Developer Log: Space Warfare: Infinite – Capital Ships and Turrets

I spent the weekend putting together a capital ship and its turrets. Its still a work in progress, but it is fun to have to play around with.

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Capital Ship!
I built the capital ship model using Pro Builder. I’m still a true amatuer at modelling, but I am working on it. The ship is a carrier-type with a big fighter bay on the side. It’s about a kilometer in length, but you can only really tell if you put a 3rd person character on it and walked around. It seems like the trick is to put bunches of detail panels and sloped surfaces on it so it doesn’t look like a flying cube. I am using games

like Freespace 2 as a reference since the ships were boxy but people still liked them. Once I get some nice models together, I will explore real texturing. The current carrier isn’t going to be in the finished game – at least not the model in its current form. The main goal was to get something giant to fly around and fight against that had a killer amount of turrets. Ta -da !

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Having the cap ship, tho, gives me lots of directions to go. It’s be cool to have the player fly out of a fighter bay tunnel at the start of a battle. I have an idea for smaller gun boats that would be a much smaller cap ship with a big gun and a pd. They’s have less armor, but would be a bit more maneuverable than big stuff. They’d be used in groups to attack big

ger Battleships by attacking from different angles and things to overwhelm defenses. Going one-on-one with a battleship would be a big problem since a big gun might take it out in one hit, but a group could score a bunch of hits while a big gun can only focus fire on one target.

I want to get AI together that will allow the cap ship to maneuver. Once that happens, a second capital ship so that they can fight each other. The current one would have to have AI that would make it find an average waypoint in the middle of the action so it can get in there and mix it up with fighters. Or, it will need AI that can chart a course along the side of another cap to do a flyby. If all caps follow the current gun load out a dive and attack would be a good strategy since a caps guns are on top mostly, so getting under the enemy will offer a passing attack while not getting exposed to the bigger guns on top.

Also there will be at least one cap ship with a giant trench in the middle leading to some sort of highly explosive power core. It will be the only cap ship that a fighter might be able to take out on their own.

Turrets!
The turrets rotate and look up and down to target enemies. Currently they are sort of Point Defense guns, but I am also going to add anti-capital ship guns, beam weapons and missiles. The model for the turret is really for a big anti-cap gun.

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My basic thoughts are that all guns on a cap ship should be on a turret since the ship can maneuver as simply as a fighter. Big anti-cap ship guns will rotate slowest, but pack a big punch. Currently, if a fighter is unlucky enough to get hit by a anti-cap projectile its instant explosion.  Big guns will prioritize other big ships that aren’t zipping around. Point Defense (PD) guns will track and take out fighters and missiles that get too close. Currently each turret has its own targeting AI. I hope to also add a targeting list function for some guns like PD and high-fire rate missile launchers so that they can move briskly between many targets. In a combat mission against Capital Ships, the main goal of fighters is to take out the PDs and other guns to make way for missiles to take out the ship. I am thinking some classes of cap ship will have strong enough armor that standard cannons on fighters won’t do any damage at all.

Dev Log: Space Warfare Infinite – New AI tricks, missiles for everyone! and Unity3D Bloom findings

screen_78.26921Over the past week I’ve been having a lot of fun with Space Wars, while also researching and reading about AI. (I also got a little sidetracked by trying to perfect the bloom image effect….)

AI

AI can make a game like Space Warfare pretty exciting. I plan on having some multiplayer aspects once I get the major systems together, but the focus of the game is really a single player experience at this point. Since that is the case, cool AI pilots who behave in interesting manners is important. My actual AI code at this point needs to be refactored because it is a big mess, but the things its doing already even without a really nice organized OO state machine are pretty fun. I plan in the future to build out more of a Playmaker-esque state machine for these guys but it’ll take some focus. Because of the behaviors of the AI, the game is becoming pretty fun to watch. It has the enemies turn and loop and barrel roll to escape or ambush each other.

Current states include Chase, Attack, Reposition / Flee. Within those states the ships are able to barrel roll in reaction to being hit as well as change target focus. My idea is that I want to have some base states like Attack and then have a bunch of maneuvers that can be employed by the pilots depending on their style/personality/status. I am looking into multiple temporary short range ‘waypoints’ to create maneuvers so that AI can do looks or spiral at another ship instead of go in a straight line.

