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Author Topic: The Masters Thoughts  (Read 4988 times)
HadriaDiMare
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The Masters Thoughts
« on: September 27, 2012, 04:52:25 pm »

I have been playing this remake for some time, as my first experience with the star control games. I must say that its an addicting game and with the current updates in terms of scalers and resolution it looks great, along with the mixed PC/3D0 options for the audio and gameplay is great.

But having the source code, there are a few primal things that must be done to this game to actually make it playable and, most of it with the UI. You either play with a piece of paper on your side and found writing numbers, rogue words, planet and system names or solving riddles which may or may not lead you to death. The game keeps track of nothing for you. This has to change, you cant expect people to be playing this on mobile devices; which is the future for this game. It has to have ingame records, ingame notepad, mission follower and alike. A track of planets visited and looted would be nice along with stars.

There is another thing I would have but its not as important, it has to do with battles. I would get the whole fleet in the background, either duking it out without relevence untill the player passed the primary control or in the same plane and with direct results. That would either make the battles more fun to watch and play without breaking the game or give it a complete rebirth.

Star Control 3, more "star control"? Base building, ground combat, invasions and a lot more AI for moving races within their personas on the map without you getting involved. Master of Magic style of strategy or of Orion. All of that with the same amount of adventure. Darklands/Star Control 2 kind of thing. I would also keep the graphics 2D for a lot of systems including mobiles, but with higher resolution of course. Maybe a few isometric parts for ground combat or 2D directly as well.  2D isometric combat between a lot of forces being a soldier ala MSV arcades with decent ai and action could get pretty addicting and easy or directly as a general in line, more so on mobile devices. Multiplayer, even for the main game. Ease of modification. All of this could give the game a lot of replay value and many games without victory and zero frustration if done well. Its not easy to mix adventure with strategy and roleplaying but it could work on a higher level with a procedural program.
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Re: The Masters Thoughts
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2012, 06:42:47 pm »

To make it playable? It's very playable. I have hand-drawn maps of the entire maze of Wizardry: the Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, large chunks of Might and Magic 1, and detailed notes concerning Final Fantasy 1.

Sure, all of that was old. I have text file notes on 20 games published since 2006, and easily 10 more from the previous decade.

In an adventure game, it is not an unreasonable expectation that the player should write some things down. One thing I would feel OK with is an easily togglable 'where I've gone' history directly overlaid on the starmap and in solar systems. That would cover a lot of the fiddly details, and I expect not too difficult to implement.

As for the fleet duking it out... do you have a plan for implementing that in a way that wouldn't completely suck?
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HadriaDiMare
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Re: The Masters Thoughts
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2012, 08:41:50 pm »

Thats alright if you have the option to do so but, for one. A computer game should have you using the computer and nothing else and multitasking with this game active has strange results either way. You can hand draw the maps but, so can the computer as you explore them for you, thats its meaning for being a computer. Computational power is not a problem and it wasnt back then when this form showed up. Its a question of combining this method with the present code if possible.

Personally, I think its fun to do so yourself but that just limits the game in certain enviroments, including mobile devices and a post nuclear world with electricity but no paper or lead. Equally, there are small changes that must be made to system exploration logistics ingame and alike as you mentioned for the new class of people playing this, especially on mobile markets. The game is great, more so with a few projects I have seen around this sight with updated graphics based on the original artwork but the most important is getting it to todays stand in terms of 4X games digital logistic review as to make the game more accesible within the game itself.

This is just a conjecture but I think that the program alone can handle the extra sprites in the combat scene, bet it on the same layer or under it. Another question would be the AI but it might only be a few lines of code making use of the original. If not it doesnt matter because there is more MHZ today and if the main program accepts it; why not?

I see it in two forms. The first would have the combat take place in the second layer of the screen, each ship with its independent AI and shooting or moving according to other ships, except the players ship. The players ship would be on the first layer with its current target alone with the planets and asteroids. The combat in the background would not have any effect, it would just be for visual purpose. Even recorded events would serve in this case. No AI at all and just a desicion based on data. Either way, when the player finishes off an enemy he gets to target another enemy of this battle taking place in the second layer and begins the normal combat mode of 1vs1.

