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TIGSource ForumsFeedbackDevLogsMORSE - Change the world in the push of a button. (CUSTOM CONTROLLER UPDATE!)
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Author Topic: MORSE - Change the world in the push of a button. (CUSTOM CONTROLLER UPDATE!)  (Read 3779 times)
AlexVsCoding
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« on: May 15, 2015, 02:54:53 pm »

« Last Edit: July 01, 2016, 08:32:26 am by AlexVsCoding » Logged

ZeroTec
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« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2015, 12:38:26 am »

The concept of the game looks pretty cool...unfortunately the screens alone don't explain well how the gameplay is supposed to work. Could you describe how the morse-mechanic works? Really interesting Smiley
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« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2015, 12:45:41 am »

Is this the next "Papers, please"?
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« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2015, 12:46:21 am »

From what I can see you're shooting things using coordinates entered with morse code to target them. Which is a neat idea, at least if you know morse code or are willing to learn it. Wink

The screenshots are a bit fuzzy though, especially the second one with the ships and I don't know what's going on in the fourth one, is that infantry?
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« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2015, 03:39:33 am »

I have no idea what's going on but I'm very intrigued (and love the lo-fi/ANSI-esque art style!)
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AlexVsCoding
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« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2015, 01:41:23 pm »

Hey Folks,

Apologies as I was super sleep deprived last night, so didn't have the cognitive ability to write up something to do the game justice. I've been working on Morse for around a month - So far I've got a flash build, a tablet build and a custom controller built.

Here's the breakdown of what I've got:

--- .-. .. --. .. -. ... ORIGINS --- .-. .. --. .. -. ...

Whilst running a collaborative workshop showing the capabilities of the Makey Makey, I got hold of some clothes pegs. After building a tiny piano, the idea of using pegs to build a morse controller sprung to mind.  

I mulled over a couple of prototype routes on paper - Morse whispers (Chinese Whispers with Morse Code), Mastermorse (Mastermind with Morse), but decided to test the mechanic with a good old fashioned game of Battleships. After discovering that getting the player to input the position of their ships initially to be a tedious process, I chose instead to have the game spawn ships randomly and drift across the screen as moving targets. I originally settled on the name Dot Dot Splash (I LOVE MY PUNS), but I wanted to explore the possibilities further.

Looking into adding depth to the game, I used the First World War as the setting, which opened up the possibilities for air and land. The trenches leant themselves quite nicely to this kind of gameplay, as I can remember from Secondary School history lessons discussing how artillery would be fired in tactical formations for varied use (e.g. The Creeping Barrage).



-.-. --- -. - .-. --- .-.. .-.. . .-. CONTROLLER -.-. --- -. - .-. --- .-.. .-.. . .-.

After testing the concept with Dot Dot Splash, I built a controller which consists of:


-- --- .-. ... . / - .-. .- -. ... -- .. - - . .-. MORSE TRANSMITTER -- --- .-. ... . / - .-. .- -. ... -- .. - - . .-.

Use this to input your commands - This is done using the drop down morse list in the bottom left hand corner of the screen, which requires a number and a letter to zero in on a target. It is possible to stack your attacks by planning your attack in advance further across the board, striking in multiple positions.


-... .. --. / .-. . -.. / -... ..- - - --- -. BIG RED BUTTON -... .. --. / .-. . -.. / -... ..- - - --- -.

Once you've inputted your commands, you can choose when to send the message using the big red button which will transmit the message to the artillery batteries and decimate whatever you've marked up. The default artillery shell will destroy anything within a 3 square radius, giving you a little leeway on mistakes. But be warned - this means your own units may be unintentionally caught in the blast.


... .-- .. - -.-. .... -... --- .- .-. -.. SWITCHBOARD ... .-- .. - -.-. .... -... --- .- .-. -..

Use this to change the battlefield you're sending commands through to by shifting the plug between the three sockets.



.-.. .- -. -.. / .- .. .-. / .- -. -.. / ... . .- LAND AIR AND SEA .-.. .- -. -.. / .- .. .-. / .- -. -.. / ... . .-

I was initially tempted to give the player the ability to directly control troops (select co-ordinate of unit then choose co-ordinates of attack location), but I'm keeping the scope limited for now to pure artillery based. Having said that, there's a lot I can do with this:

Morse is going to be broken up into 3 parts:



... . .- SEA ... . .-

Due to the nature of trench warfare, the frontline is constantly exhausted of resources. Protect your fleets and convoys as they cross the channel to deliver their precious cargo. For every ship you save, you receive a resource in the form of units. Depending on the type of ship and the position that it crosses, this effects how combat plays out. You can also keep track and control what ships the enemy receives by either wiping out everything they send or by selectively destroying specific ships (E.g. blowing up their shipments of machine guns before you launch an infantry attack).



