A New Direction …

I have been thinking quite a lot recently about some of the upcoming aspects of Britonia, and some of the decisions I made at the beginning of the project.  For a long time I’ve wanted to create a game with a sense of depth and emersion, somewhere you could go and play open-endedly, without a sense of the end of the game drawing nearer the more you unraveled the story or progressed through a dungeon.  Obviously, this is not as easy a task as it sounds, but thanks to procedural content, it is not totally out of the question.

I set myself no time limit for finishing the development of the game, piling on the features.  I knew it would take a long time, but that didn’t bother me and indeed it still doesn’t; after all what is the point of making a game if you don’t enjoy it? 

I spend quite a lot of my free time working on Britonia (or at least XNA related projects), but there are still a great many things required to get a full game working which I haven’t even started, and I think it would be better ( or faster) in the long run if I change the theme of the game before I get into the actual in-game content creation.

Therefore I am considering to change the theme / genre to a Space trading simulation, just like the old classic Elite by David Braben and Ian Bell. 

Luckily though, changing to a space sim wouldn’t require me to re-write reems of code, so everything I have done thus far will remain largely unchanged.  Of course the ‘new’ space game will have you landing in ground ports and/or flying around the surface of the planet looking for minerals and artefacts.

So why the change?

Simply put, after comparing the content required (models / textures / environments) for both a space sim and fantasy RPG, I think I have a much better chance of creating believable content for a space sim as opposed to the likes of human NPCs and monsters.  Some of the other considerations are :

Medieval RPG Space RPG
Planets Travel at low altitudes along the surface causes the planet quadtree to update often, and subdivision for quad nodes are always x4. Furthermore, because of the detph of the quadtree, a lot of memory is needed for the heightmaps/normal maps etc.

Adding to this, trees, npcs, towns and ground clutter ….

Planet based RPG’s don’t require realistic distances or accurate planetary movements (orbits/rotations).

NPCs / Monsters Modeling of NPC’s and Monsters is very complex, requiring many different animations (skinning).
Creating AI to mimick human behaviour is even more difficult.

I don’t do faces – creating a good looking one would take me hell of a long time 😦

Modelling Spaceships is conderably easier than organic lifeforms.  AI is still a challenge, but that’s AI.

Animations can be done using rigid bodies, and is typically turret points and/or landing gears. 

Towns / Communities A high level of unique geometry (models) would be required to create believable variation in different towns.  Each individual building of a town in a medieval RPG would have to exist in full with all expected functions.  (A tavern would need a bar, tables chairs etc. etc.) Cities can be represented with one (or a few) larger city meshes.  Which means getting away with considerly less geometry.

One central spaceport UI screen contains all the different ammenities / services, once the player has ‘entered’ the city.

Travel / Distances Travel between planets is achived via ‘stargates’.  I do still very much like this idea.

Travel on the surface is slow and takes a long time. 

Dude – Spaceships!
Textures Buildings are constructed from different materials each requiring a unique texture.  Also different altitudes affect the colour of the texture (white of mountains etc.) It’s common knowlede that all spaces are grey with yellow windows.  Easy

I just wrote these off the top of my head, and I must admit it is hard to remain impartial after convincing myself a change is needed, but even looking at the above table I think the space sim would generally be faster and easier to implement.  Although I made a few less-than-serious remarks above, some of the areas such as travel / distances are obviously made easier with the concept of space flight.

Well, please let me know what you think because I still haven’t fully made up my mind yet.  You have until the website theme changes to a space scene to leave me your comments 🙂

-John

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  1. #1 by Daniel on February 26, 2010 - 3:01 am

    It sounds just like the game I am working on. Space trading game with precedural planets and stuff. You going to be selling yours?

  2. #2 by Lintfordpickle on February 26, 2010 - 8:08 am

    I plan on finishing the development for the PC version first, and then I’ll attempt to get it to work on the Xbox. I haven’t done too much stuff yet with my xbox, so’ll have to look how it runs.