Some of my research to me to the above really cool video from Star Citizen (disclaimer: I am one man, Star Citizen will always be cooler than my game…). It hints how they are thinking about AI and displays some quick shots of the Ai engine. I can’t afford to hire that Ai company but I like some of their approaches. One of the things they really focus on is collision avoidance which made me think – oh man I don’t have anything to collide with yet other than really small ships better get to work on that! Unity’s Nav Mesh seems out because its a 2D plane and not a big open space. I’m heading towards a raycasting set up for individual ships. I forsee it being a little costly so I might have to add some collision radius objects that trigger the raycast steering only when necessary. One video that seems to explain the basics is here: http://vimeo.com/9304844. Sadly the author seems to have disappeared from the internet and never continued the series.

Missiles

I’ve also implemented missiles into the game. They are basically have perfect tracting to the only way to not get hit is to accelerate long enough that they can’t catch up or have them hit or get hit by something. I am working on a few countermeasures like a ‘chaff’ like drop and perhaps flares. I know chaff is for radar, but I might make it a dual purpose item in this game. It just drops a bunch of chunks of metal behind the ship that can clog an enemy radar with blips or set off a guided missile if a chunk collides with it. The other balancing option I will add is the length of time the guidance system works. This will give the player the ability to outrun then dodge a missile over a range if the guidance cuts out early, but is still a threat if the ship remains on the same course.

When I have add the ability to upgrade, ships could by better missiles with longer range guidance systems to make them harder to shake. As it stands now, unless your opponent launches a missile from too far away, the likely outcome is an explosion. Its so likely that for the above video I needed to disable missiles just to show you the Ai fighting without immediately creaming each other with missiles. Also I wouldn’t be able to stay in one place and film for my that 10 seconds before getting hit myself.

Missiles are a powerful weapon. But I always feel they are underpowered in games. Perhaps I should make it a little more random – 10% chance of surviving a missile? Perhaps its time to add shields!? Also individual parts of ships might mean less instant kills if its not a direct hit.

Bloom

On the Bloom front… well the game is shiny now! Look at the before and after!

 

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Before…

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After…

Things I’ve learned so far… some Unity image effects may be added after every camera is rendered. This means that no matter what camera you add an effect to, everything is gonna get the effect. The bloom happened on all my cameras no matter what my order was or culling set ups were. I’ve tried it all…. If someone out there reads this and finds out a way to make my findings untrue, I would love to see the solution! Comment, twitter, email me!

The main problem I’ve had is that the really nice Space for Unity scenes were getting over exposed and washed out so that you couldn’t enjoy the scenery. Since the main thing I wanted blooming were the trails and lasers, I ended up really brightening the particle materials they were using and then turning up the ‘threshold’ setting on bloom so that everything doesn’t wash out. It sort of works. I like more glowing than less so I am happy where I am with the look. Sometimes I feel like almost Bloom alone makes the Unity Pro license worth it — just the cool factor.

Dev Log: Space Warfare Infinite Updates -Bloom and Ai

I know I should be working on my November game, but the prospect of being able to devote more time to Space Wars (As well as finding a real game name for it – Space Warfare Infinite?) has been too tempting! I will get back to my monthly project soon, but  in the mean time lets talk updates to Spacewars.

Bloom –

Bloom is all the rage. It’s the main reason to get Unity Pro from what I can tell. That and the profiler. But lighting effects take your game and put it in the pro category – at least with the looks. I’ve been trying a bunch of different post-processing effects, but standard bloom seems to be the best for making space object look interesting and making laser flash and glow. The battle now just seems more alive! The downside is that brighter backgrounds glow too much and look too bright. At the moment I am just letting it slide. I fooled around with the camera render orders and such but could never get the bloom to only effect lasers. So far it doesn’t seem possible for me. (I did see someone wrote a shader that keeps bloom from rendering on something. I might do something like that someday to fix the nebulas and other stuff I don’t want to glow).

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Ai –

I’ve also been futzing with the Ai. I really want to write behaviors and more decision making. The current Ai chooses a random target from a list of enemies and then blindly charges. When in range they start firing. The other behaviors include: if they get hit a couple time in rapid succession, they will find a random waypoint to run off to; if they are attacking for more than a few seconds they will find a new way point to back off and then go back to it; if they get hit by a ship that is not their target a few times, they will switch targets and defend themselves.

Last night I changed a few things that annoyed me. First I added a lead object to each ship so that ai will aim just before the target thus leading their shots. Works well for moving objects.

