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

Working on a trailer

I’m working on a trailer this week, so I’ve been programattically composing scenes in my engine and will film them when they’re done. The scenes all run in realtime so I’ll also be able to keep them in the final game as an intro. I’ve had to clean up the back-end code and build some new tools for this, but I’ll be able to use the new tools for other things like space combat and cutscenes. Below is a quick sneak peek at part of one of the scenes, which uses a new planetary ring system I developed today. The ring is actually drawn to the background, so I could add a lot more detail without slowing the game down at all. I may add more types of rock and ice asteroid, and make the whole thing much bigger or the individual asteroids smaller. I just thought the ring was too cool not to share. Read More

The blueprint system – Fixing the micromanagement problem

Every single 4X game has the same basic flaw — as the game progresses, the micromanagement that was fun gameplay at the start becomes a bother later in the game when colony numbers scale up. Building up one colony is fun, but building up dozens that are all at different stages of development is irritating. When you’re busy sending ships all over the galaxy and playing the political endgame, there’s usually no time for colonisation or to direct conquered worlds. The only game to solve this issue was perhaps Master of Orion III, and it only did so by putting an AI in control and making the game essentially play itself. That’s not a solution, it’s a disaster.

I propose a simple, elegant solution to the colony micromanagement problem that should let people continue colonisation well into the endgame, but without taking direct control away from the user. Read More

Space 4X game design – Colonisation

Exploration and colonisation are two of the four fundamental pillars of game design in a 4X game, and I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how I want to handle them in my game. I’ve put up a new page on the site with all my thoughts and prototype designs for colonisation, but I’m going to cover each idea in its own blog post.

Exploration at a planetary level:

At the start of the game, you have a single colony on an unexplored planet. You’ll send out scout ships to nearby areas of the map on search missions to find resources and other things. A mock-up of a part of the map is below: 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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRVbvG-TpJc Predestination 4X game Galaxy Map: System window demonstr

Predestination 4X game Galaxy Map: System window demonstration

Please watch fullscreen (1080p available). The video’s a bit darker and a lot blurrier than the actual game because YouTube is bloody awful at encoding videos, but you get a clear enough idea of the effect in fullscreen. Read More

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QCmvsKSXic A video of the 3D galaxy map for Predestination. Please w

A video of the 3D galaxy map for Predestination. Please watch it in 720p fullscreen, otherwise a lot of important small details like the lines between stars and the galactic plane are lost. Read More

Player-generated content in a 4X game

I’ve been doing mostly under-the-hood code optimisations today so I don’t have any pretty screenshots to show for it, but I do have an idea to share that I’ve been wanting to run by other people. Master of Orion II is my touch-stone for game design, and it only had sandbox style games. But when I introduced a 3D map I realised that also adding singleplayer missions or challenges might actually be really cool. One example mission might be set up so that you own one planet that’s surrounded and you win if you can hold out until a doomsday technology is researched to let you smash your aggressors to pieces. Another might have a colossal galaxy and the challenge might be to find and secure a wormhole hidden somewhere in the chaos, then launch an attack fleet through it. Read More

4X game galaxy map, 2D or 3D?

Space 4X games are typically played on a 2D map, not because of any technical limitation but for gameplay reasons. 3D maps are difficult to visualise and strategise on, for example they make it more difficult to see the area of space owned by a particular enemy. Those games that do have a 3D map tend to mechanically simplify it with a “star lane” mechanic where ships can only travel along set paths between certain stars. For all intents and purposes, that isn’t a 3D map any more; it has eliminated any mechanics that actually use the third dimension. The alternative is to use a 2D map (like this one below), which is requires a bit more suspension of disbelief.

While I don’t want to diverge too heavily from the fundamental mechanics of the genre’s previously successful games, I do want to have a crack at bringing a third dimension to the map in a way that avoids these problems. If you’re interested in space 4X games, please leave a comment on this post about whether you’d want a 2D map or 3D, or answer the post with anything else you’d like to add. I’d really appreciate it! Read More