UI/UX Artist: The Self-Damage Screen Continues... Part II

UI/UX Artist: The Self-Damage Screen Continues... Part II

Hi everyone. This is Paul, your UI/UX Artist. Things have been rather distracting in my personal life. I'm actually in the process of moving! Things are physically extremely disorganized on my end and I cannot express how tired I am. Nonetheless, I have managed to get my PC set up and running and so without further ado I present yet another update on the Self-Damage Screen. 

UI/UX Artist: The Self-Damage Screen Continues... Part II

Mostly a few visual fine points. An icon will be taking the place for "OK" in the Status column of the Items List (this will also be implemented on the Asset Screen.) The common "power symbol" will serve as this icon, with color coding and minor effects such as fracturing to distinguish different statuses. 

UI/UX Artist: The Self-Damage Screen Continues... Part II

The Power Screen is coming along well. Screen real estate has been taken advantage of as best it can be. Now I am exploring a visual graph indicator for value indicators that have a maximal range. I'm still working on the exact shape, but the end goal is to give an eyeball's glance of how "full" a fuel cell or reactor is.

Pregenerated Corporations: Sherwood Industries

Hi, it's Jorden again. Here's the description for our first pregenerated empire: Sherwood Industries.   

         Founded in 2061 Sherwood Industries quickly made a name for themselves in the field that many would come to know as "aggressive safety". Many a mercenary soldier on the frontlines of the corporate disputes owe their lives and careers to a Sherwood Industries certified ship. With a focus on pin-point accurate missile countermeasures and truly monolithic shielding systems most Sherwood Industry ships return from missions in the same condition they left, minus the fuel spent on power and the ammo spent on victory. Trust Sherwood Industries to keep your units safe, your territories secure, and your enemies cowering.

Suggested Traits:

·         Bonus to shield health

·         Bonus to point defense accuracy (or tracking)

·         Penalty to shield efficiency (Use more energy)

This is the first of our pregenerated corporations which will be added in to the game once the corporation funciton is fully implemented. As a first note, the bonuses and penalties presented at the end all relate to ships only, largely because those are the easiest qualities to adjust in the current system. There are no numbers included because none of this is implemented just yet so it hasn't undergone any balance testing. As a result I really should make it clear that nothing in this post or any of the other posts for pregenerated corporations should be considered final and it's all subject to change.

The blurb above is intended to be the description that players will read when choosing a corporation to play as and we'll be sure to include a space for players to write blurbs for their own corporations, though there's no current plan for any of these descriptions to be read-able in actual play. I wrote the description as an advertisement for Sherwood Industries; the idea behind these pregenerated corporations and their descriptions as that they all basically rose to military prominence during the Asteroid Engagements. The advertisement above is meant to convince other corporations or governments (or the player) to choose Sherwood Industries to help them secure access to resource rich territory out in the asteroid belt.

Now, a personal note. Sherwood Industries is a direct homage to Steve Sherwood, a close friend to most of the team whom we lost in mid-August of 2020. Most of us met each other through video and tabletop gaming which is to say that our whole indie development team arose, mostly, from a rather large gaming group that formed over decades. Steve was always known for his particular approach to combat in games. Steve believed that a purely defensive resource was a wasted resource and so if he was ever given the opportunity to make use of armor or shields which would attack the enemy while Steve himself was also attacking that enemy then it wasn't even a question of "if" he would do it, only how long it would take him to make it happen. When Steve passed Arthur asked me, as the game's content writer, to write him into the game where I could and so this is the first way that Steve has made it into our game. Rank: Warmaster doesn't currently have ship-based defensive structures that shoot back but I felt that the idea of a company which would dedicate excessive power into shields and point defense systems that would render the ships that used them untouchable was a good place to start.

I hope you've enjoyed this first look into our pregenerated empires as well as a bit of an impromptu "story of the team". Tune in next time as we discuss Loharani Luxury Crafts.

Road Map: The Future

Hello, we’ve been working on the game for quite some time, and we still know there is a LOT to go.  We thought it would be good to see what we envision in the shorter and longer term.  Basically, a road map!

