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 What kind of ship design?

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PostSubject: What kind of ship design?   Wed May 07, 2008 4:17 pm

Are e looking for big cinematic ships, or small stealthy ships?
Are we talking futuristic air-combat technologies, or something within reach of our own technology?

While all armies have a 'mother-ship' to return to for resupply, what is the standard ship used in most encounters? Something like a fighter plane, or something bigger?

When a ship launches an attack on another ship, does it launch bullet...a missiles...or a SALVO of missiles? Or maybe that all depends on the class of ship?

Just some questions to consider

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PostSubject: Re: What kind of ship design?   Wed May 07, 2008 11:48 pm

The game will host a variety of ships for each class. Large mother ships playing the role as an HQ of sorts, of course.. But also smaller Frigates, and Fighters. Alongside the mothership will be even larger Cruiser class vessels that will be focused on heavy assault and defence. Not particularily maneuverable, and they make a hell of a target, but they can play host to squadrons of fighters as well as serving as one giant weapons platform. Rather resilient, and powerful, they'll be some of the very late game ships. Fighters and Frigates will be constructed in hangar bays, but it's just unreasonable to construct such large Cruisers in combat situations. Instead, Cruisers are constructed elsewhere. Effectively, the player will requisition a Cruiser, and the "build" time is the player waiting for the Cruiser to arrive in from construction facilities on another planet. The catch is that while Frigates and Fighters are constructed wherever the ship playing host to them is, Cruisers when first purchased are targeted to a single landing zone. That is, you could select them to drop in from orbit right on top of an enemy position (naturally, a short while before the Cruiser arrives, long range radar would pick up the incoming ship allowing the player some time to flee the incoming Cruiser or perhaps prepare to fight it) or right alongside your forces. They can be dropped any suitable location on the map. Lastly, there will be some experimental goodies for each of the races, beyond the Cruiser class. But that doesn't necessarily mean even bigger. The experimental prototypical unit types will be highly specialized and the very last things made available. Not super powerful, per se, but super effective at whatever they are designed to do. (And for the most part, weak otherwise.)

Early in the game, there will likely be many fighter skirmishes, with perhaps a few frigates sprinkled among battles. Later on, you're likely to see more frigates come into play, with Fighters playing less a brute force role, and more a strategic role wiping out certain systems on enemy ships (one of the primary targets on any enemy vessel is the cloaking device. Fighters will generally target this first, to ensure the enemy can't just cloak and retreat). And later on, it will be more a clash of titans here, with skirmishes elsewhere and all around them. Players will requisition Cruisers simply because their opponents have Cruisers. Like most RTS, the scale of battle will increase drastically as a game progresses, but that's not to say Cruisers are the answer to everything. Being so big and unwieldy, they are definitely powerful, but if the enemy forces consists mostly of Fighters and Frigates, then how do you ever hope to catch them, considering you can't just take your powerhouse units and march them into their base now?

As for what weaponry ships use, it does all depend on the ship. The game will be realistic for the most part, but it does take place in the future. Weaponry ranges from autoguns and vulcan cannons to missiles and salvos, all the way to beam weaponry and wave generators and such. Plasma cannons, dark matter cannons, even jets of organic acid, parasites, and so on. Use your imagination. Naturally, nifty pseudo-scientific explanations will be made for each piece of technology.

The style of the primary human army, the army you will play in campaign, will be very practical. Rugged, tough, all around kind of stuff. The second army will be much more oriented on surgical strikes and pinpoint weaponry as opposed to just toughing it out. The third will be focused mostly on a sort of atrition. Just wearing the enemy down. But there will be room in each of the armies to adapt your strategies.

One thing I do want to do.. Material weapons such as machine guns on Fighters and so on will not fire tracer rounds. So no sprites from machine guns everywhere (which should improve performance a bit, anyway). Larger cannon shells may be visible when fired from longer rangers, but the rounds will move at realistic speeds. You won't be able to track it from across the map and watch it stream towards another ship. For the most part, a second or two after it's fire it'll hit it's target, tops.

Hope that clears some stuff up, hopefully I can regain my artistic abilities and get some (albeit rough) sketches done soon. :X

Oh. And sorry for going way heavy into details all the time. I just figure it's best to answer questions in full and not leave too much to the imagination xD
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PostSubject: Re: What kind of ship design?   Thu May 08, 2008 12:58 am

No sorries needed, details is exactly what we need Wink
As for the 'tracer' rounds issue, I could code a optional particle-effects system, and just have really short life-spans for each particle?

