The Road to the Beta: Chapter 1
Gooooooood evening ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for showing up here tonight for the grand opening of the weekly Limit Theory Road to the Beta development update series! It's an exciting day, but also a bit scary, since...I've not the slightest idea what an RTB is! I mean...should I...should I tell a joke? Or...pull a small bunny out of my slippers? No no...maybe a card trick!! ._. Hmm...well, we've gotta figure it out one way or another, so I guess I'll just dive in and see what happens...
Back to Basics
During my recent planning-and-mind-orienting week, I put my finger on something that's been bothering me about LT -- something that I thought can and should be attacked immediately during RTB. Generally, that something is the lack of visibility of core features that already exist in the engine. There's so much that already exists. There really is. But with the amount of revisions of various kind that we've been through, it's been hard for any of those features to consistently stay on the surface. Broadly, that's sort of the point of RTB. But even more specifically, this week, I decided to concentrate my firepower on the most basic of those areas: the thing you see first and last, the thing that serves up the direct information about your world and your ship, and, most importantly, the thing that is currently far more empty than it should be: the HUD.
Show Yourself, Limit Theory!
This week we welcome the following new widgets into the repertoire of LTSL-driven (i.e., compatible with the current and final UI) HUD components:
- Target display
- Miniscanner (small scanner output preview)
- Notifications list
- Compact hardpoints control panel
- Fast power distribution widget
Yes indeed, have a look below. You can eyeball the distance to a pack of enemies using the minimap, identify a mineral-rich rock on the scanner, route all power to the forward deflector shields, and even monitor your personal messages, all without leaving home base.
Please note that those notifications were added for show; your actual game experience of meeting or not meeting Darth Vader (and of obtaining reasonable prices on tetrite ore) may vary (I cannot be held responsible!)
I've also done away with the bottom menu, which was previously a "menu for the thing I'm flying" menu, and replaced it implicitly with HUD elements (since, it turns out, the HUD is also a "menu for the thing I'm flying"!) In this picture, for example, clicking the minimap will open the system map in a new window. Clicking the scanner preview will open the full scanner display. Clicking any of the targeted objects from the top-right will open their information window. The same applies to clicking any of the hardpoints in the bottom-left lattice. Concretely, this just means that the HUD is fast and simple to use. Although I wasn't able to complete a 'ship summary' widget in the week, I hope to add it as the last (major) missing piece, since it will then provide a link to opening the player's ship window.
Hardpoint Control Groups
Every good cap ship pilot knows that having lots of weapons calls for having weapon groups! After all, sometimes bringing down a mosquito doesn't require all the nukes. LT now has equipment groups, and the implementation is very simple. Several control group buttons live alongside the hardpoint nodes. One of these group buttons is always selected at any given time. Right-clicking (or performing an equivalent joy / gamepad action) on a hardpoint node will toggle whether that hardpoint is to be 'active' or not under the current control group (colors and opacity indicate whether the hardpoint is active). The group will remember these toggles, so that when you switch between groups, they'll be preserved. Simple! The number of available control groups can easily be changed as a setting.
It's also worth mentioning that the hexagonal lattice layout of the hardpoints is due to a new layout widget implemented this week. The reason I mention is because I'm quite excited to use these lattices in other places. They're ultra space-efficient, but, more than that, I'm seriously impressed by how good they look with comparatively-few frills (compared to a square lattice, for example.) Practical and attractive? Now that's a layout I could fall in love with...!
On-the-Fly HUD Customization
It's nice to finally have some stuff populating the HUD, but no doubt we're all going to have our own opinions of what should go where and how big it should be. In fact, your answer will almost certainly depend on the role(s) that you choose to pursue in game. For this reason, I created a simple and easy mechanism to allow players to customize their HUD without ever leaving the game. By toggling the HUD's "Edit Mode," HUD widgets will be converted into their proxy 'containers' -- big rectangles -- which can then be repositioned, resized, and (in the future) disabled and reconfigured.
This means that a single touch of a button turns this...
From here, we can literally just drag or shift-drag (to resize) these boxes and place them however we like. There's a grid-snap key as well. In no time at all we can have something like this...
And now just say the magic word (key) and we get...
Try tabbing between the first and last images at full-res so you can see the difference! Naturally, more extreme examples are also possible...
In the future, I'd love to add the ability to individually configure each widget (see those gear buttons in edit mode? Some day...). It'd be fantastic to be able to choose the behavior of your minimap, resolution of your scanner preview, shape of your center reticle, etc. all without ever having to leave the HUD (well, in edit mode). But for now, the point is already accomplished -- to give the player some power over that functionality! To let them feel and take control over what LT has to offer. Between having more content available to access from the HUD as you roam around, and having much more power to shape it, there's quite a difference in the feeling of game tactility between last week and today.
Now then! RTB is a merciless companion, so if you'll excuse me, I've got to barrel right on through into the next one. Please feel free to critique the RTB style or make suggestions if the format isn't doing it for you. But also keep in mind that I'm just starting to figure this out...I'm sure the process will get more entertaining :) From my end, though, this first week of testing the RTB ideology worked out really well! Less stress than a monthly video, but, hour-for-hour, I'd say a fair bit more productive as well. I remain very optimistic about this road :D
See you next week!
PS ~ I'm aware that the green health indicator on the side of the reticle sorta sticks out like a sore thumb in terms of color right now :T