A lot of blueprinting went by and also a lot of thinking and finding solutions. Obstacle avoidance should be easy, but add variable object size and physics simulation, and the potential for bugs multiplies tenfold. I managed to create a simple obstacle avoidance, which is far from perfect, but an AI ship can now check if there is an obstacle to its target, and if there is, fire several rays in a star pattern to find the closest open space it can go to and then resume its path to target. I will leave AI at that for now because it was pretty hardcore.
I started the mission system and made basic mission managing. It’s very simple and linear, but there can be as many missions as needed in a level. At the start of the level, Event Dispatchers are bound for Starting, Advancing and Completing the Mission. These will manipulate the array of objectives, and see what their state is. The events can be called by any actor, but I think the Level Blueprint will do most mission scripting, where references of level triggers can be easily grabbed. This was pretty interesting to do, but I’ve seen enough blueprints to last a lifetime now. I’m itching for some art now =D
After completing the racing course (you can see a video of it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_vIEi0v7h0 ) I decided to take my Patreon account down. In spite of having steady supporters from beginning to end, it wasn’t enough to stop me from worrying about bills and so I had to keep paying attention to commissions too. In effect, Patreon was straining me to complete some kind of content every month in addition to commissions and that workload wasn’t realistic nor it provided me with a large enough engaging audience, nor I could keep them interested for long. So, now I can work on the core game without worrying about dealing finished content to supporters.
About development proper: the good news is that now I have a pretty tidy spaceship class with all the core mechanics completely independent from the Controller class. This means that the Player should be able to pilot and fight in any spaceship in a level. Then I had to revamp other systems like the targeting system and docking. A complete revamp of the turret class was also made to be more clean, faster and to ensure that their convergence accounts for target distance and the currently selected camera. The navigation seen in the racing video is now called Drone mode (forward orientation controlled by mouse) it makes it easier to navigate in smaller ships without turrets.
With all that said, I wonder if in a real mission, the ship won’t be too hard to pilot, which probably begs for a tight control of a ship’s maximum speed and UI feedback of movement. So now I’ll be moving onto basic AI functions: seeking/fleeing, targeting and shooting, because shooting against drooling AI isn’t fun =)
A busy month went by (or was that two months?) and as I promised to relax my design rules for spaceships, ideas started to build up and finally I was able to overcome my art block just by doing, well, anything. I favor low and spacious profiles which in turn, will favor the ship being with its front turned to the target for most damage, which, while not entirely realistic, because in real life, turrets would probably be placed on long struts in order to have 360º freedom, but this way it will make things simpler for fun game design.
Then I wrote all the narrative for the story which, at this time, amounts to about 10k words but I’ll get back to that later in production, because I had an idea. In order to achieve small successes instead of just powering through the whole game (from here, it looks like a sisyphian task), I’ll create smaller fun games as I create the several systems of the game.
Because spaceship movement is the easiest and the first system, I’ll make a quick Newtonian racing/time-attack game. This will have many benefits: complete objectives faster, familiarization with the several skills necessary to production, delivering finished stuff quicker.
So now I’m making that prototype. Modeled the ship in Blender (although I’m going to learn Maya soon and dump Blender forever I hope), painted in Substance Painter and then adapted part of this UE4 Tutorial for the blueprint logic. It’s far from polished but I have a good working basis for now.
I dropped the b in Devblog, that’s what I have to say this time… no, just kidding. Just did that promised video with spaceship movement and firing, it’s probably very boring, no sound, but it’s my first serious incursion into the unreal blueprint black magic. The video shows in detail what is done, except pawn possession
This was fun to do, because difficulty was just around the curve. It got a bit frustrating when dealing with the multiple turret aiming, but I finally managed to get it right after learning that I had to convert the direction coordinates to local space with the InverseTransformDirection node.
Anyway, this little incursion happened because I feel a bit stuck in the main ship design and story design. The story is complete, but it doesn’t pack the punch I want. It doesn’t convey the wisdom, or the themes of humans as one organism and human cooperation I want to pass to the player. At the moment, things happen, there’s certainly wonder and incredible events never seen before, but they would translate best to a linear game, and not a game where the player feels he’s in control of his own story. In short, I want the player to feel that stuff happens to him, and that he influences the events, completely immerse him in the game.
In concept art I need to go back to ship design, maybe if I start with every other ship and then go back to the player’s ship, I’ll have some ideas then. But first of all, I have an idea for another character, Zeus to be precise, and I intend to do that first.
Studies in human military craft while I tried to find the defining lines of human’s way of building and using military spacecraft. Time and time again I see concepts on the internet with absolutely no respect for the function of a spacecraft. I’ve seen everything stuck in there, wings, rotating fans, aerodynamic hull, windows, you name it. And I facepalm a bit every time, because it doesn’t take much to know that these elements obviously do not belong in a craft built for combat in space. These things are the “cool factor”
Obviously, there is nothing wrong with adding some “cool factor” and a bit of magic here and there, it gives the viewers the comfort of showing them stuff they already recognize. “Oh strut with big windows, there’s the cockpit”, right, but to me, it is wrong to base a whole design on the “cool factor” when all the environment around is supposed to be realistic. It not only breaks my immersion, but it denies the developers the possibility of creating something completely new, something that is actually conceptual. It means that the in-world engineers solved their problem (the enemy shooting their poor cockpit windows, debris breaking windows, etc) in a certain way (no more windows, lets see through other means), and that is important. People ridicule this stuff at first, but they will come to accept it if the solution works as intended.
I suppose the threshold of immersion is different for everyone, but one thing I know, too much of the cool factor or too much of realism can eventually break the immersion for everyone, So this equilibrium is always a fine line.