Category: "R:WM Dev Blog"

UI/UX Artist: HUD Glow — Behind the Scenes!

UI/UX Artist: HUD Glow — Behind the Scenes!

Hello all, this is your UI/UX artist Paul here.

For this week I thought it'd be neat to give a little more "behind the scenes" look at how the icons are going to do what they do, and even what the look like without their make up on.

To lay the groundwork, future-proofing has been a key element in our development plan from the beginning, and the way to ensure graphics stand the test of time is scalability. In other words, we wanted to ensure that the in-game design elements look smooth and crystal clear no matter how large a screen you're throwing them up on and what resolution you're setting it to (I myself recently saw an ad for an 8K smart TV while scrolling through Instagram; it's not far off.)

For this very reason, all of the in-game user interface icons are actual 3D objects consisting of two-dimensional polygon meshes that simply "float" in the game engine's 3D environment. The advantage of doing it this way over simply using raster-based image files like JPG's is that polygons are basically 3D vectors, meaning that they are shapes formed by numerical values, not pixels, and therefore can be manipulated mathematically. This is all a fancy way of saying that polygon icons can be enlarged infinitely, without ever worrying about any blocky pixelated edges. The textures that will be applied to the objects are a uniform solid flat white that GLSL shaders will then add further detail on top of, thus maintaining scalability.

In my last post, I presented a mock-up of the Targeting HUD icons as they are slated to appear in-game. These icons are considerably more colorful and flashy than all previously shown game icons, and the reason is they needed to convey vital information as quickly as possible but without otherwise distracting the player. Thus, a color coding scheme was devised allowing the icons (and hence their message) to be read at a glance, and a glow effect was added to create that sense of urgency.

But this introduced a question: how to we make a 3D polygon with a solid texture glow?

The answer was simple but functional: duplicate the icon, expand its boundaries as if you were "typing" it as character in bold font, and place that behind the original icon as a separately handled object. The glow would be created in the game engine itself via the shaders, bluring the secondary larger icon and giving it a luminous bloom. Poof, instant halo effect! And one that scales!

 

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Counting to 7

I listen to a lot of prog rock and metal, and I always liked things that used uneven time signatures (meters that aren't in 4 or 3). For this track, I wanted to create a groove that was slightly off-putting if one tries to count it or feel a steady beat. 

The meters are: 1 2 1 2 1 2 3 | 1 2 1 2 1 2 3 | 1 2 1 2 1 2 3 | 1 2 3 4 5 6 . 

 

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Better to hit effects!

Better to hit effects!
Better to hit effects!
Better to hit effects!
Better to hit effects!

Lots of things behind the scenes such as better network code and support for scenarios and game styles in multiplayer.  Tests have already shown that 6 players have no issues playing.  I'm trying to organize an larger test.  Of course the things that are more  obvious is better "to-hit" effects, which is what is in the screen shots.  When beams hit shields they flare up as blue-white, when area orange-white and the ground, green-white.  When pulses hit something they make larger explosions that are red.  Because of the way things now work, one can now trace a trail with the beams which can be more easily seen in the latter screen shots.  There is going to be a lot of other visual updates in the coming weeks.  

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Concept art for The Warmaster

Concept art for The Warmaster
Concept art for The Warmaster
Concept art for The Warmaster

Hey, Kat again. It's finally time to share a character feature and not just any character, it's the Warmaster!

Below are some concepts. My biggest concern for the character was the helmet and I wanted to keep the Warmaster's face hidden for two reasons. One was to portray them as someone who is powerful, strategic and unyielding. The second and most important reason is for the player to decide the Warmaster's face, that anyone could or can become the warmaster.

For inspiration I looked at old military outfits and retro sci fi comic book outfits, however the retro sci fi focus would later shift to a more sleek techno look.  I love crazy epaulettes and was able to keep that in the design without it looking like a costumed villain. At one point the character will be more customizable but the helmet appearance may remain the same. 

We have decided on a final default appearance from the color line up but I'll be keeping that a secret for now.

