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Uncharted Galaxy - Starship Command Adventure RPG

Discussion in 'Works In Progress' started by Schneider21, Mar 5, 2016.

  1. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    I've been working on this project off-and-on for a bit over a year now, and I'm no longer able to contain my excitement to share it with the community. Since I've started this project I've changed jobs twice, had a child, and even finished and released my first game. My hope is that posting regular updates will ensure I keep that feeling of accountability and continue to make progress. Any and all feedback is welcome and appreciated. So without further adieu, it is my great pleasure to present, in its early stages...



    Uncharted Galaxy is a Space Adventure / RPG in which you play as the captain of a large starship on its mission of galactic exploration. While performing their duties, players will be responsible for managing their ship and its crew, as well as ensuring their actions positively represent the Alliance.

    Inspiration
    Much like @CarterG81, I'm a big fan of Star Trek and have always been dissatisfied with the lack of any good Trek games. I wanted to feel like I was the captain of a massive starship, responsible for the lives of my crew and going boldly on interstellar adventures. The closest we got to this was with a few bridge-commanding titles, but even these were almost entirely combat focused, and didn't scratch that itch. I was already underway by the time I discovered Carter's devlog, but drew inspiration from it nonetheless in the form of assurance that others felt the same way I did about the need for this type of game.

    Goals
    • Build a game that would capture the essence of Star Trek while still maintaining its own identity (read: not infringing on anyone's IP)
    • Provide the experience of commanding a ship and managing its crew while exploring the Galaxy
    • Create a visual style that would be doable for someone with my limited artistic ability but still look palatable
    • Manage scope creep to avoid building up a project I can never finish
    • Make a fun game
    Presenting: The Captain

    Well, a Captain, anyway. In Uncharted Galaxy, your character will be your own. He or she will have a variety of features that can be customized including their hair and skin, name, and what division of service they were assigned to prior to taking command.

    Despite this customization, players should be wary of becoming too attached to their character. There may come a time when difficult choices must be made, and when a crew member is lost, they are gone for good -- including you! In the event of death or incapacitation of the commanding officer, players will take over as the ranking officer and must continue on with their mission.

    Meet Your Senior Officers

    Your senior officers serve a purpose other than taking over for you if you die. They'll join you on away missions, provide valuable advice and analysis, and carry out your orders to the letter.
    • Science Officer - Experts in astrophysics and technology, your Science Officer will operate and interpret the ship's scanners, research content in the ship's computer, and provide logical advice in all matters.
    • Tactical Officer - Trained in many forms of combat, this specialist will coordinate the ship's weapons and shield operations in combat and direct security teams as needed.
    • Chief Engineer - Keeping a ship of this size running is no small task, but your Chief Engineer is well-suited to the task. Organizes damage control parties, prioritizes repairs, and pushes your engines to their limit when you need that extra boost.
    • Operations Officer - Administers personnel aboard the ship, balancing shifts and resolving disputes. Ensures everyone gets their paycheck and that there's always enough space toilet paper on board.
    • Medical Officer - Through regular physicals, your head sawbones will see to it that every crewman is in top shape. Of course, they'll also patch you up if you get knocked around by a Centaurian or impaled by a Vikarii spear.
    The Center of the Universe: The Bridge

    The bridge is where you'll oversee the operation of your ship. You won't be steering her yourself, of course (that's why you have a helmsman!), nor will you be targeting and blasting space pirates manually. Instead, you'll issue orders, respond to situations that need your attention, and provide guidance as situations develop. You direct your crew in carrying out their duties, but leave the nitty-gritty to them.

    Of course, when it's necessary to leave the ship, you may exercise your rank's privilege and lead the landing party yourself, if you choose.

    Stay Tuned!
    Thanks for your interest! I'm very excited to continue to make progress, and I'd be more than happy to answer any questions on the game, my development process, or future plans. In between current updates, I'll occasionally be showing older content to give a peek at how things have evolved from inception to its current state.
     
  2. CarterG81

    CarterG81

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    From Captain to Captain, "Keep up the good work, and thank you for the mention!"

    I'm definitely looking forward to seeing this progress & learning more about what the gameplay is like!
     
    Schneider21 and CrisisSystem like this.
  3. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

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    Yay - I'm not really worthy to add any comments to Trek related content.
    However as a general sci-fi fan who enjoys Trek content - two points that are appealing to me from that mythos are the inclusion of alien races within the crew, and iconography displayed in all Trek content.
    I'm always fascinated by the different races that are aboard the Enterprise and look forward to learning about them, and why they are part of the crew. This also includes alien races they encounter while exploring space, but that a given and has to be part of any space exploration game. ;)
    And the visual queues that scream Trek are the logo and the ship. I remember thinking/feeling during episodes and parts of the movies - when they get back to the Enterprise everything will be good and the resolution to the conflict will materialize. Also when seeing a diagram of the ships outline on the consoles with the low tech red blinking lights - in the older shows really enhanced the excitement of part of the ship getting hit with damage, or whatever the situation was. This tied the bridge scenes together well with the exterior shots of the Enterprise. Please use that cinematic staging/framing concept during gameplay.

    Have you settled on a ship design yet?
     
    Schneider21 likes this.
  4. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    I intend to cover presentation in a future post, but rest assured that I aim to use tried and true cinematic techniques to convey situations and set the mood. :p

    I've completed laying out and constructing 5 of the ship's decks so far. The exterior is still in flux a bit, but it will match nicely with the layout of the interior.

    Thanks for the input!
     
  5. plasmabazooka

    plasmabazooka

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    The Bridge does not give you impression you are on a spacecraft.
    For me seems more like it is some sort of a bunker with a big screen.

    Probably add more side screens and different color scheme will change impression.
     
  6. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    Thanks for the input! The inspiration for the set is definitely Original Series, so minimalistic, colorful, retro, and only quasi-indicative of how it functions are my main design notes. My hope is that sound effects will help with conveying that feeling a lot more, too.

