"Hardcore" flight-sim style missions, system management and control merged with the world of the space combat/trader sim.
"Hardcore" flight-sim style missions, system management and control merged with the world of the space combat/trader sim.
This Reward Quick Reference chart is much easier to decipher than the non-formatted Kickstarter reward text. Below this you'll find more info about the Core Module (CM), which is the base sim (available at $20 and up), as well as later Extension Modules (EM's), which are later gameplay expansions (available starting at the $40 tier). Alpha testing for the Core Module is expected to begin around this time next year (available beginning at $100, or by using the reward upgrade option at the bottom of the chart)
"You might even call Michael Juliano's Rogue System space combat sim "Falcon 4.0 in space," because that's the level of realism and system fidelity he's striving for." -- Andy Mahood, Gamespy
"Just as I found Roberts and Braben’s visions and scope for their respective titles alluring and exciting, I can now easily add Juliano to that list" -- Simon Croft, RAVSim
"We are about to see the emergence of a new simulation genre coined, Space Combat Simulation (SCS)" -- Doug "guod" Atkinson, SimHQ
"The more I learned about the game, the more I WANTED to learn.... Below are the results, which make me want to play the game NOOOOOOW!" -- Brian Rubin, Space Game Junkie
'I have rarely encountered a passion comparable to those of Michael (Juliano)' -- Emanuele Colucci, Ars Ludica (In Italian)
Space Game Junkie - 50 minute podcast
The goal of the "Core Module," or CM (the base sim), is to combine the depth and fidelity of a complex flight simulator with the classic gameplay of the space combat genre. Systems are modeled individually and are dependent on each other for proper operation; and, they are fully under the player's control. To achieve this level of interactivity a fully clickable cockpit, plus the ability to map any command to any key, button or axis on up to three controller devices, is provided.
Plus, if you're new to the world of "simming," or you prefer a "lighter" sim experience, that's no problem--there are options to tailor Rogue System to you (please see the SOI and FAQ sections below for more info).
I'm Michael Juliano--a game developer with 14 years' experience in the industry, many of which as a Lead Environment Artist. My task now is to put together a professional team to assist me in taking the Core Module (CM) of Rogue System from "pre-Alpha" through to release.
Rogue System's Core Module will put you "in" the cockpit of an interceptor or strike fighter to take part in a hybrid, story-driven campaign. You'll be challenged to get space-borne as quickly as possible while your Orbital Station is getting hammered by the enemy. When you take damage, you'll see and hear the desperation of the moment via feedback from both your instruments and your pilot “avatar”. Finally, you'll have the satisfaction of safely setting your crippled ship down after surviving a gut-wrenching mission. This all happens within a dynamically-generated galaxy.
"Extension Modules" (expansions) will expand the gameplay even further. Please see the "The Future" section below.
Rogue System is not just mine to expand on, either. You can modify almost every aspect of it. In fact, the structure is such that you and your friends could create an entirely new space-sim while maintaining the integrity of the original.
Ship's Onboard Intelligence (SOI) -- This is effectively your co-pilot or RIO, if you will. The SOI will be there to help you throughout the entire flight. While some of its functions are always active, such as monitoring systems for damage, other activities are at your discretion.
Some of the things you can let the SOI do for you are pre-configure the system switches for faster starts, or allow it to start the ship completely on its own. If you like, it can also attempt to handle system damage, leaving you to focus on the flying. With the SOI you're never alone out there... unless it itself has been damaged beyond function. If so, it's up to you to get the ship, and yourself, back in one piece.
Eye's Front Display (EFD) -- This is an interactive, holographic version of our modern day HUD. In the sim world the pilot controls it using thought impulses (for us in the real-world though, we still need to use the mouse). Unless you need to switch to back-up controls due to damage, all the ship's functions are right before your eyes.
You do not HAVE to use the clickable cockpit functions at all. If you prefer, all functions can be bound to keys or controller buttons/axes. Currently, the engine Rogue System uses allows for up to three "joystick" devices. These can be anything from gamepads to joysticks to various throttle quadrants. Finally, the EFD is not fixed to the ship, meaning that you can choose the look you'd like for it. I plan to include at least two variants (more if possible), and the mod community can add their own, too.
The missions you fly are both dynamic and scripted. During a campaign "week" you'll fly a series of dynamic missions based on both military and civilian assets. The scripted missions help to propel the story, and which one you fly at the end of each week is based on how well you, your squadron, and sister squadron have performed. When the campaign is over you'll earn an final mission worthy of your side's overall performance.
