Writing AI Personality Traits

Hey everyone! It's Jorden.

I've been unable to blog for a bit since I was working on projects that we're not quite ready to talk about publicly just yet. An unfortunate aspect of game design is the number of things that get worked on just enough to become clearly unviable and then have to be scrapped. Nothing big has been tossed aside yet but naturally we can't talk about anything that might not even make it into the final game. This previous week I put together a document on some proposed personality traits for our future Warmaster AIs (the ones that control AI corporations and the ones that can control player corporations if the player chooses to take on a role with lower authority such as Admiral, Mayor, or Pilot). I'm sure Arthur has discussed the IAUS system that we're implementing for our AI decision making, or he will sometime soon, but to put it very briefly: you create a series of weighted curves representing variables. Many of these variables are environmental such as "Do I have the necessary resources?" or "How far am I from a source of resources?" or "How close is the nearest enemy I can see?" When these environmental variables are checked they return a value and when you multiply the values together it informs the AI of what decision it should make. Personality traits are a set of non-environmental variables that don't change and they basically skew the result. This creates the illusion of an individual who actually prefers to do certain things rather than a program multiplying numbers to pick an action. The fun part is that you don't have to be a coder, or even good at math, to design personality traits and assign values to them. All you need is to understand the different strategies available to the game in question. Without further ado here are (some) of the AI personality traits I've designed so far.

 

Assertive - Passive (How often they create encounters/Desire for interaction) Assertive AI try to always act first and will initiate encounters with other corporations, Passive AI prefer to react and be left alone

Expansionist - Developmental (How rapidly they grow their territory) Expansionist AI grab territory as quickly as possible, Developmental AI try to build up their infrastructure in the territory they already have before taking more

Conservative - Wasteful (How they manage their economy) Conservative AI value every single Refined Material and point of Power and don't build more than they need, Wasteful AI try to gain resources as quickly as possible at the expense of efficiency and will build an oversized military and power grid to get things done with more certainty

Specialized - Generalized (How they prioritize research) Specialized AI choose a few tech trees and try to reach the end of them as quickly as possible, Generalized AI try to broaden their skill set by researching many different technologies

 

These traits are designed in pairs and represent different approaches to playing our game. The more an AI leans towards one side of a given scale, the more it will chose those kinds of actions even if they are inappropriate to the situation. If an AI's values place it close to the middle then it will try to take whichever approach is most appropriate and become more flexible. For the layman: Being heavily one trait is more interesting but less strategically sound. Being more on the fence leads to more strategic desicions (because the weights are less skewed) but is also a little less interesting. A good mix will lead to AI that are interesting and challenging to play against.

Naturally these traits are subject to change and more may be added if the game takes on greater complexity.

UI/UX Artist: Multiplayer Lobby Improvements

UI/UX Artist: Multiplayer Lobby Improvements

Hello all! This is your UI/UX Artist Paul. This week I have updates to the Multiplayer Lobby. As before, not much to say as to show. Here are the latest visuals!

UI/UX Artist: Multiplayer Lobby Improvements

 

This is what the Lobby looks like presently, and is what you've been seeing on our livestreams if you follow us on Twitch.

UI/UX Artist: Multiplayer Lobby Improvements

This is the Server List screen with IP Address and Port subwindows and Password entry window displayed.

UI/UX Artist: Multiplayer Lobby Improvements

And here is the Server List screen et al in the latest visual style!

Bit by bit, it's all coming together.

UI/UX Artist: Nav Screen Improvements

UI/UX Artist: Nav Screen Improvements

Hello all. This is your UI/UX Artist again. This week I have some updates to the Nav Screen! This screen is recieving heavy attention under the hood code-wise, which means it's a good time to make sure it's up to date graphically. For context, here's a look at the current Nav Screen:

UI/UX Artist: Nav Screen Improvements


This is what the Nav Screen currently looks like in-game, using older assets that were repurposed for the sake of play testing functionality. This new update brings the Nav Screen up to the current "glass standard" that we've converged on.

Another quick one for you today, but it's another check box filled in bringing Rank: Warmaster to a unified artistic style!

UI/UX Artist: Quick Designer Facelift

UI/UX Artist: Quick Designer Facelift

Hello all! The ongoing progress with the graphical overhaul ...progresses? This time around I have the facelift of the Quick Designer! As last time, not much to say. Here are the before and after pictures: 

Featured above is the "new new" look, bringing the glassy windows and thin glowing white outline to this collection of subscreen elements.

