Giving detail to ARES

Giving detail to ARES

Been a while but here to share some model work. Currently working on high detail to the ARES model starting with the helmet.  The top row is the recent progress. The first model pass can be seen in the second row with the note. The last two rotations in that row is a quick look with a reflective material. 

UI/UX Artist: Screen Refinement

UI/UX Artist: Screen Refinement

Hi all. This is the UI/UX Artist Paul. This week I've just got some minor touch ups on various screens. Mostly just a few further rearrangements of subscreen windows and generally making sure everything conforms to the aesthetic standard that we have arrived at as so far in our journey. In this case, that means making sure all text containers have a thin white glowing pinstripe around them, and going through each window subset to verify that the glassy texture works properly and has its gradient correctly aligned. This is a meticulous and tedious task which admittedly isn't too exciting, but nonetheless necessary. The human eye catches a lot more than one might think, so ensuring that nothing that looks "off" is a high priority.

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Ares is a Challenging Character to Write (Even if he did sort of get me this job)

Hey everyone, it's Jorden! You didn't hear from me a couple weeks ago because I was in California visiting my family for the first time since the pandemic started and I don't like to work on vacation. Anyway, a quick update:

Just before leaving the state I finished the rewrite of Tutorial 1 and even implemented it in Articy. There will need to be improvements and edits but I wanted to get some version committed so Art could work our the kinks in our Articy importer and the campaign engine. Once that stuff is working I can go in and make further edits but the nature of the Articy license we're using makes it impossible for two people to work on the same project at the same time. To deal with this each of our scenarios and tutorials are separated into different Articy projects so that I can always work on something while Arthur and Matt implement what I've already completed. So until Art says otherwise I can't touch Tutorial 1 which is fine with me. I'm getting off track a bit, let me check the title of this blog to remember what I was writing about...

Right, Ares. OK, so you may recall that I first came up with Ares when I was just coming up with new dialogue for the existing flight tutorial. We needed a character who would actually deliver the instructions to the player and do it in an engaging way. Initially I just needed a character who would deliver the occaisional joke to break up the tutorial instructions and keep the player engaged but over time Ares has actually become the most challenging character I've ever written. This is largely because Ares does everything for the current narrative. He delivers all the exposition to explain each situation, he provides options for the player to choose from, he is one of the only voices the player hears throughout the entire game, he serves as a foil to give the player's character some definition; I could go on. Ares is one of the only characters in the entire game, and the only one besides the player who is present from start to finish so he needs to do a lot of work for the narrative. This makes Ares my most important narrative tool. The challenge is that Ares needs to do all this work while also maintaining a consistent character personality of his own that keeps him compelling for the player to interact with. He has to be more than just his purpose, which is true of all good characters in reality. Generally if you find that you just can't relate to or remember anything important about a character in a book, movie, or game it's probably because that character is just fulfilling a role in the story and nothing more. A villain who can only be described as "the villain of this story who opposes the protagonist" does the job of being a villain but they aren't compelling unless you give them more detail. Things like why they oppose the protagonist and what they truly want are easy ways to turn a narrative tool into an actual character. The challenge is that the more jobs you give a character the greater the skill that is needed to help them transcend beyond their role, especially if the roles are not complimentary. Every role a character takes on dictates some of their actions, since if they don't behave according to their role then they aren't serving the narrative appropriately. Going back to that villain, if he also has the role of "mentor to the protagonist" then two of his jobs are in contradiction, he both helps and opposes the protagonist. With good characterization these two jobs can be resolved, perhaps the protagonist used to be a villain or maybe the villain used to be a heroic mentor. Either way, fleshing the character out with motivaitons and backstory will inform how they should behave when interacting with the protagonist. Bad or missing characterization makes it painfully clear to the audience that the only reason the character does anything is because the plot says so.

Ares has several jobs, and this means there are a lot of constraints on his allowed behavior that I have to balance. I'm not fully certain what my solution to the situation will be. Maybe I need more characters or maybe Ares's role needs to be simplified, or maybe there is a way that all his jobs can be related to each other that will give me the clue I need to bring it together nicely. This is why writing takes a while; the better you get at it, the more you realize how much work it takes to do it particularly well. I'd still so much rather have this headache than go back to retail, but you'll have to forgive me if things don't always get done as quickly as I'd like.

UI/UX Artist: Corporation Screen Mk II

UI/UX Artist: Corporation Screen Mk II

Hi all. This is your UI/UX Artist Paul again. I have another update on the Corporation Screen. Once again, this isn't so much a verbal demo but a visual one. The design has been refined further and this is the result. Glowing white outlines are the standard for all text runner elements now, and the Corp Screen has received the appropriate refitting. Other screens made previously will be touched up to conform to this standard.