    That said, I still have to go through each section and add detail elements and "repaint", so colors and minutiae aren't final yet, and I'll certainly take your feedback into consideration while making changes.
     
  7. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    Character Design
    As I alluded to previously, art is one of my weaker skill areas. While I had created simple pieces for my previous game, I struggled to create organic 3D models that accurately conveyed what I wanted. I decided to go simplistic and stylized in order to try and find that happy medium. I didn't want to go as lo-fi as Minecraft, but I knew squared lines would be my best bet.

    January 2015


    I drew the first draft for the character model using graph paper. I snapped a picture and used it to create the model in Blender. Note the mitten hands indicating how I was deathly afraid of doing fingers.


    First render of the character design. It's not super easy to tell in this shot, but having the angle on the face was pretty terrible and made the characters seem fish-eyed. I didn't care for the way shadows were cast and received by the character, either.


    I flattened the face and added a nose. Much better. But we don't want our Captain running around by himself in the terrestrial countryside!


    It was about this time I realized I was sticking a bit too closely to my inspiration material, so a slight redesign was in order.


    I decided to go with a more solid-colored uniform. After my wife commented that he "looks like a cop", I lightened the blue a bit, removed the maroon, and added more areas where the divisional colors would be placed. You might also notice the mittens have been replaced by fingered hands, and these have proven to be just as much a nightmare as I suspected (UG characters don't make fists yet, as their hands sort of just... fold in on themselves backwards...)

    I also swapped out the ray gun sidearm for something more streamlined and changed the rank stripes to be a texture vs a separate object. The badge eventually became gold to match the "flag" on the bridge as well. And that's how I got to where I'm at so far with the characters!

     
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  8. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

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    Your profile has private message turned off.
    I'd like to PM you regarding finger modeling - so as not to derail your game thread about modeling techniques. :)
     
    Schneider21 likes this.
  9. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    Whoops! Setting fixed. And I'd definitely appreciate you giving me a hand with modeling... :cool:
     
  10. rogueknight

    rogueknight

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    Awesome work! I too love Star Trek and would love a game that truly captures that feeling of exploration and science. Look forward to watching your progress!

    I am curious what the gameplay will be like? Will it be a top down view above our brave crew, or will we be commanding the ship in 3rd person?
     
  11. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    Thanks for the encouragement!

    Gameplay will mostly be third-person style a la standard adventure games. Events may trigger cinematic cameras to demonstrate what's happening, but I'm considering making this optional for those who want to stay immersed in their character by being locked to his/her perspective.

    I also haven't fully figured out ground combat yet, but since combat isn't the focus, this is fairly low on my priority list right now. :p
     
  12. Ayrik

    Ayrik

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    This looks amazing. I'm definitely following this! You should consider supporting VR. I've always wanted to command my own starship! :D
     
    Schneider21 likes this.
  13. zenGarden

    zenGarden

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    The characters desing looks very good, i like it.

    Will you have real time combat like Inquisition game or like some mmos ? It should be like the game real time and fun combat at slow pace instead of fast and hard core , what do you think ?
    Do you plan some skills tree to unlock ?
     
  14. Whiteleaf

    Whiteleaf

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    Seems cool, following this for more updates!
     
  15. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    @ayrik @zenGarden @Whiteleaf Thanks so much for the encouragement! I have to shamefully admit that I've done no work since posting this thread, as I think I burned myself out a bit trying to get things in a state to be able to show it. But your excitement is getting me recharged and ready to get back to work. Thank you!

    It definitely popped into my head. I don't know much of anything about VR, including if it would even work with a third-person perspective. If I decide to provide the option of a first-person control mode, adding VR is kind of a no-brainer, but I'll offer a non-committal "We shall see!" answer at this time.

    So obviously there'll be two different types of combat: Ship combat, and ground combat.

    The more I thought about it, the more I don't want ship combat to feel like a separate mode. Instead of "You are in combat, destroy the other vessel to continue" kind of feeling, I wanted the encounters to feel dynamic and wholly part of the on-ship experience. So you could, ostensibly, get up and go to the bathroom during a battle. Or go take a nap. Or drop shields and transport with your security team to the enemy's ship in a daring attempt to force a surrender. All within the context of the game's normal mechanics, and not as a scripted option with a predetermined chance of success or failure.

    Originally I had thought ground combat would work like a turn-based JRPG. Strictly turn-based is great because it encourages you to think and plan, but you definitely lose some of that sense of urgency that you kinda want to build tension. At the same time, I don't want it to be twitch-based, either. So I think it'll have to be some kind of mix between real-time and turn-based to get the feeling I'm going for. I also want it to be able to handle ranged and melee combat effectively, so you can have your phaser shootouts and your double-ear-slap confrontations as appropriate.

    I actually hated Inquisition's combat system, and it was the reason I stopped playing the game (also one of many reasons I don't get into MMOs). I don't like to just set my characters to attack and then sit back and watch, using spells and skills as they recharge. My ideal goal is something of a combination between Final Fantasy's ATB system and X-COM's strategic movement and attacking system. "We shall see!"

    Though not finalized, the idea is that each character has their own skills and traits that develop as they gain experience. Mostly they'll be applicable to their jobs, but if you constantly get your ship's doctor into firefights, he'll eventually become a sharpshooter with a phaser. Skills can also be developed during downtime by spending time in the gym, armory, lab, lounge, etc.

    Traits are inherent or gained in certain situations. Some will have a pro and con effect, such as being Xenophobic (increases combat ability vs aliens, but decreases performance when on duty with aliens), while others will be explicitly one or the other. I like the idea of forcing the player choose between bringing along a superior marksman who has an itchy trigger finger, or a less skilled security officer that's just so damn good looking they charm the pants off would-be attackers.
     
    theANMATOR2b likes this.
  16. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

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    Now watching as well. Looks like great stuff. Though I'm also excited about @CarterG81's top-down isometric game, there's much to be said for a real 3D environment you can "get into" and look around.

