May Dev Update: User Interface design & Galaxy Map features


Over the past few months, we’ve been designing Predestination’s main races and working on core gameplay mechanics like ship design, tactical combat, galaxy generation, and planetary colonisation. A lot of really cool features are now in the game, but it’s difficult to show how they work without a user interface, so this month we’ve been working on building a solid UI framework into the game engine and rolling it out on the galaxy map screen.

Our goal for the Galaxy Map is to make it look and feel like an advanced astrometrics lab, with all of  the information your race has about the galaxy at your fingertips. We want you to be able to do most of your turn-to-turn empire management without leaving this screen, and to be able to immediately tell what’s going on in the galaxy by keeping an eye on the map. When designing the Galaxy Map interface, we had a few rules in mind:

  • Every window or information pane should have a specific place in the UI, so that your screen doesn’t become a mess of open windows.
  • The player shouldn’t be overwhelmed with information. Information should only appear when necessary and text should be kept to a minimum.
  • The UI must be scaleable and easy for players to mod.
  • Every UI element has to have a smooth animation or transition and a corresponding audio cue. The audio is not currently in the game, but placeholder cues have been inserted into the code for every action.

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New colony system, what do you think?

In last week’s development update, I showed recent work on the planetary colonisation that made the exploration grid visible from orbit. This week I updated it so that you can even direct your exploration efforts from orbit and developed a new resource distribution algorithm, but I ran into a small problem: If you add in enough resources to keep exploration interesting, you’d end up with a ton of colonies to build on each world. To solve this problem, I decided to try out a new system inspired partly by Civilization. Read More

New screenshots: Galaxy map, planets, system window and planet exploration

There are some big announcements coming in the next week or so for Predestination, but until then we have some new screenshots of the game in action. These screenshots show the three main parts of the game: Galaxy Management, Planetary Exploration, and Tactical Fleet Combat. All three areas are still work in progress, but they’re really starting to come together. Read More

Planet exploration update and terraforming idea

The Predestination team gained three new members this week: a new concept artist, a 3d modeller and a composer have officially joined the crew. The artists have been working on  new animated buildings for the colony screen this week, and our composer has been producing some awesome sci-fi music for the game. I’ll properly introduce the new and current members of the team in my next update and can hopefully show you some of their handiwork soon.

This week we’ve been working on fleshing out the designs for the races we plan to have at launch, and I’ve been implementing a hex-based planet exploration system to go with the hexagonal colony system described in the previous update. Players now have to explore outward from the starting colony as you can only explore hexes on the border with unexplored areas. Exploring a tile reveals what’s on that tile (if anything) and pushes your borders back, letting you see what all the surrounding squares look like. Below is a screenshot of the new system in action: Read More

Fleet combat hex system first prototype

This week I’ve been working on the fleet combat system for Predestination. When all of the core mechanics are implemented, we’ll be releasing this as our first beta test to get some feedback and improve it. Fleet combat is an important part of a 4X game, and it will have to be iterated on extensively to make it as awesome as possible. Our goal is to create tactical turn-based combat system that’s more like a game of chess than an RTS. We’ve already tested the movement and combat mechanics with a pen-and-paper prototype, and this week I started putting it all in code.

It doesn’t look very pretty yet, but I want to show you what I’ve got so far. I’ve finished the hex grid system and ships can be placed on the grid and rotated to face any of the adjacent hexagons. All ships involved in the combat roll initiative and then take their turns in order. For moving ships, I developed an efficient recursive algorithm that determines the shortest route to a hexagon based on the three simple rules below:

  • Moving into any of the three forward squares costs 1 move point
  • Turning by 60 degrees costs 1 move point.
  • Two ships cannot occupy the same square

The result produced the exact pattern that my prototype design predicted: Read More

Second iteration on planet exploration system

There are lots of software development strategies, but the one that comes naturally to me is rough iterative development. The process starts with an idea for a feature, which is then used to produce a gameplay prototype. I try the prototype out to see how it feels, and show it to people to collect feedback. That feedback is used to refine the prototype into a second iteration, which is then tested and shown to people again to collect feedback. This cycle continues until eventually I’m happy with the feature. Usually I do all the testing myself and only show the prototypes to a few real life friends, but over the past few weeks I’ve been showing the prototypes to people via the blog. Even with just a few people commenting, it’s been really useful.

Last week I showed a gameplay prototype of the planet exploration system and got some great feedback. This week I’m back with the second iteration on that system: Read More

Taskbar system and modular system windows

Every 4X game has a way to notify the player when something happens that requires his attention. Games will typically have a turn summary page reporting anything important, but I want a more direct visual notification that isn’t just a text list. The idea I’ve been prototyping this week is a taskbar that runs along the bottom of the screen and alerts the user to tasks that require their attention. If a planet has a building that needs to be placed or a problem that needs to be fixed, or if a discovery is made or a scout finishes surveying a planet etc, a small icon relating to the event will drop down into the task bar. When clicked, a window would open explaining the notification and with a shortcut button to go directly to the screen/window that will let you deal with whatever the notification is for. Either that or clicking the icon might bring you straight to the source of the notification.

For example, you could start building a colony ship and check a box that says you want to be notified when it’s complete. When it’s built, a little ship icon would drop down and land in the task bar. On clicking the icon, a small ship/fleet window would open and you could immediately give the ship orders. Similarly, if a survey mission on a planet completes, a notification could immediately appear in the taskbar and open the planet or solar system when clicked.

I got some great feedback on what type of system window to use, and have decided that a small self-contained window is the best option. This week I developed a modular window system that keeps track of all the windows that are open and has options to resize, close and minimise to the taskbar. The game now supports having multiple system windows open, which might be handy if you need to keep track of or compare multiple  systems. The video below demonstrates both the modular window and taskbar system: Read More

Planet graphics preview

I’d like to thank Adam at SpaceSector for his awesome introduction post on Predestination. I’ve been a bit quiet this week, but have been working on the project. We’re getting forums and a website set up, and making progress on the trailer for the kickstarter campaign. I’ve also been putting together a few videos to show off various parts of the game. Below is a preview of the planet graphics in the game: Read More

Head-tracking in Predestination, for a 3D perspective without expensive equipment

This week I’m working hard on putting together a Kickstarter campaign so I haven’t had much time to work on gameplay. But I wanted to show off an exciting development this week: Head-tracking.

Remember the video below from a few years back? In it, Johnny Lee showed off his awesome head tracking demo for games using a Wiimote connected to his PC. It turns a monitor or TV into a portal into a virtual room that visually reacts to movement exactly as viewing a real 3D box through a window would. Objects can even be seen to float out in front of the screen, providing a real 3D experience without the need for an expensive 3D monitor. In fact, all you need to pull this off is a Wiimote and a cheap pair of safety glasses with infra red LEDs in them. Read More

A sense of scale on planets

In showing people screenshots of my game project, it’s sometimes difficult to get across a sense of scale. Below is a visual update to show the scale differences between the game’s three main zoom levels. The top one is zoomed out to orbit, the second is the level at which you’ll send scout ships on survey missions around the area to push back a “fog of war” style map and uncover resources etc. The third is the level at which you’ll manage the colony. The camera angle is different there just because buildings will look better with it. Read More