.- .. .-. AIR .- .. .-.

The skies are your eyes in this conflict - By launching planes over no man's land to survey the enemy trenches, you can see what the Kaiser is up to. Planes must fully travel across and return in order to receive coordinates. Shoot down enemy pilots near your trenches to acquire additional information. Surveyed land will allow you to foresee assaults and stack your counterattacks ahead of time.



.-.. .- -. -.. LAND .-.. .- -. -..

This is where the majority of gameplay on the other two battlefield's have their impact. Bombard enemy trenches, pick off battalions on their path across no man's land and clear a path for your  own squads. Different units that you've saved at sea will have different roles on the battlefield:

Machine Gunner: Static emplacement that kills targets in a radius around their position.
Infantry: Your pushing force - Get these men safely through no man's land and overthrow the opposing trench. Will shoot a ranged shot if standing still and will kill hand to hand if in range.
(More planned - Sniper, Medic, Officer, Grenadier etc.)

In the game's the current state, it only takes one soldier successfully crossing the trenches to claim victory, but I'm hoping to have a variety of battlefields of different scale. The likely approach would be when you've cleared out a trench, you'll populate the captured trench with your units from the previous battle and the enemy fallback trench would be the next objective. Then based on how you did, on the map in the war room you'd see the territories shift. Based on the victor, you'll see the outcome from the window of your office (The city on fire from invasion or Celebrations from victory).

So probably the thing that's fascinated most about working on this project is from the month of working on the project to now, I've gone from having no experience with Morse to being able to remember most of the Alphabet and all numbers in Morse, something that is only going to become more fluent over the time of developing the project. It might be considered a dead language (as we have tech that can perform the same thing faster and clearer),



I hope you find this post answers your questions and I eagerly look forward to your responses.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2015, 01:55:38 pm by AlexVsCoding » Logged

AlexVsCoding
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« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2015, 03:52:25 pm »

Hey Folks, figured I'd plonk up some random chunks of visuals I've been doing for Morse. My workflow thus far is creating the graphics using the wonderful software Hexels Pro, exporting as PNG's then scaling to appropriate size with nearest neighbour on to give nice sharp edges. I'm using Trixels (Images made up of triangles) and a checkered-ish texture overlay on top. The nice thing with using the texture overlay is when I shrink the images down you get a slight variation to the colouring/lighting during the animation. As development goes on and the softwares/engine I use for the project become more complex, I'm wanting to get the visuals a lot closer to the Trixel originals featured.








I'm going to be stupidly busy over the next few days with other dedications, but I'll try and get an hour to post up some footage of gameplay on tablet!
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« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2015, 04:28:56 pm »

This looks great!

Exporting those images to bitmaps? They look ideal for keeping as triangles and feed to a graphics engine to get nice sharp images on any screen resolution? They look very good anyway. Best game graphics I saw in a while really.

What platforms?

I was a bit disappointed by that red button. Would it not feel more right to just have a single button for everything and use some morse sequence instead of a second button?
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« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2015, 04:42:06 pm »

Being a bit of a ww1 geek though... While this is not the kind of game that will trigger my usual complaints about artillery response times in ww1 tactical games (I promise to not even bring that up!), I still have to mention the soldier uniforms. They look a bit too much like they have camouflage on them, which looks more like post-ww2 than ww1. Perhaps make the shades a bit more, uhm, uniform? And a bit more like the real colors used (that also makes them look more different)? Also I don't know what the second machine-gunner is supposed to be. American perhaps? But the German obviously has the old style pickelhaube that was only in use before 1916, and that was replaced before their enemies started to use helmets (and before America was even in the war). Also Germans in pickelhauben does not go well with a theme including aircraft spotting and large trench battles. This is easily solved by just replacing one iconic German helmet with another (the steel helmet used in the last half of the war that looked pretty much like the ww2 helmets everyone recognize).