For comparison's sake, here's the "old" quick designer, with the scanlines and silver bezel element. These are the graphical motiffs being distanced from. 

All in all, a small update, but nonetheless a benchmark of all the game's various subscreens converging on a unified aesthetic.

Full story »

UI/UX Artist: More on the Glass Standard

UI/UX Artist: More on the Glass Standard

Hello all. This is your UI/UX Artist Paul. The progress with the screen overhaul chugs on.There isn't so much to talk about as there is to show. Further graphical refinement is taking place and more and more the various in-game screen assets are being updated to reflect a single, cohesive vision.

Starting out with the Self-Damage Screen. After a lot of trial and error, the correct levels of transparency and color have been worked out to make the background of the subwindows show against the background and not interfere with the elements overlaying it. Shown is a sample of the Self-Damage Screen's Item Sub Screen. 

UI/UX Artist: More on the Glass Standard

Onto further beasts however, is the task of overhauling the Ship Builder set of subscreens to meet the new standard of glassy windows and white outlines. Shown here is a sample of the old aesthetic, with the thick bezels and faint hint of digital screen lines within.

UI/UX Artist: More on the Glass Standard

Here we have a demo shot of the same collection of windows in the new style, with a false black backdrop to show the lines. All windows of the Ship Builder are going to receive this overhaul, and with that the new standard facelift will be almost complete!

Rank: Warmaster is rapidly maturing into a properly fitted, well dressed playable game. 

Tutorials Progress

Hello! Jorden here with the latest on Rank: Warmaster's writing projects. The first draft of the second tutorial is almost completely finished. I've plotted the activities and I've written most of the dialogue, I'm just waiting for certain game mechanics to be implemented and tested before I can say that I'm done with it. It's hard to write instructional dialogue for things that aren't in the game just yet and even once they're in the game we have to make sure that the mechanics feel good or else I risk writing the same tutorial segments repeatedly and I'm just too lazy to do that more than I have to (Matt can barely get me to play test the tutorial I wrote, much less constantly rewrite it). For those looking forward to playing the game rest assured that this doesn't mean that I'm not prepared to rewrite the tutorial based on feedback, that's a critical part of the whole process and I really look forward to seeing the game in player hands even if it means having to endure some harsh but well-intended criticism. I just don't want to rewrite the tutorial because we changed our minds about a control scheme after the first test.

If you're interested in a sample of the tutorial, here's section 17 which is not yet in the public release. Section 17 teaches the player about turret towers and instructs them to place a couple. It is a little over halfway through the tutorial which is why a lot of the step-by-step instructions are skipped. Bear in mind that this is written basically as notes between me and Matt so that Matt can most easily convert it into actual game play. For you, the basics are:

"Anything in quotation marks like this is dialogue by Ares and will appear on the screen for the player."

A new paragraph in quotations means that the player progresses the dialogue by hitting the "OK" button.

action in Bold like that means that the player progresses the dialogue by perfoming the instructed action and the text remained on screen until they do so.

Other notes in bold like this indicates player actions which will trigger certain dialogue and events.

Dialogue: "It's time to think a little more proactively about defending your new city. After all, it would be an absolute waste to see any of these buildings reduced to rubble when you've spent so much time and resources on them."
"Turrets represent your last line of defense in the event that enemy forces make it past your fleet and into the city proper. They come standard with the best weapon you have researched but I'll show you how to fine tune them later."
"First, research the Turret Installations I technology and Turret Tower Mk I item."
action
"Now place a turret in your city, either on the edge to protect the border or you can place it in the center for broader coverage."
action
"One turret is hardly going to secure your city. If you're feeling paranoid, go ahead and build more turrets. Don't forget to build an extra reactor or two, the turrets don't draw much power while passive but you hardly want to cause a blackout the first time they all fire! That would be embarrassing. Press OK in this dialogue box when you're satisfied."
Extra Dialogue: If the player builds five turrets trigger this dialogue, if they hit OK on the box proceed to the next section
"Being prepared is all well and good, but we have plenty more to cover. You can't afford to spend too much time wrapped up in one activity. Why don't we move one to the next topic?"
Extra Extra Dialogue: If the player builds seven turrets trigger this dialogue, if they hit OK on the box proceed to the next section
"Your single-minded focus on turrets is being counted against your potential candidacy. This is your final warning before you face summary action. Please move on to the next topic."
Final Extra Dialogue: If the players builds nine turrets trigger this dialogue and then exit the tutorial
"It is clear now that you are not a good fit for the company. You may consider this to be your Notification of Employment Termination. Your employee benefits, including life support and access to any company assets such as pressure suits and ships, shall shortly be revoked and you are expected to vacate the bunker you currently occupy within the hour. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors."