  1. Utility theory AI.  I am currently working on the IAUS AI, which functionality wise, seems to work fine, and I’m converting existing functionality over to this new system.  I have a few weeks to finish this up.
  2. Tutorial Updates. There is a flight tutorial and a Main tutorial.  Both need polishing, and the main tutorial needs completion.
  3. Volume Tiled Forward Shading: A big monster improvement to the graphical fidelity of the game.  One of the problems about home growing your own engine is a lot of the standard features in a modern engine that was created over a decade with millions of dollars (or equivalent in work) behind it, is that the assumed bar for the average player is rather high.  This addition will help level that playing field by potentially handling in real time hundreds of thousands to millions of lights in real time.  We will see the reality once implemented, but it looks rather promising.
  4. Lots of miscellaneous visual updates. This will include things like putting atmospheric effects on the planets, engine flare, burning hulls, shadows, a far better building animation and many other improvements. We’ve been working on more gameplay features rather than visual ones, but we’ve realized we’ve left this issue for too long, so we plan to address it more directly.
  5. Navigation Screen. The Navigation/RTS screen while functional, needs some more loving before it will be what it needs to be.  This includes both graphically and functionality wise. 
  6. Remaining Screens. Most of the screens exist at this point and are functional, even if the graphics aren’t finalized. The self-damage screen needs to be finished up functionality wise, as does the building screen.  The screen that doesn’t exist yet, is the Tech Display screen which shows how all the technology and items relate to each other, so it can be easier to find what you are looking for in the web and plan to get to it.
  7. Random Events. There have already been scripted a series of random events to make the game play more interesting.  More about this to come later.  These and other events need to be implemented in game.
  8. Purge system. This is more internal garbage collection.  While there is no visual difference with this, it will allow longer play times.  The issue more is around preventing random crashes because what use to be there isn’t anymore.  This is an engine issue that needs cleaning up.
  9. Main Campaign. The game currently takes place on Mars for the most part, but that was never the intent long term.  The idea was to rage across most of the solar system with lots of surprises.
  10. Updated Techweb. I don’t just mean adding items, but all the data that the technology web in the game accounts for.  This includes a better buffing system, more expanded damage, and lots of other features that the current system constrains use from adding.
  11. Eventually everything will be in, and optimizations will take place.  By this point, the game will be in effective beta.  This I don’t expect for quite a while, but this is a road map.

While there are always bug fixes and other features being added based on feedback, the list above are the larger changes that we have mapped out and expect to do before the game will be considered version 1.0.  I hope you found this helpful!


Update on the long nose type ship

Update on the long nose type ship

Last post from me I shared some drawn concepts. Since then I have been struggling on getting the shape of the ship in my mind out as a 2d concept. I decided to start blocking /modeling it. So far I am happy with it. Next step is to start sketching over these stills for 2d concepts of the final ship design.  Plus I get a good start on the low poly model.

Full story »

IAUS lives!

IAUS lives!

Hello again! I wanted to report an update on the IAUS AI code. It is currently functional for the Builder Bot, with plans to expand it beyond just that entity in the following few weeks.  Ok, what does all of this mean?

The current/older AI code is basically a state machine.  What that means is the system follows an internal hard coded script in all effect.  While this obviously works, it generally makes the AI (and therefore the objects that they control), rather inflexible.  So if you shoot a builderbot, it won’t try to run, it will just sit there and take the damage.  If you blow up the box it is using to hold the Ore, it will just keep going, oblivious to what just happened.

All that changes with IAUS based AI.  That stands for Infinite Axis Utility System, which is an AI based on something called Utility Theory.  In the end, each action is determined by a series of considerations (see screenshot in upper left corner), and those considerations are all multiplied together from curves to get a final weighted score.  Which sounds like a lot of math, but it is quick math, and honestly not as nasty as one might think.  But the AI makes decisions, rather than simply following a script.  It uses the current world state to make those decisions, so if the world changes (such as an ore box being blown up), or an incoming enemy fleet should scare the builderbot off and retreat, then it can react in almost real time.  You can look up more of how this works here: http://intrinsicalgorithm.com/IAonAI/2013/02/both-my-gdc-lectures-on-utility-theory-free-on-gdc-vault/

The other main advantage is the AI is tweakible and buildable outside of the main executable.  Meaning, there is an XML file generated from a tool.  This means that modders can create their own actions or tweak the existing ones if they want to change how ships or the other AIs think and even add new abilities (within reason).  I want to make an “idle” pack of actions so that ships don’t just sit in space waiting for a command but some will fidget in different ways every once in a while, just to keep things more organic.  This will also make the Warmaster AIs FAR less stupid and able to react, as well as give them more abilities.  The possibilities are endless, which is the point, and somewhat simple to implement in comparison.

