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News: Paul & Fred have reached a settlement with Stardock!

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31  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Paul Reiche III is linked to the Nintendo Revolution on: May 18, 2006, 04:01:25 pm
A recent interview with Paul Reiche III has this quote:
Quote
RN: What else can we expect to see from Toys for Bob for the Wii? Are there any plans for the Wii?

Reiche: We've got a whole webpage full of them inside our company, everyone's got all of these ideas from a morning star simulator to a spray can game, because you could sort of shake it up and spray it. So we've got a ton of ideas, but nothing fixed right now. A lot of us want to work on a Star Control game actually, which is an old science fiction game we did that has a big fan following, and we would love to go back and do another one of those.
32  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Network Gaming on: May 10, 2006, 07:18:46 pm
Short response: it is possible to write a good network implementation for Timewarp, and quite possibly for UQM using a Kaillera model, but it'll take a truckload of work. 

Long response: The "Kaillera model" actually works reasonably well for some types of games, including joystick-based games (let's lump Star Control-like games in this catagory). 

So this model means just sending the keypress events+timing and treat the game engine as a black-box.  For emulated games, for sure this is the only way to do it, as you don't have access to meaningful game data, like the position of objects, game states, etc.  Kaillera has no idea that you're Ryu doing a fireball motion, all it knows is that you're player 1 sending: down @ t=1000, down-forward @ t=1100, forward @ t=1200, button 3 @ t=1300.  Each of those events is sent to the local "black box" emulator instance according to some timing rules.  If all those UDP packet blindly make it to the other end, the other end also sending those events to its "black box" instance according to timing rules.  If everything goes well, Ryu throws a fireball on both machines.  If not, you're in an invalid state where one computer shows Ryu throwing a fireball, and another shows any number of things based on the packets dropped or the timing they show up. 

Recall that UDP does not guarentee packet order, does not guarentee arrival, does not let the sender know the message has arrived, but has little overhead. 

I haven't looked at Kaillera in a long while, but generally it was passable to play games for a few minutes, but not much longer than that.  You could not expect to play for, say, contiguous days using that implementation. 

There are ways to improve on this implementation.  You could send more data to reconstruct past data, in case any parts were missed, similar to using partity files, or at the very least, repeat some previous messages to improve reliability.  It's possible to apply some good-ol' fashion nerdy math and intelligence to improve on this model.  You could also make the game itself more reliable in the face of stale or invalid data, dead reckoning, that kind of thing. 

But this isn't the "correct" way.  The correct way is to use a proper networking lib that is capable of working with your data objects and methods directly, and providing a level of abstraction above UDP.  Let it handle interpolation etc.  I had made an attempt to do this with TW-Light 18 months ago (related Subversion branches) using Raknet, but unfortunately the task exceeded my skill level and time constraints.  Mostly skill level. Smiley 

Also in terms of a central game server, Raknet provides such a framework for finding games.  One of their example programs specifically addresses this.  You could also "cheap out" and simply use an external provider like Gamespy, and start the game by specifying the server to connect to from the command line.  But this means publishing the server's availability, presumably by using their API somehow.
33  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Heads-up about the remix site on: May 04, 2006, 01:23:04 am
Do you have a backup of the webpage's content and DB if applicable?  If you don't have a backup, but still have access, backup everything ASAP.  As in, copy the complete contents and burn two copies. 

Do you own the domain name?  Looks like it won't expire for months. 

If you have the contents and the domain name, just use another server, they are very cheap these days.  It's not that big of a deal, and it's certainly not the end of the world.  Smiley  Web hosting is so cheap these days, this should not be a showstopper for the remix project.  Lemmie guess: someone is a student at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and now that the semester's over, nobody wants to host it there anymore. Smiley

If you're really stuck for a server, maybe I can help out by hosting it temporarily on my crappy little web server while you guys find a more permanent home.  I don't think the bandwidth will allow for storing the entire files, but we can find some solution that will work.  The web content shouldn't be a problem.  Is it just static HTML, or does it need a database?  I wouldn't accept any money or anything, but depending on bandwidth I might not be able to host it permanently. 

Heck you could just use a Geocities page and use an IFrame to point www.medievalfuture.com there.  To the outside world, it would look mostly seemless.  Google doesn't pick up such pages, but it'll keep you guys going for the time being. 

Anyhow lemmie know if you need anything.  I'll be AFK preparing and participating in TOJam the rest of the week, but email if you're really stuck.  No matter how you slice it, you should be able to find a solution without too much difficulty.  Best of luck!
34  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / Starbase Café / Re: Star Control : TimeWarp on: April 18, 2006, 05:15:36 am
Ok, we're currently looking at redoing the interface. 

We made an attempt to redo it a year and change ago, using Allegro's train wreck of a GUI API.  We're trying a more educated approach this time around based on lessons learned last time. 