    Keep up the great work!
     
    CarterG81 likes this.
  17. RavenOfCode

    RavenOfCode

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    Looks quite cool, I will be watching this one. :)
     
  18. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    Thanks for your continued interest and encouragement! In order to get back into the swing of development, allow me to give you a tour of the entire 1st Deck.

    Titan Class Starship - Deck 1
    The Bridge
    As mentioned previously, the bridge is where you'll spend a good portion of your time on the ship. As such, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with its many functions and features.

    Captain's Chair

    As Captain, you're situated centrally in order to facilitate management of and communication with all posts. It's important to carry yourself with confidence to inspire your crew, lest the stresses and horrors of space consume them. The 4-pointed star, symbol of the Alliance and reminder of our home system hangs proudly behind you!

    Tactical

    Immediately to your right is the Tactical station, manned by your Tactical Officer. In the event of ship combat, Tactical will manage aiming and firing of weaponry as well as redirecting shield levels to protect vulnerable portions of the ship. The Tactical station contains a secured wall-locker for emergency access to phaser sidearms and other tactical supplies.

    Science

    Adjacent to Tactical is the Science station. Here your Science Officer will provide you with important data and situational analysis based on readings from the ship's sensors, the main computer, and launched probes. This station is essential when evaluating enemy craft, unknown entities, and unexplored planets.

    Helm

    Directly in front of the Captain you'll find the Helm station, where your Helmsman will pilot the ship with the assistance of the ship's Navigator. In most cases, the Helm crew can carry out their duties without your input. However, during combat you may instruct them to take evasive maneuvers or move in for the tactical advantage. You'll also be able to direct them to set course for your main objective, fall back to a friendly station for repairs/R&R, or set out for unexplored space. And of course, they'll never deprive you the honor of activating the warp drive without your explicit and thoughtful "Engage."

    Comms

    To your left sits your Communications Officer at the Comms station. Comms will operate the complex machinery that translates alien languages to your native tongue. They'll also, at your command, hail encountered ships or manage their communication invites to you. In addition, Comms will receive and pass along orders from Alliance Command, letting you know what your next task and course of action should be.

    Engineering

    Of course, what ship would be complete without its Chief Engineer keeping track of all its system's statuses? From the Engineering pit, your Chief will do just that, prioritizing repairs and managing power distribution to suit the changing needs of the situation. By consulting with Engineering, you'll always have a good idea as to how much more -- if any -- the ship can take.

    Maintenance Access

    Around the corner from Engineering, the maintenance access provides buzzing equipment that... well, that's not really important for you to know. As long as nothing is sparking or smoking, everything should be fine. In the event the ship's lifts are inoperable, crew may reach lower decks using the state-of-the-art ladders found here.

    The Head

    Shifts aboard Alliance vessels last 8 hours. And occasionally, crew will need to relieve themselves! I'm not sure what more needs to be said on that subject.

    Captain's Ready Room

    As Captain, you aren't always required to sit at your post when there's nothing going on. You'll often need to retreat to your Ready Room to carry out your administrative duties, or even just for a bit of peace and quiet. Here you can make decisions on personnel management like enacting promotions on qualified crew or accepting/declining transfer requests. If your inbox is empty, maybe just pore over your collections of trophies and souvenirs from completed missions.

    Briefing Room

    Behind the Tactical station, the Briefing room provides a space for your senior staff to discuss the current situation and develop a plan of action. You'll receive input and recommendations, and often have to choose between differing opinions on which options would be best.

    Operations

    Even if your Operations Officer hasn't sent you personnel issues to resolve, you may still seek him/her out in the Operations office and make changes as you see fit. Think a crewman's skills would be a better fit in another department? Have her transferred there and start putting those skills to use. Insubordinate officer speaking out against your commands too often? Give him a new post on a distant starbase to give him time to think about things.

    Supplemental: The View Screen

    While not a station of its own, the view screen is how you'll keep abreast of what's outside your ship. Alliance shield technology requires a metal-based surface to be effective, so your ship effectively has no windows. No matter! With dozens of cameras at your disposal, you'll be able to see farther than the naked eye could anyway. You'll also get that personal touch of speaking face-to-face with video communications.

    - - -

    That's all for the first deck! Bear in mind, while the layout is more-or-less complete (I may have one additional room I need to add), there will still be detail objects added and color schemes tweaked. I hope this gives a good feel for the toy playset feel I wanted to convey, as well as an idea of what kind of gameplay elements will be found in this portion of the ship.

    I need to get back into writing some good and building some maps, but next time I'll provide a brief view of where you'll be spending at least a portion of your off-duty hours: sleeping!
     
  19. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

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    Looks great! Of course you're making a game, not a cartoon... I can't wait to hear more about the actual game loops!
     
  20. zenGarden

    zenGarden

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    If just want to add VR support without VR controls or a different view, this is very simple , almost drag and drop VR component on the camera to display SBS.This is how it is done with some games like Elite Dangerous, they just play as usual but you can turn on SBS display for VR.

    That sounds good. Anyway if you decided to keep each character skills fixed for example a blacksmith would be very pooor at combat and would take the whole game to become average, while a fighter would be very poor at crafting and repairing while he could becom and average blacksmith if he would always fight the whole game.
    Perhaps a limit skill would be good , for example Fighter would have a limit to become a Blacksmith because the mastery would take too much years, so this would lead the player to carefully choose what character to take for what situtations where you need someone.

    Looks great and complete.
    Where are beds or barracks, play room, sport room (they must always stay in shape :D ) ?
     
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  21. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    Fair enough. I'll definitely need to get a lot of pieces put together and, you know, functioning to be able to show you that. :p

    Thanks for the tip! It makes sense to include FPS view and VR support in the way you're describing for sure. I'll look into it!