Our game's tutorial is actually part of the main story in which the player is a corporate settler stranded on Mars. In the story the player messes around with the commands in their bunker and eventually triggers the training program, which activates Ares for the first time. Ares refers to the player as "candidate" throughout the training. Candidate for what? You'll have to see for yourself. Section 17 of the second tutorial actually marks the second area where the player can actually fail the training and be terminated from the company. The first is in the Flight Tutorial, which is currently part of the available release on Game Jolt. If you want to go looking for it I'll give you a hint: If the only way you could lose is intentionally and you still do it, maybe you aren't a good candidate. Have fun!

UI/UX Artist: Oy Those Bloomin' Bloom Settings

Hi all. This is your UI/UX Artist Paul here continuing the ongoing progress of the various Screen uplifting.

UI/UX Artist: Oy Those Bloomin' Bloom Settings

The above image shows one of the primary stumbling blocks that I've encountered is that the game engine's bloom function is, to put it a certain way, overly eager? If color levels are above a certain threshold, the graphic holding them will have bloom applied it it. This creates a complication when you use white as a kind of subtractive platform to create a glassy texture that can be recolored easily as needed.

UI/UX Artist: Oy Those Bloomin' Bloom Settings

With a little bit of tinkering I was able to deduce that switching the color mode from RGB to HSL for the glassy white texture and setting the white to a very light shade of gray solved most of the bloom issue, but as you can see a little bit of erroneous bloom still happened. This seemed to result from the overlapping layers of off-white elements.

UI/UX Artist: Oy Those Bloomin' Bloom Settings

Further toning down of white layers solved the glassy window bloom.

UI/UX Artist: Oy Those Bloomin' Bloom Settings

What I've learned from the Factory Screen overhaul project, I can apply to other screens! Above is the concurrent model of the Asset Screen, from the "gradiented colored outline" and "heavy scan lines" days.

UI/UX Artist: Oy Those Bloomin' Bloom Settings

Here is the same collection of windows redone in the glassy window & thin white outline aesthetic.

What I've Been Doing Lately

Hey, it's Jorden again! As I indicated in my last couple of posts, the pregenerated corporations were all written months ago, before the Indiegogo campaign launched, so today how about a quick overview into what I've been working on for the project lately and then in the next few posts I can cover some specifics of the most interesting bits. Unfortunately my work isn't really as flashy and cool to show off as what everyone else is doing, that's just kind of how it is with pure writing at times, but I can still try to display what I can.

Three of my ongoing projects are all under the banner of "marketing" which the team as a whole has had to take on since we parted ways with the marketers who managed our crowdfunding and social media before November. None of us are really trained marketers but I'm the closest (I think I took a whole three classes on the subject back in college and I only slept through one). It's fallen to me to try and rework the different elements of our public face to the best of my ability, from our website to the upcoming Steam page. The website is getting there and it's a joint effort between me and Arthur to try and make it better. My other personal responsibility has been writing the game's upcoming trailers for when we are closer to release. We need a short teaser trailer (which is written) and a longer release trailer (which really isn't). The third project is the continued writing of our social media posts; you may have even noticed the difference when the social media changed hands. As of November I write all of our social media posts with Matt and Arthur overseeing. We're basically three monkeys crowding around a typewriter and I will personally fight anyone who ever wants to say that social media is easy or that millenials are all naturals at it because this is hard. I've never struggled to write anything in my life as much as I've struggled on our marketing and anyone who does this professionally has my respect forever.

So the website, trailers, and social media are my marketing related projects. My other task has been writing the game's second tutorial (currently called the main tutorial but I'm lobbying to rename it the City Building Tutorial). That project has been coming along pretty well and I might even share some bits of it that I found entertaining. I'm personally hoping to have my segment of the tutorial done by the end of next week (it's a holiday week at time of writing after all) and then once it finishes being coded in we'll be much closer to something that anyone in the public can pick up and play.

