybe).

Anyway, I wouldn't want TLF to suffer problems because i wanted something that isn't really a good thing for the game.

-Teal

 

Offline x4000

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Re: Sharing More Art From The Last Federation
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2013, 07:57:04 PM »
Bear in mind that this is just a strategy/tactics game, which isn't really an unusual combination.  The question is more about complexity, and how to ease people in.  Do you want full complexity, or only partial?  Etc.

It may be that with the quick start, I can simply gate functionality enough so that there is a natural progression of complexity and the extra modes are not needed.  And in fact, that might be entirely logical -- you can't see various sum-up GUIs because you don't yet have a spy network in place, yadda yadda.  So you can either focus on forging ahead blindly, or try to get your spy network up, etc.  That way things open up gradually.

Kind of like just focusing on the first few planets with AI War at the start, or sending out tons of scouts immediately.  Although AI War is not a game I would generally favorably compare to when it comes to accessibility. ;)

Obviously, in the advanced start, some of those options would boil down to "turn everything on right now" or "delay certain things even longer" or whatnot.  So this isn't the sort of thing that would affect serious long-term players at all, beyond their first game or two (assuming they play quick starts a few times).

The real question comes down to whether or not players are going to be okay just experimenting their first couple of games, or if they expect to win their first time.  It's kind of like SimCity -- if you expect to make a mega-city your first time, that is unlikely.  But boy you can have a ton of fun with all the various cities you make before you reach that point.

The problem here being that there is a definite lose condition.  So when the players are just having fun in a solar system, that's all well and good and can be a fun narrative.  But they have to be okay with a Dwarf-Fortress-style tantrum spiral that ends in their demise at the end of it.  That usually doesn't happen in SimCity, although it's certainly possible.

This game, really, is just as cohesive as AI War is.  Despite the fact that AI War has aspects of 4x, grand strategy, tactics (to a degree), and tower defense, all of that is joined together into one big system.  There aren't any big system shocks where suddenly you need to play a platformer.  Same thing here: you're in the same form of decision-making mode throughout the entire grand strategy portion of this game.  But it's about how much complexity is exposed to you at once, and how soon.  And with the combat, that's pretty easy to pick up at a basic level; it can be a little twitch-based in the same sense that any RTS is, but it's not immensely so and we're going to add an auto-pause option that immediately pauses the game whenever your energy tanks fill up, so that you never have to worry about the twitch aspects if you're the sort that prefers not to.  So there's really no huge leap there.

Anyway, I'm rambling a bit, but this is one of the things that I've both been thinking about for a long while (all along with the simulation design), as well as am thinking about more heavily now that the simulation is complete.  I suspect that a great deal of what will be changing during alpha will be in this department: making the quick-start new player experience more streamlined and easier to get into, and adding increasing advanced start options so that expert players aren't hampered by any changes we make to the quick-start mode.

Right now I'm kind of angling for my best first guess, while also making sure that all the tools for advanced players are in place right from the get-go, and then during the alpha that sort of feedback is going to be some of the most crucial.
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Offline Teal_Blue

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Re: Sharing More Art From The Last Federation
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2013, 10:39:34 PM »
sounds good! 

Offline mrhanman

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Re: Sharing More Art From The Last Federation
« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2013, 04:10:03 PM »
Wow, the art is really looking nice!  Kind of reminds me of MoO and other early 4x's.

Offline Teal_Blue

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Re: Sharing More Art From The Last Federation
« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2013, 04:34:59 PM »
Just some thoughts about modes -




This of course may be way too early, especially since we have no idea of exactly how the game play works. But these are some thoughts i had and are really just points of interest regarding the game, rather than any criticism.

Anyway, i was thinking of traditional 4x's and i thought well, those give us different criteria for winning depending on the preferences or the strengths of the particular player. But then i also thought, well, we've been there and done that, why recreate a game play form that is as established as that? It may be familiar to players, but perhaps a bit too blase and brings nothing new to the approach of the game.

