// Welcome to Exeter Drydock Report 015
We. Are. The Mazer crew, and postin' on is how we do the do! We'll funk you up 'till you boogie down, so come on people check out this month's Starr Mazer Exeter Drydock Report!
We've got some interesting SHMUP focused stuff in this one, so throw on your Masei helmets, kick your kilder-thrust to maxi-plus and experience the u-force!
In addition to Starr Mazer SHMUP goodness, we have some interesting Starr Mazer: DSP wild as well! SHMUPS FOREVER!
Let's start with the main course...
Over to Paul!
// Development Update - April 9th, 2019
We're back with more updates on our development efforts!
Last month we said that we'd work heavily on our SHMUP level composition. We did that and more, adding some additional functionality for our enemy waves.
Let's get to it.
/// PROCEDURAL LEVEL SECTION UPDATES
We continued the work we'd started previously for the SHMUP tools section of Mazer Maker.
We improved the Procedural Section editor by adding a Wave selection property. This property allows the designer to set the Difficulty of a wave, the layer on which the wave is meant to appear (this allows background layers to be drawn on top of enemies) and how many times that wave should repeat.
Additionally, we can also set the type of enemies the engine should select and for how long it should wait between showing a wave.
On the subject of Procedural Sections, we also worked on how the scene can be built without much interaction from the designer. We start by setting an Initial Set followed by other sets that can have alternatives. These alternatives will be selected based on global variable changes, I.E. if this section was destroyed during a battle, a variable is updated and the next time the player passes by it will load an alternative set to reflect the battle.
Pretty cool I would say.
This is also a place where we choose what happens if all the sets passed by but there are still enemy waves to fight off. The designer can choose to repeat the last set or to select another one that will repeat until all enemies are defeated.
/// LEVEL COMPOSITION
After all the bits and pieces are put together in the Section Designers, the content creator only needs to enter the Level Manager and create a level. The content creator can add sections created previously in any desired order, without regard to whether they are Designed sections or Procedural sections.
/// BOSS FIGHTS
With most of the Level Composition in place, we shifted our attention to our enemies. Especially on how bosses are instantiated in the game.
We quickly came to the conclusion that we need to make bosses more interesting than the regular 1 wave passthrough that most of our other enemies have! We went ahead and worked on the boss behavior, which now accepts more paths in a single wave and can transition a boss from the end point of a path to the start point of the next one.
We also allow the content creator to loop a path before jumping to the next one. This means that the boss sticks around for longer during a fight (which is how it should be) and makes the fight more unpredictable for the player.
Come to think of it maybe we should add a random path property? ON IT!
Next month we'll talk more about bosses. Because bosses are awesome.
/// END OF DEV UPDATE
This is a short summary of last month.
Besides that, we also did a fair amount of bug crushing activities; nothing more worth mentioning here though. See you next month with more Mazer Maker news.
// ART Update - April 9th, 2019
This being a SHMUP update...
Wait guys. Just wait.
[airhorn sounds like it's the early 2000s]
YES! I DID THAT!
This being a SHMUPDATE, I'd like to show you Mazers a peek at what will be your introduction to the SHMUP side of Starr Mazer.
With Starr Mazer we have always concentrated on the concept of a story-first game, whose action elements would be additive to the experience, and not a huge leap from pointing and clicking and puzzling into HARDCORE ARCADE ACTION BRO!
As such, we are building a number of provisions for those among you who might be new to the pew pew, or who might be more interested in what Brick is thinking about this fire-fight than how ultra-twitch his controls are.
This isn't to say that we don't allow SHMUP veterans to lean into the action; just that we have worked hard to allow those who don't need/want eye-blistering action to dial it back
Or, as in the following example, TRAIN TO GET GUD!
!!! STORY SPOILERS START HERE !!!
Though Starr Mazer's story system is dynamic, delivering story chunks where contextually relevant to your individual play-through, everyone starts at Pilot school.
In fact, everyone starts out at pilot school more than 200 years before the events of the main game!
In in fact fact, everyone starts out at pilot school more than 200 years before the events of the main game controlling Flint P. Maelstrom, and not Brick M. Stonewood!
This allows us to introduce the world in media res (fancy pants!), show off a bunch of cool stuff that will be new to the player but not new to the characters in the story, and to introduce Brick M. Stonewood as the character he was before being lost in the Baratha Divide for over 200 years.
It also allows us to teach the player how to pilot a DSP MkII Special Assault Fighter!
!!! SPOILERS END HERE !!!
To do this, you get to use the training simulator.
Our man Elisha's been working on the training simulator, and, huff huff I do declare, his work has been rather, ellipsis, SIMULATING.
OMGBBQ I typed that whole thing out like it was going to be funny. It wasn't. No going back. Commit! MAXIMUM EFFORT!
Elisha! GO GO GO!
/// THE TRAINING SIMULATOR
For this month's update we looked into the SHMUP levels, starting with the training simulator pod. Specifically the transition from entering the pod in the PNC play-type and launching a SHMUP training simulation.
My initial idea was to have the pod suspended in a large, empty room. The room is filled with holographic equipment that would then project the simulation all over its walls, completely immersing the pilot.