EDIT: Also the machine-gunners should really not be using the same kind of machine-gun? Smiley

EDIT2: One thing about the graphics is that it does not look so great in the scaled down versions unfortunately.
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AlexVsCoding
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« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2015, 02:49:03 am »

Thanks for the awesomely long reply! I'll try to address all of your questions/feedback!

This looks great!

Exporting those images to bitmaps? They look ideal for keeping as triangles and feed to a graphics engine to get nice sharp images on any screen resolution? They look very good anyway. Best game graphics I saw in a while really.

EDIT2: One thing about the graphics is that it does not look so great in the scaled down versions unfortunately.

So currently this project has been mocked up as a simple prototype in an engine that allows me to flesh out gameplay quick to see if it's worth developing into a full title. One of the slightly annoying elements of this engine is (as far as I know) that camera zoom isn't supported. Because of this, I've got to fit everything on the screen which means taking all of the super nice triangles and squashing them down to tiny images. Whilst this does preserve some of the textures of the image, a lot of detail is lost (which obviously sucks). I'm currently browsing around engines to figure out what it the best match for the project, something I should know soon enough. Stay tuned.

What platforms?

It's still far too early to tell, but from the devices I've tested it on, it feels particularly good on tablet. I feel the minimal input will lend itself to the platform quite nicely. Building a more complex equivalent for either computer or console I'd totally be up for. Once again, the project is just shy of a month old (most of which is tinkering) so there's still a lot to be decided.

I was a bit disappointed by that red button. Would it not feel more right to just have a single button for everything and use some morse sequence instead of a second button?

Having one button was my original vision for the project, but when testing gameplay with others, it was difficult for them to get the timing right for launching attacks (see a ship, identify it's coordinates, look up it's coordinates, start typing in the coordinates on the keyboard, look up to see the ship passed out of range). By giving them control of when to launch those attacks means they can plan well ahead, giving new players opportunity and the time they need to learn the ropes.

To add, since players didn't know the timing or structure of morse code initially, they kept sending single letter messages like T, or E by accident (After about half a second of inactivity, the code creates a string from the dots and dashes inputted). Having the numbers/letters that you've inputted visible before you launch helps the player learn the Morse letter patterns.

What I have so far is a game with a steep difficulty curve. I plan to start people playing the game with a much smaller grid size (A to E and just one number to remember) then gradually scale the difficulty over time (but as mentioned above for that I'll need camera zoom functionality)

What will please you to hear is I'm planning to have a hardcore mode where your equipment and the visual feedback is limited to a morse code machine and the map (no reference list, no red button, no on screen text). There's also the consideration of response time that you've mentioned below that I was considering factoring in based on conditions (E.g. Weather, time of year/day).

It's really all about how realistic to go whilst still making it something entertaining to play.

Being a bit of a ww1 geek though... While this is not the kind of game that will trigger my usual complaints about artillery response times in ww1 tactical games (I promise to not even bring that up!), I still have to mention the soldier uniforms. They look a bit too much like they have camouflage on them, which looks more like post-ww2 than ww1. Perhaps make the shades a bit more, uhm, uniform? And a bit more like the real colors used (that also makes them look more different)? Also I don't know what the second machine-gunner is supposed to be. American perhaps? But the German obviously has the old style pickelhaube that was only in use before 1916, and that was replaced before their enemies started to use helmets (and before America was even in the war). Also Germans in pickelhauben does not go well with a theme including aircraft spotting and large trench battles. This is easily solved by just replacing one iconic German helmet with another (the steel helmet used in the last half of the war that looked pretty much like the ww2 helmets everyone recognize).

EDIT: Also the machine-gunners should really not be using the same kind of machine-gun? Smiley

Whilst I do tend to draw A LOT, visuals have usually taken a backseat in the games I develop (get the mechanics figured out first, then focus on the visuals). With Morse, I'm trying to push this to a more balanced state.

The reason a lot of the visuals appear repeated/inaccurate was the rush to get the basic functionality prepared for a pitch I was doing. A lot of the graphics are first pass placeholder visuals that will in time become more accurate and intricate.

An old friend from University has ended up working on Verdun, so I'll be probing his mind for suggestions on the topic as he's pretty swatted up on this area of history in particular. To add, I have the Royal Armouries just a train ride away so I'll be gathering as much research from there as possible on the subject.