    Absolutely. Choosing who to take on away missions should be a carefully considered decision with meaningful impact, so separating crew skills to their roles in some fashion will be vital to that.

    There are 8 decks on the ship, only the first of which I've just shown. I have 4 other decks more-or-less complete, with the other 3 in progress or at least planned. I didn't speak to it directly, but if you look at the shot in my last post with the Captain's Chair, the blue door in the back is a lift that will take you to the other decks.

    To give you an idea of scale, the 2nd Deck is roughly 4-5 times larger than the 1st, with the 3rd Deck approximately 2-3 times larger than the 2nd. The remaining decks are / will be similar in size to Deck 3, with the exception of Deck 8 which is just under twice the size to accommodate the hanger and cargo bay.
     
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  22. IndubhushanDas

    IndubhushanDas

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    My blessings to you to make a commercially successful game.
     
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  23. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    So it's been a while, but I had a few things I wanted to share for anyone interested.

    Lesson 1: Don't share too early
    As excited as I was to be working on this game, I learned the hard way that it's dangerous to share too early. Development takes a lot of drive, and talking about development can sometimes satisfy your brain's need to feel creative without putting in the difficult work of actually being creative.

    I think by sharing what I had at this early stage, I actually lowered my motivation to continue pushing it forward. I had been working on it, but not as hard as I was before making this thread and talking publicly about what I was doing.

    For future work on this, I'm going to go a bit dark. Hopefully that pent-up excitement will push me to continue at the pace I was going before.

    Lesson 2: Stick with Stable
    I was so excited to upgrade to the latest beta version of Unity that I updated my current project to it, foolishly ignoring the notice to make a backup first. The biggest problem this caused for me was how lighting using emissive textures seems to work differently now. In short, small spaces seem to ignore nearby lights, and it totally messed with everything I've made so far.

    Make no mistake, this is all my fault. I should've kept going with the version of Unity I was using. I also should have built my levels more modular and pieced them together in-engine, instead of the (as I see it now) whacky way of assembling everything in Blender and importing it in big chunks.

    Lesson 3: Work on the hard stuff early
    I wanted to get the ship's internals built so I could walk around inside it. I figured that'd be inspiration for me to figure out how the rest of it should play.

    It didn't. The more I delayed nailing down the core game loop, the more I found myself just putzing about on stuff instead of making good progress. What the experts say is true: find the Fun early, and get that worked out before anything else.

    So what does this all mean?!
    I need to start over. Not fully from scratch, mind you, but I need to go back to the white board and rethink what I really want to accomplish here, and how I can do it in a way that's going to set me up for success.

    I haven't been too active in the community lately, so I'm only vaguely familiar with the new pricing model changes and the controversy surrounding that. I dread messing with Unity's lighting system in its current state. I've been wanting to learn C++ for a while now.

    I'm not saying I'm making the jump, but I think I may go tinker for a bit to get myself reinvigorated with the spirit of programming and development. If I like it, I may stick with it, but I'm not willing to throw away the years I've spent getting familiar with Unity, either.

    I'm gonna go draw a bunch of squares and lines and see how things should connect. I'll be back. And hopefully I'll have a better idea of where this project needs to go when I do.
     
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  24. virror

    virror

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    Good lessons learned : )
    Always start with just blocking something out with temp art or even just prefabs and focus on getting the core mechanics done. Its easy to start with art since it will give you a feeling of fast accomplishment, when in fact you have not gotten anywhere. Starting with the slow stuff will only make progress faster with time as you start to finish stuff instead of the opposite : )
    Games concept looks really promising though and i hope you can keep your motivation up to make something out of it!

    Edit: Breaking down the mechanics into small parts and putting them into Trello or something similar is also a good way of getting the feeling of progress as you can see things moving to Done
     
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  25. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

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    Set blasters from stun to kill! o_O
    Thanks for sharing your experience.
    Even though some elements have slowed progress - you have some quality custom assets created for whatever you end up coming up with.
     
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  26. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    I've been working hard and avoiding sharing to keep the motivation up, but I figure it's a good time to share a bit of info just to stay relevant.

    My recent existential crisis has lead me to do a lot of rethinking, and from that I've come up with a more focused plan that I think will set me up for success. The two big things I want to talk about today are platform and focus.

    Uncharted Galaxy will be a mobile game
    Somewhere between planning and tinkering with early prototype builds of the game, I decided to make a console game. I had already made a mobile game, and the idea of playing something on the Xbox sounded really cool. There are, however, a number of compelling reasons to do this as a mobile game:
    1. I believe mobile games can be great games - I'm not a fan of F2P and watered-down mobile experiences. I think there's a shortage of premium mobile games especially in this genre, and that presents a real opportunity for me.
    2. I've already made a mobile game - I know what to expect!
    3. It's easier to port to more powerful systems - rather than trying to shoehorn a game designed for desktop into mobile later if I wanted to.
    4. Less competition - Although my game is nothing like Elite, or Star Citizen, or No Man's Sky, these other monsters are in the same 'space' genre, and it could be a hard sell convincing fans of those games to try mine instead. Yes, there are tons of games coming out every day on mobile, but I think a space adventure RPG would still stand out there more than it would on consoles/PC.
    So to that end, I set about converting my project over to mobile and focusing on the UI. My first thinking was that a mobile game lives and dies by its UI, so I should ensure that gets the most attention. And I came up with this loose mess:


    The idea was that all the information you could want would be right there for you, and buttons you needed to perform actions were nice and big and easy to tap. It didn't take long to realize, though, that with this layout, there was barely any room for the on-screen action, and I hadn't left space for necessary functions like the pause menu or anything.

    So instead of just throwing UI elements together, I loaded up Photoshop and carefully planned out my elements, ensuring even spacing and leaving room for buttons in the corners. I even tried my hand at creating some interesting textures to give the appearance of panels!