On a different note, there is about one week left in the Indiegogo campaign.  I intend a surprise at the end of the campaign.  https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/rank-warmaster/x/10182710#/   Thanks for your support!

UI/UX Artist: The Self-Damage Screen Continues

UI/UX Artist: The Self-Damage Screen Continues

Hi everyone. This is your UI/UX Artist Paul with another update on the Self-Damage Screen. 

As the various screens come together I have been reviewing the previous sets and am now working toward a more consisten & ubiquitous design theme. Along this journey new ways of presenting and displaying informations and controls had to be innovated however now with the full suite of subscreens achieving completion, that trial of "what if we did this?" is coming to a close. That being said, the Self-Damage Screen is seeing itself assembled with a formal style guide in mind. There's still some wiggle room, being the last set of screens to be put together.

The first image shown is the Items List Screen. It's almost a second Asset Screen, but for physical components rather than faction economics. Interactive tie-ins with the other screens will be implemented here.

UI/UX Artist: The Self-Damage Screen Continues

The Power Screen allows players to control how their ships internal power supply is distributed to its onboard systems. If you're a Trekkie and ever wanted to say "All power to the engines" in a space combat game, this screen is where you can do just that, via the "Power Snapshots" subwindow, which exists to provide such quick commands. Further refinement and layout of that subwindow will be forthcoming.

UI/UX Artist: The Self-Damage Screen Continues

The Weapon Ticks Screen allows you to refine how your weapons operate. More refinement on this screen will be underway.

UI/UX Artist: The Self-Damage Screen Continues

The Armor Screen is rather self-explanatory. Get an upclose look at how much punishment your ship has taken.

Further updates are forthcoming. I am looking to find places to insert the names of each subscreen, and in screens like Power and Items List where there are a lot of subwindows to display, this is complicated, but nonetheless will be worked out.

Introducing The Corporations of Rank: Warmaster

Hello! Jorden, again, with another dev blog that I'm totally not writing as a means of procrastination because the scenario I was working on ended up being more complicated than expected and now I need time to think. I'm just doing my job, my obligation, which requires me to write a blog post on every other Monday and conveniently that happens to be something I can do other than work on The Crystal Raiders.


I thought I'd talk a little about the setting of Rank: Warmaster and how the player fits into it. Last post I talked about how the economics of Earth in our game are dominated by huge mega-corporations, some of which are more powerful than even a first world government today. Like corporations today, most mega-corps started as a smaller business that focused on a few areas of interest and grew over time to be the titanic forces they are when the game starts. We've mentioned that players take on the role of corporate settlers but what does that mean exactly? Well, when the Centralized Earth Government ran up too many debts to the megas, they tried to just use military force to seize the assets they wanted. This was a bad choice, since most of that military force was designed by those same megas and the resulting war was cataclysmic. In an attempt to gain a secure upper hand the megas took control of Earth's defense satellites, put in place to prevent asteroid impacts and out of a general sense of paranoia, and turned half of them inward so that whenever the network detects a threat and fires the lasers, half of them are actually firing down at the planet. Thus was outside help to Earth prevented and a stalemate ensued. Just before taking control many corporations launched settlers out into the solar system, again from a general sense of paranoia and being smart enough to ask "what if this plan doesn't work out?" You, the player, play as one of these settlers and you've just barely escaped The Isolation. By default you've chosen to settle on Mars, though there's been a lot of discussion about allowing players to choose a different starting planet once there's more content in the game. As a corporate settler you have access to everything you need to start a new empire (and they are empires even if we're calling them corporaitons). Where the different corporations come in is in a series of bonuses and penalties that you will be able to select when designing your own corporation to be a representative of. These bonuses and penalties are, in terms of story, based on what those corporations originally started out doing and represent areas of expertise as well as places where company standards have hindered progress. As of now all of these qualities are applied to ships and not to buildings.

