Weekly Update #140: Visual Polish and Asteroid backer week-end

#1

It’s been a while since the last update, clearly we cannot call these updates “weekly” anymore :wink: It isn’t entirely a surprise though, as we’re getting closer and closer to the Early access launch ( September 2019 ) so I’m getting busier and busier.

A few weeks ago we released patch 0.4.7.0 which contained the first version of the UI. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to finish the star map in time, so it’ll be delayed until the next patch, end of July.

Asteroid Backer Week-end: 26th - 29th of July

We’ll organize our first Asteroid backer week-end from Friday the 26th of July ( around 19:00 GMT ) to Monday the 29th. This means that pretty much everybody that participated to our crowd-funding campaigns on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo ( or our own website at the $30 tier ), will have access to the game.

Visual Polish

Our goal is to start production of the game trailer for Steam around the end of July. We’ll use the asteroid backer week-end as an opportunity to record the new footage.

In the past 2-3 weeks and until mid July, we are focusing our efforts on visual polish for this footage, to make the game look as attractive as possible, within our limited time and budget of course.

We’re doing a pass over all the placeholder effects and replacing the worst offenders to improved versions. There are a number of effects that we think are good enough for now ( like the warp jam or the ship explosions ) but there are many others that we are upgrading. Here’s a non-exhaustive list:

  • We are adding a glow / haze effect around the sun. It is a volumetric effect, which means that as you get closer to the sun, the “size” of the effect starts to surround your entire ship - to the point where the entire screen goes white. In terms of gameplay, getting too close to the sun causes radiations damage over time.


Note: capital ships have more HP, so they can get closer to the sun before dying…

  • We are playing around with a warp tunnel effect. It looks pretty generic, but sometimes simple is good. It is fully animated; we’re still working on it. We’ve experimented with a white spot in front of the tunnel ( and black behind ), but although it does look nice, it quickly becomes annoying in terms of gameplay ( you can’t see where you are flying in warp ). In the picture below we’ve tried adding a hole at the tunnel center. It helps a bit, but it’s still not good enough. We’re going to play with a smoother fade and a larger “visibility” spot at the center, next.


Note: we’re also playing with the idea of twisting the tunnel around the ship dynamically, and maybe add a purple-ish light to make the ship feel more integrated to the tunnel.

  • Battle smog: we finished implementing lit / volumetric particles. We’re going to upgrade most of our smoke-like effects to use it ( ex.: atmospheric clouds, smoke damage, contrails… ). We’re also adding a new battlefield effect, kindly called “battle smog”. The idea here is that damaged ships and explosions leave smoky remnants that linger on the battlefield. Their lifetime at the moment is around a minute. It looks a bit like clouds-in-space at the moment, but it does look pretty nice, especially as the smog particles reflect nearby explosions.

In my opinion, the best thing is that the effect isn’t just an artistic / static backdrop, but fully dynamic. The smog particles tell the story of the battle due to their nature. They even inherit a bit of the velocity of the original explosion and spread in various directions randomly.


Smog particles WIP

  • The max shadowing range was increased, for roughly the same performance cost. The previous maximum range was 8 Km ( so any pixel further away than 8 Km was in direct light, even when occluded by a mountain ). The new range is 26 Km in high quality and 120 Km in extreme quality.

We’re also revamping / thinking of revamping the following effects:

  • Projectiles are curently a billboard; we’re experimenting with 3D particle meshes instead. They should look a lot better, especially at narrow angles.

  • Missiles, torpedoes and proximity mines effects have all been replaced. We’re trying to stick to a color theme in general: red-orange for kinetic weapons impacts / explosions, green for laser / beams ( not implemented yet ) and cyan / blue / purple for energy-based weapons / shields. Oh, and be happy: bomber AIs can now use torpedoes against capital ships !

  • We’re reworking the projectile impacts. They’ll use the actual mesh of the ship instead of the bounding box; at low angles they’ll be bouncing / causing a reflected sparkles cloud. We’d also like to have large projectiles pierce through small ships, instead of just having the projectile disappear.

  • We’re also looking at implementing particle ribbons for contrails and similar effects.


More battle smog. The smokey effect is a placeholder, we’re working on higher resolution ones with more variations.

Ships texturing

Kristian has finished texturing the corvette. In the pictures below you can see the Scoria default skin. He’s started texturing our last ship, the carrier. It is unlikely to be 100% finished by the end of the month, so we decided that we’d concentrate on the major areas of visual interest for the trailer, and apply some basic texturing on details, and revisit the details texturing properly at a later stage.

