Space Warfare: Infinite – Dev Log – Capital Ship Battles, Ship Switching, New Cameras, Unity 5

Sometimes it feels like not much has happened in the last week or two, but actually if I reflect back, Space Warfare: Infinite has made some pretty good progress.

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Ship Switching

One of the key features of the ultimate vision of the game is in. It needs to be refined and tested, but the core functionality is there. (Meaning you can do it, but sometimes the game breaks…) You can now switch between ships in your fleet! You can be flying along fighting in your tiny fighter and then press a key and swap to a big capital ship destroyer. Fire off a few beam blasts and jump into another ship. The ship you left will keep flying and fighting as the AI takes over.

The ultimate idea is that you can choose to effect the outcome of the battle in all different capacities and see the battle from all different perspectives. Eventually you will be able to give some basic tactics at the beginning of the battle to each ship in your fleet and then during the fight you can issue commands – currently just in the Comm menu– but probably eventually in a little more RTS-ish like a holographic command screen on a command ship.

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Capital Ship Control!

Another thing that wasn’t possible a week ago was capital ships doing anything other than sitting in one place and firing from their turrets. While that was cool, its not very practical for a giant flying behemoth covered in guns to sit in one place while fighter ships dance circles around its turrets. So now the AI is hooked up — cap ship specific AI maneuvers are still a work in progress — so the capital ships will fly around and slowly chasing things and try to hit them with the ‘big dumb guns’ on their bow while their turrets focus on whatever catches their attention.

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Capital ships helped add a new feature to ships and AI – the idea of types and classes. Now AI can look for enemies in their own class size and choose to only attack those. What this means is that if a I set a big capital ship like a Destroyer to only attack other ‘Large’ class ships, it will not try to chase fighters and instead will try to aim its big guns at other big less nimble targets. The turrets currently run on their own AI so they do whatever they’ve been set to do. Fighter turrets look for fighters, anti-cap turrets aim at big ships, point defense targets incoming missiles. Eventually AI and the player will be able to command turrets to attack selected targets or get all turrets to focus fire. This will truly be the way to take down the bigger ships faster. The big ships have an absurd amount of armour and hull strength, but don’t actually last long when hit with powerful guns. Fighter cannons take more rounds than most fighters have and thats with every round hitting only one side of the armor.

Cameras and Controls

So not only do Capital Ships fly on their own, but now the player can control one too. At the moment this means you can fly it around, roll it so the turrets have a good angle to pick up targets, point it in a direction and fire a giant plasma cannon or a beam weapon from the front. Eventually more controls will come — like commanding all the turrets, launching fighters from carriers, commanding other ships from a bridge, launching nukes, managing shields and power.

Additionally, the capital ship controls made the need for new cameras to be added. Trying to fly a kilometer long skyscraper through a combat situation from a first-person or even a third-person perspective is somewhat difficult. A middle mouse button orbital camera was added so that you could get views from various angles around the ship as well as zoom out to see what is around. I’ve also added an FPS mouse look that puts you in the middle of your ship / or your cockpit on the fighter and allows you to look around and behind you. I am mapping these to the F1-12 keys like in Privateer and Wing Commander games. I have a bunch of directions plus the orbit and mouse look setup in there. The functionality is there, but I am still working to make it better.

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Unity 5

I also upgraded to Unity 5 because I keep looking at the graphics advances, the new physics engine, and the frame rate boosts and just needed to make the jump. I thought the move would fix a turret issue I had where my turrets were spinning my ships – but I think the way I finally fixed it probably worked in Unity 4.6 as well. My problem involved wanted to have turrets (and other future stuff) be able to take their own damage and be targeted and destroyed. The turrets move but are children of another big damageable rigidbody thing as well. But I needed a collider and a rigidbody on the turrets so that hits would register on them. Every time I did this the turret or turrets would spin the ship, fly off the ship into space, stay on the ship but turn on their sides. Anyway, rumor has it you didn’t need a rigidbody on a collider in Unity 5, but that doesn’t seem to be true. I understand that now moving a static collider doesn’t result in a penalty, but I guess it wasn’t the same as my problem. Anyway, I figured out that if I turned my colliders into triggers on the turrets, they’d stop messing with my ships, stay in place and take damage. I don’t know if this is best practice but it works! I need to make sure other triggers are not included on the collision layer mask for projectiles, but other than that it works!

So while Unity 5 didn’t really solve my issue, it did speed up the game. I seem to be able to get more stuff going on the screen than before while still getting a decent FPS.

