November was a very busy month for us, so we’d like to apologise for the lateness of this month’s development roundup. We’ve been working hard on putting your feedback from the first iteration of the Fleet Combat and Planetary Colonisation betas into the game, and now have most of the suggestions implemented. The combat and planet betas have now been successfully merged together into a combined client that will become the first iteration of the galaxy beta. Work has now begun on the Galaxy screen and main UI menus, and we’re working hard on getting that ready to show to all beta backers as soon as possible.
The big news this month is that we’ve been working on a new 3D ship designer for Predestination that’s been made possible thanks to a grant from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. We’ve got some great ideas for expanding the ship designer with extra features, and will launching a Kickstarter campaign exclusively for the 3D ship designer hopefully within the next week. We’re very excited to have locked in a basic version of the 3D ship designer as a feature, and will use the Kickstarter to see how far people would like to expand the feature. Check out the sections below for more detailed breakdowns of everything we got up to in November: Read More
We’ve just launched the second round of the Predestination beta, introducing the planetary exploration and colonisation gameplay. If you’re one of our beta backers or are otherwise signed up to test the game, check your Kickstarter mail or email for a message from us with a download link. If you were supposed to be in the beta but didn’t get an email, please send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll sort it out for you.
As with the previous beta stage, there’s no NDA and you can talk about it or make videos if you like, but we would appreciate it if wouldn’t share the beta or download link publicly. It’s not quite ready for public consumption yet and is still using mostly placeholder 3D models and sounds that may change before release. If you’re not in the beta but still want to see the progress we’ve made this month, check out the video below of us playing through it and let us know what you think! Read More
The Predestination Combat Beta is now live. If you’re signed up to beta test the game, check your Kickstarter mail or email for a message from us with a link to download the game. If you’re supposed to be in the beta and haven’t received the link by the morning of Friday 20th, please email email@example.com or message us on Kickstarter and we’ll sort it out. We would appreciate it if you would refrain from sharing the combat beta or download link publicly as the game is not ready for the general public and is still using mostly placeholder 3D models and sounds. For those of you who aren’t in the beta, check out the video below of us playing through it and let us know what you think! Read More
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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