Early on, out of desperation, the Orbital Station's interceptor group you fly for will need to form a strike squadron; and you'll be asked to volunteer. While your tasks and the ships you pilot will be different depending on which squadron you pick, both squadrons will flying together each mission to complete a common goal. If you're not where you're supposed to be, or fail to complete your task, the entire "package" suffers.
In between missions you'll be able to move within the Orbital Station and do different things, such as receive mission briefings and debriefings. Your pilot "avatar" receives weekly "pay", and can use this to purchase items at the OSX (Orbital Station Exchange), such as off-duty clothes for your pilot or things to decorate your quarters (much of what you can do while aboard the station will depend on the success of Kickstarter initially).
Ships are comprised of many systems (see the critical systems list below) and the subsystems that feed them. If you don't allow the SOI to assist you, you'll need to know how to interact with these subsystems, especially when they are damaged.
Systems suffer many different types of damage, each affecting performance in various ways. There can be cooling leaks that cause overheating, electrical faults that cause intermittent operation, and mechanic faults that can reduce outputs, to name a few. Also remember that systems are interdependent. You can bet if one system is damaged it will most likely affect the performance of one or more of the others.
The pilot is just as intricate and probably the most important "system" of them all; and your pilot "avatar" is modeled with just as much detail. Their mental and physical conditioning will dictate how well they can handle the stresses of combat maneuvering. All of this information is passed to you both via audio and visual cues. You'll know exactly what the poor soul inside your ship is going through while they fight for their life.
Every inhale and exhale is tracked so the air mixture can be managed. If there's not enough oxygen your pilot will become light-headed, pass-out, and eventually suffocate. Cabin temperature is monitored--sitting in the cockpit of a dying ship, trapped in the shadow of a lonely planet, you'll hear your pilot's teeth chatter and see the labored, condensed breath. On the opposite end, if heat is allowed to get out of control they can "cook" within their cockpit. G-forces stress your pilot physically, causing "tunnel vision", "red-outs", and "black outs" and loss of consciousness. As always, the SOI will be there to help revive the pilot to keep them alive and in the fight.
The AI have to fly just as you do, by using control inputs; and some are better than others at doing this. They are effected by the same factors as your pilot. For them though, these factors affect their piloting skills. The current condition of both the ship and the pilot within determine how well they fly at any given moment; and how willing they are to stay and fight. Some will break and run at the first sign of trouble, while others will fight to the last to complete their mission.
They also have a memory. They know who and what they're fighting and change their behavior accordingly. By evaluating each offensive and defensive maneuver they perform, they eventually will find a combination that's effective for the current target. They also remember past performances of major characters, such as you, as well. Fight bravely one mission and you may find the same enemy pilot will spare your life later if the odds are against you. Others won't care and will kill you if they get the chance.
When established, the team and I will proceed "methodically and patiently"--without biting off more than we can chew. It is incredibly easy for a production to get lost in the "grand vision." I've seen it happen more than once. To avoid this, Rogue System has been broken up into smaller, short term productions, called "Extension Modules" (please see "The Future" section below).
When I started Rogue System I realized that if I was able to put a team together I had to plan for the smallest team possible. With such a team I have to be very realistic and conscientious as to what can be achieved at any one time. So, I've gone even further and broken up the Core Module into sub-goals, allowing for various levels of completeness. By doing this I can give even the smallest team the ability to work within its means to deliver a quality simulation that can be confidently added to later.
I've detailed these sub-goals below. Keep in mind that some of these are not glamorous; but they are honest--taking into account salaries and other expenses. Here's what I'm planning:
- The Base Goal: $300,000 --Rogue System's fundamental elementswill be achieved within 24 months. The smallest team possible will create: a fully realized military campaign with both dynamic and scripted missions; a rudimentary system to propel the major story elements; and the ability to move about within the Orbital Station and do key things (mainly receive briefings and debriefings and purchase items at the OSX). There will be least two flyable ships--an interceptor and a strike fighter. I'll also be able to retain the critical services of Kevin Chow, who's been doing my sound and music thus far.
While $300K seems a lot please consider that the average yearly salary, which I'm basing on a Game Developer survey from 2011, puts the average artist salary at 70K (although 45K to 55K is more realistic), and this is a two year development. Add my salary for two years and that already eats up around 200K. Now add in Kevin's retainer, as well as taxes, various licenses (a seat of MAX goes for up near 4K), as well as fees to Amazon and Kickstarter. I MAY have some left over for an emergency--300K is really the bare minimum for the fundamental Core Module elements...