The second form is having the battle occure in the second layer with results based on AI and statistics and when the control is passed to the player keep those results ingame but not disturbing the overall player 1vs1 battle, or simply having all of them on the same layer. Which would be chaos but it might be more fun. Besides, you can crank a lot of ships from that terran starbase.

Both ways are interesting, the first is better and cost effective if you consider doing a few patterns for the battles without AI to then strictly apply statistics.

No, I will not do this because Im playing the game and the rest of time Im editing videos or cleaning the damned house or simply getting drunk while I feast at a bar nextdoor. The first about UI has to be done if this game is going to live today for new players and more so if its going to survive in the mobile market. In fact, you could even sell it as the best of versions for mobile devices. People would buy it and a deal based on shares could be made with the owners of the trademarks, giving place to RU for this site and team.
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Re: The Masters Thoughts
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2012, 10:01:00 pm »

Your posts are mostly tl:dr for me right now (maybe I'll read them more thoroughly later when I have more time), but you do realize you can use a text editor for your notes, right? UQM can run in windowed mode.
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Re: The Masters Thoughts
« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2012, 11:19:09 pm »

What you're proposing is *completely* outside the UQM project's goals. UQM is a straight port. It's not a remake, it's not a rewrite, it's a straight port of the 3DO version of Star Control II, aimed at behaving as much like the original as possible. What you want is also pretty impractical in terms of a UQM mod (much of the code is pretty much unchanged from what TFB wrote 20 years ago), it'd be easier to write a whole new game. That has been tried before, and it didn't exactly turn out well.
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Re: The Masters Thoughts
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2012, 07:30:55 am »

"But having the source code, there are a few primal things that must be done to this game to actually make it playable and, most of it with the UI. You either play with a piece of paper on your side and found writing numbers, rogue words, planet and system names or solving riddles which may or may not lead you to death. The game keeps track of nothing for you. This has to change, you cant expect people to be playing this on mobile devices; which is the future for this game. It has to have ingame records, ingame notepad, mission follower and alike. A track of planets visited and looted would be nice along with stars."

Not only did I write notes for this game 20 years ago when it was new, I wrote on my map, noted important planets and systems, correlated the rainbow worlds, portals between hyper and quasi, etc. This is an old school adventure game which required you to keep track of things with a pen and a pad, as many games did back then. Even if it was released today, i would not be in favor of the game keeping track of these things for me. Part of the fun and RP of a game like this one was forcing you to truly keep track of what you are doing and what you have learned, otherwise it is too much hand holding.

To your combat suggestion, I would agree that it would have been a nice touch to see the rest of the fleet in the background, but I wouldn't put it as a real need.

"Star Control 3, more "star control"? Base building, ground combat, invasions and a lot more AI for moving races within their personas on the map without you getting involved. Master of Magic style of strategy or of Orion."

I really can't agree with this at all. Star Control 3's system was a tedious waste of time in that department with virtually 0 value. I found that by the time any settled colony of any race was of value to me, I was near the end of the game and far too loaded already. Might and Magic and Master of Orion are very different games then Star control 2. You really can't compare them.

"Thats alright if you have the option to do so but, for one. A computer game should have you using the computer and nothing else and multitasking with this game active has strange results either way. You can hand draw the maps but, so can the computer as you explore them for you, thats its meaning for being a computer. Computational power is not a problem and it wasnt back then when this form showed up. Its a question of combining this method with the present code if possible."

....The map is already in the game, the problem is the map is so large you really need a paper map outside the game to look at. I also completely disagree with a computer game should need nothing else but the computer. The point of any adventure game past and present is to be treating as such. Adventuring means keeping track of what you have done and where you have been. I don't see how doing this on pc or by hand is relevant.  Now I do agree this can limit the playability on a mobile device, but having to type that information into the device will be equally annoying.

"graphics based on the original artwork but the most important is getting it to todays stand in terms of 4X games"

Your not using the term 4X properly here. Star Control 2 is NOT a 4X game, it never was and isn't meant to be. 4X was coined by Alan Emrich the creator of Master of Orion (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate). Those games are Strategy games, not adventure games.