Aside from that, you mentioned battles that scale in size as player(s) progress through the game? What do you think of using multiple-models of the same
ships, each successive model having a lower poly count? So as the number of ships on-screen increases, the number of polys per ship decreases.

In this manner we can have ever increasing battle sizes without affecting performance drastically. Couple that with longer life spans for particles (such as tracers and gun-bursts) and you end up with a really nice light show.

After all, the player's not going to have much attention span left by the time they reach epic proportions of ships.
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PostSubject: Re: What kind of ship design?   Thu May 08, 2008 10:02 pm

Personally, I can play a good RTS for hours and hours on end in a good battle. And of course, we don't very well to make a bad RTS, right? xD

I like the dynamic mesh idea, but like normal dynamic mesh LOD, I think it's a performance feature that should be entirely optional and scaleable. Which shouldn't be too hard. Personally, on this laptop, I don't imagine I won't be able to run the game on higher to max graphical settings with minimal lag. My older computer might need a few helping hands though, so the dynamic mesh could prove useful if people don't mind the graphical hit for increased performance.. But then there comes to people like my older brother, who runs a GeForce 8800 Ultra, and my younger brother, running a GeForce 8800 GTS (This laptop uses a GeForce 7600). And if they're going to play, they're going to want to be able to use their hardware more to it's potential. So losing polygons they didn't need to lose is going to piss them off big time. Mad

Of course, this all fits in with unit occlusion and such. The old trick of not rendering polys not in sight will spedd up the game drastically anyway, because for the most part, Fighter squadrons are probably going to be inside hangar bays. Thus, out of sight anyway. But there's of course plenty of options here. The reason why I'm kind of against the whole "bullet sprites everywhere" is because only tracers are visible when fired from a gun, and by god, it seems like every single gun in every single RTS is firing tracers, when in fact they are only really used once every few rounds in aircraft weaponry to make it easier for pilots to adjust their aim and track their shots.

As the game reaches epic proportions, it will become easier on the player, of course. Because though they have to manage far more units and keep track of more, by that point many upgrades and settings will be available to help your units coordinate themselves. So you can be more vague with your orders and not worry so much about holding their hand to do specific tasks. (Whereas if they were doing some sort of surgical strike with just a few fighter squadrons, the player could keep track of it far easier.)

The biggest problem I see is not so much in performance or graphics, but in making the combat system. Cruisers, for the most part, will be relatively stationary in a fight. Refueling and rearming fighters, and firing volleys into the enemy. Frigates will be slightly more maneuverable, moving to broadside, depending on the design, or just dodging the Cruisers and so on. But Fighters are anything but stationary, and we can't just have them floating there shooting at eachother. As such, the dogfights are going to be the toughest to program, I think. Sins of a Solar Empire has some good, simple dogfighting that maybe we can learn from. But certainly, programming a number of "custom kills" so to speak is probably going to be a must. (If you've played DOW and watched some of the bigger units (Bloodthirster and such) fight, you know what I mean.)

Other than that, when you're playing on one of the map settings close enough to the ground where a lot of polys are required to make the terrain actually pretty, it should still be ok, since the really high poly units, Cruisers, will be disallowed, anyway. The map setting at extremely low altitudes is meant mostly for Fighter and Cruiser skirmishes. In case players would like to exclude heavier units for a faster paced game, and such.

Thoughts? :X
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PostSubject: Re: What kind of ship design?   Thu May 08, 2008 11:38 pm

You don't necessarily even need high-poly terrains to make the landscape look nice...just high resolution textures. Then again, that may affect load time?

As for the heavier ships (like cruisers, or mothers-hips) trading fire, why not?
Standard defenses are always a nessacity in any armada.

"Ready the cannon! Erm....The LASER cannons!"Razz

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PostSubject: Re: What kind of ship design?   Fri May 09, 2008 11:50 am

Oh, of course. I meant most of the polys for the ground would be in trees and whatnot xD

Long loading times aren't too big a deal, it's always possible to repackage some lower res textures and throw that in the options. I think there are some tools that batch compress textures anyway, so we can make it more or less as pretty as we can handle, and then make "de-prettied" versions and leave it up to the options, right? :X

As for the Cruisers and MotherShips trading fire.. Well, of course. For the most part, they'll be a players most powerful set of units xD. But what I meant is that cruisers aren't exactly going to be engaging in evasive maneuvers and trying to dodge eachother. More or less, it will be exactly that, they'll be relatively still and trading fire until one goes down. And if it's an older design utilising a nuclear reactor, it'll go up instead xD

The Fighter combat is just going to be the toughest part I think. Any ideas on how to accomplish a dogfight? :X
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