- Stretch Goal A: $500,000 -- Mod Tools will greatly assist the team, and later the community, with getting new content into Rogue System. A programmer will be dedicated to the creation of editors for particles, ships, ship systems, trade goods, missions and campaigns, UI (User Interface), and more. Also, an additional content artist (mainly for ship interiors and exteriors) will be hugely beneficial, as well. Your reward for reaching this level will be the addition of two more flyable ships, with full interiors, during the campaign. We'll also release the editors as soon as possible (with proper documentation).
Again, the majority of funds goes to the addition of another artist, as well as a programmer. The same generally applies for the remainder of the stretch goals, too.
- Stretch Goal B: $700,000 -- A 3D Character Artist/Animatorwill allow the major and minor stories of the campaign to be told as I have designed--with full player interaction. Also, more art support will allow us to fully dress out the Orbital Station's interior (offering more things to do), add additional civilian targets to defend, and military targets to attack. For reaching this level you'll receive a personal droid that your ship's intelligence can dock with so that it's always with you, and private quarters when your pilot achieves the rank of Commander.
- Stretch Goal C: $900,000 -- Full Voice-Overs and Cut Scenes will put the finishing touches to Rogue System's Core Module. We'll have voice-overs for character interactions in between missions, as well as "radio chatter" to and from other ships during flight. We will make use of any remaining funds to further enhance the Core Module by adding yet another content artist. To show our gratitude we'll add the ability to fly a freighter to another system in support of the campaign. This will be an early glimpse of "Maverick Module" functionality.
- Stretch Goal D: $1,100,00 and up. Accelerated Maverick Module Development is now possible. Thanks to all of you we'll now have the resources to create a small sub-team to begin early work on the Maverick Module, allowing us to release it much sooner than expected. As a way of saying "thank you", you will receive the Maverick Module for free, as well as a small freighter and 50,000 credits with which to outfit it, when released. (If your reward tier included the 1st module we'll make sure you get the 2nd module, when released, in its place.)
The Good news is that I've been building the foundations of the Core Module and other modules over the past two years. While there is still a lot of code work to be done, a lot has been done already. Here's a PARTIAL list of features, in various stages of completeness, that I have already integrated and tested:
- Dynamically-generated galaxy each time a new "game" is created.
- Real-time motion for galactic objects (some planets literally take hundreds of years to orbit their star).
- Support for anomalies such as comets, asteroid belts, Kuiper Belts, and more.
- Multiple star classes from dwarf to super nova.
- Multiple planet classes from rock to gas giant.
- Planets/moons are dynamically textured based on type for endless variety.
- Planet/moon atmospheres change based on current conditions.
- Celestial gravitational forces.
- Time Acceleration when traversing great distances via SAN (Suspended ANimation). Turns trips lasting weeks (real-time) into seconds.
- Fully programmable keyboard, mouse and multiple joystick devices.
- Fully interactive/click-able cockpit controls.
- Various forms of cockpit displays and instrumentation, as well as helmet displays.
- 6 DOF TrackIR support.
- Ability to walk around in first-person mode inside any ship that is large enough (as long as the interior art exists) using FPS style controls.
- Newtonian flight model with ship systems to provide a more atmospheric feel when needed.
- Thruster-based maneuvering.
- Various drive systems for intra- and inter-system travel as well as local travel.
- Functional ships are created by mounting various systems into the hull.
- Movable exterior and interior ship parts.
- Various exterior and interior lighting (formation lights, flood lights, instrument lights, etc).
- "Tail number" and squadron markings as well as user-defined nose art.
- Ship systems have dependencies on other systems.
- Armor and deflector systems to defend against damage from energy weapons, as well as blast and impact forces.
- Ship systems can receive different types and amounts internal damage which adversely affect operation in various ways.
- Systems can suffer non-combat related damage.
- Larger ships have external attachment points to accept a variety of equipment such as turreted weapons, solar arrays, etc).
- Player has full control of the ship from pre-flight to post-flight.
- STC (Space-Traffic Control) communications for each ship that has docking collars or hangar bays.
- Ship to ship communication with other characters.
- Characters have "relationships" with other characters, factions and the player, which vary over time.
- Characters have mental and physical attributes that are always being updated, altering their decision making, determination, and combat effectiveness.
- AI employ various flight maneuvers based on the current situation.
- AI fly their ship by feeding flight input into it just as the player has to do.
- AI and player both have to contend with "background clutter" of varying types (based on things such as star class and local anomalies) when attempting to target other ships.
- Player's pilot "avatar" reacts to conditions inside the cockpit.
