UI/UX Artist: Screen Review!

UI/UX Artist: Screen Review!

Hi all. This is the UI/UX Artist. The game's screens are coming together nicely, so with that I thought it would be good to make a blog post compiling them all into a gallery to showcase how they all look now!

The glassy window with a glowing pinstripe is the game's official look and style for its window menu UI. Color codes give each sub screen their own look and feel, and also allows players to tell which screen they're in at a glance in the event of a botched mouse click or button press.

The above image shows the Asset Screen.

UI/UX Artist: Screen Review!

The Factory Screen

UI/UX Artist: Screen Review!

The Research Screen

UI/UX Artist: Screen Review!

The Ship Builder Screens

UI/UX Artist: Screen Review!

The Corporation Screen

UI/UX Artist: Screen Review!

The Multiplayer Lobby

UI/UX Artist: Screen Review!

The Navigation Screen

UI/UX Artist: Screen Review!

The Ship Detail Screen

UI/UX Artist: Screen Review!

The Building Screen

Writing the Larger Campaign

Hey, everyone! Jorden, here. I skipped the last blog post because there wasn't really anything new to report. We're prepping for an early media release of the game, meaning a release for playtesters, journalists, and influencers, and therefore it's been all hands on deck making sure that whatever is going to be in the game for that release is stable. For Matt and I this means being submerged over our heads in the tutorials for the past several weeks. There will be more information on the media release in our Steam Newsletter tomorrow morning. For now, I wanted to talk a bit about what I've been working on that wasn't the tutorial, the campaign!

We've always known the rough details of Rank: Warmaster's story, and since I joined the team we've had a solid idea of how we wanted players to experience that story. In the past couple weeks, as my work on the tutorials starts to taper off (there's only so much writing you can do before all the work is just code implementation), I've been taking the time to actually outline the details of that story.

The campaign of Rank: Warmaster will be delivered in a series of longer scenarios, much like the ones I've described on this blog in the past. The current plan is for the campaign, and gameplay, to progress through seven sections, or zones. Zones 1 & 2 are both on Mars and serve to introduce players to the situation, taking place just after the completion of Tutorial 3. Zone 1 is, physically, a small area of Mars containing only two other corporations by default, as well as a handful of nodes to expand into. Progression from Zone 1 to Zone 2 is as simple as expanding outside of the initial area, at which point the whole of Mars if fair game. Getting out of Zone 2 is more complicated, requiring the player to discover their first Faster-Than-Light engine and travel to the moon. As the player progresses through each Zone they will also complete a campaign scenario, which will serve to advance both the narrative and the development of their corporate empire. As I just mentioned, Zone 2's campaign scenario will focus on the discovery of some form of FTL travel. Most of the scenarios will force the player into conflict with the other corporations in each zone. How exactly you deal with those other corporations is largely up to you.

As to more specific examples? Nothing is finalized just yet but I can tell you a bit about what I've planned out so far. The first campaign scenario revolves around the player establishing an orbital presence as they exit Zone 1. For the second, players will learn a little about the history of the Rank: Warmaster setting as they attempt to recreate the conditions which first lead to the discovery of the "Sling Drive", a very crude FTL engine which allows ships to cross vast distances by distorting space until they are flung towards their destination. It's a bit like snapping a rubber band across the room with your fingers, but the rubber band is space-time. Also, the rubber band takes you with it. If that sounds kind of dangerous to you.....Yes! In terms of gameplay, this first FTL drive will only allow ships to travel between large bodies such as planets and moons, or to circle those bodies quickly in high orbit. Like I said, this is by no means finalized and we're pretty far from ready for players to actually leave Mars, but I wanted to give you some insight into what I've been working on.

All that being said, I've probably over-shared with this post. But it's because I like you all. Keep it between us, okay? See you next time!

UI/UX Artist: Building Lights

UI/UX Artist: Building Lights

Hi all. This is a quick update. This week I have the current running mockup of the soon-coming Building Lights. These are "running lights" for your city's buildings categorized by type so one can tell at a glance what building does what. The lights themselves will be done in-game via the engine so for today I have just mockup samples of what the lights will be doing.

