On the observation deck
For today’s update we will cover three topics in particular. First we will discuss some changes we are doing to service branches based on both internal and external feedback. If you did not read the previous update #38 you might want to CLICK HERE to review it before proceeding. Secondly, we will discuss our event system and also elaborate on ceremony events as well as where they take place (hint: check the headline). Lastly we will discuss the progress with ship interiors and show a sneak peek of what we have in store for one of the next updates.
But first things first. We decided to revamp both crew progression and service branches (name may change). The first change is now that enlisted is a separate career track in the progression for your crew. While specialists will focus on a narrow set of skills, enlisted are more a jack-of-all-trades. You will need to strike the right balance between the number of specialists and enlisted in your crew as this will affect your ship’s performance and also redundancy (in case of battle losses enlisted are more flexible). The chart below shows the revised career track for your crew. Keep in mind that the distinguishing features for each crew type is not finalized and just for illustration purposes.
The second change is that we decided to remove the logistics branch altogether, and so we cut service branches from seven to six. Several others tweaks have taken place as well: infantry and cavalry have been merged into security, artillery has been renamed to weapons, science has been split into science, medical and astrogation. Astrogation covers both helm/navigation and sensors. The uniforms have been updated to reflect these changes and we also decided to use some special patterns, for example for astrogation and medical.
Changing focus a bit, let’s talk about our event system. In The Mandate, the choices you make during character creation will impact your part of the universe, your sandbox, in different ways. Did you save a famous captain from the clutches of pirates? If so, you may have a powerful ally waiting for you in your game world. The event system will use these decisions to tailor your sandbox as well as add specific situations and encounters during play.
The basis for our event system is that it uses player’s actions as input to produce a desired output. When events are further linked to our faction reputation system the result is a more dynamic story arc. As you play and expand your sphere of influence and build up your economy, you will see changes taking place in your sandbox. For example if you build remote mining operations these will link up to your supply network. Freighters may pickup and haul ore back to refineries and merchants will arrive to buy surplus resources.
This is all well and good but one of our key focus areas with The Mandate is your crew and naturally we want to have events that center on your crew and ship, just like the TV shows we are inspired by. You can walk around your ship and interact with your crew, hear their concerns and perhaps help them with specific problems that they may have. Other times you may need to respond to events that are a consequence of your latest space battle or planetary investigation mission, for example damage to systems, stowaways or put crew in quarantine due to risk of disease.
A special type of event is the ceremony event which covers things like funerals, court martials, executions, ship christening/decommissioning, dignitary inspections etc. These all take place on the observation deck which is situated above the bridge deck. Again, if you review the previous update you can see a side-view of the positioning of the various decks.
Some ceremonies have interactive elements where you as captain get several choices to pick from. Certain choices may require skill checks, sufficient reputation or special items. Did you manage to deliver a particularly engaging eulogy or did you botch it up? Either way you can expect your crew to be affected by your actions and how they perceive you.
Next up we thought we should give an update on the progress with ship interiors. We are already quite happy with how our ships look externally and we are pushing to get the same level of detail and interest for the ship interiors.
Ship interiors are important both for boarding gameplay as well as walking around and interacting with your crew (for example during the events mentioned previously). Our deck plans should not just feel like interior levels -they should make us feel that we are actually inside a ship. Therefore we are experimenting with ways to add the feeling of depth and cramped spaces. We are adding elements like pipes, substructures and bulkheads. This is an iterative process where we go back and forth between the concept team and the 3D art team. Below you can see an earlier 3D model of one of our rooms.
It is often useful to show rather than tell, so the concept team will do paintovers to clarify what direction to take the 3D model in. Here is an example of a paintover for the room in the previous image where the concept artist has added self-illuminated textures, objects to help make the room feel more busy and cramped as well as transparency on the floor to reveal pipes and lights below which help add depth to the scene. The 3D artists then do a 2nd pass on the room to bring it more in-line with art direction.
All the work on the interiors is starting to pay off. The procedural textures were quite new to us when we started but now we have more experience with this technology and can push it further. We are getting close to where we want to be visually and are now playing around with how to light the interior scenes. In parallel we have also done stress testing to check how expensive it is to have many unique characters on the screen at the same time. Our aim is for The Mandate to look appealing on modern PCs yet scale well to run on older hardware, too.
You may remember the floor plan for the bridge deck from the previous update and we decided to expand it slightly by adding a few more rooms. We are using this bridge deck to prototype assembly of corridors and rooms. Also we are testing out crew interaction, pushing the visual quality, performing lighting tests, animation tests and pathfinding tests. Stay tuned for more details on the bridge deck in a future update.
We will round off this update with a couple of screenshots of our work-in-progress bridge deck. First up is the captain quarters which you can see below. This is still very much work in progress.
Also we have a view from the bridge which is currently on red alert. Again, this is work in progress.
We normally do not cover non-game Kickstarter campaigns but we wanted to give a shout out about the Reading Rainbow project, which aims to engage and teach children to read. Both LeVar Burton (chief engineer Geordi La Forge) and Brent Spiner (Mr Data) from Star Trek: The Next Generation are involved. Star Trek: TNG is one of several sci-fi shows alongside Battlestar Galactica, Firefly & Babylon 5 that serve as inspiration for The Mandate.
Your friends at Perihelion Interactive