    Although this was technically better, it still wasn't sitting quite right with me. The spacing wasn't really consistent, and I started feeling restricted. I realized I still had too much UI in there, and I needed to go more minimalistic. It was also around this time I realized all the UI elements I had created were different and didn't have a cohesive feel. So I pared everything down until I got to this:


    The UI sits nicely in the corners now until you need it. The Command menu (bottom) is toggled by the button on the lower right, so when you're not issuing orders, it won't clutter your view. And I no longer feel it necessary to constantly tell you what your ship's name is (that panel, by the way, was a button, which when pressed would bring up the Ship Info screen. I wanted to do away with this as a gameplay element, too, so that you'd have a reason to ask your officers for status reports).

    Nailing the UI down has been fun and frustrating, like all good development. I've had to redo things a number of times as I try them and realize they don't work (either functionally or usability-wise), but I think I'm finally narrowing in on the right experience I want for input.

    Finding the Fun: Focus and Scope Slaughter
    @JoeStrout prompted me to disclose more details on actual gameplay, and that's when I had realized that I hadn't worked on it at all. I was trying to build systems for a big simulation, and just kind of hoping a game would materialize from all of that. One example of this was that the data file that generates the ship's crew has columns for things like what quarters they're assigned to, and which shift they work. I had envisioned a constant simulation of life aboard a starship. Besides being impractical, it's also not -- in itself -- fun.

    So to get back on track, I'm choosing to do the one thing I did not want to do. The thing EVERY Star Trek game does that upsets me so much, and the number one thing I swore I wouldn't do when I started with this game:

    I'm focusing on combat.

    Not for the whole game! I still fully intend the game to be about so much more. But I need to actually get the game going, and to be, well... a game. So for that, I want to get the ship combat working and make sure it's fun. When that's in place, I can move on to something else that's not combat.

    I'd gone back and forth a hundred times on what combat would play out like. For the longest time, I was sure it would be turn-based. In fact, in the first screenshot posted above, the two circles below the top bar are your Turn Points indicator. The idea was that each command you give would cost a certain number of points, so you'd have to choose between attacking or making repairs in a turn, for example.

    I couldn't focus on working on it, though, because it didn't excite me. It felt in my head that it would be too obvious what the system was running the show, and players would be more focused on the correct combination of moves rather than feeling like they're actually engaged in combat with another ship.

    It was then I recalled the Event System I had started to be able to accommodate my simulate-everything-on-the-ship plan from before. I took another look at it, rewrote a few parts, and managed to get it working with my save system and other existing elements. I'm not ready to talk about that part yet, but it does lead me into what I'm currently working on.

    What I've been doing with my time
    Besides the stuff I already covered above, the majority of my time has been spent creating systems that I'll need to handle the actual content of the game. I have a GameTimeManager that keeps track of the in-game time, an EventManager that schedules and executes events at the appropriate GameTime, and two managers I've called Txtr and Msgr.

    Txtr is responsible for loading my language files and returning the appropriate text string as needed. The files are separated into functions (just UI and lines of speech so far) to keep things organized. Txtr can also randomly choose one of several appropriate lines to give some variety, will correctly pluralize words as needed, and best of all, will even parse properties embedded in the text files!

    Msgr displays message boxes and dialogs using Txtr. It uses the issuing character's information to color the message box and display their name at the top so you know who's speaking.


    I just started on a Camera Manager today (called, adorably, CameraMan) that isn't ready to be shown yet but is shaping up nicely. Despite throwing the camera through walls, it's already making the game feel more dynamic and exciting when things happen. And by 'things happen' I just mean changing the alert status and having stations report. :p

    I've also got the character customization mostly finished, which I'll cover in depth in another post soon. And as a small teaser, here's the first look at the exterior of your ship, which will get a heavy round of detail application, but is already something I'm very happy with.



    That's all for now! Back to work for me. Stay tuned for the next update where I go into more detail about doing and redoing things! Thanks for reading!
     
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  27. aer0ace

    aer0ace

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    Good luck in mobile. I enjoyed Star Command, but not as much as I think I'd enjoy this.
    I also had high hopes with the mobile market, but my game got buried so quickly. Be sure to promote the game, and continue promoting it forever.
     
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  28. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    Thanks, Aero! The mobile market is a cold bitch, that's for sure.

    I remember hearing about Star Command early on and thinking how it was exactly the kind of game I always wanted. By the time it released, as happens, it turned out to be a different game than that. And I'm sure the same could happen with UG. But if I can finish it, let it loose in the wild, and it gets even a bit of positive reception, I'll be happy!
     
  29. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

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    Looking good. One suggestion: move those nacelles up or down... I know that Star Command is not Star Trek, but any serious Trekker will tell you that the nacelles must be clearly visible in a side profile.

    Other than that, let me just encourage you to push push push toward actual gameplay, and don't let yoursrelf get distracted too much by details like UI, localization, etc. You will need all that stuff of course, but if the game isn't fun, it's all for naught. Find the fun!

    I can't wait to play this myself!
     
  30. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    That's how I had it sketched out originally, but it felt a bit too copy-catish... You don't think I'm opening myself up to more criticism by mimicking the inspiration that closely? I do agree, though... You just can't beat that instantly recognizable profile...

    I know, I know! You're totally right, but I do feel the systems I've been spending time on ARE important to the gameplay. Being a hugely UI-driven game (you're issuing orders here, not steering the ship and firing the phasers yourself), the crew interaction and event systems have to work to get the feel right. I promise, a working game loop is my very next task to handle!

    Thanks as always, Joe.

    PS - Star Command is a different game. This is Uncharted Galaxy, bro. :p
     
  31. hippocoder

    hippocoder

    Digital Ape Moderator

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    This is great. I'd play it on steam if its the sort of thing I can do leaning back in my chair clicking stuff. I don't mobile game tho.
     