Good things are coming for TW-Light and Timewarp.  The scripting stuff should be pretty slick once it gets going.  Extensive thought and design is going into it, with attention on mod-ability and expandability, without sacrificing stability.  In fact, with any luck, we'll expose more bugs by developing an API and creating Python bindings for it.  We'll be in a better position to use unit testing to do necessary refactoring. 

Please do keep the honest feedback coming, it's much appreciated.  It's definitely more efficient to use the bug trackers, but if people are more comfortable posting here and end up having more elaborate debates, go for it. 
35  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: tfb regains licensing rights to Star Control name? on: April 15, 2006, 01:50:22 am
GameSpot has picked up on this on their "Rumour Control" page. Smiley
36  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: tfb regains licensing rights to Star Control name? on: April 13, 2006, 03:19:58 am
The plan is to get as much publicity from this as possible, but first we need to get a page up, one which will be able to handle a lot of traffic.
Meep-eep: There exists such a service here: http://www.petitiononline.com/petition.html

In terms of getting publicity, here are some ideas.
  • Put UQM in Torrent format.  Allow people to post a link to the torrent freely, on blogs, forum signatures, everywhere.  Rumour has it that games spread like wildfire via this technique, it'd be nice if it was desired by its developers this time. Smiley
  • In the UQM installer, provide a Start Menu shortcut to a news page, which presumably has an obvious link to the petition webpage.  Maybe link to the petition directly, but that's a little heavy-handed. 
  • Make some of the more dance-able remixes into modules for the open-source DDR-like game Step Mania.  Kind of an obscure association, who knows how big their user base is and if they would be interested in UQM. 
  • Make Star Control-styled WinAmp skins.  In the skin's description on Winamp.com, post the link to the news or petition page. Again, somewhat obscure.
  • http://www.wilwheaton.net/ , http://slashdot.org , http://www.theonion.com , http://suicidegirls.com/news/ ... if we get a nice, professional-looking press release, maybe try more mainstream media outlets?
It would be an honour to have Timewarp stuff used if they want to; somehow I think they'll do their own thing in the end. Smiley
37  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Ideas for after 1.0 on: February 17, 2006, 10:59:11 pm
2. Planet terrain is basically a dozen recycled low rez bitmaps, which makes all the planets feel the same and basically ruins exploration.

See Terragen, software that renders landscapes.  Set the camera to look straight down, save the parameters for next time, use Gimp/PS to get it to loop reasonably.  I remember trying to do this way back when and it was there was a reasonable technique to doing this.  For high res you might have buy the software. 

Best o' luck!
38  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Improving the original? What to improve to do the game even better? on: December 29, 2005, 10:53:12 pm
Right.  Other games have a user profile built into the game, and keeping this data there would be one way to do it (example Prince of Persia: Sands of Time).  Most just have the ability to skip a tutorial quickly (Example EV: Nova), or make it fast enough that power users can finish it in no time at all (Example World Of Warcraft, City of Heroes, Call of Duty).  Other games just have the help/tutorial text unobtrusive, so that there's nothing to do to avoid it (StarCraft). 

Each method has its advantages/disadvantages.  One consideration is how long do we expect users to play the game?  Is it worth having a 0.5-hour tutorial for a 15-hour game?  Is the same "user" the same physical person?  Is the player's style more to try everything possible right away, then go through tutorials; or is it to go throught tutorials first?  Has this user played the game back in the 90's; and how much does she remember?  How could the software know? 

A curious statistic is that only about 60% of game players actually finish modern games.  (Source: a Ubisoft game designer at a presentation here in T.O. this summer -- whose name escapes me right now.)

I believe UQM could use unobtrusive (that do no interrupt the player) text tips that are shown once per instance of a "full game."  Most of the time, Hayes and other NPCs explain what to do in reasonable detail, but there's often just that one little bit of info users need to actually execute something. 

Your suggestion about choosing this option someplace is great.

Side note: would users get confused about whether it's safe to collide with a planet?  In melee, colliding with the planet damages your ship.  In a star system, colliding with a planet lands on it.  Ambiguous interface. A fix might be to convey how to land when the player first visits the star exploration screen such that we're looking at a single planet (ie when you get close enough to land on it).  Still, in the star system view, you'll have to collide with a planet just to get to this view.  Gah! 
39  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Improving the original? What to improve to do the game even better? on: December 29, 2005, 08:47:21 pm
Consider:

Idea: Prevent the user from leaving the Sol system when game starts.  When the player has completed at least the first set of tasks inside the Sol system (Pluto, Luna, defeat crippled Illrath, introduced to Hayes), then allow the user to leave the system. 

Motivation: Usability, approachability

Pro:
* Makes the game much more approachable.  Leaving the Sol system without any means of getting fuel or understanding what the game is about puts the player in a very difficult situation. 

Con:
* This might confuse users as to what the game mechanic is to leave star systems in general.  (see below)
* Hard-code players might not like this change
* Restricts the user's choices, which doesn't match the open exploration aspect of the game. 

Notes:
* At the very beginning of the game, new users will have no idea what hyperspace is or how to access it.  The intro hints at it, but doesn't show how to access it in-game. 