This means that the transition from the pod to the simulation room has to be organic. We experimented with things like having the camera "pan through" the walls and rotate to the side.
This looked unnecessarily complex and a bit stretched out, so we ultimately decided the simulation to happen just within the pod itself, utilizing the huge screens and turning them into some sort of VR projector.
The next step was to finalize the actual training simulation environment.
I didn't want it to be the typical square-grid wireframe background; so I used various shapes and lines, with an abundance of hexagons.
Since this simulation acts as a tutorial stage, I made sure that the colors and contrast are not getting in the way of the foreground elements and make the game screen as readable as possible. A great way to test this is to have a mockup with some of the game sprites in front of the moving background.
Finally, the training ship has to be noticeably different from other UNFP ships, notably Brick's Starr Wolf.
To do this, I grabbed the main design elements of the combat ships; the look of a classic fighter jet but with a non-shiny texture and the orange highlights are replaced with a lime green color instead as a way to set it apart from combat ships.
Once in the simulation, the player should be able to, with a little work, master the SHMUP play-type.
/// FINAL AREA 88 TAKE-OFF SEQUENCE
Continuing from the last update, we polished the animations for the Starr Wolf and added some to the background.
The trickiest part in making this animation is making sure that the transition is seamless and stylish.
All in all, I'm pretty happy of how it turned out. What do you think?
See you next month!
// STARR MAZER: DSP - NEW ART & NEW TOOLS
Greetings all! Chris here! Welcome back to my little corner of space.
It’s been a heck of a month for us here in The DSP quadrant, what with the pre-GDC dev bash and all.
There have been almost innumerable advancements in the development in Starr Mazer DSP, luckily we’ve kept record of those! Let’s take a little dive, shall we?
The biggest thing of note is the massive amount of work that’s been going into completely overhauling the graphics. Look at how gorgeous the opening act looks!
Not only do we have new sprites ( images used by objects in game ) for user interface elements, level graphics, and a few enemy classes, but we also have some completely new rendering functions that expand on how an object in the game can look.
No longer do images have to appear flat and dull, but we can give them life by adding glow effects to not only a whole sprite, but individual pixels of a sprite, greatly adding to the dynamic look of our awesome new artwork!
SHADERS! Everyone loves shader, so we thought heck, why not add a whole bunch of them?! We’ve implemented a totally cool new shader stacking suite that will allow us to have many different layers of effects on screen at any given point in time. The explosion to my right is sending out a shockwave, and the colors on screen are splitting apart like some old monitor gone sour.
In addition to all of the work that’s gone into creating the shader stack, we’ve also spent a lot of time implementing and perfecting the totally cool new CRT mode! That’s right, we went there! Just look at the soft but still crisp image, the subtle color bleed and faint scanlines. That’s some real pretty goodness right there! But don’t you fret, if that’s not your jam, merely take a trip down to the options screen and toggle that humdinger!
We’ve also been putting a lot of care into making the game feel more dynamic, and one way we’ve done that is by pimping out your ship with cool new particle engines!
Just check out those bits of stuff coming off of your thing!
Boy that sure is a lot of stuff, I tuckered myself out with all that typing. I wish I had some kind of a bench right about now.
Oh, that’s right, I do!
Introducing the DSP Work Bench!
(Killer segue right?)
Check out this killer tool that I’ve been developing for the past couple of weeks since GDC. The DSP Work Bench is my solution to creating new content moving forward. With this tool we’ll be able to generate new ship formations, geometric patterns, and level content in an iterative and speedy process. As of the time of this writing, the ship formation editor is 90% complete and already ready for use!
Up to this point if I wanted to create a new enemy pattern, I’d have to write out anywhere from 12 - 20 lines of code, in two separate locations in our source code. Additionally to test that the formation even works, I’d have to recompile the game’s source code after every line of code to see that things are going the way that I want. This is a massive time eater, because compiles can take anywhere from 3-5 minutes. That’s a whole heck of a ton of waiting!
But with the DSP Work Bench, we can build ship formations at runtime, and test them as we are filling out all of the little textboxes, adding conditions, and changing variables INSTANTLY! That’s right, ship formations are no longer embedded into the DSP source code itself, but are rather saved to and loaded from an external save file. This little fella is going to save us tons of development time when curating new DSP content, now that we don’t need to rebuild the game every time we add stuff to it!
Boy howdy that sure is a ship load of progress we’ve made! As you can see we’ve been pouring a lot of love into realizing the potential of Starr Mazer DSP, and as we move on to the next phase of development, we hope that it continues to show!
Until next time.
Brave journeys, Cadets!
// The Wrap-Up
That's your April Drydock Report!
I'm sitting on a few NUCLEAR GRADE updates that I'd hoped to include in this one, but will need to be held back until next month due to some timing/organizational things. They're the big hotness, so keep your eyes peeled like grapes!
Oh, also, I'm not sure if you know this, but we have a Discord server on which you can reach out to us and chat directly! We're super responsive and I drop leaks on there like a cold war agent fifteen sheets to the wind on sodium pentothal.
Man, I probably should have mentioned the Discord server in previous updates...
I look forward to showing you more of our progress next month, Mazers.
Until then, I remain,
Don Thacker, Starr Commander