 

Anatomy of a Warship

Well met and greetings! Today I'm going to dive into how to design a ship. This is a central part of Rank: Warmaster's gameplay, as a fleet of ships is the player's primary tool for exploration and discovery, as well as projecting power in the treacherous game of corporate politics.

 

The design process begins with selecting a silhouette. This is a purely cosmetic choice because it's the components that determine your ship's stats. The size of the ship will dynamically increase as more components are added, so fighters will be small while capital ships will loom over a world like an extra moon. Next the player will select the components for their ship and place them on the design grid. This grid represents the internal layout of the ship and determines how damage propagates throughout the vessel when its armor and shields fail. Components explode when destroyed and damage other nearby components, so the arrangement of vulnerable or critical components is an important aspect of ship design.

 

Each class of components can have multiple options with various advantages and disadvantages; at the beginning of a game players will only have one choice for each but as they perform research, find salvageable technology via exploration, reverse-engineer the equipment taken from their defeated foes, or even trade with other corporations they'll quickly begin to unlock a wide variety of choices.

 

Every ship will need thrusters for propulsion, and players will want to select both a main engine designed for speed and afterburn capacity as well as inertial thrusters used for lateral maneuvers and turning. The most common type of power source will be a reactor core for supplying energy to the entire ship. The cockpit is where the pilot and crew are located and acts at the command center for the ship; if it's destroyed, the player loses control of the vessel. Armor and shields both provide defense for the ship against incoming attacks, while weapons are used to destroy the enemy. The reactor, thrusters, weapons and shields can each have a set of dedicated capacitors installed that will provide a small reservoir of power to ensure that these systems will maintain full performance when the vessel is running at maximum capacity. Further along in development, there will be numerous utility components that can expand your ship's capabilities, such as cargo holds and hangar bays.

 

Once all the components are arranged on the design grid, the player will need to assign a hardpoint on the ship's silhouette for each weapon they have installed. Hardpoints are the location on the ship from which weapons will fire and are independent from a weapon's location on the grid. The next step is to decide how much armor and shielding is needed. Both are fully scalable and can be assigned independently to the top, bottom, right side, left side, front, and rear of the ship, and/or evenly applied across all. The more armor and shielding, the more cost and weight (and power for shielding) are added to the ship's design, so it's up to the player to decide how much they prefer.

 

The ship's reactor, engines and thrusters are also fully scalable. Each can be manually incremented to whatever value is desired, but the ship design screen also comes with tools to help the player make those decisions. There is a slider for selecting the target speed for the ship which will automatically assign the correct engine and thruster strength needed to reach it, as well as a slider for selecting the ratio of main engines to inertial thrusters; more engines than thrusters means faster acceleration and afterburning at the cost of maneuverability and turning speed, and vice versa.

 

Another slider allows the player to select what percentage of the ship's maximum possible power demands they want their reactor to be able to sustain. Reactors are large, expensive and explode like a bomb when destroyed so having a reactor large enough to sustain 100% power load can be a risky choice but ensures that your ship will always function at full capacity regardless. Setting the reactor slider lower and installing capacitors to act as buffers for each subsystem makes a vessel cheaper and safer, but it may run low on power in the middle of an intense battle when all systems are working at full strength.

 

There's no limit to the number of weapons the player can install, nor the amount of armor, shields or other components that can be added, giving players as much freedom as possible to design their ships. The primary limiting factor is that everything added increases the ship's cost and thus the amount of time required to build it, so deciding what to include and when to save on cost is an important strategic decision when deciding on the composition of a fleet.

Asset Screen #3: Now We're Getting Somewhere

Asset Screen #3: Now We're Getting Somewhere

The asset screen is starting to come together. We can now see, in order from top to bottom: 1) information about our corporation, 2) information about our personnel file(s), 3) information about the city or cities that we've built, and 4) information about each of the buildings in our city or cities.

As you can see, this is a lot of data, but we've tried to make it easier to find things at a glance with unique and recognizable icons. Want to know how many cities your corporation has, or how many cities you as the player control (which might not be the same number, depending on how you're playing the game)? Just look for the city icon at the top center of the gold and red bars. Want to know if your city is adequately defended? Just look for the turret icon on the left side of the green city bar.

