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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsZEAL - a space trader
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whtrbt
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« on: July 22, 2014, 04:18:47 AM »

I'm creating a space exploring/trading game. Minimal, atmospheric, slow paced. Zeal is a working title.

I'm not a good programmer, artist or game designer yet, so constructive criticism is quite welcome.
I'll post screenshots and try to discuss my plans and any difficulties I encounter.



This circle is the player's view from the ship. Controls and information displays for the ship will be arranged around the viewport.
They'll look abstract like bars and arcs rather than representations of actual controls and buttons (the numbers on the side are just debug displays for now.)

I want the game to work for tablet/mobile first and I'm thinking about the best way to control the ship.
The player should be able to freely navigate, but also find it easy to direct the ship to something that catches their eye, or track a moving object.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2014, 04:59:40 PM by whtrbt » Logged

8-Bit Ape
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« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2014, 04:08:27 AM »

Great concept. With regards to touch controls how about:

  • Pan - Drag finger
  • Fast Turn - Swipe
  • Move Forwards / Backwards - Pinch

Looking forward to seeing more!
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whtrbt
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« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2014, 04:39:36 AM »

Yes, I have drag to pan at present. It also causes you to roll to orient your horizontal perpendicular to the direction of pan, which feels more like flying and less like orienting a telescope.
Refer to the above animation for the now inferior telescope nav mode. Smiley
Swiping for a fast turn is an awesome idea - maybe a 180 rotation in the direction of the swipe would be the most useful.
For moving forwards and backwards, I'm actually going to implement a sort of throttle that the player can slide back and forth.

I'm planning to incorporate lock-on tracking and automatic movement controls (orbit, approach, follow) so that it's easier to execute complex maneuvers but I want players to have the freedom to fly manually as well.

I've also been daydreaming about trying to manually 'park' a giant freighter ship near a space station and racking up damage bills for the other ships you crash into. Smiley
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whtrbt
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« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2014, 07:37:27 PM »

I got bogged down in the mathematics of making the spaceship have a ‘damping factor’ when it tries to change direction. So if you’ve got a maneuverable spacecraft you can turn on a dime… but for larger ships, you’ll get a bit of ‘drift’ effect in your original direction. Lucky I had a much savvier friend to check my maths.

The ships now have variable mass, max velocity, max acceleration and damping factor (which I may link to braking ability). Damping factor isn’t realistic (you’d have to apply counter-thrusts in the directions you want to damp), but it’s a lot more complex and less fun to control a ship that handles like the cast of Gravity. I’m explaining it away by computer controlled auto-corrections which isn’t that outrageous if you compare it to a modern fighter jet. Max velocity is also a little unrealistic, as in space… if you keep firing your thrusters, you’ll just get faster and faster and faster. But maneuvering at incredible speeds would just lead you to overshoot all the time and you’d take forever to turn around. I think I’ll work on local ‘dog-fight’ style maneuvering and then add a separate long range navigation method… hyperspace and warp drive and all that sort of thing.

There is a mysterious other in ZEAL that has been inspired, of all things, by a pepper grinder. I think I’ll leave it mysterious for now…
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whtrbt
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« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2014, 07:12:43 PM »

Exploring a few ideas about how the scanner/radar data should be represented.



The circular 'pin' type radar was based on movement in a space RTS I played… maybe Flotilla. Elite might have used a similar method, it's been a long time since I played it. I also thought about a transparent sphere - indicating the relative positions of items as though the player's ship was in the centre of the sphere. Both of these are also quite 3-dimensional, and don't really fit in with the flat and clear look I'm imagining.

Flattening and distorting a hemisphere as a kind of rear-view mirror and showing either the whole rear-view or splitting it and putting it beside the main viewport might work. The player has to transition in tracking when something moves from the viewport to the HUD or between the two halves of the HUD.

I settled on the familiar 'off-screen' arrows that point in the direction of the target. Dragging the viewport already rotates the ship, so dragging in the direction of the arrow will gradually bring the ship to face. A double or triple arrow will indicate targets that are further behind (as opposed to just off screen), and the player can swipe to rotate the ship 180 (without changing their current velocity, unless they provide thrust in the new heading).

I've also been playing around with different ways of handling acceleration, constant velocity, braking. I haven't tried it yet, but I think I'll allow the player to set a target velocity by sliding the velocity indicator (which would be accelerated towards at a standard acceleration? or should the player be able to specify?), or to apply force continuously by sliding an acceleration indicator. The player can do the same in reverse to brake - either drop the target velocity, or apply reverse thrust. Basically, you can set the velocity and let the navcom do the deceleration/acceleration to that velocity, or you can apply acceleration/deceleration yourself (which I feel would be more intuitive in a dogfight).



I'm not sure if this will be confusing to the player. I've been thinking about how it might look as a UI, along with a similar (but non-interactive) display for fuel and drain rate. Looking forward to implementing some of this stuff this weekend.
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Ben H
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« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2014, 07:32:24 PM »

Wow I love the idea of looking out a porthole into space, and it's new on touch devices too. I used to play a lot of Elite back in the day :D

I don't think you should worry too much about using more complex interfaces. Your target audience is most likely spacey nerds so they will probably *get* it.

