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TIGSource ForumsFeedbackDevLogsEven the Stars
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Pol
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« on: June 14, 2014, 08:47:05 am »

[edit]
////////////////////////////////
WEBPAGE RUNNING
BETA VERSION RELEASED AND FREE TO TEST
////////////////////////////////
Please send feedback :>
[/edit]



Even the Stars is a game I've been working on for Venus Patrol's Space Cowboy game jam a few weeks. It is playable here.
I'll leave the description of the game to Warp Door because they are doing it way better than I do :

"This has shades of the aimless, serendiptious space exploration of Noctis IV CE. You have no purpose other than to occupy your time spent alone in space.
By typing commands, you warp between the planets, disembarking when you see a structure -- a pyramid, a space station, a forest -- staying as long as you wish, perhaps refuelling if you're able to."

So yeah, basically it's a game through wich I wanted to capture the lack of purpose you'd feel as a space cowboy without a home (see the end of that same article on warpoor). And typing controls, because that's the way I like it and it fits the mood well.


See more screens here

I decided to push the game a bit further since I'm kinda proud of it, so I'll talk about how the dev of a new version is going on on this topic. I also need some feedback so don't hesitate to throw some ! :>

I've planned to add some different spaceships (you'll get one random each time you play), upgrade the UI a bit, add more stuff to see and more specific elements (asterid fields, dwarf stars, stuff like that), change the way movement is handled (mouse + keyboard typing don't go too well together). I've already started some work.




I'm also thinking of changing the title of the game wich is a bit too similar to Even the Ocean, wich I didn't think of when I chose it... But I didn't come up with any good idea yet. Also maybe add some new interactions, provided the game stays purposeless.
Lastly, I'm pondering whether or not to make the universe of the game persistent or to regenerate it at each play. Regenerating it sticks with my intentions - every game is unique and you can't see everything by continuing on the next play. However, many people thought there was some kind of persistance and that they'd be able to share their experience with friends, tell them to check out the most interesting planets they saw etc. It doesn't fit my intentions at all and would make the game even more similar to Mirror Moon EP than it already is... But at the same time it'd sure be cool. Opinions ?

Anyway, I plan to ship the game for the European film festival's indie game contest in roughly one month... So let's get to work !
« Last Edit: January 25, 2015, 06:59:33 pm by Pol » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2014, 12:03:49 pm »

The results of the jam came in, Even the Stars was rated #1 in the category "lonesomeness" and #2 in "The void" ! :>
Full results here.

Now for a progress update : started working on new ships and adding a few structures, also I set the sky's colour as a gradient instead of a flat colour which looks nicer.












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« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2014, 10:11:30 am »

I've thought about the control scheme of the game during the last week and here's what I plan to do :
The current system that uses both the keyboard and the mouse is not compfy at all, so I'll switch for full keyboard controls. Ship movement and speed will be handled with the wasd keys and camera rotation with the arrow keys, and hitting space will switch the whole thing to type mode and allow the player to enter inputs.

There's also a veeeeery nice idea my pal Tom suggested : at the end of a playthrough, players will see a wrapup of their journey in the form of a map of the planets they visited. I'll also allow players to write down a few words about a planet when they decide to stay at a location, an it'll show up on the map.



I'll have to work on this in order to keep it readable, but I really think it'll add something. I'll also try to allow players to save it as an image and stuff.

I have also been working on a proper way to display the 2D sprites I use for the structures on planets. I'm currently using Unity's sprite renderer for them as it allows for using the same material on each, but it doesn't allow proper lighting as it does not define normals for the sprite. I've tried to use shaders I found browsing forums to create normals but the only one I found creates them in world space, without taking in account the orientation of the sprite's transform... Anyone's got a workaround for that ?

Anyway, not much to show today, but here's a gif I made a few days ago :

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« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2014, 11:36:15 am »

So yeah I explained this issue with shaders and the sprite renderer more precisely in this topic  > http://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=41478.msg1033713#msg1033713
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Matt Rohr
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« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2014, 03:58:03 pm »

The looks of this game rubs me in all the right ways.
Really loving the mixture of low-poly 3D and Pixel art in 3D space.
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« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2014, 04:18:28 am »

I loved what I saw so far. That end game map, with comments could be a really nice feature.
3 suggestions :
- being able to launch a probe (or satellite) that would fly away from your planet, giving the kind of overview there is in the animated gif would be sweet
- I don't see that we can see the sun. Is on purpose ? Seing a sun set would be nice.
- Having moons, could be nice...
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« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2014, 05:08:11 am »

Thanks for the comments & feedbacks !
@Matt a sun and moons/satellites are planned (as well as some different planet rings), but I haven't started working on them yet. They should be easy to do so I'm focusing on the hard stuff for now.
The probe idea lacks justification imo, even though the planets would sure look nice seen from far away. But that's also the look they'll have in the end game map, so there's that. Or maybe they could also show you where to find structures on the planet (but one of my main intentions is to keep the player a bit lost through the game, so I'm not so sure)... Gotta think about it.
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« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2014, 08:38:57 am »

Well, if they are rare enough, it could be fun toy to play with. And make ou feel even harder that you are lost.