Idea: Provides in-game tips that introduce game mechanics.  The first time the user is expected to do something, explain how to do it. 

Presumably, this is implemented by displaying text directly on the screen for a few seconds, or providing some kind of GUI pop-up (like a Tip-Of-The-Day thingy that most software has). 

Example: when leaving Sol for the first time, show text that says, "Enter hyperspace by flying piloting to the edge of the screen," or "Press <button> to select a star system to auto-pilot to."  (This is best when coupled with the idea above)

Example: When entering a planet's orbit for the first time, explain to the user about how to scan, land on its surface, etc.  Keep it concise! 

Example: When selecting a ship for combat for the first time, explain what the selection of ships will do.  Explain that losing your main ship will lose the game. 

Example: When starting combat for the first time, display the current key selection. (?)

Motivation: Usability, approachability

Pro:
* Makes the game more approachable for new users. 

Con:
* Somewhat patronizing for hard-core players. 

Notes:
* See the game Escape Velocity: Nova for great examples of this. 


Idea: While the user is doing the first few missions in Sol, give the player free landers and fuel if they are exhausted.  It is possible that the user exhausts their fuel supply by repeatedly landing on planets. 

To implement, add a conversation bullet that says, "We're out of fuel, can you spare some just this one time?"  Hayes should tell the user that they are out of fuel and can't complete the missions without more.  Hayes should inform the user that he is giving the command ship more fuel, but "just this once".  Moreover, Hayes should also clearly and concisely reitereate the current objectives, as the user is probably frustrated at this point. 

Not sure if this is already implemented or not. 
Motivation:Approachabilty
Pro:
* Makes the game easier for new users
Con:
* Seeing the text "We're out of fuel, can you spare some just this one time" might confuse users that the fuel is always free...
Notes:
40  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: List of space-related games on: November 17, 2005, 07:22:38 pm
Games Like ... A round-up of similar games (Timewarp discussion thread)

41  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / Starbase Café / Re: New Open Source Game on: September 19, 2005, 08:44:47 am
Give'r. Smiley  For better or for worse, welcome to open source and open communities. Smiley 

Consider the following:
* do your research.  About 2-3 good quality indie games come out each year that are Star Control-like in  nature.  Find them, and learn what you can from them.  Look in these and star-control.com forums for the "games like" threads, and elsewhere.  Most communities are not hard-core for-profit enterprises, so they will be willing to talk if you keep relations polite; and in your game, keep your ideas front and center. 
* write your GDD, and stick to it.  Don't let it get stale, and don't let it get lame.  Smiley
* You and your friends' are best asset's for talking through ideas. 
* Consider code reuse.  Quake3 Arena, making a mod, joining one of the existing groups (I'll just be evangelical this once in this thread: consider TW-Light)
* look in existing communities for support and help: http://igda.org/indie/, http://sourceforge.net, htpp://developer.berlios.de, http://gamedev.net, your local IGDA chaper, etc. 
* consider SVN over CVS for your source control.  Presently, sf.net support for SVN is experimental; for berlios.de it's better, and in the past 1.5 years, has improved to the point that it's pretty much reliable.  Personal preference.  Food for thought. 

Best of luck!
42  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / Starbase Café / Re: 3-D Star Control 2 Melee: BF2 Mod on: September 19, 2005, 08:05:21 am
Great idea, guys, best of luck.  Consider the Quake3 arena GPL code or Ogre3d while you're at it, but having a more modern and scriptable codebase is very valuble right there.  Back in the day, we considered doing the same thing with the Unreal engine, but decided to stick with our 2D guns.  For sure, this is a great idea. 
43  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: ship videos? on: August 06, 2005, 06:41:25 pm
Kinda off topic and late, but we had some success making gameplay videos over at TW-Light/Timewarp. 

Divx Format, 44 MB (44,714,908)
MPEG2 format, 87 MB (87,265,284)
QuickTime, 78 MB (77,159,802) (Sorenson compression)

Browse all files here.

Discussion to see how we did it. 

Also, many moons ago we tinkered with a hack in TW that would generate screenshots of each ship, then a tool would combine them into animated Gifs. 
44  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Timewarp, anyone? on: February 18, 2005, 07:18:25 am
The interface in TW and TW-Light is pretty confusing.  Have a look at the user's guide on the TW Wiki.  It explains a bit about the interface, at least.  There may be a few other tidbits of useful info there as well.  

Hope that helps!
45  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Researching Star Control Board Game Interest on: November 02, 2004, 10:31:32 pm
Links:
Star Chamber: a card-trading online game with a space theme.  See also a post-mortem of Star Chamber (free registration req'd) by its sole author.

StarConRPG: An online role-playing game set in the SC universe.  It's built around a forum, and actual role-playing. Smiley  They may have some words of wisdom on this.

If, nay, when you get going with this commercially, go talk to the blessed TFB directly.  They're really nice peeps!
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