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Capital Ships!Sun, 20th December 2015
Having reached v0.4 of TBFTSS: The Pandoran War, I took a step back to see where I was. While I'm very much enjoying making the game, and fleshing out some of the events that took place between THE THIRD SIDE and THE ATTRIBUTE OF THE STRONG, something was missing. There was a sense of scale and epicness lacking. Then it hit me: the player only ever really engages in combat with other starfighters (and some astral cannons). I needed to convey that the universe and the Pandoran War featured some larger players.
The solution was to add capital ships. This was something I had initially wanted to dodge, as creating such massive entities would be far more difficult than the simple fighters I've made so far. But, the game would benefit greatly from their introduction, so I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.
I started simply: just shoving together some basic shapes in GIMP to use as a placeholder for the main body graphics. I added some coloured components next, and worked on making all of those stay together correctly when the ship moved. From there, I moved on to the AI. I decided that the capital ships will wander the field, being equipped with a number of cannons that can independently track targets and fire on them. The capital ships can also be told to head towards a particular target or location, allowing for objectives such as the player needing to destroy them before they reach their destination, or for the player to ensure one of their own reaches their target.
I figured that, unlike other craft in the game, capital ships could only be destroyed by targetting specific parts of their body. It would mean that shots that didn't find these spots would pass clean over them, but to do otherwise would largely restrict the vulnerable part of the ship to the outside. It would also mean that the gun turrets would need to also be on the otherside of the ship, rather than scattered all over. A few test battles against the corvette I'd created proved that it was a formidable opponent, and a number of fighters would be required to take it down.
Things were coming along well, but I was still looking at a conjunction of a number of rectangles. Hardly very pleasing to the eye. This was the part I was dreading the most: drawing the actual ship. It could take days, weeks even to get right. Well, I'd done all the coding. I shouldn't let that go to waste. So, setting my trepidations aside, I set to work in attempting to turn those boring grey squares into something that resembled a ship.
I can't draw to save my life. It takes me ages to get something to a level where I'm happy with it, and it still feels very much like 'programmer art'. The results are functional, though, and in the past players have seemd quite happy with my efforts.
So, after following some tutorials online and spending a few hours mucking about with layers, blending modes, and that in GIMP, I finally came up with something passable.
It wasn't too bad, and was rather pleased with the results. I was quite ready to make this the UNF corvette graphic for the main game. I would still need to tidy up a few things: the blue squares are placeholders for the components the player (and their wingmates) would need to destroy to bring the capital ship down, and the cannons totting the surface are recycled from the floating cannons found in an earlier mission. The engines, too, would need to be coloured in.
A couple of days later, I wondered if I could do better. So I tired again, updating the shading, blending, and mixing stuff together. Finally, after much tweaking, I blended the updated version with the existing version. The results were far more pleasing. I then set about shading the engines, creating the components, and making the guns, using all the skills I'd learned. The corvette now looks like this:
Even at a glance, the improvements are clear. I'm very pleased with this; not bad for programmer art, really. I'm going to press on with creating a few more capital ships, and a number of other vessels that the player will need to interact with (by which I mean, either destroying, escorting, or protecting). I also need to update the AI for the capital ships, as they tend to bump in to each other quite a lot. Still, everything is going well so far. v0.5 will be a while in coming, likely not until March 2016 or so. Plenty of time to get things sorted out and create some more missions.
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