In our story, the varying styles of ship building were developed during the Asteroid Engagements. The Asteroid Engagements are a period shortly before the war when the first faster-than-light drives were still pretty new and there was a rush to get out to the asteroid belt and claim the free-floating resources out there. Although piracy was, of course, still illegal corporations engaged in constant sabotage and conflict to try and gain prime access to resources. Many corporations ran ad campaigns to convince other corporations or the government to make use of their ships for securing resources.

Over the next few blog posts I'm going to be covering some of the pregenerated corporations that I've written up, both the descriptions I've written which are a sort of advertisement for them as well as a little more detail about their place in the world of Rank: Warmaster. When the game is released these corporations will be options for players to pick if they don't want to create their own corporation. Right now there are five corporations but I might add a couple more before I'm done covering them all.

That's all for now, see everyone in two weeks for a look at Sherwood Industries!

UI/UX Artist: Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself...

UI/UX Artist: Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself...

Hi all! This is your UI/UX Artist Paul. For this week I have a new screen that I've started on! Introducing the Self-Damage Screen. This is your ship's personal "medical chart" where you can see all the information, crucial and minute, about your ship's current well-being, from the power draw of all installed equipment to condition of each armor facet. For this theme, I'm exploring a color palette of dark reds and purples to capture the severity of this this screen's nature. This is an all-new screen for me, so the below previews are very much experimental and subject to heavy revision. They nonetheless offer a glimpse at what's to come.

Full story »

Writing On a Group Project vs Writing For Yourself

Hello! Jorden again having to announce myself every time because I didn't put my name as part of my username like some kind of idiot and instead just went with "Circuitman" on the blog site because that's just my standard username. Real forward thinking, that choice. Preamble aside this post is gonna be directed a little more towards other writers who like video games and may be interested in writing for video games. I've been writing for a video game for two whole months now in a job that I got through my friendship with the creator so I am definitely not trying to claim expert status. Instead I'd like to go over what I've learned in those two months and how this process has differed from my normal totally unpaid amateur writing work.

My primary writing up to now has been short stories in the Fantasy and Science Ficiton genres (for the non-writers this is referred to as "speculative fiction") which is a lot of fun and gives me a lot of practice at the basics of story structure as well as helping me to work on keeping my writing more concise. If you haven't yet guessed that I can be long winded at times, that's only because this is just the second blog post and we don't know each other very well yet. When you're just writing short stories that may or may not be published one day there aren't a lot of rules. Actually there's almost no rules, you can do whatever you want and create whatever worlds you want and nobody can tell you otherwise. That's the perfect freedom of working on your own stuff, I imagine most other writers are familiar with it. Now we compare to my work on Rank: Warmaster which is almost nothing like that.

When I joined the project Rank: Warmaster already had a world with many of its rules and concepts already defined by Arthur. This is Arthur's dream since high school and he's had plenty of time (age joke!) to think about how he would like the setting to be. I can't just run wild with whatever idea comes to mind, even if that idea would make a cool story; it would be insulting to Arthur and counterproductive to creating a good game. For many writers of speculative fiction this is a restriction that can be quite unfamiliar and yet I kind of love it. The best way I've found to approach the entire situation is that much of my work is already done for me, I just have to pry the relevant information out of Arthur from time to time. Many of the questions I might have to answer about the setting have already been answered. There are no aliens in the solar system and they've never visited, everything the player encounters is human in origin. The primary method of space travel in the game is a mixture of conventional thrusters like what we have today and some version of the Alcubierre Drive that basically moves space around the ship to get around lightspeed limitations. The politics and economy of Earth are dominated by huge mega-corporations spending billions of dollars on technology innovations all with the goal of gathering more and more wealth. Colonization of the solar system is in very early stages and besides a few test runs that may or may not have been legal the player is among the first humans to set up long term facilities on Mars. That's quite a bit of work that I just don't have to do, allowing me to get down to the meat of what I'm here for faster and easier. Some setting questions did end up getting answered after I started during meetings with Arthur. Earth was always intended to be isolated and unreachable, the people trapped behind the planet's own laser defense grid. I helped to come up with the more exact how and why of that, as well as how it affects the player in the long run (but I don't want to spoil the fun of playing through the game's main campaign for yourself). Arthur hates to micro-manage so I still have the freedom to come up with characters and world events and even to adjust the core setting to suit the narrative I'm trying to build and that's a key aspect to working on a group project like this.