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  32. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    Thanks, hippo! Not gonna lie... One of the biggest reasons I pictured this as an Xbox game originally was because I told myself "I could make a game that fully uses Kinect and doesn't suck." Definitely still an option. Just gotta make a functioning game first. :p
     
  33. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

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    Yes, that's a good point. Hmm. I guess you do have to be careful.

    Sheesh, how embarrassing. :oops: Sorry about that!
     
  34. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    Not a problem. It just shows you were reading the thread. ;)

    I've taken your advice to heart, too. I suppose those nacelles could stand to be lowered just a bit without causing any harm. I like it better already.
     
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  35. MV10

    MV10

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    This is the kind of thread that makes me wish the forum's "Watch Thread" thing worked more reliably.

    Looks great. Also not a fan of mobile games but your UI mockup makes me think I'd give it a shot anyway. Hopefully you're planning for Android. Heck, if you're an iOS only guy, I can probably give you an older Android device or two if that'll change your mind. :)
     
  36. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    Thanks for the kind words, @MV10! You guys really know how to warm a guy's heart. :p I am an iOS guy, but I will definitely release on Android as well. My wife has an Android phone and I fully intend to utilize her during my alpha/beta stages.

    One way I'm trying to combat device-compatibility overload is focusing only on devices with a 16:9 aspect ratio initially. This, unfortunately, means things like the iPad are a no-go until I can sort out a version of the UI that doesn't eat up all that juicy horizontal space. But that's a problem for another day. Today, here's a quick look at the Character Creator I promised:



    Upon starting a new game, players will be greeted by the Star-Fleet Registration and Information Retrieval Interface (SRIRI). I was feeling particularly cheeky that day, and may or may not end up changing this. SRIRI was my attempt to unify the game's interface elements, though, and it's been very effective at keeping things focused and consistent.

    The idea behind SRIRI was to maintain the appearance of an in-universe application that displays required information and handles UI functions the player needs to manage. Right off the bat, though, the first issue I ran into was finding the balance between the interface "staying in character" and being absolutely clear what action the player is performing, and what this means in gameplay terms.

    For example, I wanted the ship/crew initial setup to look like you were pulling up your ship's information in a database. So the screen where you name the ship looks like you're searching for that ship in the database. While this is exceedingly cute and could add to immersion, it might confuse some by not being totally clear that this is what you're naming your ship. Hopefully a confirmation popup at the end of the process will make this sufficiently evident.

    It's interesting to me that originally I had things all built out as empty text fields. Nothing says "this game is all about customization!" like a totally blank canvas, right? I became very annoyed while testing, though, having to type content into numerous text fields just to get past the game start. At that point, my wife gave me an idea. (My wife, by the way, has been surprisingly excited by my progress and has expressed an unexpected interest in playing the game. She's even become a big fan of the JJ Trek films, though I've been unsuccessful at assimilating her into any of the series' offerings).

    What she said was "What if they don't want to type all this in?" So instead of blank canvases, I generate the ship and its crew on game start and then give the player the option to change whatever they like. This also fits better with my 'Search' application theme, too, so win-win-win there. Anyway, once they enter their ship's name, they then see their senior officers and bridge personnel.


    Here the player can see their main cast of characters, including all their senior officers as well as their helmsman, navigator, and communications officer. These are the characters you'll be interacting with most, so I wanted the player to have full control over their appearance and biographical information to tailer the experience to their taste. I fondly recall the days of playing Oregon Trail and being horrified at the news that my sister had died of dysentery. I want that same option to exist in UG. Or, if players prefer, they can rename their cast to match that of their favorite space exploration television show.


    While I don't have all the actual options in place yet, there's still enough to give some good variety. Just to get it out of the way now, yes, you will be able to have alien crew members (once they're implemented)! The Skills tab also hasn't been implemented yet, since the entire Skills system doesn't currently exist!

    Bit of info on character generation: When a new character is generated, a race category (real one like White, Black, Asian, etc) is selected randomly according to approximate real-world demographic proportions. Currently I'm using numbers from the US, since that's my target market, but on my ToDo list is to use settings appropriate to other countries for localized versions.

    Anyway, that race is purely behind the scenes for character generation only. All it does is to loosely balance demographics and select appropriately matching skin tone and hair colors. You're totally free to break those rules when editing, but my goal was to not have character that looked completely random, like black-skinned people with red hair, for example.

    The other part I'm super proud of with the character generation is the character profile images. Originally I generated these on a new game start (after the character creation portion, which only included the player at the time). The entire crew was instantiated one by one, photographed, and their image stored for later use. This proved to be horrible, as even with a crew manifest of only 128, the process still took a good 5-6 seconds where I just had to display a covering "Loading..." screen.

    So instead, the profile images are a fun little empty frame the player will likely never see:

    When one of these images is loaded in a scene, it has a character id assigned to it that checks to see if an image exists with a matching id. If so, it loads that image from disk. If not, it runs the script to generate the image by instantiating the character then, photographing her, and saving the image. This was cool while I was testing with one blank image, but when I had a whole group of them, they were all trying to go at once, causing everyone's photo to look like this:

    Yikes! So I set up a queue system to handle taking the photos, and everything works nice and smoothly now.

    The exception is when you're actively editing a character. This isn't a saved texture but rather a render texture showing the character instance with animation frozen. As you adjust the sliders, the appearance updates in real-time, and only after you tap Save does the character's data actually get overridden and a new image generated.

    The Info tab contains fields that don't directly affect your appearance, most importantly the character's name.


    With names, I didn't want to use a Markov string that would create wonky-sounding things like Timatty or something, so instead I have a list of male names (about 1200), female names (around 2000), and last names (just over 5000) that can be selected at random. I still haven't thought of a good way to generate nicknames without going through a case by case basis (Jim for James, for example), but for now at least players can assign their own.