- Campaign and scripted-mission structure and control.
- Full particle system for internal/external effects.
- Separate internal and external sound system. External sound is modified by the "level of vacuum" as well as user-defined range setting (at 0 range you'd get a realistic exterior audio experience, while at higher ranges it would become more movie-like).
The goal is to be patient and focus on quality at each level. I'm not concerned about quantity--it will come naturally over time. There's absolutely no need to try to cram in half-baked features just for the sake of a few extra bullet points. Here's some of the things I'll be doing to expand Rogue System both near and long term:
While there currently is support for player-programmable keystrokes, mouse buttons and up to 3 game controllers (currently) there are three peripherals I'm interested in evaluating in the near future. The first is the Oculus VR headset, which I think would be a great match with Rogue System. The second is touch sensitive monitor support--possibly a nice compliment for the EFD interface. Finally, I'm looking at support for the 3rdSpace gaming vest.
Free Content will continuously be added after the initial release, including new ships and ship systems, missions and campaigns, trade goods (especially after the Maverick Module is released), and more. Maintenance updates will address issues, add minor features, etc. Finally, let's not forget that the community can add their own content, too. If the Core Module is solid I feel Rogue System will go off in many directions that I didn't even plan for.
Extension Modules will, over time, add all the features that I want for Rogue System. We'll have to charge a bit for these to support development, but not much. I'll just need what's required to support each module. A good thing about this modular approach is flexibility. It gives options to handle adversity during development and add new things when there are eureka! moments. For now, here are the key features of each long term goal for Rogue System:
- Open-ended trader/explorer style gameplay.
- Earn money in a variety of ways--mining, pirating, trading, bounty-hunting, passenger ferrying, etc.
- Find work through various information sources.
- Discover special items and locations, and we'll be adding new things all the time.
- Rent a docking bay and an apartment at your favorite Orbital Station.
- Upgrade ship systems, purchase additional ships, and hire the crews to fly them.
- Breach and board other ships, with your crew, in an attempt to capture or destroy them.
- Defend your ship against internal attack.
- Take part in special missions and other opportunities to use that weapon you have slung around your waist.
- Enjoy Rogue System online with your friends.
- Use your pilot from single player with all their ships and items
- Run persistent galaxies using the official assets or user-created content.
- Command larger and larger vessels and their crews, as well as the assets assigned to them, as you increase in rank.
- Work as part of a larger Battle Group to accomplish goals sent down from Strategic Command.
- A strategic command display will give you a clear picture of the combat area so you can properly deploy your assets
Descent Module--This will allow for planetary transitions and flight. However, we will only do this if we can use procedural techniques to create believable, dressed out worlds and not an infinite number of barren wastelands. Likewise, atmospheric flight will need to be just as detailed as spaceflight. If it can done right, it's in. If not, I'd rather leave it out than bring down the rest of Rogue System.
Yes, these modules could almost be stand-alone products. This is absolutely the reason why everything can not be achieved within two years--you'd need a HUGE team to have a shot at it. Were I to claim otherwise I'd be flat out lying. So, the team and I will tackle each in turn.
Every step of the way I'll let you know how things are going, from forum to Facebook posts to our bi-monthly newsletter. When a goal is reached, you'll know. If an obstacle is hit, you'll know that, too; and I'll tell you how it'll be overcome, and what the team will do if it can't be. The key to Rogue System's long term success will be a supportive community that can ebb and flow with the production. A community like that needs to be fostered with honest communication.
Here are my original work-in-progress videos, in which I discuss and show many of the elements I've talked about:
How could I possibly expect anyone else to support Rogue System financially if I wasn't willing to do so myself? The truth is I can't. But, I believe in its potential, and I've put my money where my mouth is to prove it. Over the years I've purchased literature, equipment and software licenses to aid in early development. I've taken care of server space and domain registration to have a centralized location for Rogue System info. I've covered the expense of forming Digits Crossed Interactive, LLC to give it a proper home. I've applied and paid for trademarks for DCI and the Rogue System brand. I've paid for advertising to help spread the word about it. I am personally invested in Rogue System because I know it can succeed.
I started this endeavor back in 2008 when I began teaching myself C++. When I wasn't working my "day job" I was learning to program. In 2010, I began coding Rogue System, setting milestones for myself working to meet them as I would any other deadline. Through all this Angel, Sarah and Katy (my wife and daughters) have been nothing but supportive. They've backed me 100%. I owe it to them to finish Rogue System if for no other reason than just to say "Thank you" for believing in me.