So, then i thought, well, what if you had a simplistic game win condition (did i say simplistic? Well, haha, not quite... conceptually simple perhaps, or even simplistically straight forward, not necessarily simple to achieve.) That concept is 'form the federation and overcome all other planets'. (Which i believe is what Chris said, although there may be more or less to that than i know right now)  :)

If we sprinkle about a hundred or so, or perhaps several hundred different 'quests, missions, diplomatic assignments, military missions, trade exchanges, technology exchanges, battlefield bluffs, or sneaky passenger escorts and asteroid mining camp setups... and battles, or political backstabbing, insincere smiling lies of loyalty and thieving runs, or peacekeeper patrolling ... then we have a condition that can be met, in any of all the ways it takes to win along the way and are not locked into using only one type, or one tactic, or one approach.

What if the Burlusts we are able to convince with very accommodating diplomacy, the Acutions we have to threaten, and the Skylaxians we trade with in order to get each + the Borines (which the Skylaxians are friends with) into the Federation?

If we do this approach, then perhaps the game is as complex as a 4x, but not tied to its limits or only one single approach at a time. (Isn't this how Chris said it works?)

If there were a 'casual-easy-normal-difficult-hard-veryhard-cruel-vengful' difficulty to the game, then perhaps it is 'not' based on difficulty as much as it is time. Meaning the game actually imposes a time limit on the game, meaning perhaps the sun goes nova at the end of the time limit? So either i make it in time or i don't? Meaning, if i choose the casual level of play, then i don't give the races a lot of time (say only an hour or less) for a game, it is easier for me to meet the conditions of getting them into the Federation, because i am dealing with a simpler, less established solar system and also less powerful set of races.  And conversely,  if i choose the normal difficulty level, then i give them too much time, like say (two to six hours of play) then I'm going to have my hands full with a much more mature solar system, much more entrenched and established races and more planets (the races colonies) to deal with. And lastly, if i give the game say (eight plus hours, on the vengeful difficulty level, Then the game universe is extremely complex and varied, with not only race complications, but also non-race solar system anomalies and events, in such a universe then the game is so complex it is going to take me weeks to overcome it. If at all, maybe i play through to the end and have the Burlusts stab me in the back because i betrayed them earlier in the game? Oh my, what an outcome of several weeks of play, but then again, isn't it cool?)

Anyway, as noted at the beginning, these are really just thoughts, not any criticisms, or even requests, i am just really thinking out loud, how i think it might work, and what might be the drawbacks of using the standard 4x approach that i thought at first the game might be using. When if Chris and company do something different - don't they always? :) - then we might expect something quite different when we actually sit down to play the game.

thoughts or comments anyone? Oh, Merry Christmas!  :)

Question?  Does this all inclusive approach accommodate the 'modes' approaches? Or bypass them? In the case of the later, then perhaps 'modes' where each type of game play is broken out separately is better, in that it would allow players to play or approach the game in any number of ways, according to how they feel, or what kind of game they are looking for. Anyway, just some thoughts.

-Teal

 
« Last Edit: December 23, 2013, 05:15:00 PM by Teal_Blue »

Offline x4000

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Re: Sharing More Art From The Last Federation
« Reply #13 on: December 23, 2013, 05:41:19 PM »
A lot of what you're noting there is basically how it already works. There's only one win condition, but how you go about achieving it is extremely freeform beyond what most games are. In terms of difficulty imposing time limits, generally people have reacted extremely negatively to time limits in games, I've found.

As to having a lot of game modes, honestly at first that doesn't really concern me. Creating one really good, flexible experience is really much better. The advanced start options are basically for subletting what is already there to get specific interesting conditions to test yourself, or adding in extra conditions for winning. Like your time limits idea, actually -- I had not thought of that, but that would be a great advanced option.

In terms or broad modes, really the only reason I was thinking of that at all was for easing in beginners. But to some extent that is what the quick start is already supposed to be, so probably I will move away from that idea, and instead just go for more of a gradual complexity ramp-up as a game progresses. And then have advanced start options where expert players can just turn on whatever they want from the start.

That's a little more freeform for advance players, which I like, while also making it practically one-button-start for new players, which I also really like.
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Offline Teal_Blue

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Re: Sharing More Art From The Last Federation
« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2013, 07:38:04 PM »
Sounds great! Oh, and thank you for thinking about the time limit thing,  take care, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

-Teal