Planar Collapse, O1, and Indie game development

Anything and everything that's related to OGRE or the wider graphics field that doesn't fit into the other forums.
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Planar Collapse

Poll ended at Tue Sep 28, 2004 2:48 am

No votes
Looks like it might be okay
I'll wait until the demo
About time!
No votes
Consider this a beta request.
No votes
Where do I send payment??? (j/k)
No votes
Total votes: 3

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Planar Collapse, O1, and Indie game development

Post by zarthrag » Fri Sep 03, 2004 2:48 am

Talk of universes has me itching to finish my micro-infinite universe! But I hate to "waste" it on just one single player game. I'd like to put out a really nice MMO someday (on Linux) that is at least a little polished.

It'd be rather complex, but such a large envrionment could produce a nice supply/demand based trade economy. But since it'd be more than EVE online is, I suppose it could be more interesting (for me, at least). I like games where players do the gruntwork: Shipbuilding, weapons development, even exploration. I'd like to see an RPG with an extensive science system. Player created content is the other biggie, since your hardcore players will tend to enjoy it most anyway.

I figure that if there is plenty of "frontier" to explore, then players will tend to roleplay more.

Such a large environment would let players be more sparsely populated, I don't care much about sheer numbers anyway. I'd rather play a game with fewer players spread out rather than tons of players all stuck together. It alleviates alot of issues with PvP and griefers too. (Let them be pirates, I say) I think a procedural universe is nearly a perfect environment for a sci-fi (might have to knock it down to just one galaxy though!)

But MMOs are daunting, and expensive. Both of which I'm not ready for right now. I'm still developing my engine for singleplayer only, it *just* reached alpha last week - I hope to have a real techdemo going by next month. Linux being my main target, Win32 second, MacOS if there is marked interest. Once it's done, I'll turn out a few titles and develop O2 (networking extraordinare!) if the community shows enough interest. (Interest - n. - A measure of how many copies of my studio's games the linux community is interested in actually buying, and if the profits from those sales can let me keep my apartment.)

The general idea is to build an engine, and stick with it. That's why I choose OGRE for graphics in O1. It's easy, fast, multi-platform, scalable, and it has a truely *awesome* community of developers. Once O1 is done, subsequent versions will only be upgrades to the original.

The games that will roll out for O1 aren't small in their own right: I'll describe of them in detail, the other two are equally as innovative. (Remember, We don't care as much for eyecandy as we do gameplay and AI.) The first is a RTS with a "Resident-Evil"-esque theme to it. The tentative title is "Planar Collapse". It's environments are war-torn cities (haven't decided on occupied buildings quite yet.)

It has elements that emphasize strategy and tactics instead of "hunker down, build as many troops as you can, then rule the map". Troops are usually in limited supply, however, each individual is unique in many ways (think Close Combat) and some have special talents. You can use them as a mob of individuals, but the operate best as platoons. You have to really monitor your unit's stats and performance and give out promotions wisely - done correctly, your platoons will work as cohesive units who coordinate much like the real thing.

An important thing to consider is that there are no "production" or "economic" aspects. But we're discussing adding a political system where the player's performance in battle, namely troop losses, determines what happens next. Troops aren't produced, but re-enforcements can arrive if it's safe. Rescued civilians can take up arms when there is *very* little choice (wounds performance evals severely!) And the game is lost when too many troops are lost, or if the base is over-run (There is actually a retreat option - nothing I've ever seen in a real game. A successful retreat is ALWAYS better than a loss - when your troops die - they're dead. The first time you make that mistake you'll appreciate veteran soldiers!)

But those aspects alone, while interesting, isn't news. What makes the game is it's interface, envrionment, and your enemy. It's *supposed* to be creepy. The basic idea is to have the player fight an enemy he knows nothing about, and match wits with it. What you're first exposed to are a sort of facehugger-like creatures which lead up to progressively smarter and stronger foes who use tactics you WILL NOT like. Many times, you'll have to rally your troops and devise a plan simply to *learn* about your foes - as many first encounters will lead to lost troops if you aren't careful.

I should clarify the games setting/interface a bit more to put it in perspective. In the game, you have your own character also - but you aren't combat oriented. You actually stay inside of a mobile-field-base and manage the battle from afar. It's destruction isn't necessairly game over, however. You can requisition new equipment and utilize emergency gear, you just won't have all of your interface features available until the calvary arrives.