The colouration on the uniforms at the moment for the British I made green to match the planes and ships (to help the player distinguish which side to shoot), but from what I understand, their uniforms were closer to an orangey brown/cream colour. As for the pickelhaube, I used it purely to differentiate between the two sides (as it's quite an iconic helmet which most people recognise as being used in the First World War.).

Where on the line between realistic and stylistic this game dances is yet to really be seen, but having folks like yourself to guide me along the way will certainly help that process.

Hope this addresses some of your questions!
« Last Edit: May 18, 2015, 02:54:51 am by AlexVsCoding » Logged

AlexVsCoding
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« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2015, 03:27:31 pm »


Hey Folks, so there was some mentions about the gifs not being clear enough, here's some closer vertical slices of gameplay! I'll likely be posting more in the next few days (of a larger scale), but for now it's super late here so sleepy time. Enjoy!
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« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2015, 05:42:40 am »

Gosh! This topic hasn't been posted in for at least 120 days!

*WIPES THICK LAYER OF DUST OFF TOPIC*

So whilst I haven't been updating this project on TIGSource for a while, I have been tinkering with it behind the scenes. In particular, the opportunity to exhibit a game came up and I figured a good way to get work started on the project again was to put down Morse for exhibiting. It's been a bit of a broken mess as of late, and over the last week or so I've been noseying through my old code and reconstructing the project.



Intertwining the separate scenes: Before this update, Morse operated over 3 separate scenes. This was done to prevent the game getting overloaded with objects and running slowly, so I did a series of experiments using lists to keep track of the unit positions. This sort of worked, but it was easy to forget about the other scenes whilst focusing on one. Now, it's a seamless connection between each. Each battlefield moves in real time, meaning the player must alternate between them to balance out the battle. I'll be experimenting further with how the player moves between the levels - To keep it quick (to not make certain scenes a time waster to get to), I might change it to 3 buttons for land, air and sea (to keep it in them with the channel based controller I've built).

Given enemy recon functionality: Rather than the random method previously, the enemy (based on the recon received) will target your units. When a plane successfully returns recon, a sensor is spawned at it's y position and moves across the level. Upon coming into contact with one of your units (in their row), it drops a shell there. For machine gunners and units in the trenches keeping control of the air really makes a difference.

Improved interface: Added a brief tutorial screen running through controls and improved the display for the top layer. Also got the animated menu in place.

Got the desktop version working smooth.

Have a smooth running browser version that I may put out to itch.io soon.

The elephant in the room that I have to address is this project has been played to death by me (still fun, but I now know Morse inside out so it's a lot easier for me). I've started testing with people who haven't played it before and the difficulty curve is already causing problems.

SO

The next real step for me with the project is to get a decent tutorial in place to get new players started. Having said that, I'd like to start people off with a much smaller grid and a lot less letters/numbers to think about, then slowly ramp up the difficulty from there.

I'll try my best to keep this post up to date now that I'm back up to speed with MORSE, so stay tuned for more content!
 
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« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2015, 07:07:27 pm »

Hey Folks!

So I've been experimenting with the numbers in the game, and I've figured out a way to decide the victory - a tug of war-esque control system.

For every soldier you get across to the enemy trench, you shift the balance in your favour. If you get 10 soldiers over, you win. Then enemy also must achieve the same for your trench.

What I've thrown into the mix to make it more interesting is a random modifier that uses this number as a multiplier. This number is linked to the spawning of soldiers. So, if the player/enemy has managed to push the balance to 8 or 9, there will be a higher probability of more soldiers on the battlefield (e.g. 9 spawned from every shipment). I've tested this out and it really makes those final battles super intense as you end up with huge armies converging on one another. Grabbing some footage now which I'll update the post with!


I've also discovered the wonders of time lapse for the game. Looks super snazzy and makes me look way better than I am at the game.


As a quick heads up, I'll be getting some footage of Morse tomorrow with an accompanying commentary. Stay tuned!
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« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2015, 07:25:57 pm »

"Desktop version"? Any chance that means you're planning to bring Morse to other platforms? I could see this working nicely on iPad
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« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2015, 04:27:52 am »

"Desktop version"? Any chance that means you're planning to bring Morse to other platforms? I could see this working nicely on iPad

Indeed! I tested it on my first-gen iPad and despite the occasional drop in framerate (something that should be less of a problem with modern devices), it feels super good on tablet (Arguably better than on computer with the exception of using the Morse controller). Just need to get my hands on a modern tablet and I'll post some footage of the latest build.