Well, another think that I would definitaly love to see are hints in one place sending you to another (such as 10 23 3x being written somewhere, or hints that there is something to find in a given direction, around 5 sectors away...).
But, I guess that creating relation between worlds would make random world creation much more complicated.

EDIT : Some interface suggestions :
I don't know with you, but I do personnally play a lot of interactive fiction. You know, these text games where every player imputs are typed (so very similar to your game). These games often allow 2 things :
- pressing the up and down keys cycle through previously typed commands (they are stored in a pile)
- most often used commands can usually be abbreged with one letter (so 'w' for warp, 's' for stop,...)

Another suggestion :
- I love that little star on the ship. I could be fun if we had other drawings added to the ship depending on what we have found / done
« Last Edit: June 24, 2014, 03:09:34 am by flap » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2014, 03:40:54 pm »

Thanks for the feedbacks and suggestions !

Progress report :

I've been working on visual stuff mostly for now, I've notably added a sun (that can be a 2-stars system sometimes), moons and trying to do stuff with lens flares (this part is still very WIP)



I've also got a set of spaceships. I still need to work on some of them but I don't plan on adding more for now.



Anyway, I'll focus on the gameplay from now. Tomorrow is for rebuilding the controls , and then getting this travel journal thing to work.
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« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2014, 04:28:11 am »

sweet !
So, will we get to watch sunset and sunrise when typing "Wait" ?
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« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2014, 04:39:36 am »

Nah, I thought about speeding up the time when waiting so you'd see the light shift and all but it'd screw some stuff up :/
Instead the screen will go black as in the jam version of the game, and that's the moment the player will be offered the possibility to write something in their travel journal.
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« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2014, 04:47:59 am »

Btw I tweaked the lensflares, they look much better now :

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« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2014, 06:12:35 am »

Nice atmosphere effect.
Will there be thick/foggy atmosphere where line sight will be limited ?

Also, an idea about probes (I like probes...) : it could be launched in a direction (given as coordinates, in the same way as warp), and return some basic data as text when flying through systems (for example :
... Probe report ... :
System 21 31 44 : big planet, 1 sun, some life
System 21 31 45 : no planet, no sun, no life
System 21 32 45 : Small planet, 2 suns, life unlickely. !! Technology reported !!
... End of Probe Report ... )
And maybe a probe could fly during 5 night, and cross 3 or 4 systems every night.

Probe could be found on some planets.
That's not too far from what is done in Super Star Trek with nova warheads.

Another suggestion :
One could stay a few days in a particularly well lit planet (and on its bright side) to charge its fuel (the more light, the quicker it gets fuel).

EDIT :
- I understood that it is not your original plan, but persistent universe might be cool (the same for every player, every gamethrough).
What might be even better would be to share the journals, so a player could find the tracks of another one (who played already) and decide to follow them, and eventually read its entries when arriving on the planets.

With 1 000 000 sector, having a few hundreds that have been visited will make the universe fell even emptier and lonelier (because we know that we might meet trace of other people, but it would be rare)

- similar idea to the probe : would it be fun to have "long range sensor" that would give some info about neighbouring system ? The further we check, the less accurate the info. It would give something like :
"Sensor 21 31 44 :
... Sensor Report ...
Distance 1,Big planet with pink atmosphere, 1 sun, some ancient settlement
!! Trace of ship passage !!
... End of Sensor report ...

Sensor 21 31 45 :
... Sensor Report ...
Distance 2,Planet, 2 suns, Life (30% chance)
... Sensor Report ...

Sensor 21 31 46 :
... Sensor Report ...
Distance 3,Planet (30% chance), 1 sun
... Sensor Report ...

Sensor 21 31 47 :
... Sensor Report ...
Distance 4, 1 sun
... Sensor Report ..."

The further we check, the less data we get(and less accurate it is)
« Last Edit: June 30, 2014, 07:21:20 am by flap » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: June 30, 2014, 09:43:50 am »

That last one is a rather interesting idea but I only have 2 weeks left so it's unlikely I'll be able to develop it :I
I'll keep it in mind tho ! I already decided that the universe shall be persistent - many people who tried the game said they thought it was and that it didn't make the loneliness/emptyness feeling weaker ; also that'll interact well with the endgame travel journal (if people share them and such).