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One downside was most of my scripts lost their inspector set variables and the UI doesn’t know where any of its components are. I’ve been slowly fixing it all, but things are a little scrappier at the moment. A few above screenshots have white boxes where UI is supposed to be, that was the most noticeable Unity 5 upgrade effect! It slowed work on other stuff down for sure. I am hoping tho that now that I am up and running with Unity 5, I can make use of the new shader and its better use of threading to keep the game fast and furious.

Space Warfare: Infinite – Dev Log – AI Dogfighting Maneuvers and Launch Tube

Part of last week and into the weekend has seen a lot of time devoted to reworking the AI. I also wanted to add some new visual elements and while I did not get around to modelling a bunch of capital ships, I did model a launch tube for the player to fly out of.

Launch Tube

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The launch tube is really just a mock up. It will get modeled in Blender someday in a more fleshed out way, but I wanted to add a more cinematic feel to the game play. It works! I have a whole idea for the first mission of the game and it will involve a FPS style run through the ship to the launch bay and then getting shot out into space. I won’t spoil too much, but lets just say my influences are books like The Lost Fleet, Old Man’s War, Armor and Starship Troopers. They all give a similar feel of a first battle against a superior force. I think it will be a rewarding intro if I can pull it off.

AI

I’ve been reworking the AI from a Switch/Case (I know, terrible) to a class based approach like the one on the Unify Wiki and the one described in Unity 4.x AI Programming — but with my own twist.

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I am starting with what they explain, but I am working on making it more modular so that I don’t have to write an base AIScript for every pilot style. I want to be able to drop behaviors and maneuvers onto a ship and have it fly a certain way. I am getting there. I’ve built a maneuver component that has the ship fly a pattern, the pattern is imported into the AI State at runtime. It’s still not exactly where I want, but it’s starting to work pretty well.

Once I perfect the way the pilots pull in the patterns, I will also be building in better decision making for the AI. I’ll build in which patterns are best for different situations offensive and defensive. Additionally I will be adding in cooperative moves and player commands to get assistance from wingmen. I’ve also got plans to start making AI adhere to the same targeting situations at the players so the player can lose an enemy etc.

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After the dogfighting is passable, I will start working on getting the capital ships moving. They need to move differently than the fighters and small craft, but currently they just sit there and hope their turrets have something to aim at. It will be real cool when those things start to move.

Space Warfare: Infinite – Dev Log – All about Scanners and Target Damage

This past week I’ve been working on unifying the ship code and it is just about done. Now the player and AI ship code is shared completely with added scripts for the extra player functions like input and UI things.

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The shared code means that now enemies can use all the components like different weapons and specials. This means more varied ships (of course I need new ship models) with different fighting styles. I also want to redesign the AI to incorporate the ability to switch to different weapons for different situations or employ countermeasures to stop missiles. I am getting close to feeling pretty good about the player systems (by no means done) to go back to focusing on AI and mission scripting so those are going to be the next big push. That and some interchangeable component based cap ship models since they will be needed if I am going to create any type of campaign that is worthy of the game title. According to my giant list of To Do’s on Trello, I am 23% done (with the list…) but included in the list are a functioning Battle Editor, ‘complex AI’ and an energy management system. So yeah, almost done!

Scanners

I’ve also been revamping the ‘radar’ system – I am calling it a scanner now in game.

The scanners will have some nice game play effects. An asteroid or debris field will make the Visual Scanner pretty tough to track enemies while it should be fine in open space. Chaff could be launched to further distort a Visual Scanner. The EM and Heat scanners can come into play in more dense areas, but stealth ships or ships trying to be stealthy might try to mask their EM or Heat by running cold or creating anomalies. A ship might jam an EM scanner with lots of waves. Of course the most lowly fighter probably won’t have the advanced scanners unless the player upgrades. The Smart scanner is the magic radar that tells you what everything is and ignores unimportant stuff.

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I envision Scanner / ECM ships like the Raptors in Battlestar Galactica doing scans and blocking them. Possibly being in a wing with one would give you a scanner buff while you were close by allowing you access to scanners beyond visual that you couldn’t get alone. Additionally, some stealth ships may need to be targeted manually. Currently ship targets can be cycled through with the E key (Next Enemy Target) or C key (Closest Enemy). If a target is undetectable by scanners, you should have to get it in your crosshairs and then manually target it with the R key (Right in Front of Me Target Key). After manually targeted, the stealth ship will be added to the list of targets to cycle through… I also imagine some stealth missions where the player tries to get some surveillance by drifting undetected. Could be awesome.

