Time for another update. We have been quite busy lately so there is lots of ground to cover. Actually, we have decided to split this update into several parts otherwise we would end up setting some kind of world record in terms of number of pages. Instead of one enormous update, we are going to do more frequent updates for the next month or so.
The upcoming updates will cover (in no particular order):
- Game flow with the main GUI screens
- Boarding combat visuals
- Battle Orchestrator video
- Design tiers & lore
- New team members
- New community site
While we are not going to talk about the new community site today, here is a very quick preview of what we have planned.
In this update specifically we will discuss a couple of the things we are working on and then share something cool: physically based shaders. “But Peri, why should I care about physically based shaders?” you ask, well our answer to that is more sexy looking spaceships! Actually we decided to create a little interactive demo for you to play around with but more on that later in this update!
As you may remember from the previous update we showed you “The Plan” with the high-risk & high-value matrix. It should therefore come as no surprise to you that our focus these last few weeks has been on boarding combat, tools & mod support and the battle orchestrator (among other things).
For boarding combat we have been prototyping and testing pathfinding, the cover system, line of sight as well as fog of war. We have interactable objects like doors which can be opened and closed and destructibles like explosive barrels. We can put units into stances like crouch or prone which will take advantage of nearby cover and make units more difficult to spot or hit. Next up we will be prototyping the morale system (remember to bring along those officers and NCOs and try to keep them alive...).
On the art side we have been experimenting with how to build the ship interiors efficiently. Furthermore, we have brainstormed how doors should look and we are taking inspiration both from submarines and naval ships. Doors will play a crucial part during boarding operations. Boarding operations should feel quite intense and we want the interior of the ships to reflect this.
Also, in the name of efficiency we are testing how we can create a bunch of hallways and rooms that reuse similar types of textures. Below you can see concepts for three different hallway types which are all standard Mandate / Grand Fleet. We will show the actual 3D models and textures in a future update.
Of course all these hallways and doors need to lead somewhere, right? So we have started to plan out how the rooms will look, what functionality they will add to your shop (and what gets turned off if they get damaged or destroyed!). Below is a quick concept of a communications room, again in the style of the standard Mandate / Grand Fleet.
Moving along, let us talk a bit about mod support & tools. We are pretty confident that we will hit the $800,000 stretch goal for extended mod support via extra funding through PayPal and BackerKit during development. So we are moving ahead with this stretch goal now as this would not be easy to introduce later. First we asked ourselves: What if we wanted to create a total conversion for <insert your favourite sci-fi game>? What tools would we need to avoid any programming? So we started to discuss how best to organize our engine and how to separate code and data. Of course we also looked at how other developers have tackled this challenge and some of our developers are modders themselves. In parallel we have started to write the tool designs to allow us to design weapons, ships, missions as well as build the world map. We kill two birds with one stone this way: The Mandate will be more mod friendly and a more intelligent engine architecture benefits us developers since expansions and sequels can be created more efficiently.
Last update we also revealed the Battle Orchestrator (BO). You responded with a lot of good feedback and suggestions both on Kickstarter and on the forums. So far you have only seen the concepts and design mockups. Internally, however, we have a working prototype that looks almost identical to the concepts and it is pretty cool. We are still doing some tweaks and tests but we expect to share a video with you of the BO in action in the not too distant future. Specifically for boarding operations we plan to implement something similar to the BO but it will work a bit differently there. Oh yeah, we discussed using a different acronym than BO (body odor) but after a few funny misunderstandings in the office, we decided to keep it ;)
Before we continue, here are a few mockups for the Mandate destroyer class. You may remember we released a concept of one of the destroyers during our Kickstarter campaign. Well, actually in the image below you can see a "family photo" of sorts since we have all 27 possible combinations on display. These are just simple Google Sketchup mockups but will turn into sleek ships sometime in the future.
In the introduction we mentioned physically-based shaders and made the case that this is actually useful. Here to tell us a bit more about physically-based shaders is Vegard, our tech director:
The standard lighting model has been with us in computer graphics for a long time and works by adding up a bunch of different algorithms that roughly describe the way one element of light works in nature. One of the results of this is that in the standard model, a surface can quite easily reflect more light than comes into it! Physically Based Rendering (PBR) considers all materials to be energy conserving, so it’s impossible for a surface to reflect more light than comes in, whether that light is described as reflection, specular or diffuse light. Another big benefit of using PBR is that it’s a very good way of describing metals, which often tint the specular highlight towards their colour. Even a perfectly smooth surface of gold will tint the reflections yellow. Since we’re using a great deal of metals in The Mandate, it’s important to have a good and predictable way of shading them. The third big benefit of PBR is that the specular highlights are much more accurately described based on viewing angle. A surface in the real world that is facing nearly flat on towards the viewer appears a great deal less reflective than one facing at a glancing angle. You can see a good example of this if you drive down a wet road towards the sun, and compare that with what you see if you look straight down onto a wet road. But don’t take our word for it:
For a video of the physically based shaders in action CLICK HERE
To download the interactive demo [Windows only]:
Keep in mind that these visuals are highly WORK IN PROGRESS and by no means final. Well that’s it for today. Hope you found it interesting and we expect to have another update for you within a couple of weeks!