Ding ding what's that noise its the noise of ✧ ・゚:* replay value *:・゚✧
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« Reply #14 on: July 06, 2014, 02:57:08 pm »

~~progress report~~

I've finally implemented the endgame map, it still needs work on making it as readable as possible but I'm getting there.





Don't mind the placeholder text :>
The player is also able to save a high resolution screenshot of this map (that is, if they don't use IE...).

Building all this has been kind of a hassle and now I'm really really short on time. I won't probably have time to add features from now on except from the sound system and, if it all goes well, wormholes. There's still lotsa polish to do.
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« Reply #15 on: July 07, 2014, 04:15:33 am »

Ahah, it looks nice. I hope that you'll be pleased enough with the version that you'll send to Strasbourg !

A question : will the map cope correctly when you have been visiting neighbouring systems (for example 64 75 32 and 64 65 31) ?

Also, some suggestions, to be stored carefully for later use :

Procedural features describtion
Every feature should have a description (maybe given when typing the feature's verb, such has "hangout". Have you heard of the goat soup string from elite (there is a modern remake : oolite). Very similar to your game, hundreds of planets are procedurally generated, with their own description such as :
"This planet is most notable for Tibediedian Arma brandy but scourged by deadly edible grubs.",
"Tiraor is a revolting little planet." ,
"This planet is noted for its exotic fish meat".

There could be a similar thing for planetary features. It would definitelly make every planet, and every single town different from each other, enhancing the pleasure of exploring.


Possibility to walk around
I hear you screaming already... But don't worry, I am not that crazy !
When out of a the ship, and while watching a feature, if there is another one, not too far the player could type the verb "Walk", and then be proposed the different feature it can walk to by foot.

Why is it cool ? Because the only thing that we own is a ship. The best way to give it more value, is somethimes not using it and see how limited we are (we can only move around from one feature to another).

This lead us to the final suggestion :

Using stargate and spaceport
When in front a stargate you type the verb "open gate" or something similar. Then you would be asked to type a code (the reference of another stargate) and be warped on another planet with a stargate.
The issue is that you travel by foot (your ship has stayed on the other side of the gate), and stargate references are not the same as warp coordinates. Chances are that you would not have noticed the reference of the stargate you have just left (or that it was not written). The stargate you emerge from might also be broken...

That's were the "walk" feature could be usefull : if lucky enough you could walk to a spaceport (or try your chance jumping from one gate to another untill you are stuck or find one close enough to a spaceport).

Spaceports would allow to travel to a neighbouring spaceport (up to 10 sectors away) or take "cab" or hitchhike to a planet without spaceport (cab and hitchhicke would work only for short distance. And you might have to wait...). Thus you could try to go back to the planet where you have left your ship.

In terms of programmation, as present time, you can probablay can't know exactly how many stargates there are and where they are. So, to make that network managable, they would have to be placed ahead of planet creation (generated at galaxy level)

For space ports, as you only need to know those around you, checking the 10*10*10 neighbouring systems mught be feasable, so they could be place with the regular procedural planet creation algoritm

Being allowed to travel without ship, but with great limitation could enhance the experience,and the feeling that your sole home is you ship.
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« Reply #16 on: July 07, 2014, 04:51:54 am »

Haha dude, I appreciate your enthusiasm but when I say I'm short on time I mean it. I planned to remove the stargates anyway, it was just a lame reference to Stargate I made in the jam's rush, I'll replace them by some kind of ancient artifact.

The map doesn't cope at all with planets being too close to one another, they simply clip through one another and same goes for the corresponding texts... I've decided I just don't care for now.

Lasly, I also intend to display a little descriptive text when hangin out at a location, something similar to what you suggested describing what you did/saw/etc at the place. I don't think these will be unique to every planet, however. That is, if I find enough time to build the feature in the first place.
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« Reply #17 on: July 07, 2014, 05:55:37 am »

Haha dude, I appreciate your enthusiasm but when I say I'm short on time I mean it.

Oh, I am sure of that ! That was just for later use, in case you plan to keep working on it  afteward(But you might prefer moving on to something else), or wish to open some portions of your code...  Wink
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« Reply #18 on: July 07, 2014, 01:30:16 pm »

Late monday bonus pic : relooked ship & blue flare.

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« Reply #19 on: July 09, 2014, 02:34:43 am »

That ship looks very privateer like. I loved that one !
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