I want to build a behavior where the Ai does flybys or other maneuvers that make sense. As I step towards that, I removed their ability to stop. It looked super dumb to see ships just floating in space taking shots. I just have them thrust at all times now. I also dropped their rotation speed from 20 to 1 which makes them curve a little more when flying – looks more natural. No more turning to the player in a blink! I also want to add a behavior when they are too close for more than a few seconds, find a nearby waypoint to go to before attacking again — the ai seems to get in close and then circle the target without being able to aim shots. They need to be able to get a new attack vector. The movement makes the game much cooler looking. Everything circling around with trails.

Ai Behaviors I am hoping to put in:

  • Rush pass / loop: Ship flies by target attacking as they pass then pulls up and executes loops to do another run on same strike vector
  • Flanking loop to hit target from side Circle to get around and behind target Go to waypoint
  • Patrol series of waypoints
  • Follow / Protect target
  • Follow / Copy target (attack its targets) Stand still – cap ships will prob do this alot Kamakazi ramming
  • Strafe side – get up to speed then rotate to aim guns at target let inertia carry ship along side target while unloading weapons… (currently not possible in way game handles ship flight… but this might be an effective attack for fighters against a cap ships PDS)
  • Preferred targets – weakest, injured, toughest, untouched, ranged, fighter, cap, midrange, auxilery, stationary, slowest, low shields, low armor, high shields, high armor, no ‘type’ gun, specific ship
  • Scanning / Sight Range- how far should awareness go? Should be increased by auxiliary scanning ships in fleet.
  • Use specialized component – Scanner Jammer, EMP, Cloaking,

Networked Space Wars: My May One Game A Month is Online #1GAM

The month is just about over and my attempt at creating a multiplayer game has yielded some interesting results. First of all, I did make a multiplayer game where players can host and join a server and then fly space ships around and blow each other up. I haven’t tested it too excessively, but I know it works on multiple computers over my home wifi. I am not sure how many servers can be created or how many players can join!? Here is a link to the networked Space Wars Online – you will need a friend to join you to make it fun…

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Game controls:

WASD – Move and Rotate

Space – Fire weapon

-+ Zoom in and out

I couldn’t get points or multiple hits working in time. Every change you make to a networked game seems to break it and require lots of debugging. I hope to refine it in the future and make it more fun. I’d like to be able to show who you are targeting, have ships that can take more than one hit. Selectable types of weapons to use.

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The start page has a place for players to enter their names and also customize their ship color. While not mind blowing, since I am still learning, it took forever just to get these two simple pieces of information to be shared across the multiple players. Colors would not show up for the longest time. I think I am getting the hang of it, the names are an attempt at a larger player management system with a shared scoring system but I need to wrap my head around handling collisions of projectiles and giving credit to the player who shot them. One day!

I used a lot of references to make this thing work –

Paladin Studios Unity Networking Tutorial – helped me figure out RPCs the best…

Palladium Games Unity Networking Tutorial

Unity Cookie networking tutorial -its in Javascript though so I had to change it to C#

Unity Multiplayer Games book by Alan Stagner

Unity Networking book by Lawrence Grant

Thanks to all of you for doing your best to explain a super complicated topic. After going through all that stuff, I can see the need for a few more tutorials. Perhaps if I ever understand it well enough I will give it a try.

Modeling 3D Space Ships in Blender

I spent part of the morning playing around with Blender. I made a smallish space ship model that looks better than the flying rectangles I am currently using. I will play around some more until I have something cool. The plan is to have a good enemy model and a good capital ship model sometime soon.

The trick to Blender is watching lots of Youtube videos. I have a couple books, but watching someone model something really helps. There are not alot of helpful tutorials out there on using Blender to model machines and vehicles. People focus on sculpting characters. Getting the right info for what I am trying to do has been difficult. My biggest barrier (other than how complicated Blender is) was that I needed to understand how to use a Mirror modifier so that I could make symmetrical ships. BornCG has very helpful tutorials on Blender and one is about the Mirror modifier. Now I know how to do that! You can see the results above.

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Block Art Capital  Ship – see I need to learn 3d modeling

Game update: Planning on uploading a new version soon. Not sure how much longer the game will work ok in the browser. Seems to be ok so far. Recent updates have included –

  • missiles that lock on and chase target,
  • a giant capital ship over a km long with turrets that track and destroy the player,
  • a 3d skybox set up removing the ability to crash into a planet,
  • jump gate that takes you to a new level albeit with a lot of bugs…