    It would obviously be nice to make the game available on XBLIG, but at the minute I’m doing it for the ‘buzz’ of programming.

    Do you have a link to your project/site ?

  3. #3 by Simon (Darkside) Jackson on February 26, 2010 - 11:51 am

    I think we talked about this in the ride back from XBLIG, it definately sounds like a great idea.
    However one big complaint about the big space traders in the last years (X3, Freelancer) was the lack of the ability to just land on a planet and walk around.
    Sure have just a few settlements and limit what the user can interact with but keep the option open for planet exploration.
    Was even annoyed at ME2 for removing the rover option driving around the planet, was much better than this scanning thing they have now.

    Something alone the lines of Megatraveller 2 (if anyone is old enough to remember it)

    • #4 by Lintfordpickle on February 28, 2010 - 7:29 pm

      Hi Simon, nice to hear from you again.

      With regards to Britonia, as you can current walk on the surface that perhaps wouldn’t be such a problem, but I’m not sure how enteraining that would be in Britonia with the lack of surface objects. At the minute I have no intentions of creating surface content other than trees, minerals and ’empty’ structures. By empty structures I mean the city meshes where a space craft can land and visit, but with nothing else on the outside.

  4. #5 by JT on February 26, 2010 - 1:06 pm

    All is good. However I think you need to post more videos of the camera zooming in and out of the planet atmosphere at high velocity set to dramatic music. See if you can find the score to the BBC Planet Earth documentaries.

    • #6 by Lintfordpickle on February 28, 2010 - 7:52 pm

      @JT, Hi
      I’ve almost finished modelling and texturing my first spaceship. When it’s finished and I get the flight mechanics sorted out I’ll make a few more videos of the terrain and flying between planets.

  5. #7 by Simon on February 27, 2010 - 4:42 am

    Hey there lintfordpickle,

    I’ve been following your work for some time, it’s some of the best I’ve seen in this field. I’ve tried to build a system like this too, but only got as far as a small scale spherical LOD system 😦

    Very cool to hear that you are changing genre too, though I’d encourage you not to give up on the idea of walk/drive/flyaround ground level navigation (especially seeing as how you’ve already entered into street generation).

    Sadly, it seems to me the planetary system (esp the texturing) is just still a ways beyond me, but what I can do is make characters. I was wondering, if I put together a base male and female character that can be altered procedurally how would feel about letting me use your planet system for a project of mine in exchange for letting you use my character system for your project?

    That’s assuming of course that you like my characters. Have a look at my site and drop me an email if you’re interested…

  6. #8 by Robert on February 27, 2010 - 7:53 am

    What I would suggest wouldn’t be fully commiting to an Elite remake, but rather blend the ideas you had.

    Not sure if you’ve ever seen the movie Treasure Planet, but you could think of the game in those terms where you have the old style of pistols and swords with ships that are basically ships… yet with a space trading setting.

    Might help to give it an interesting character, as well as not fully step away from the original concept but rather an evolution of it.

    Just a thought.

    • #9 by Lintfordpickle on February 28, 2010 - 7:57 pm

      Hi Robert,

      I’ve been looking at a few different styles for creating the vehicles. The treasure planet stuff is pretty cool, but at the minute I am trying to stay as far away from modelling characters as posible, so I wouldn’t really be able to include any pistols or swords. I like the idea of having non-traditional space craft, but it’s quite early yet, so I’m going to have a think about exactly how I’ll proceed.

  7. #10 by Marco Sperling on March 4, 2010 - 1:37 pm

    While it’s true that a fantasy RPG requires significantly more content and more complex assets (characters, monsters) than a space sim would there’s something else to consider: Britonia might not be the only fish in the water – the “Infinity – The quest for earth” (you probably know Ysaneyas articles/postings on gamedev.net) project also uses features like planetary landing, trade, long distance space flight etc.
    Diversification might be required and acquired through different graphical approaches/styles, different gameplay, different target platforms… just my 2 cents.
    And rethinking the direction of a project is always a good thing to do. 🙂

  8. #11 by Lintfordpickle on March 4, 2010 - 8:09 pm

    Hi Marco,

    Ysaneye’s project is awesome, and technically a lot more impressive than my own project, but you are correct in that it would probably serve me well to change the style to somewhat set the projects apart.