But enough of that! The interface itself: It's 3D game (duh), but the *reason* it's 3D is because of how you communicate with troops: They wear helmet cams, headsets, and radio gear! That gear is linked back to your "MFB" where you can manage your ENTIRE army. (Yes, you can slow time and pause freely.)

You're pretty much a "VR" commander. You see what your troops see and hear what they hear. But with nicer gear, you can augment your troops by being the eyes *behind* their heads. You have to notify them what their objectives are, and how to handle their situation. When troops die, their feeds may or may not cut off. However, in firefights, gear can be damaged/malfunction, cutting you off from some members. If troops are in "null zones", out of range, or determine a need for radio silence - you lose contact completely. All you can do is hope while you work with your other units. Patience becomes key here.

The map is....interesting. Currently, it's a "digital" map of the area that shows the known terrain. If the weather is good, and you're loved, you can sometimes get satellite imagery, engineering plans of the city, and the ultimate: live satellite/spyplane footage.

...unless you're outside of the MFB, then you get paper maps with gridlines!

With the exception of paper, your troops all show up on the map. Those in the immediate vicinity (camera range) are shown in "live" 3d. Those in the field of view of your 3D scanners/radar are shown as HUD-colored models - with their video feeds arcing out and revealing exactly what they see. Setting up security cameras/scanners/radar on buildings grants you extended vision. Setting up comm towers in key spots can extend your ranges considerably also - if you can hold them or disguise them well. You can even double-click on troops and get a "first person" view!

...On paper, you only get audio - blips show up only when you get updates from troops - represented as thumbtacks. :-p (It may be a bit harsh, considering - we'll see when the beta hits.) It's not quite so bad, however. As we (hope) to include voice command (O1 features CMU Sphinx II) into the game to supplement the mouse/kb. The interface kinda needs it right now: The control FSMs aren't small.

Giving orders and interacting with troops is the other big part of the game. Most of the work not done on the interface will be put into the AI. Troops chatter with each other and have to communicate verbally or visually with introduced reaction times that vary from unit to unit. "Green" troops are naturally slow, loud, and generally an encumbrance. Seasoned vets are usually efficient, quiet, and helpful. (A tactic would be to keep the # of green troops med-low per platoon, and *always* have veteran officers around to get them up to speed faster. But have a few elite groups for the tough jobs.) Platoon members get used to working with one another, kinda like a "personal bond" type thing. They coordinate their actions ("breach, bang, and clear") and can coordinate with other squads in joint operations - much of which can happen with little help from the player - who (typically) deals with tactics, not micromanagement.

Troops don't have specific "types". Instead they have a MOS, skills, and affinities. Some are trained in medicine, others just first-aid, electronics/communications, etc. Weapons are a whole new bag. Some are marksmen, others aren't. Others are good with heavy weapondry, others aren't. Some are mech-pilots, some are naturals, others...

Troops have to carry their supplies, tools, guns, and ammo with them. They can stow them in a vechicle (Hummers!) or carry them on their person, but at an encumbrance penalty - which depends on size/strength. There are men and women alike - with varied stats. Troops have to aim, reload, can miss, make mistakes, go berzerk, panic, the list goes on. It's the job of other troops and officers to keep them in line, but you can step in also and give orders.

Morale plays a factor also. If you give your troops suicide missions, it dips. Eventually they will refuse to follow orders, go awol, or simply perform poorly. If it dips too low, your officers start to hate you. If you can't justify it, you can be relieved of command and presented with a game-over screen. Other things affect morale too. Extended missions, (you're supposed to rotate/relieve them - they fatigue.) giving promotions to assholes, failed objectives, etc.

I could easily describe more, but I've spilled enough about Planar Collapse as it is. It'll cost $15-$20 (We may have a limited edition boxed set.) But it's probably not going to be for the faint at heart. It'll be a difficult game because of the learning curve of the interface - not having a traditional fog of war is...hard. Hopefully, our first ambitious title will garner us some attention. Who knows, with luck, maybe a publisher. I can't say I care about all that though - I just wanna write games instead of work for "Innotech" - no matter what the paycut.

Is anyone else out there doing the Indie-thing with OGRE? Want to? There has been alot of talk recently about the "genre", and how publishers are becoming entrenched. Have any of your purchased indie titles? Enjoyed them?

BTW - If you have any suggestions on P.C. - please do! Once it's ready for O1 (December???) I'd like to hit-up this forum for a few signups from those who have a "programmer/debugger's" insight.
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