So, I have a financial incentive to succeed, as well as a very personal one. But I also have a passion that drives me:
The early space-sims of the 90's were great fun (I lost countless hours playing them); but they never really went as deep as I wanted. I couldn't walk up to a ship, get in and start it. I didn't need to ask for clearance to take off. There was only a rudimentary form of control over the ship systems. Ship damage was barely more than a health bar in most cases. Most importantly, I never really got the sense that there was a pilot inside risking their virtual life for whatever cause they were fighting for.
Basically, what I wanted was a "hardcore" flight-sim in space...
In the mid to late 90's we had combat flight sims such as Strike Eagle III by Microprose, F-15 and F-18 by Janes, and the Longbow series to name but a few. They had far more than rudimentary control and functionality; so it wasn't something that was impossible to do. It's just that no one ever DID it (which reminds me to give a nod to the DID sims, too).
Now, why do I mention all this? I want you to know that PC gaming, and the space/flight sim genres, are a very important part of my life. I've followed the industry since Space Invaders came onto the scene (and I was 8 then). I've owned systems from the Apple II e+ and Commodore 64 through to the current multi-core systems of today--all for the sake of gaming. And, for the last 14 years, I've helped create these things for both PC and consoles as a 2D/3D Lead Environment Artist. I live and breathe this stuff.
I didn't just decide to create Rogue System a few months ago because the likes of Roberts and Braben burst back onto the scene. I've thought of doing this since I was 19; and, if I think about it, my entire adult career in both the USAF and the gaming industry have been moving me towards it.
Besides my family who are a never-ending source of motivation, I'd just like to take a minute to thank the people who have volunteered to help me during the past two years getting Rogue System to this point. They are:
- Kevin Chow -- Music and sound
- Paolo Pomes -- Early concept work
- Mark Pearce -- All that "web stuff"
- Adam Burch -- Orbital Station concept art
- David Rafferty -- Early Web help
- Kicking It Forward -- Thanks for giving another avenue to try and get great projects funded. http://kickingitforward.org
Finally, I'd like to thank Seth Steiling from Natural Point for graciously providing the TrackIR units. Cheers, mate :)
Risks and challenges
Every game-related project, be it a sim, shooter, RTS, or whatever, faces unique challenges, but the one thing that seems to smack most of them dead in the face is "time". Time is a developer's mortal enemy; or, specifically the lack thereof.
SO many things can chew away at a project's development time: lost work due to equipment failures, mass employee turnover, poor design and implementation. I've even seen another artist lose two days of work because they just kept their computer running and never thought to save the scene! From experience I can tell you that Murphy's Law and game development go hand in hand--if something can go wrong, it will.
If Rogue System is funded it WILL be finished, come Hell or high water. I know what it takes to ship a product and I've worked with the type of people you need in order to do it (many people just can NOT handle the pressure of getting a game "out the door"). So, the risk is not IF Rogue System will be finished, it's WHEN.
While I have done my very best to assure the Core Module will be released when scheduled, using my past experience to try and plan for as much adversity as possible, there are two factors that I simply can not predict that could delay it:
The first is people--you never know when someone will leave the team for whatever reason. You can schedule around their loss for a time, but you still need to replace them, and that takes time. I'll also have to build up the team initially; and while I have key people in mind I still can not predict how long it will take to get them all actually working. We're going to be an internet operation to keep expenses down (I've run an efficient internet-only art team for the past 4 years so I know it's possible), so that will help as people won't have to relocate. But even then negotiations could take longer than expected, etc. It takes time to find and secure quality people.
The second is testing. While we test our work as we go, often we can only test the functionality as it was designed to work. It's not until Alpha and Beta testing, when lots of people are putting it through its paces, that deeper "bugs" come to light. There's two choices at this point: ship the buggy piece of junk and try to fix it after the fact; or fix it PROPERLY before it ships, and that takes time. I want Rogue System to succeed, so I'm not about to ship it half-baked--we'll fix the bugs before we release.
The other thing I'll quickly mention is that sometimes while in development we run into features that just don't want to work as they were planned. Sometimes you can work through these. Other times, the best course of action is to leave them out all together, else risk bringing down the rest of the project by including a poor implementation. So far everything I've tested has worked, but I'll be pleasantly surprised if EVERYTHING goes as smoothly.
All I can do is promise you that, as I said above, I'll keep you informed every step of the way. By doing this you'll know of potential problems as they develop so that if there IS a delay, or if something needs to be set aside for a later module, it hopefully won't come as a shock. We'll work through it together to get the job done...Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (35 days)