If it seems daunting or restrictive to try and work on someone else's setting then I have good news: I have exactly as much freedom as I have when working on my own projects with a setting I've already established for myself. I'm still required to keep the setting consistent and maintain the rules and elements that have been established, the only difference is that I answer to someone other than myself if I make a mistake. So the takeaway I'm going for here (the first takeaway, anyhow) is that if you love writing and video games and always wanted to merge the two but you're worried that you don't have a good idea for a video game narrative, there is still a way for you to participate in creating games that you would love to play and it's honestly not any harder than working on your own stuff, just a bit different.

The second takeaway is a bit of self reflection I did while coming up with this post today:
I never wrote fanficiton and in fact I kind of looked down on the practice when I was in high school like a total snob and honestly I think it might have been good for me to try. I genuinely can't think of a better way to practice for what I'm doing today than taking the fully fleshed out world and characters someone else created and attempting to write consistent, believeable prose with it. So full respect to the fanfiction writers out there getting tons of really valuable experience in a marketable writing skill.

See you all in two weeks!

Presenting the Quick Designer!

Presenting the Quick Designer!

As has been hinted at before, the Quick Designer for ships is ready for use.  While not 100%, it is now usable.  One of the cornerstones of Rank: Warmaster is the ability to fully customize ships.  While has been able to be done for a while, there were two extremes available:  An extremely granular control of all aspects of the design, or an AI created design based on given tendencies and priorities (The Autobuilder).  The former made designing of a ship very time consuming, but gave the greatest detail control, and the latter (which is used by the AI) let the player only have very generic control.  The player couldn’t even select the weapons they wanted.  The auto-helper tried to bridge the two ways of doing things by letting the player select the weapons they wanted, and the auto-helper would complete out the design.  In practice, this wasn’t enough to make the design easy, especially if a lot of weapons were desired.

Enter the Quick Designer, which is inspired by how other 4X games design ships (if it is that kind of game).  In this interface, it is easy to select what and how many weapons are desired, and see in real-time the effects of adding or removing parts.  Desired thickness of armor can be selected, as well as the shields, rather than total points.  The shipbuilder will be moving in this direction as well.  Also, in play testing, it was found that with ships with multiple weapons, that during battle some but not all of those weapons can be damaged, but that still allowed the player to fight since some weapons were still functional.  The auto-built designs generally had a single reactor, and one of each thruster type, so that a critical hit on any of these systems completely disabled the ship.  If one had multiple smaller thrusters and/or multiple smaller reactors, a single loss wouldn’t cripple a ship.  This hasn’t been practically or easily possible until now.  A player can say they want 3 reactors, and so the ship will have 3, and the power requirements will be spread across all 3, as an example.  This same method will work for the thrust requirements from the thrusters.  This should make a more resilient ship.

The Quick Designer also has defaults based on the Role Selected, so by just hitting defaults, it will auto-populate based on the best of the required parts.  So like the autobuilder, a design can be made with a few easy clicks, or modified before the design is ready.  If a player clicks apply, it will move the design into the more granular set of sub screens for further modification, or a player can simply save the design from within the Quick Builder.  Currently, this window is located on the autobuilder subscreen of the shipbuilder, but the intent is to also have it available and fully functional from the factory screen, so one can quickly make a design without ever entering the shipbuilder interface at all!

I hope everyone can take a look at the IndieGoGo page for our crowd funding that has already started.  https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/rank-warmaster#/

On a separate note, work has already begun on updating the AI in the game to IAUS (Utility Theory based AI).  However, this will take a while to implement, so expect further updates about this in a few weeks.