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Target Cam / Info

I’ve also added a target camera and changed the UI in that area. The stock Unity sample assets box just isn’t really meshing what I need to display there. I sort of like the angled-ness of the boxes, but they are a little limiting with what I want to display. For now I may opt for a flat UI until I build cockpits or other assets UI assets that make everything look cool. I’m more programmer than artist and my dreams for the game sort of extend beyond the art I can create for it at the moment. In the meantime, I am going to build all the cool functionality and drop the art on it when I can.

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Don’t worry, it’s not really 2FPS!

Targeted Damage, Armor and Hull Damage 

You might also notice the little rectangle with a grey outline and a red inside. There is also one next to the crosshair. These are currently the armor and hull status system. Ships can now be damaged on the sides, the front and the back. If any one side’s armor goes down to zero, the hull is exposed on that side. Too much hull damage = boom! This adds some strategy to fights, you can make sure to favor one side if its damaged and keep it away from the enemy. If you lost all the armor in the front of the ship, you won’t want to play chicken with the enemy on a straight joust. Eventually some of the ship components like guns and radars will also have models stuck to the outside of the ship model. These will also be able to take damage. You can get your scanners knocked out or your engines.

 

Space Warfare: Infinite – Dev Log – Modeling ships, Base classes and Explosion Debris

I’ve been busy since the last Dev Log, but sometime its hard to tell what to update folks on. Cleaning up code is super useful for the game, but doesn’t make for screenshots. As the base ship class gets more and more cleaned up and unifies the player and AI scripts, some cool things will happen. More ship variety, AI that can use and switch between different weapon systems on their ship to match their situation, the ability to target a Friendly, press a button and hop into that ships cockpit while AI takes over yours… (yeah thats a big one…). Almost there….

I’ve been fooling around with Blender, but need to take a few online courses on UV Mapping because I am failing or at least asking ‘this has got to be easier’. I guess art assets could be a good reason for a kickstarter in the future if I can’t get the game to look right.

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A semi-ok blender model of a fighter. not the best….

I did have great success in modeling debris from exploding ships. Basically just rectangular twisted scraps of metal. Thats about my skill level. But it looks cool!!

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changed the zoom out for the player explosion so you can see it and take it in for a few seconds.

Space Warfare: Infinite – Dev Log: New UI Stuff and Mission Scripting

It’s hard to remember exactly what I’ve added from update to update and I hope to make more regular blog posts to keep track. Over the last week I’ve been doing more under the hood work as well as some random visual stuff to go along.

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Point Defense Turrets

One major addition is point defense turrets (unique 3D model pending – for everything in the game really) that targets missiles and does a pretty ok job destroying them. The idea is that big slow moving nuke missiles fired off during capital ship battles will get knocked out of the sky — unless some ace fighter pilots can get in there and save take out those turrets! (We’ve got to justify fighter craft existence in some way right?) The code for my turret targeting had to be modified so that they could be choose to target something other than ships. This will probably come in handy one day when we want stuff to shoot bases or asteroids or cargo.

On a side note – My test model of a cap ship is a basic wall of turrets and no energy limits or management has been implemented yet, but I am sure in the future ships will not be impossible walls of laser cannons. I have some thoughts on how that would work in the future. I figure I will make ships in a component type way where you need segments to hold various things like power cores, munition bays, barracks etc. The segments will be physical chunks of the capital ship increasing the size and mass. Bigger can be heavy on fire power, but they are going to have blind spots and attack vectors that small fighters can exploit.

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The turrets shooting the purple lasers are Point Defense turret. That explosion was once a slow moving nuke.

Comms! 

As you can see from the above picture, I am also working on adding some elements that will allow me to start messing around with story elements and missions.  Without comms, it’s tough to present any story or mission. The communications box will just pop in and then disappear so it’s not always interfering with view. Additionally, I am working on a Freespace 2 style ‘command’ scheme both to communicate with your fleet members and to answer back to other folks who contact you over the comm. At the moment my # keys are used for weapon equips and other usable systems, but I am going to have a comm key that enables a ‘comm’ mode for using numbered menus.

Missions! Scenarios! 

Once comms were in, I needed something to control sending comms messages. I’ll be using XML files to build missions or scenarios that will load and play out when you enter a sector or trigger something. I am thinking of them as missions and scenarios, because the story arcs will be framed more as missions, but if you are free roam and not following the main story, the game might load up various scenarios unfolding in the system you jump to so there is always something to do. So far its not too complex – we can spawn new ships and tell the player stuff.

http---makeagif.com--media-1-12-2015-prnLZoSpeaking of spawn new ships – I thought just randomly dropping ships in wasn’t cool so I gave them a warp in effect. Most fighters would probably warp in while inside a carrier, but this will do for now. I am looking forward to having a whole fleet warp in in front of a player.