I'm also considering phone, but due to the size of the sprites and Stencyl's inability to zoom within engine I would potentially require an engine change/funding.

Currently uploading a 30 minute video of gameplay - It's unfortunately currently with limited sound in there so might overlay some soothing classical music.

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« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2015, 05:34:42 am »

Yes, I think this game would work really well on multiple platforms. I feel like the only thing missing from the gifs I've seen so far is that the explosion effect isn't substantial enough. Just a circle appears, and then the units are gone. Are you planning on beefing that up a bit? I think that would make a huge difference!
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« Reply #16 on: October 19, 2015, 08:10:18 am »

Yes, I think this game would work really well on multiple platforms. I feel like the only thing missing from the gifs I've seen so far is that the explosion effect isn't substantial enough. Just a circle appears, and then the units are gone. Are you planning on beefing that up a bit? I think that would make a huge difference!

Yep! The explosions happen over a super short period of time, so in some video frame rates, they don't even show up!

With the ships, there's an added splash effect as they get hit, so I'll be looking into something similar for the land, along with updating the explosion animation itself. Thanks for pointing it out!

For anyone interested, I've uploaded a video preview of a match - keep in mind there's still a lot of tweaking to be done (The lack of audio is currently rather lame), but you should be able to grasp how gameplay works!

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« Reply #17 on: October 20, 2015, 01:55:43 pm »

Hey Folks! So some updates on the project in the last 24 hours;

I've applied for GA-MA-YO (Game Makers Yorkshire) for an evening of games from around the region! If you're a local developer, might be worth looking into (It's on the 19th of November).

Also, I've plonked together a presskit after some more succinct explanation of how the project works/the background of the project. Give it a read here!

I've been experimenting with the transitions between the screens as it was taking too long to switch between air and sea. I tried to create transitions with a bounce to them, but problems arose if you rapidly spammed between them. For now, I've got it set that it instantly switches between, but this might change in time!


The transitions also still need a lot of work... Spot the difference on the HUD!

Finally, due to the lack of audio for gameplay, I was planning to do a narrated walkthrough video discussing how it works. But, I've managed to get the wonderful Will Bedford to produce some audio to get the project started with! For each battlefield, there'll be an ambient sound to match (Sky = Wind/ Sea = Waves/ Land = Gunfire and Distant Artillery). There's also some other stuff such as the signature morse beep and some nice clicking sounds that he's put together - stay tuned for a video with added audio soon!
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« Reply #18 on: October 23, 2015, 06:11:12 am »

Hey Folks! Got an update for you!

I got my first article written about Morse yesterday which was super nice! http://www.pocketgamer.co.uk/r/iPad/Morse/news.asp?c=68001

I'll be releasing the Flash version of Morse today once I've fixed the things that people bought up at the event I went to last night. Was a really useful experience as I was able to see where people slipped up and alter the build based on their feedback. I also had the custom controller set up - here's how it looked!





Here's a list of things I learnt from the event to fix/managed to add before the event:

One row at a time - The player starts with just one row of letters to remember then as they get more soldiers safely across no mans land, the battlefield expands. This helped people grasp the basics in a safer environment. FIXED

Better visualisations of the power control - I'll be putting together a scaling bar that will shift as the power changes (rather than the numeric method that doesn't really make that much sense). FIXED

Restricting the stackable text/numbers - a lot of people ended up trying to input numbers/letters without realising they had to launch their current ones first. To save this from happening, I'll be cutting it down to one letter, one number for the start of the game and progressively phasing it in.

Remove commas between letters/morse/numbers - due to the nature of lists, when displayed, commas are used to separate each item in the list. Players found this confusing since they thought they were part of the messages they were sending. For this, I'll create a basic font that doesn't have commas included.

Whether all these features make it into the first build, I don't know, but if not they'll be updated soon after!
« Last Edit: October 23, 2015, 04:15:28 pm by AlexVsCoding » Logged

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« Reply #19 on: October 23, 2015, 04:09:13 pm »

Hey Folks, the first build for MORSE is now available here to give a try http://alexvscoding.itch.io/morse

I'm looking for as much feedback as possible, so if you could give it a look and a play I'd appreciate it!

I'll warn you in advance that despite my efforts so far within the time constraints there's a pretty steep difficulty curve, so stick at it!
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