Bit by bit the look of Rank: Warmaster is coming into focus!

UI/UX Artist: The Corporation Screen

UI/UX Artist: The Corporation Screen

Hello all! This Paul, the UI/UX Artist with the first ever iterations of all-new screen today! Introducing the Corporation Screen!

The Corporation Screen is both a "character creation" menu where players lay out what kind of "tribe" or "guild" (or in a futuristic space combat sci-fi game, a corporation) they will be playing in their campaign, and also a kind of multiplayer scenario maker, where other faction settings can be tweaked for a more dynamic online coop experience. The basic screen is shown above.

For multiplayer settings where one individual acts as the game master and sets rules for others, a "Warmaster Override" graphic was made to stylistically lock players out of subwindows they aren't making currently being allowed to interact with

UI/UX Artist: The Corporation Screen

Implemented into the actual game screen, the result would look like this:

UI/UX Artist: The Corporation Screen

Our Narrative Has Developed

Greetings! Here's a blog.

As I find myself working on the tutorials for the millionth month I wonder how exactly that happened. It's not actually that complicated, it comes down to two simple reasons. The first is that when I originally started working on the tutorials back in July and August of 2020 the game was still pretty sparse on features. Arthur had a plan for what he generally wanted to be in the game but anyone who's worked on a large project before knows that the difference between planning and implementation is... everything. Even beyond the fact that wanting a thing is very different from building a thing, there are aspects of the game that are the most interesting to Art and which were his prime focus for a while and there are other things which have been brought up over time that he never considered, such as diplomacy. He'd never thought about it. Art doesn't tend to take the diplomatic approach when he plays 4X games, Art likes war. Diplomacy may or may not make it into the game, I definitely want it but again the difference between planning and implementation... yeah. This is why a good team with strong communication is incredibly valuable in endeavors like this; the more ideas which are passed around and considered, the stronger the game becomes.

Where was I? The tutorials, right. So Art had a plan but we couldn't wait for full implementation to at least start up the tutorials so that means that the early tutorials were written as the game became more and more complete and, admittedly, it kind of shows. This might be my fault, perhaps I could have designed them better based on what the game was inteded to be like rather than writing as it came together but all I can say is that they were my first tutorials and I'm learning as I go.

The second reason the tutorials have never been complete to my, or anyone's, satisfaction is all narrative. See, the initial story of Rank: Warmaster about the isolation of Earth and the player as a corporate settler was the idea of one of Art's friends waaaaay back when the game was first being worked on a couple decades ago. Art is not much of a writer himself so he just needed a basic narrative for why anything is happening and that worked. I inherited this basic narrative and from that I wrote the first story notes that are part of the tutorials. And that was almost a year ago now and our narrative is superficially similar but now we have an actual theme and motif and other writing terms and what that all means is that the tone I used in the first version of the tutorials doesn't match the tone of anything else I've written for the game anymore. So it needed to be revisited anyway and I was planning to do that after the Early Access release but with how the tutorial implementation ended up being, in that we never got a good implementation before we started using Articy, the best time for a good first impression of the tutorial became now.

And that's why I'm still working on the tutorials. Not because I've been doing nothing this whole time, although it can feel like it some days but that's just stress and fatigue talking, but because the thing I was writing changed while I worked and I need to reflect those changes. Anyway, thanks for stopping by! See you all next time!

UI/UX Artist: Building Screen 2

UI/UX Artist: Building Screen 2

Hi everyone. This is the UI/UX Artist Paul with another update on the Building Screen.

The list on the righthand side has been expanded to include all 15 lines of text display so that everything will be visible at once without needing to scroll. A backdrop has also been added to "hold" the text fields themselves. More icons have had to be added for the extra info being displayed. Many preexisting icons were sufficient for this end, however other fields prompted the necessity of new icons.

UI/UX Artist: Building Screen 2

A spacer element was also added to separate the information display on the right and the action buttons on the left. This will likely evolve as further ways of organizing this screen follow through.

The building screen is a simple one-horse show. There are no additional subscreens and its function is relatively straightforward, so that's that for this post. Next time I'll have the Corporation Screen made more presentable to show!

Quick Update at the Start of June

Hi everyone! Jorden, here with just, as the title says, a quick update.

Not a whole lot to report from the last couple weeks. I have been busy writing what we're intending to be our final launch trailer (not to say that it will be our last trailer ever but we're intending for this to be the last trailer before Early Access). I've previously described a difficulty implementing our tutorials and scenarios due to a lack of infrastructure. This has very recently been addressed and we're going to be using Articy: Draft 3 as our scenario constructing software along with an importer and campaign engine that Art has been constructing. So I'm also very busy implementing our tutorials into Articy as well as writing and implementing our third tutorial which is focused on larger empire logistics. The two previous tutorials along with this new third one should be a full and complete training course for our game. I just have to make sure that all of them are fun and interesting.