    Another fun side note: Originally I had each character with an in-game name assigned, and a separate "actor" name, with the idea being that the game was a TV show you were watching, and each character would be listed in the opening credits and all that. It started to feel far too meta, though, and I moved away from the whole 4th wall thing. There will still definitely be an opening credits video that shows the cast, though.
     
  37. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    Fantastic! It's quite impressive how well done it is with the attention to detail and streamlining considerations you've made. Really great work so far. :)
     
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  38. Apparaten_

    Apparaten_

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    This is awesome! :)

    Would love to hear more about the gameplay interaction-wise!
     
  39. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

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    One slight modeling suggestion. On the front of the ship, above the blue line the front comes to a point. Below the blue line the ship comes to a flat polygon flat surface, instead of a point.
    Probably want to match the top and bottom so the contiguous surface on both sides of the blue line match.

    Keep up the work.
     
  40. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    I knew there was something off about the nose of the ship, but I couldn't pinpoint it! I'll take care of it during the detail phase, thanks!

    (Still putting off fixing those fingers, too, btw...)
     
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  41. Talony

    Talony

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    This looks superb!
     
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  42. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    Thanks, Talony! I've been working hard and will have a big update here in another week or so, I think. Stay tuned!
     
  43. Talony

    Talony

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    Make it so!
     
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  44. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    Okay, so I was going to wait until things were ironed out more, but I got too excited after @Talony bumped me back to the first page. So here's what I've been working on.

    But first, an apology. I lied to you all, and for that I'm deeply sorry. More on that in just a minute.

    What's the point?
    While I was updating my wife on my current progress, she asked me a very pointed question: "What is the game about?" I fumbled around a bit, trying to describe my overarching vision and explaining how I wanted players to feel and all that. "No," she said, "What do you do? Like, what's the goal of the game?"

    I thought about it, and realized I had better have a good answer to this question. And a brief one! If I couldn't answer this simple question, how could I hope to sell the whole idea of the game as a commercial product? Previously I had decided to focus my efforts on one particular element to get the "game" part of the game moving - ship combat. But is that what my game was about? It couldn't be, or I think I'd find myself not fully believing in what I was doing, the whole reason I set out to make this game in the first place.

    Uncharted Galaxy is about exploring the Galaxy.

    That's what I needed to nail down if this game is going to be what I want it to be. The reason I shied away from this idea before was because it felt like too large a scope, and I was already getting lost in all these systems and simulated operations... But it's still the heart of the entire project, and it's important. So the trick was to break things down into ideas I could figure out how to tackle.

    The Final Frontier
    Space is huge. Really huge. And exploring it would take more lifetimes than the lot of us have together.

    There's no shortage of space exploration games these days. One particularly prominent one just came out this week, in fact. But where they're going for massive scale and sheer volume of procedurally generated content, I'm going for something that feels a bit more... manageable.

    But it's still huge. :p

    - - -

    Time for a screenshot! The first new addition you'll see when starting a new game is a fancy new loading bar!


    Here we have all sorts of fancy things happening behind the scenes. Generating lots and lots of things. I don't want to go into too much detail, as I think doing so will spoil some of the surprise and enjoyment out of actually experiencing the game.

    Fun fact: Originally there was no loading bar. I just generated all the crap, and 3 or 4 seconds later the SRIRI interface popped up. When I discovered there was a spinning beach ball during this phase, though, I began to dread what would happen when running on my actual iPhone, and it turned out my suspicions were correct. My generation script was locking the main thread, and Apple doesn't like when you do this. The OS shuts your app down if you take too long, in fact.

    So after a lot of shattered teeth and tear-filled slumbers, I converted the generation script to use coroutines (my save solution doesn't support multithreading and I couldn't figure out a bypass) and got the loading bar in there. The trade off was that yielding in the generation script for the UI to update actually caused a significant increase to the total time generation takes. What was only 3-4 seconds on my MacBook before turned into 7-8 seconds. But that's nothing compared to how long it takes on the phone: about a minute and 46 seconds!

    I'm sure I can optimize this a bit later, but my wife suggested a great idea that I'll probably do to mask this in the interim: display random Space Facts while the game loads! Fun!

    - - -

    Okay, so once you're actually in the game, you won't see much different just yet. Except when you go into the Command Menu, select HLM, and order your navigator to Set Course.

    Obvious Note: Please excuse a lot of placeholder art here. And while it's not immediately obvious, a lot of this is still buggy and needs some caressing to get behaving properly.



    This is the Navigation Panel. It gives you information on your current location as well as the rest of the known Galaxy. At the game's start, the player will be in orbit around Earth. I'll end up switching the big icon out with a rendering of the actual planet, but this gets the idea across for now.

    I tried to make the controls feel like a map we'd be used to, with buttons for panning at the edges and zooming, centering on your current location, and search at the corners. This worked fine on desktop, but on the phone, the small corner buttons proved a bit smaller than I thought, and chubby fingers may struggle to hit them accurately. So I added Zoom buttons on the right as well. Still haven't figured out what to do about Center and Search, but since they don't work yet, I don't have to worry about them yet!

    Let's zoom out one level and take a look at our current system.



    The System View shows you your current system, including its star and any planets, as well as an indication of your current location in the system. Tapping an icon selects that planet/star and gives a few details on it (not shown here, but pictured in previous screenshot).

    It's worth noting that my setup currently only supports single-star systems. I really want to expand it to allow binary systems and stars (or more), but that's no small rewrite, so it'll get shelved for a bit. Let's keep going out, shall we?



    This is the Sector View. A sector is a ~500 Ly section of space. Those in the know will realize quickly that there are way more stars that should be in that amount of space, but that's part of how I'm keeping things manageable (or else that 2 min load time will quickly turn into 20 min). Additionally, I'm trying to balance the issue of keeping things readable/clickable without having overlapping problems.