  • The Research Building will have a blue back-&-forth horizontal strobe light reminiscent of pattern of eyes reading text & hence research.
  • The Mine will have a series of yellow lights rising vertically to represent extraction of ore from underground.
  • The Factory will have red, orange, white lights (whatever playtesting reveals is most visible given the Martian surface) coming together to represent components being assembled.
  • The Reactor will have green lights cycling in a horizontal loop reminiscent of plasma in a tokamak reactor.
  • The Refinery will combine red, blue, and green lights converging while turning to white, to represent disparate materials being processed into uniform substance.
  • The Warehouse will have search lights only, no color or patterned running lights.
  • The Turrets also will lack running lights. They may instead have a visible spotlight effect, red in color.

UI/UX Artist: Hand Cursor Part 3!

UI/UX Artist: Hand Cursor Part 3!

Hi all. This is the UI/UX Artist Paul here. This week I have updates on the Hand Cursors! Not a lot to talk about as is sometimes the case, so here's the showcase.

These cursors are the Pointer and the Grab versions of the hand cursor family. The Hover or Clickable cursor was shown in a previous blog post. These new one have a higher poly count due to the curvature of certain elements. This can be reduced in further revisions. Playtesting the mouse cursors in-game and seeing them at their rendered resolutions will produce feedback for subsequent edits.

With these cursors well underway, a human touch to a user interface otherwise filled with numbers, object icons, buildins, and ships is a welcome update.

Full story »

Looking Back on the Project Thus Far

Hey everyone! Tutorial 3 is done! *party noises*

Well, the first draft. Of the script. It still needs to go into Articy. It also needs revisions, and voice-over, and testing, and feedback...

Yeah, still a lot of work to do, but I'm proud of getting this far.

I joined the team a little over a year ago in July 2020, after hearing Art going on and on about the game at every opportunity for the entirety of the two years previous to that. At first, they just wanted me to do the dialogue for the tutorials, Chris was doing the level design, as it were. Then Chris passed the level design over to me so he could focus on the areas of the project that he was more suited for, and I also took on the task of writing more scenarios for the game to create greater variety in the actual gameplay. I finished the original versions of the first two tutorials and while I wasn't exactly "happy" with them, at least they were finished on time for what we thought our deadline was going to be at that point (I think this was May 2021). Then it became clear that the method being used to bring the tutorials into the game, basically "by hand", was too inefficient to actually implement them in a timely fashion. We pushed our deadline back, Arthur found Articy and showed me the information, and I spent the next week learning how to use it. Then I implemented a small segment of Tutorial 2 (the original) so Art could practice with it and I began drawing up an outline for Tutorial 3. Then Art saw a video about making modern tutorials for complex games, showed it to me, and asked me if I felt the tutorials we had were up to that standard. I told him that I didn't really think so, and that I already wanted to redo them eventually. Art decided that he wanted the tutorials made up to that standard now, since we needed them to be good in order to have a good first impression of the game by future players.

I told him I would see what I could do.

So I put the old tutorial scripts aside and started from the top with Tutorial 1, in June. All together it took me around 8 weeks of work to get the three tutorial scripts written, not including the time I also needed to handle other responsibilities and take a badly needed vacation to visit my family. Total time since I started on the new Tutorial 1 was about 3 months. The first drafts of the tutorials have come out to 25,685 words. Depending on who you ask, that's basically a small or mid-size novella selling for $1-3 as an ebook on Amazon. It's a lot of writing, and I'm pretty proud of that. I like these tutorials a lot better, as well. I feel that the information being given is less overwhelming, the character of Ares is less silly, though not without humor, and on the whole they feel much more refined. I do wish that I had more time to refine it further, I feel like I could really use another month of feedback and editing work to really make these tutorials shine, and in time I will hopefully get the chance. They're definitely a little rough around the edges but they're full of all of the passion I could pour into them.

Just like our team. We're a little rough, and we don't always get along, but we love video games and we love this project. We want to show you all the labor of our love, and we will.