Final words

In terms of gameplay, we are ( admitedly at a lower priority, since we’re focusing on visual polish ) iterating on the UI / menus, AI, cleaning the HUD / making it more intuitive. I am also hoping to get the ( finally ! ) capital ships missiles / torpedoes / counter-measures / flak canons in, for the next patch.

Ideally, we’d also get the ship ugprading system in, but I’m not sure there’s enough time left in July to do that. We’ll see where we stand at the end of the month.

Note that I will be leaving in a vacation trip to France next week, for a couple days, before we enter the final stretch to the game’s launch. I’ll be very busy on producing the next patch when I’m back in mid-July, therefore there will be no more development update until the next asteroid backer week-end.

-Flavien Brebion

21 Likes
#2

Geez, and here i thought the game’s battles already looked great. Can’t wait to see those debris clouds getting lit up by explosions in real time, those screenshots are already good. Do wish there was more gameplay stuff coming in sooner though.

Also still not a big fan of the random shield penetration, i don’t think it’s worth the performance benefit to simplifying the penetration effects. Last i crunched the numbers, a current inty fight could be over in 15 or 25 shots depending on the random number gen. The random system damage isnt great either but it only kicks in when the fight is already almost over, wheras this is an issue at all stages in the fight.

This level of randomness creates a kind of cutoff for player skill, you can imagine that as players get better and better at a game there are diminishing returns for differences between two players. Those gaps get smaller at the high end and for two veteran players to have a meaningful skill difference where one comes out on top a reliable percentage of the time small differences must be emphasized, this is allowed by mechanics designed for depth. This type of random element acts as kryptonite for all those mechanics, it doesnt matter how much effort gets put into depth later on, differences would get crushed out by the random element. If there is a 15 to 25 shot random gap in the outcome of a 1v1 fight, for both players combined there’s a 20 shot delta, a ±50%, which means any skill differences within that margin only become apparent over a massive number of fights. Like this, skill can be crushed out of individual fights, just isn’t worth it to get the clean binary penetration.

I do have another alternative that retains binary shield penetration while removing the random element, which is accumulated shield penetration. Each time a projectile hits the shield, the penetration percentage (say if shield is 80%, pen pct is 20%) gets saved and added. When that value hits >= 100%, the shot is allowed through the shields, the percentage is subtracted by 100% for the next shot and the overflow is saved (the penetrating shot also adds to the pct). Near 80% shields the 5th shot would always penetrate followed by the 10th etc, near 20% the first shot would be resisted but the next 5 would penetrate, followed by another resist and the pattern repeats. The issue here would be mixed size projectiles but it might even add depth if there’s a way to manipulate the penetration percentages to intentionally get your larger gun through the shields after the smaller ones raise the penetration percentage. But it might still feel a little random if a larger sized weapon gets blocked on that “one” that doesn’t penetrate.

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#3

volumetric volumetric volumetric!

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#4

Wow these are amazing. I really like the concept of battle smog getting more intense as a battle drags on.

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#5

Smog good. Shadow distance good. Projectile effects goooooood.

Actually really pleased with the increased shadow range. Distant lighting/shadowing is one of the biggest factors in creating a beautifully realistic game, in my head.

Loving the sound of these developments. Flying into/out of a battle smog should be fairly awesome. I’d like to know what range this will be visible from, or is it more of a background effect that will really only be noticeable when you’re in it?

Not sure about the warp tunnel effect. I mean, it looks pretty nice in the picture and I can see the appeal, but as you said… generic. I think that if we have it, being able to see out from it is critical (so I agree with your ideas about a larger visibility circle). Visibly warping seamlessly between planets is Battlescape’s biggest party-piece, so don’t cover it up completely! Also, how much would it apply when warping down to planet surfaces? That could look a little weird in atmosphere.

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#6

Awesome stuff!

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#7

Very nice update. I like everything

…except the tunnel effect.

I was honestly hoping you’d tamp down on the current effects, not add to them. I’d keep the tunnel for jump drive mechanics if it gets implemented, but otherwise, the tunnel and streaks just serves as unnecessary visual clutter in my opinion.

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#8

Those volumetric effects add a lot of atmosphere (quite literally)!

Will this tech be used to add clouds before the release, or is this planned for a later date?

1 Like
#9

Yeah, the clouds will be modified too.

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#10

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#11

Mmm clouds, meanwhile i forgot about free weekend, such irrational

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#12

I was listing to a climatologist the other day. He was discussing how to warm the atmosphere up enough to get alligators in Greenland. He said he and others could not do it. There was one thing he could NOT account for;
CLOUDS!!!
they couldn’t do it ether. /shrug

1 Like