    Space-savvy followers may also realize the stars and planets shown so far exist in our own Galaxy. This is no coincidence, as these have been examples of a "defined" sector. By passing in rules to the generation script, I can ensure certain stars and planets are always in the same place. This will allow me to not totally rely on random generation to set up things important to story arcs, for example. Below is an example of a completely generated sector.



    Moving on, we can zoom out an additional level to view multiple sectors at a time.



    This is our first view of the Sector Grid, with a scale of 1 block being 1 sector wide. Colored tiles are charted territory, while grayscale blocks are unexplored. I've yet to define the faction territories, so the actual starting conditions may vary quite a bit. If you zoom into Uncharted space, instead of seeing the Sector View, you see this:



    You'll have to actually visit a Sector to get details on its systems. (Likewise, you have to visit a system to get details on its planets, unless this information is revealed to you otherwise). Due to the way interstellar space travel works in Uncharted Galaxy, you may only travel to sectors that are adjacent to explored space. Sectors beyond this region cannot reliably have courses plotted, so you'll have to work your way through space bit by bit.

    Zooming back out, and then once more adjusts the grid scale so that one block is 5 sectors wide (~2500 Ly).



    In a nutshell, everything you saw in the previous Sector Grid screenshot fits within that center grid tile (as you can see by the colored region). This zoom scale is useful for quickly navigating across the map and getting a high-level view of your progress. Let's go out another step.



    This is the Quadrant view, with each grid being ~12,500 Ly across. With my current plan, Uncharted Galaxy will launch with only the Alpha Quadrant available to the player (your assigned region of space, and the Neutral Zone, etc, etc). This provides several advantages:
    1. More space out there suggests more fun to come in the future!
    2. Blank canvas reserved for me to tell future stories in an expansion and/or sequel
    3. Keep that initial load time and file size down!
    Those who enjoy math have already figured out that the Quadrant will contain 10,000 sectors for players to explore. With my current version of the generator, that equates to somewhere around 85,000 star systems which is about 1 millionth of the actual stars you'd find in a quarter of our Galaxy. There's somewhere around 675,000 planets as well, so while it's nowhere near the scale of the Big Boys, there should still be plenty to see and do.

    For now, the helmsman is asleep at the wheel, but the navigator will chart courses as per your orders.





    Nevermind the awkward phrasing. Still have plenty of kinks to work out with how coordinate systems are retrieved (stupid dropped zeros...).

    Hey! We also just got our first peek at the dynamic camera! Neat!

    - - -

    To wrap things up: Some Real Talk™.

    I've been busting my hump to get this working, since I see it as being critical to the game's direction. Things have gotten pretty hairy in the Navigation Panel controller script, and I'm overdue for some cleanup and optimization on that matter. I started feeling myself getting burned out again, which is part of the reason I wanted to post this before it's fully polished. The interest and support you guys have shown so far has been a huge motivator and mood boost, and has really helped validate my effort to this point.

    Additionally, I started developing a twitch in my right eyelid about a week and a half ago. I think it's from the stress of working on this every available moment I have, including cutting into my sleep a few hours a night. I plan on taking a couple days to a week off from it and spend a bit of time playing games when I can to relax a bit. I can only imagine what teams go though when they're crunching on time to get things released. Trying to find that balance between working hard to achieve my dream and staying healthy may be a more delicate task than I had anticipated.

    Anyway, I want to sincerely thank each and every person reading this for expressing an interest in the game. I hope I can turn it into something you'll all enjoy as immensely as I enjoy reading your excited comments in this thread.

    Thanks!

    - Justin
     
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  45. MV10

    MV10

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    First let me say:
    1.jpg

    Second, have you considered integrating UI like that navigation dialog with the actual screens on the bridge? Not that I'm suggesting they'd be "active" all the time, but it's pretty easy to move the camera around. In my own app, most of the gameplay is on a mapboard, but some of the gameplay takes place in what amounts to an office. So various elements of the office are scattered about the desk, and clicking them zooms the camera to that item to present the UI. In my case it's not real convincing (yet) apart from zooming to the main map UI, but in your case, since the whole bridge is nothing but screens anyway, I think it could be pretty compelling.

    I just position a bunch of otherwise empty gameobjects as camera targets (both position and rotation), then do some simple eased lerping from current position to target position. Even though it's dead simple it gets lots of ooo's and ahh's from people.

    It looks really cool though.
     
  46. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    @MV10 I like that! It would definitely add to the immersion and make all those screens seem to have a purpose. I'll look into it!
     
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  47. RavenOfCode

    RavenOfCode

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    That was a really great dev log you wrote, you should write more often!

    Great work so far, I'm not a explore space kinda guy, but I would definitely play this! :)

    Keep it up! :D
     
  48. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    Thanks, @RavenOfCode!

    I'm going to be trying to break tasks down into smaller chunks and writing about them as I go. This last one didn't give too many opportunities to show stuff off until it was nearly complete, hence the long delay.

    When I get back to working on it here shortly, I'll take a little diversion doing something visual and fun (then have to come back and clean up the Nav Panel functionality) and post lots of screens.
     
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  49. Tiny-Tree

    Tiny-Tree

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    i like the opaque ui more, transparent make it less readable you should add an option to set the alpha
     
  50. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

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    Just WOW!
    Are you working full-time on this? Or are you like so many of us - have full-time work that takes away valuable time from game development?
    Either way - you seem to be putting a ton of time on this, evidenced by the amount of quality content you have created already. Very well done. You are inspiring.

    I can relate to the eye twitch thingie.
    It usually happens to me when I put in more than 25-30 or more extra hours per week for consecutive weeks.
    I try to stay around 20 'extra' hours - but enjoying development makes it difficult to stop at designated times - at times.
    As long as you dont play computer games - instead mobile or console on the TV - the twitch should fade away over a short time. But it sure is annoying when it gets going.
     
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