Very soon.

Look forward to it, and I'll talk to you all in a couple weeks!

UI/UX Artist: Hand Cursor Part 2

UI/UX Artist: Hand Cursor Part 2

Hi all! This is your UI/UX Artist Paul and this week I have a humble update on the Hand Cursor I introduced a few weeks back. I'm back from vacation last week and suffice it to say one doesn't get a lot of graphic design work done while tent camping in a tropical storm. Nonetheless the cursor design has improved since last shown!

To ensure that the cursor looks crisp and clear, it will be treated like an icon and therefore exist as a 3D polygon object within the game engine. Above is a preview of the "Over Clickable" hand cursor in the 3D modeling environment.

As stated before (and worth re-emphasizing anyway,) hands are notoriously tricky to draw. Below are the current stages of the different hand cursor states. By no means are these finished. The Pointer is proving the most finnicky. Hand-drawn illustrations of hands are skill-demanding enough. Using a mouse to adapt that into a 2D vector that will look good while also being minimalistic enough to fit a low polygon count? This has been an excersize of the hands in more ways than one.

UI/UX Artist: Hand Cursor Part 2

I will continue to update these while also adding finishing touches to the Corporation Screen. There's no easy way around some tasks, just to keep going forward.

Tutorial 3

Hey everyone! Really quick blog this time, just an update on the tutorials.

Like I said last time, Tutorial 2 has a complete draft and now Tutorial 3 is also nearing completion of its first draft. I'm hoping to have a complete first draft in the next couple of days at which point there should just be some small adjustments to Tutorial 2 and 3 before I implement them into Articy. Once all three tutorials are in Articy I'll be focusing on corrections based on feedback and playtests while I hope to assemble a voice script for all 3 tutorials (Tutorial 1 actually already has a voice script, fun fact).

You may find it interesting that Tutorial 3 is the first fully new tutorial in a while. I had always planned to do 3, our game is a little too complex to cover everything in just one or two tutorials, but we only finished the first two before we started using Articy and the opportunity arose to do a rewrite to make all the tutorials better. Tutorial 1 covers the flight simulator aspects, while tutorial 2 is all about the city building and RTS gameplay. The two of them serve to introduce the player to the basics of playing Rank: Warmaster without throwing too much at them right away. Tutorial 3 is focused on bringing it all together, it's all about multitasking. In Tutorial 3 the player will learn how to manage all of their responsibilities at once, and also how to delegate responsibility to the game's various AI helpers. My goal with the tutorials has always been to teach the player not only how to use the different interfaces, but how to play Rank: Warmaster well. I dislike tutorials which show the player the basics in such an isolated state that they then get into the game and find out that they're still totally unprepared for real gameplay. Of course you can't prepare the player for the uncontrolled nature of actual gameplay in a complex game like Rank: Warmaster, but I want the player to say "Oh, I have to act a little faster in actual play, but I at least know what I can try to get started." I really want to avoid players feeling like "The tutorial was so removed from actual gameplay that I have no real idea what I'm doing now."

That's all for now, check back in a couple weeks when I should have more good news!

UI/UX Artist: Quick Designer Update — Power Ratios!

UI/UX Artist: Quick Designer Update — Power Ratios!

Hi all. This is your UI/UX Artist Paul and this week I'm previewing the addition of the Capacitor Window to the Quick Designer. Recent gameplay refinement has made Reactors large and heavy, and tightened space restrictions on your ships. This forces players to be more conservative with how many power plants (reactors) they throw into their little flying boxes before construction, and thus makes wise usage of Capacitors all the more important. For this reason, a screen to control what ratio the components of your ship are being fed power from the reactor or discharging from capacitors.

Below is the current functional build of this gameplay mechanic, showing red, yellow, pink, and purple bars on the far right side of the screen.

UI/UX Artist: Quick Designer Update — Power Ratios!