UI

UI has also been worked on. The left side info box has been cleaned up a little and now works with the weapon select feature. Shows you what weapons are equipped and how much ammo they have left. Additionally the center reticul now has the energy bar, the hull hp bar and an armor bar. I also tried dropping a model of your targeted ship in the enemy info box, but I couldn’t get it to feel just right and then my game crashed. I may end up taking screenshots of the different ship models and just make sprites for them in the UI. Behind the scenes I also have a working sector map that updates positions in real time. I plan to convert it one day to something usable like another way to give orders – certainly it will be one of the ways to do that as a Captain on a cap ship.

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Hull, Armor, Shields 

Armor was another thing I’ve added. It’s minor at the moment, but eventually it will play a big role in balance. There will be different classes of armor plate and corresponding classes of ordinance. A Class 1 projectile will lose about 25% of its expected damage against a Class 2 armor. Class 3 would reduce it to 50% and a Class 5 would basically just shrug it off with no damage. Super armored battleships might not even worry about attacks from fighters or lower class weapons. A bomber or heavy fighter with a higher armor class would have a real advantage in a dogfight against ill outfitted pirates. As for shields, I am not planning on having them on smaller ships. If you’ve been following my game dev tales, you know that I like explosions. Shield technology severely hinders the explosions:minutes ratio. Fighters and their brethren must blow up a lot. Also, I get bored when a dog fight against one enemy takes forever. Why build a high-tech spacefaring fighter jet that can’t take down its prey quickly? All fights should be quick and dangerous so shields are out for the small fries. Fly a capital ship and you can manage shields to your hearts content.

 

Space Warfare: Infinite – New Gameplay Videos with shields, new weapons, explosions!

Sadly, I die far too fast to show a lot off in these videos but if you look closely you will see the capital ship’s shields and two of its turrets blowing up any incoming missiles. I’ve also added some of the new weapon features to the UI so you can see what guns are selected and watch me flip between them. There is also ammo values now which will probably make a lone fighter long for a carrier to go back to reload on–it’s coming!

 

I’ve been working on setting up base classes for ships and weapons which is sorta why there are lots of new projectiles and guns to choose from. I also worked on making the cap ship blow up in a cool way and might use the explosion scripts for all the explosions. I sort of simulated delayed subsequent explosions. I need to make the ship come apart next instead of just disappear tho… I’ve got a list of about 48 todos still to work on before… before I make another list…

Dev Log for Space Warfare: Infinite – Beam Weapons are awesome

Still working on capital ship weaponry and it’s fun! I’m actually doing a lot of clean up under the hood since my general programming process is get something working that I can play with on the screen as fast as possible and worry about making the code better later. I am in a make the code better phase because capital ships are far more involved than fighters and they are forcing me to break out some of the systems I just hard coded into my fighter scripts so that after I am done, I’ll be able to iterate more ships, turrets, weapons, other objects faster.

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Capital ship with one beam weapon lays waste to a fighter wing…

BEAM WEAPONS!

One example of this current decoupling is beam weapons – a totally different style of ‘projectile’ that still works with the components I built. The main turret I made last weekend just fires off regular cannon projectiles which are the same things that the fighters shoot. It’s been my standard projectile along with missiles for a long time. Standard cannon projectiles do 1 damage to the hull (armor and shields haven’t been implemented yet…) and missiles do a bunch more. The beam weapons are set to 1000. They cut through anything and can destroy multiple ships in one hit. I’ll probably dial it back but its fun to watch the thing just vaporize fighters like gnats. I envision this level strength weapon to be a capital ship attack weapon so the turret will probably track slower and generally just target other big ships. I might also make a short range faster tracking anti-fighter beam to punish players who get to close. The beam weapon definitely makes a cap ship something to fear.

On the technical side – I used a line renderer with a collider for the beam and I hacked together a lense flare and light at the origin of the beam. I might add another lense flare type thing to places it hits stuff so that it looks like a weld torch. Might be a cool effect that is different from the regular sparks and stuff of other weapon collisions.

Space Warfare: Infinite – Screenshots gallery galore

Here are some of the latest screenshots of Space Warfare: Infinite! Still WIP and still in pre-alpha, but it’s also still a lot of fun!

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.