    Its still early days yet for the actual ‘style’ and gameplay, having only changed genre last week, but I will definitely think about it.

    Of course, any and all ideas are welcome in the meantime 🙂

  9. #12 by Andy on March 6, 2010 - 9:14 pm

    Hey Lintford, loving the new site layout. Keep up the good work. And the great articles!

  10. #13 by Alex on March 8, 2010 - 10:32 am

    Hey there!

    Great work done in XNA!

    I would love to see a video of a flight around one of your planets in wireframe mode. Just to get a little more insight how your tesselation works. 🙂

    Any chance?

  11. #14 by Philippe Da Silva on March 16, 2010 - 1:21 am

    Hi

    like other comment posters, I’ve been following your work since I’m using Procedurally generated content in my own project which is sci-fi based too.

    If I could come up with one single advice for your game is: place the plot right now and stick to it!

    Procedural content generation is just great because it saves us developers from the pain to design and create by hand levels for our games.
    However, something I learned from real professional game developments, the more freedom you give players, the less fun the game ends…

    That may sound totally non sense but sit back and think twice: how fun is a game where you have no objectives? Where the challenge is only brought by your own decisions? Where the background is so deep that you feel like a small dust in a huge universe?

    Players want to feel immerse in their game, to be a hero and feel their achievements and to achieve such goal, you have to provide someway rigid and arbitrary designed objectives.

    Level designers are required for a game because they create on top of the core game design the real fun for a game.

    Even a game like Elite is tighted to some level design, if you look at the economics in the source code, you’ll notice that a lot of the rules present in a procedurally generated universe are hard coded.

    For my current game, I decided to use Procedurally generated content to help me create the game’s universe but in a way where I will be in control of what will be players’ playground. I’ll try to blog about it somewhen between now and next month 😉

    But all this is just my totally subjective opinion and you could argue I’m wrong 😉

    Keep the excellent work 😉

    Philippe

  12. #15 by Lintfordpickle on March 28, 2010 - 1:44 pm

    Hi Philippe,

    Thanks for all the advice, and I definitely agree with you. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet given much thought to the new story line. I like to think it just because I haven’t had time yet, but if I’m being honest, writing the story is pretty hard work.

    I want to try and make sure that whatever plot I write, I’ll be able to back it up and deliver it in an enteraining way within the game. It’s easy to write about epic cities in the sky and huge spaceships, but they will also have to appear in the game aswell.

    btw, your blog is really nice, and your procedural content video looks great.

  13. #16 by Philippe Da Silva on March 30, 2010 - 12:02 pm

    Hi again,

    Writing a plot is a job on its own and takes ages before you achieve it.

    My previous point was really just a small advice based on my experience working on hobby and professional games.
    Every game project I worked for has always been driven by one lead that tends to be specialized: either development, marketing, game design, art…

    And that is just a normal behavior: when you have some skills somewhere, you’ll be pretty better pushing some project (and not only games) towards a direction that you control and like letting behind the stuff you don’t have the skills for.

    The huge mistake to avoid is to think: “That’s fine, I’ll come back with something later on this… let’s move on my game development as I master it and I’m getting fun with it.”
    Sounds familiar to you?… 🙂 It does to me :p

    When you reach such a point, my sole advice would be to find someone that will be dedicated to the stuff you do not master and trust him/push him to deliver what you are waiting for.

    Once again, this is just my call 😉

    Thanks for the comment on the blog, I’ve moved on nicely these last weeks on my project and I may publish something about it next week.

    Cheers,

    Philippe

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