I'm wondering how you'll do dogfights, that seems like the only time where the touch controls might get in the way. Dragging to rotate your ship seems good for broad control, but what about pinpoint accuracy for moving targets? You could have homing missiles, or tap-screen-to-shoot-here lasers, or remote-control missiles (flip the view to the missile nose?)  Maybe an upgrade could be one that helps you orient your ship in the right direction, you just help/nudge it for quicker or more precise turns.
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whtrbt
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« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2014, 05:59:00 AM »

I don't think you should worry too much about using more complex interfaces. Your target audience is most likely spacey nerds so they will probably *get* it.

I'm wondering how you'll do dogfights, that seems like the only time where the touch controls might get in the way. Dragging to rotate your ship seems good for broad control, but what about pinpoint accuracy for moving targets? You could have homing missiles, or tap-screen-to-shoot-here lasers, or remote-control missiles (flip the view to the missile nose?)  Maybe an upgrade could be one that helps you orient your ship in the right direction, you just help/nudge it for quicker or more precise turns.

Thanks for the reassurance. Smiley
I will have missiles and some other weapons, yes. As far as lasers or similar weapons, I'm not sure yet. There will be the ability to target and follow an enemy, so perhaps it's just a matter of firing when they pass through your crosshairs. I hope I can find a way to do something a little less QTE though.



Had some spare time tonight and started on target direction indicators, as I'd described previously. Still need to:
  • add target info
  • hide targeting arrows when targets are in sight
  • adjust arrows into double/triple arrows to indicate when they're behind (rather than just out of view).
  • do some less awful art
  • stop flying right through the pseudo-planets and ease up on the the rapid changes of direction

On a side note, is it okay to post as frequently as I am, and with the sort of updates I'm giving?
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zircon
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« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2014, 07:31:52 AM »

This looks neat. How is the trading aspect going to work? i.e. How deep of a system of resource management are you going to be doing?
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saluk
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« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2014, 11:34:37 PM »

I like this because so many space games, I am essentially keeping my eye 90% on the radar screen, only occasionally looking up to make sure things are lined up in the cross-hairs. Here, it's almost as if you made the radar screen the game, while enabling the radar to double as a 3d view. Which makes a lot of sense.
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whtrbt
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« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2014, 04:33:28 AM »



Got distracted and gave my planets some more interesting textures and rings... currently working on the options for automatically navigating around/to targets. Lock onto a target and you can choose to orbit at X distance, or maintain X distance from the object (which equates to following a moving object or 'parking' at a stationary or slow moving object).

The sizes and distances are all way off, planets are flinging past each other at ridiculous speeds. But before I fix this, I need to work out how to represent astronomical distances and sizes in the game. I am thinking of creating an instanced/zone system. A zone would represent a solar system and you can fly around it freely but you need to warp to other systems. I suspect this will be much easier than managing a completely open-world galaxy. A completely modelled and open galaxy sounds cool, but I'm not sure if flying through empty space for hours in real-time is really that interesting or necessary?

This looks neat. How is the trading aspect going to work? i.e. How deep of a system of resource management are you going to be doing?

I have no idea yet! I'd like to have some cause and effect working in terms of prices, and also for shortages/surpluses of resources to affect planets' output (i.e. lack of resources for them to  build ships or ship components, etc.). I think I want to focus on fun and interesting cause/effect (at the cost of realism if necessary).
What is important to you in an economy simulation?

I like this because so many space games, I am essentially keeping my eye 90% on the radar screen, only occasionally looking up to make sure things are lined up in the cross-hairs. Here, it's almost as if you made the radar screen the game, while enabling the radar to double as a 3d view. Which makes a lot of sense.

Yes, the idea that triggered this game was to have the ship and hud as one, by making the cockpit feel a little abstract. I hope I can keep sight of that as I start adding things.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2014, 05:10:50 AM by whtrbt » Logged

whtrbt
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« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2014, 06:30:00 AM »

I'm a bit unwell at the moment, but finally... target indicators:

  • Position themselves and rotate towards the direction of offscreen targets.
  • Follow onscreen targets, without rotating.
  • Change sprites accordingly.
  • Have labels that adjust position and alignment slightly based on the position of the indicator.

This was much more difficult than I expected because things were happening on two different camera viewports (HUD is orthographic, space and planets are perspective), all the involved elements are in parent-child relationships and the local and world positions and rotations of everything is changing.
I learnt a bit more about vector maths though. It's not impossible and I can describe what I'm trying to do, but it's not always easy to translate that into maths and code. Small steps.

I'd like to improve these indicators a little more:

  • Merge arrows and stack or simplify info text when two or more target indicators are close together (you can see a few points where the arrows and text cross over and are unreadable).
  • Adjust the arrow indicator based on how far offscreen the target is (beside, a bit behind, directly behind).
  • Add a background to the text, or do something to make it readable in cases where it's overlaying a similar colour. This applies to the arrows too.

I'll come back to these later. For now, it works and I'm going to focus on something else. I'm trying to always think about what the game needs most urgently, in order to actually be a game. Smiley

« Last Edit: August 12, 2014, 04:53:37 AM by whtrbt » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2015, 02:26:16 AM »

This looks very good,original.
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