In addition to what you see, the asset screen will also show you information about how many squadrons you or your corporation control, as well as stats for individual ships. Stay tuned as we turn this into a fully-functional control center for your corporation and all your assets!

UI/UX Artist: Targeting HUD Icons

UI/UX Artist: Targeting HUD Icons

Hello all. This is your UI/UX artist Paul here. The lastest update on my end are the new Targeting HUD icons! 

A lot of games have simplistic combat mechanics. You damage a ship until it runs out of "health" and then it explodes. We want more finesse than that. In Rank: Warmaster, ships have damageable weapons, engines, cockpits, and dynamic hulls with a per-polygon armor system. This allows players to decide what exactly they're after and tailor their in-combat strategy accordingly. Taking out an enemy's weapons and allowing them to escape may clue players in as to what direction an enemy faction's base or capital ship lies. Taking out the engine but leaving the reactor intact would be quite lucrative if it's a better power source than players currently possess. Taking out the reactor so that the weapons cannot fire but remain in pristine condition for retrieval? You can see where this becomes advantageous. Of course, as players will find out, all of these statuses and tactics apply equally to themselves...

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Crazy Synth Solos!

Ever since I played my bother's keytar, I've always wanted to write an awesome synth solo. I am very happy that I got the chance to write one for the Rank: Warmaster Soundtrack. The only problem was I'm not very good at soloing in C# Phrygian, so I transposed my keyboard so that I could play in E Phrygian instead (a much easier scale to play for a non-primary pianist like me). Here is a small preview!

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Big Updates! Small Updates!

Big Updates!  Small Updates!
Big Updates!  Small Updates!

The Load/Save code is confirmed working, even with the cities and AI.  So now the game state can have progress!  Also, we have our first two multiplayer tests.  The first was local and because of a bug, could only do three people.  The second lasted for 3 hours and had 6 people (thank you testers!), and was done over the internet (which was actually a first!).  There were no complaints about performance or lag, so I think the networking code is working well.  There are two known bugs that need to be tracked down, but such is development.  They weren't critical enough to stop a lot of melee battles in space!  Both pulse based and beam based ships were tried out.  A lot of good feedback was had, and everyone enjoyed themselves.  Currently, it was simply dog-fighting in space.  However, the biggest comment was how one got destroyed.  Meaning, depending on what got hit, a person might lose a weapon (or all of them!) and limp along.  They would experience the controls freezing when their engines exploded but didn't kill their ship, etc.  So it felt more like dying by pieces rather than all at once, so it was a fresh experience.

Some of the feedback was taken to heart, so some of that is the screenshots enclosed.  One was a sense of movement.  So that got implemented by green “grid lines” as shown.  Also, whatever is targeted now has a listing of who owns that object (building or ship).  So it makes it easier to know which if your friends you are blowing up!

Other code additions have been getting the camera working again so that some of the “out of body” screenshots are now possible again.  More to the point, the collisions with the ground with ships and weapons now works correctly finally.  As shown in the screenshots, the ship one is flying is smaller than one thinks.   The lighter blue triangles are showing the progression of the beam across the surface of the planet if it was perfectly smooth.  The darker blue triangles are the same triangles as the lighter blue, but follow the terrain.   In the end, you can see where the impact is on the ground.  These beams are from an older design that had a longer than usual range. 

I look forward to more multiplayer testing and scenarios as time moves forward.  Hopefully there will be some videos of that at some point. 

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Refinery model

Refinery model

Another building to share, the refinery!  This time I had an idea what shape I wanted (#1) but created additional drawings because you always want to be open to other idess before a final decision.  No matter the shape, pipes and tanks had to be in the design.  In the end the shape I wanted was picked but we went for pipes that were more fitting for war (#6).

Same 3d process. The low poly model is created in blender and texture's added in 3dcoat. I enjoyed adding the bolt and stain details on the pipes. 

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