I’m pleased to announce that we’ve just hit another major milestone with the first release of our awesome 3D ship designer tool. The tool has now been integrated into the game through the shipyard screen and allows players to design their own ships from the ground up using a simple drag-and-drop interface. Unlike most other ship designers that force the player to attach parts on specific join points or hardpoints, our designer lets you place ship parts literally anywhere on your ship for complete creative freedom. You can rotate parts around the X, Y and Z axis, change their sizes, make them invisible, and flip or mirror them on any axis. You can even copy and paste entire groups of parts if you want to duplicate something multiple times on a ship.
We’re extremely proud of the 3D ship designer and so excited to be able to finally start delivering it to backers. This release contains ship parts for the Renegades faction, which all races currently share. Our art director Steven Pollock is hard at work on the ship parts for the other races and we’ll be deploying those in future updates along with a slew of new researchable ship weapons and modules and other promised features such as player-designed space stations and custom ship decals.
We’ve started a thread on the forum to collect your feedback and suggestions explicitly for the 3D ship designer, and will be watching the crash reports and bug reports carefully this week in case the designer has unexpected bugs with certain graphics cards or systems. Check out the rest of this update for more information on the 3D ship designer and a video of it in action!
If you’ve got the Predestination in Early Access on Steam and want to get stuck right into designing ships, let your game update to version 0.8.7.0 and start up a new game, changing the Empire Age option from Pre-Warp to Space Exploration. This will fast-forward your empire by 120 turns, giving you a fully colonised planet and a shipyard ready to use. Once you’re in the game, you can create a new ship design either from the Ship Designs tab in the Fleet dropdown menu or by opening your homeworld’s shipyard. You’ll have access to only one or two ship modules and no weapons until you research them, but the cosmetic part list contains the full range of parts available.
From the top right of the screen, you can pick whether you want to make a Frigate, Cruiser, or Battleship. You can also select Fighter Squadron, which is actually just a cruiser that has a separate hull cross in each hex, allowing you to design it as if you were making four separate ships. The grid will be updated with a visual representation of the hexes the ship will take up in tactical fleet combat, with a little arrow showing which way it will be facing. The dark hexes are your two hull axes that guide the placement of your first ship part, and after that you’ll attach parts to your existing placed ship parts.
Parts can be dragged and replaced any time you want, and anything attached to them will come along with them. Left clicking on any part without dragging the mouse will select it and highlight all parts connected to it that will be moved if you drag it. When a part is selected, the toolbox opens with dials to rotate the part on the X, Y or Z axis and a slider bar to resize it. The Mirror tool will be particularly useful for maintaining symmetry in your designs, and you can flip items on an axis if you want to draw only the mirrored half. Items can only be flipped or mirrored on one axis for technical reasons.
One of the things we decided early in Predestination’s development was that we wanted as much of the game to be moddable as possible. Our UI elements are loaded from simple image files that can be edited and everything from building stats, the technology trees and random events to ship modules and weapons are all loaded in from human-readable text files. The 3D ship designer is no different, saving out your designs as simple text files in the folder where your save games are stored (usually in the Predestination folder in your Appdata directory). You could go in and edit every detail of your designs manually if you wanted, then load the save game back up and the design will be updated. Or you could copy out your designs and copy them into another save game to use them again.
It’s also possible to put your own 3D models into the game. One major benefit of the technique we use in the 3D ship designer is that the models don’t require any special pre-treatment such as adding pesky join points or bones. All you need is your correctly scaled and oriented model, a base colour texture and a normal map, all compiled with the XNA 3.1 content pipeline (a requirement we may be able to remove in the future) and put into the correct folders. Then you make a ship part file that sets things like your part’s name, power usage, metal cost, money cost, default scale, and whether it’s linked to a specific ship module or weapon in the game. After our full release, we plan to write some guides on modding the game and put together a few tools to help make modding easier.
Thanks for reading this update, and I hope you like the Predestination 3D ship designer! Our next patch will hopefully land on Friday 25th and will contain the Race Stats feature which was previously delayed and some of the backer reward features from our Kickstarter campaigns. As always, if anyone reading this has pre-ordered the game or backed us at a pre-order tier or higher on Kickstarter and would like to get a Steam key for the Early Access alpha, please mail firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send one over. For any other questions, please mail email@example.com and we’ll help in any way we can.
— Brendan, Lead Developer