That's all for now, just a quick overview of what I've been up to. I think I'll be back in two weeks with my next update and hopefully some good news on the progression of those projects!

Pregenerated Corporations: Higgs & Smith Engineering Solutions

Here I am once again with our final pregenerated corporation. I originally wrote these because it was a suggestion of the marketing firm we worked with at the time that we should have some kind of factions that players could identify with as part of our Indiegogo campaign. It was always planned that Rank: Warmaster would have some system for players to start with different advantages to each other to keep the game interesting and varied. It's also true that we were probably always going to have a few pregenerated corporations to give players examples to work off and to spark the imagination. We were, and still are, quite a ways from implementing this concept in the actual game but we wanted to follow the advice we paid for and so Arthur had me come up with a few example corporations. Ultimately, due to miscommunication, they didn't end up being advertised during our Indiegogo campaign which is why you're reading about them now and not months ago. Without further ado, Higgs & Smith Engineering Solutions:

 

As the size of an explosion increases the number of problems it is incapable of rendering irrelevant approaches zero. Other companies are founded on lesser commercial interests only to eventually branch out into the military industry when necessary but Higgs & Smith understands that there's no shame in being the first to resort to violence. A private military company to the core, Higgs & Smith Engineering Solutions was founded on the principle of taking what you need from those who would hoard it. You can count on Higgs & Smith Engineering Solutions to blow the competition away.

Suggested Traits:

·         Bonus to missile damage

·         Bonus to missile speed

·         Penalty to shield strength

As an American myself I don't really feel bad at all playing into the stereotype of big guns and big explosions with a wild west-sounding company name. Especially since I personally like all those things quite a bit. Our final corporation is basically the polar opposite of our previous one, focusing on the power of chemical energy over electromagnetic. The traits presented are intended to play into more of an artillery style strategy in the game, which is something you can actually currently do. Lasers and autocannons are DPS weapons and using them effectively will require dogfighting with enemy fighters getting whatever hits you can or creating a firing line for focused attacks in order to remove buildings. Missiles do all their damage at once and their range is based on the missile's available fuel and speed so they are quite preferable for bombarding your foes from a distance or even doing a flyby of an enemy city as a bombing run. Because of this players may feel that the penalty to shield strength in exchange for their missiles going further and doing more damage is an easy choice since effective use of this strategy would, ideally, mean their ships rarely take any hits at all.

 

As a final note, I wanted to talk about the format that I ended up writing these corporations in. I wanted to create short but memorable descriptions and after the first two I found myself falling into a pattern that I will share in the hopes of benefitting other writers. It may not show up so well on the blog but these were originally written in Word, 12 point Calibri (Body) font. Standard 8.5"X11" pages. Each description starts with an indent and is seven lines long and all but the last sentence are written in third person, referring to the company. These sentences are focused on the company's history and specialties. The last sentence is written in second person and is designed as a sort of stinger hook, it addresses the reader directly with a promise that the company intends to fulfill for them while naming the company once more time (If you need to be first, if you need to be comfortable, if you need to be stylish, then you need Loharani Luxury Crafts). I tried to imagine advertaisements for each company and I envisioned different speakers delivering each ad to try and alter the style of each company to be more unique.

That's all for this week, I'm still doing weekly blogs for now (possibly forever if I prefer it) and I'll be back next week with a new topic. See you guys then!

UI/UX Artist: Graphical Overhaul Continued >> Factory & Research Screens

The graphical overhaul of the remaining screens continues. There's not much to say here, as these improvements are visual.

UI/UX Artist: Graphical Overhaul Continued >> Factory & Research Screens

This is the "old" Research Screen, dated March 25th. This was back from when "gradiented silver bezels" were the aesthetic.

UI/UX Artist: Graphical Overhaul Continued >> Factory & Research Screens

And here's that same screen in our modern, clean "colored glass with glowing white outline" look!

UI/UX Artist: Graphical Overhaul Continued >> Factory & Research Screens

Another example of an older look, this time the Factory Screen.

UI/UX Artist: Graphical Overhaul Continued >> Factory & Research Screens

And once more viola! Same layout, new standard. (With quite a bit more in the way of shown greebles and interactables.)