As per the rest of what you are describing, you have to remember how old the code is. What you are describing would actually take a huge amount of re-writing to make happen if it can at all. The game engine simply wasn't designed to handle multi-layer coding like that. It would work if the engine had been built for a modern RTS combat system (Which is what I honestly think you meant when you meant 4X standards) or at the least a TBS system which would be more friendly to a Stats based combat but when you look at this game, the Stats just aren't that relevant. (Show of hands, how many of you can kill any ship in this game on Max difficulty using a thradash ship?)

I do like the idea of seeing the rest of you fleet and the enemy fleet fighting in the background. I think that would be a killer image to look at (Be a great screensaver idea) but consider what you have to code just to do this.

First you would need to create sprite images for EVERY possible battle combination the game could create. There are 21 Ships in the game including your vessel and your fleet can have 14 ships plus yours which can be any number of ships between your 1 or the full 15. This is well over 100,000 possible scenarios and possibly a lot more (I am not going to run the 35 permutation and 35 computational stats sets to figure out the final number but doing just 5 of them broke 100,00). Then you need to animate all of that, figure at least 8 images for each animation. Point being is in the end you have millions of images made. Then you have to build a code, compatible with the current engine, that can both identify the ships in your fleet, the ships in the enemy fleet, then call up the specific images to make that background, be able to recognize and change that background based on ships that have been destroyed or left combat and finally then be able to do all of this without causing the actual battle your are controlling to lag. See how much hell you just went through for this one idea?

What you describe might be doable in a modern game that uses cg generation to create the images as the game is played but in a game like this that uses hand drawn sprites, it just isn't possible as much as I'd love to see it.

If this game were made today, some of what you say I could get behind particularly for the mobile devices. As it stands, for 20 years ago, the game was ahead of it's time, for today, it holds up exceptionally well and the only thing i would have said is growing badly dated (the graphics) have been getting a gorgeous overhaul by our awesome, if not slightly insane friends around here.
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Re: The Masters Thoughts
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2012, 02:26:37 pm »

First you would need to create sprite images for EVERY possible battle combination the game could create. There are 21 Ships in the game including your vessel and your fleet can have 14 ships plus yours which can be any number of ships between your 1 or the full 15. This is well over 100,000 possible scenarios and possibly a lot more (I am not going to run the 35 permutation and 35 computational stats sets to figure out the final number but doing just 5 of them broke 100,00). Then you need to animate all of that, figure at least 8 images for each animation. Point being is in the end you have millions of images made. Then you have to build a code, compatible with the current engine, that can both identify the ships in your fleet, the ships in the enemy fleet, then call up the specific images to make that background, be able to recognize and change that background based on ships that have been destroyed or left combat and finally then be able to do all of this without causing the actual battle your are controlling to lag. See how much hell you just went through for this one idea?

OK, what the heck are you talking about here? The way I'm reading this, it sounds like you would suggest that every possible combination of enemies in Super Mario Bros needs its own sprite. This is not how animation in games generally works. If UQM were modded to allow many ships to fight at once, each ship would of course get its own sprite. No additional graphics would be needed.

As an aside, other than tradition, one of the biggest reasons for keeping the combat as it is is it would be incredibly difficult to do a good job designing a combat system in a game like UQM where you have no control over fellow ships. The big problem is the ships cost resources, and if they aren't extremely reliable and you can't save them from destruction, it would make ship building entirely pointless and a waste of resources.
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Re: The Masters Thoughts
« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2012, 05:39:31 pm »

*lights a cigar*

No, Star Control 2 is a 4X Adventure game with limited digital logistic records. Partially becuase they thought you didnt need more than the present being an "adventure" game and in the time it was published with an excellent hand drawn map. You give the same team a year or two more of working time and they would have made other areas of the game outside of the adventure part more complex and stimulating. In Star Control 2, you live an adventure but you also play a limited 4X game with elements of roleplaying mixed with an arcade game like combat. You are making strategic decisions regarding fuel and upgrades along with a partial economy model for which they didnt even need to make so many different resources. You conquer other races at your own free will and even make them attack certain areas of the map. You exploit every Christ you find, even looting home systems of every single material possible or simply destroy others ships for RU. You even upgrade your ship as if it was a roleplaying game, from combat to strategic wise options in the main map as being able to call for trading help when short of fuel. It is an unfinished game as every game ever published. An unfinished 4X adventure/roleplaying game in space. Thats what it is. Thats why people compare it to Mass Efect. It isnt as simple as an adventure game and it isnt as complex as a strategy roleplaying game but its somewhere around all of this. However, it lacks the UI in need for every single one of its essences.