These vertical bars represent the ratio of capacitor-to-reactor and thus communicate/dictate what priority each system receives power from the reactor, which cannot supply everything 100% all the time. The taller bar represents capacitor power since it is possible for a component (engine, weapons, etc) to run on just battery power. The smaller bar within represents the reactor power recharging that capacitor. The fuller the reactor power, the faster that capacitor recharges because it is being allotted more energy. Because these are ratios however, this means the more reactor power given to one component, the less there is for the others.

Current graphical updates are exploring better way to render this interface. A solid color system with icons would accomplish the brute nature of the end goal. A texture overlay packs a better visual punch though. As this new system receives further refinement, more design changes and integrations are bound to happen. This is very much an exploratory stage (hence why "Weapons" is repeated in the above demo.)

The First Draft of Tutorial 2 Is Finished! (Again) What's Next?

Hey everyone! It's Jorden! I should see if I can change my screen names so that these blogs will just say "Jorden" for who posted them. Or at least upload a picture of my face for the profile. Something to think about.

As you read from the title, I've completed the first draft of Tutorial 2. What this means more specifically is that I have a completed script which I've fully reviewed once and then sent a copy to Chris, our sound designer and the voice of Ares, who has been kind enough to agree to review the tutorial scripts further as I complete them. When Tutorial 1 reached this stage I sent the copy to Chris at the same time that I started working on implementing it in Articy. I'm not going to do the implementation for Tutorial 2 just yet because Art is still working hard on the Articy import and it's possible that some elements of the default standard will change as he works, which would have to be redone for any other Articy projects (a document in Articy is called a "project") and that's too much extra work. So I'm holding off on implementing until we have more details locked down. When that's done I will implement the tutorial, then Art and/or Matt will hook it up to the game and playtest it at least a little while they do. They'll have critique on things that came up while they worked on it and I'll combine their notes with Chris's notes when it comes time to do final review for all the tutorials. In the meantime, I've started work on Tutorial 3, the final tutorial for the Early Access version of the game. Other minor tutorials may be written post Early Access to cover more advanced topics, such as the Ship Builder, but these three tutorials will be the main tutorials for the game and will be listed as Prologue 1, 2, and 3 when the player is choosing a scenario to play.

These tutorials are labeled as "Prologue" for a couple reasons. The first is just to make them seem as important as they are because we want people to not skip the training and learn to actually play our game. I'm hoping to eventually write some tips that can show up while the player is playing for the first time but our game is very difficult to "learn by playing" as it where and we want players to have a good experience. The second reason is that we establish the basics of Rank: Warmaster's narrative in those tutorials so they do actually function as prologues. Rank: Warmaster is not what many would classify as a "story-driven game" and the focus is definitely centered more on active gameplay. We want to limit (or avoid entirely) cutscenes or long-running, expository dialogue as much as possible. The hope is that after playing the prologues the player will always be able to start up a game and know who they are, why they are here, and what they want so they can focus on the game in front of them. The narrative outside of the prologues is intended to be delivered in small chunks through scenarios the player experiences along the way.

All of this is to say, the tutorials do a lot of work to prepare the player for all aspects of the game, both mechanical and narrative. I'm excited to see people's reactions to all the work I've been doing. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to it.

UI/UX Artist: Hand Cursor!

UI/UX Artist: Hand Cursor!

Hi all. This is the UI/UX Artist Paul with the first initial scratches into a brand new icon made from scratch! Introducing the Hand Cursor. (Oooh yes fancy.) The hand cursor will be used in tutorial scenarios to demonstrate clickable UI elements and their interaction, especially once VR interactivity becomes a feature and hand-based interaction becomes all the more relevant. It may also potentially see use in-game pending experimentation.

The basic gist is an all-too-familiar design motiff: a hand that points, opens, and closes to represent human manual manipulation, such as this simple demo image from a quick internet search result:

UI/UX Artist: Hand Cursor!

The cursor for Rank Warmaster will be 100% custom made, and as such the basic concept illustrations with preliminary vector matching are currently what there are to show. Further work on this will add more definition and maybe color, perhaps integrating the color palette of ARES onto the glove. This is a new icon piece (and also my first time drawing hands in a while) and therefore a lot more work and design evolution is to be expected.