Like I said, I'm very busy but I don't have a ton of cool progress to show at just this moment so that's all for today. I should have more news in two weeks.

UI/UX Artist: Building Screen!

UI/UX Artist: Building Screen!

Hi all! This is your UI/UX Artist Paul here. This week I have something new to show: the Building Screen.

A relatively minor screen, the Building Screen allows players to see a full report on each individual building in their city  installation, and gives them direct control over that structure. This is a one-page screen so there isn't so much to present beyond this preview image.

In another update I'll have previews of the more meta-level Corporation Screen, which is where players choose their faction or more accurately create their own.

Sneak Peaks

Hey everyone! It's Jorden again with another quick update. (I just finished writing the blog. It wasn't that quick. I'm sorry).

Today I just wanted to let you in on what I'm currently doing. Bit of a preview of something we're hoping will be in the game at Early Access. Now, I have to give the disclaimer:

There is still work to be done to prepare the game for Early Access and we want to give our players the most content possible. We want everyone to come away from their first experience with our game feeling like it was well worth the time and money invested and so I really can't make any guarantees as to exactly what will or wont be a part of the Early Access release of the game. Nonetheless I can say that if all goes well this particular thing will either be in the initial release or very probably in the first content patch.

With that out of the way, I'd like to talk about the first dynamic scenario of the game, "Raiding the Lost Ark" (working title, subject to change). As I mentioned two weeks ago, dynamic scenarios are the largest events in the game and are intended to shake up the status quo when they occur. Currently the primary game mode is intended to progress in open stages or "zones". Zones are a little complicated to go over without their own blog post but they're basically how we structure the narrative of the main campaign mode. There will be other options that won't have zones or will have different zones but the important aspect is that zones are not "maps" in the traditional RTS sense, they simply represent the player's progress through the narrative. They're relevant here because my current intent is to have one dynamic scenario trigger per zone. That does not mean there will only be one scenario written for every zone, rather that each zone should have a dynamic scenario as a sort of climax for that zone and that ideally a dynamic scenario will always trigger before the player moves on to the next zone. For Zone 1, "Raiding the Lost Ark" will be one of the potential dynamic scenarios and since it's the only one I've come up with so far it will probably trigger every time you play the campaign until we get some other options in.

So what is it? The setup is pretty simple, something falls to the ground out in the Martian desert and impacts pretty heavily. Because this is a dynamic scenario it isn't only the purview of any one empire so all the current empires in Zone 1 (a small section of Mars to get your feet wet) will recieve the same alert about this event. Something to the effect of a message from Ares stating "Our sensors have detected what appears to be an orbital strike. The location has been marked for you, I recommend immediate investigation. If another corporation has the ability to bring the sky down on us, we need to know about it." (I wrote this just now in the blog, it may very well change). The player is given a nav point where they simply need to send any ship with sensors to go investigate. When they get to the location they find an ordinance box that can't be scanned but which is clearly from before The Isolation. There's no way to know what's inside but Ares will tell the player that it's possible it might even be technology from the height of the Asteroid Engagements (this would be well beyond the player's current tech level). The first conflict of the scenario is that the AI empires will have also sent scouts and maybe even fleets. Only one corporation can claim the box so the player will need to fight for it. Once any corporation manages to perform a salvage on the box all corporations will recieve an alert that the box will open in five minutes. This changes the conflict from simply eliminating enemies in the area to a sort of "King of the Hill" situation where the area near the box has to be successfully held until it opens.

What happens when the box opens? You'll have to see, but there is something inside the box. It won't be the same thing every time you play, though, it's one of three options (eventually four but the fourth option is more complicated and will require a ton more playtesting so the first version of the scenario released to the public will likely see only three outcomes). The current obstacle to this scenario being part of the first Early Access release is the state of the enemy AI. Currently the enemy AI is a state machine, as Art likes to say, so it doesn't react to the environment. This means that we cannot make the box a desirable objective for the current AI and so the scenario can't serve it's primary purpose, which is to kickstart a conflict in the early game and force players to act quickly. Upgrading the AI is a critical part of our pre-Early Access work but the inclusion of this scenario will depend heavily on how long that upgrade takes and whether it leaves us with enough time to fully test out the scenario and squish any bugs. Still, I hope this was an interesting look into what I'm working on and I hope you're as excited to play this scenario as I am to bring it to you. That's all for this update, see you next time!