I affirm again after a heavy meal with a great amount of wine that updates to the logistic records of the adventure must be worked on as to bring it to stand with other strategy/roleplaying and 4X games for the new generation of players and for mobile devices which dont multitask with ease.

As for the programming of the battle scenes, while its minor its not as hard as you think but, I might be wrong. Im just a mathematician without even looking at the code. Besides, all of that is already done. It would be a question of copy and paste with the original code the computer does the rest of calculations for you and the game does seem to support two layers but... maybe it doesnt and hyperspace is actually just one layer. The AI is also in place, you would just have to copy that and see how it works with more than one ship and if it doesnt, add a few lines.

Yes, I can play in window mode and have a text editor at the side but if it isnt working fine with a PC its not working at all with a mobile.
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Re: The Masters Thoughts
« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2012, 07:01:23 pm »

As for the programming of the battle scenes, while its minor its not as hard as you think but, I might be wrong. Im just a mathematician without even looking at the code. Besides, all of that is already done. It would be a question of copy and paste with the original code the computer does the rest of calculations for you and [something about layers]

Not true. I'm not very familiar with the code, but I'm pretty sure it makes the assumption that there is only ever one other ship in the arena. You have to account for things like homing missiles that wouldn't know what to target (it probably wouldn't be that complicated, but still, it's not as simple as you're making it out to be).

But that's just the beginning of the difficulties in having full fleets fight each other. Star Control's melee system may be unrealistic and slightly unexciting, but it works despite awful A.I., and the main reason for this is because the player controls all ships. If control of all ships but one is handed over to the A.I., the A.I. needs to be much better or players will just find it to be annoying, and at the same time, there needs to be some way for the player to effectively control the situation at any given time. This is a massive programming effort, and it's also a pretty huge design effort.
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Re: The Masters Thoughts
« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2012, 05:13:42 am »

As for the programming of the battle scenes, while its minor its not as hard as you think but, I might be wrong. Im just a mathematician without even looking at the code. Besides, all of that is already done. It would be a question of copy and paste with the original code the computer does the rest of calculations for you and the game does seem to support two layers but... maybe it doesnt and hyperspace is actually just one layer. The AI is also in place, you would just have to copy that and see how it works with more than one ship and if it doesnt, add a few lines.

You *are* absolutely, spectacularly wrong, and would be well advised to look at the code before telling other people how to modify it.
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Re: The Masters Thoughts
« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2012, 07:20:30 am »

As for the programming of the battle scenes, while its minor its not as hard as you think but, I might be wrong. Im just a mathematician without even looking at the code. Besides, all of that is already done. It would be a question of copy and paste with the original code the computer does the rest of calculations for you and the game does seem to support two layers but... maybe it doesnt and hyperspace is actually just one layer. The AI is also in place, you would just have to copy that and see how it works with more than one ship and if it doesnt, add a few lines.

I'm passably familiar with the code, and I'm fairly sure this underestimates the difficulties involved.  But if you think you see a way to do it, by all means give it a shot; I'm sure you can find people here to test what you come up with. 
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Re: The Masters Thoughts
« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2012, 01:31:25 pm »

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No, Star Control 2 is a 4X Adventure game with limited digital logistic records.

This is so wrong in so many ways. Star Control is more like Zelda than any 4x game.
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Re: The Masters Thoughts
« Reply #12 on: October 01, 2012, 09:04:57 pm »

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"OK, what the heck are you talking about here? The way I'm reading this, it sounds like you would suggest that every possible combination of enemies in Super Mario Bros needs its own sprite. This is not how animation in games generally works. If UQM were modded to allow many ships to fight at once, each ship would of course get its own sprite. No additional graphics would be needed."

I wasn't referring to the combat, I was referring to his idea of background combat off the main melee layer. Just so it looks like your fleet is fighting another fleet while you are battling the one on one AI fight. That background currently is just the stars while on the battle layer you have your ship, Ai ship, planet and asteroids. Unless I miss understood, it sounded like one of his ideas was to change that star background into a battle between your fleet and the AI fleet that actually does not effect anything, just makes it nice to look at and more realistic for RP purposes. What I was saying was to create that, you would either need to accept that what is created would not reflect that actual fighting ships, or you would have to create a combination of images for every possible combination of ships this game can throw at you and then animate all of it. I honestly think for a one shot as a screen saver it would be kind of cool, but just not feasible for this.

Quote
"No, Star Control 2 is a 4X Adventure game with limited digital logistic records. Partially becuase they thought you didnt need more than the present being an "adventure" game and in the time it was published with an excellent hand drawn map."
I still have the original box and maps the game came with for the 5.25 inch disk version of the game. It is not a 4X adventure game, it is an adventure game. Everything you are doing is a mapped story with a "leveling system" reflected by gathered resources and ship upgrades. It is a very alive feeling story from beginning to end and could easily have been a book, but it is not 4X. Star Control 3 was a 4X adventure game where the main story had to be followed from beginning to end but had 4X elements such as creating colony's, producing equipment, etc. Even then, it was not a true 4X game as it only has to elements of it (eXpand, eXplore) and is missing the other two. Star Control 2 only can qualify under eXplore and that is a mark of all adventure games.

Quote
"I affirm again after a heavy meal with a great amount of wine that updates to the logistic records of the adventure must be worked on as to bring it to stand with other strategy/roleplaying and 4X games for the new generation of players and for mobile devices which dont multitask with ease."

This is a over 20 year old game that is not meant to be a Strategy game. we all saw what happened when someone attempted to update the game with 4X elements...we got Star Control 3, a walking insult to the genre if their ever was one. I have even watched it when they tried to update a 4X game to modern ideals....we got Masters or Orion 3, a top contender for worst sequel to a game of all time.

The new generation of players in the 4X field have their games already. You got Civilization for the down to earth 4X TBS types and you have Sins of a Solar Empire for the 4X RTS types just to name a couple. This game does not require updating to this standard you seem to have as the game is just not part of the genre you seem to place it in. The fact that after nearly 20 years (You guys got cakes ready for the 20th anniversary next month?) it still has such loyal fans and a dedicated base trying to keep it alive, says just how good this game was back in the day and how well it still holds up today.
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Re: The Masters Thoughts
« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2012, 12:10:05 am »

I wasn't referring to the combat, I was referring to his idea of background combat off the main melee layer. Just so it looks like your fleet is fighting another fleet while you are battling the one on one AI fight. That background currently is just the stars while on the battle layer you have your ship, Ai ship, planet and asteroids. Unless I miss understood, it sounded like one of his ideas was to change that star background into a battle between your fleet and the AI fleet that actually does not effect anything, just makes it nice to look at and more realistic for RP purposes. What I was saying was to create that, you would either need to accept that what is created would not reflect that actual fighting ships, or you would have to create a combination of images for every possible combination of ships this game can throw at you and then animate all of it. I honestly think for a one shot as a screen saver it would be kind of cool, but just not feasible for this.

OK, I didn't interpret what he said as that, but I didn't read everything, so fair enough.

But I still don't understand. Sure, you could do it that way, but it would be way more easy and efficient to just have small versions of the ship sprites and do everything dynamically. The thought of making a ton of animated backgrounds for this purpose is so stupid, in fact, that would never cross my mind during development of a game.
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Re: The Masters Thoughts
« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2012, 12:34:06 am »

Quote
But I still don't understand. Sure, you could do it that way, but it would be way more easy and efficient to just have small versions of the ship sprites and do everything dynamically. The thought of making a ton of animated backgrounds for this purpose is so stupid, in fact, that would never cross my mind during development of a game.

Agreed which is why I was saying that at the time this game was made, the thought of creating those backgrounds to match your fleets would not have been possible.
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