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Excalibur breaks the mould of traditional space simulation games by putting the player firmly in the boots of an experienced Starfleet captain. From the outset you will be able to control your character and command your ship as if you were standing on the bridge yourself. From taking direct control of the helm, to transferring command of any ship in your task force, or even calling your senior staff to the briefing room to discuss mission tactics; Excalibur is the most immersive Star Trek experience ever. Set six months after the events in Star Trek: Nemesis, Excalibur's story mode deals with the turbulent political scene caused by a decade of war and turmoil. From the second Borg incursion in First Contact, to the fall of the Dominion and the collapse of the Romulan political system; these events resulted in huge loss of life and changed the Alpha Quadrant forever.

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Blog RSS Feed Report abuse Latest News: Concepts - From the Drawing Board: UI

9 comments by Cadet on Sep 4th, 2014

Hi everyone!

The following article is an attempt to illustrate some of the technical and artistic design concepts that Excalibur development has gone through. Hopefully this will shed some light on the inner workings of how some things start on the drawing board, get loosely sketched into the engine, and then are remade or even abandoned in lieu of a better design. Whether it be due to a technical, functional, or useability impasse, designs for many things have come and gone during development so here's a look at one of those concepts that went through an internal trial-and-error process and was eventually replaced.

Every project starts at the table where artists and developers put their ideas down on a piece of paper. The Excalibur project is no different...

One of the main things when working on a large scale project is to break down your ideas into manageable chunks. Just as the fictional saying goes "Ideas are easy, implementation is harder". It is important for all artists to start their work with basic concepts and then determine which are good enough to be developed further.

There is a lot of thought (and even more work) being put into ideas which can turn out to be either good or bad in the end. This crucial process of the development approach takes time and only a handful of presented ideas ever make it into the working build of the game due to so many pieces having to fit together in order to sustain the overall goals and vision of the project itself, and to not break other areas of the game!

Because the concept process is usually fun and artists/developers have a lot of creativity when attempting to come up with design solutions, we think it would be fun for everyone to see some of the ideas our talented team has come up with over the years of developing Star Trek Excalibur.

Since Excalibur is still being developed, many of the concept ideas that will be shown here are either drastically changed by now (for the better) or are replaced by other solutions in general. Nevertheless, we would like to show you some of the ideas that the team started with.

Please note that these are concept images which means that most of these ideas may be drastically different or have been completely replaced.

So without further ado, let's dive into the concept work of one of the lead developers, Rob!


Excalibur's Past Concepts

Gameplay UI


Name: Rob Mann aka Rob Archer
Age: 26
Position: Lead developer for gameplay mechanics
Responsibilities: Rob is currently responsible for the development of the game's mechanics, which is the development of the ways that the user/player will interact with the components of the game and how those components will respond. The tricky part of this is understanding the technology of Star Trek and transforming it into a gameplay mechanic.

Here are some of his concept ideas that did not make it into the game in their concept form;


EXC Master Engineering Interface Power Controls

"So this image is a concept design for managing the power systems. This would be the menu used to change power allocations to subsystems on a whole and it's based off of the Star Trek Bridge Commander menus. Of particular note is the submenu marked "Profiles". One thing we were (and still are) keen on implementing is having a mechanism that would allow the player to customize how the player's ship responded to a situation/mission. Rather than tweaking sliders when you need to fight in a defensive manner you could instead set the profile to be "Defensive" and the power priorities would update accordingly."


EXC Engineering BC Style Power Menu

"While the command wheel showcased our minimalistic approach, this menu shows our "BC Approach". The general feeling is that Bridge Commander was an awesome game and while the UI was not the best and the game's mechanics lacked a certain level of depth, we were initially curious if we could use this as a jumping off point for experimenting with more advanced menus. This lead to the following concept image.

On the top we see the familiar power management menu with a slider for the key systems. Engines are split into thrusters, impulse, and warp drives. We also have transporters, tractor beams, and the deflector added. The power profiles menu, which has already been discussed, is also implemented.

However, a new addition to this is the "Advanced menu".

This would have allowed the player the ability to not only customize how their phasers as a whole would respond in a given situation but it would have allowed us to customize how individual weapons would behave. Allowing you to create even more complex power profiles such as "Attack Run" and "Forward Phasers 120% power". You should also note that the weapon system has the ability to be switched between "Primary" and "Secondary". This allows you to switch the weapons' power source to an alternative input (Secondary/Auxiliary Power Grids), a mechanic which still lives on. "


Command Wheel Progression Engineering Demo 1

"Similar to artistic movements, Excalibur has also gone through a series of phases. The Command Wheel originates from our "Minimalist Phase." The concept was to condense our interfaces in such a way that they did not need to be on screen, but could still be accessed quickly. To begin with I started with the following structure: Engineering -> Transfer Power -> To Weapons. What I then did was translate this statement into a process; "Open Engineering Menu, Open Power Menu, Transfer The Power"

Since we are looking for a minimalistic approach we then minimise the actions that need to be taken by assigning the command wheel to a right click action. With it we eliminate the need for the user to move their cursor to a region of the screen to then open a menu and relocate the cursor to that menu. It also makes everything exist on a clear arc. Infact you see this right click context approach everyday when you use most windows based machines.

So why didn't we use this approach? Well, two reasons; First, it was very difficult to implement it graphically in our assigned interface mechanic and secondly, it was too simple and we had difficulty implementing our mechanics within the constraints applied to the menu."


That is it for now Captains...

We hope you have enjoyed this short presentation of Rob's ideas and hope it provides you with an idea on how things come and go within development. These could also help encourage ideas for people (you!) to mod and/or create entirely new UI interfaces based in part on past designs! :)
-Article by Nejc.

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Post comment Comments  (0 - 10 of 316)
Commander-Trident
Commander-Trident Oct 23 2014, 8:48am says:

Ive only just come across this, and already i think its AMAZING! i dont know what the statues is for this but i hope it comes out soon <3

+2 votes     reply to comment
daetril
daetril Oct 23 2014, 9:54am replied:

When it's done is the official status of it.

+1 vote     reply to comment
daetril
daetril Oct 10 2014, 8:25pm says:

I really want to play this game!

+2 votes     reply to comment
Guest
Guest Oct 5 2014, 1:24am says:

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jonsin1459
jonsin1459 Sep 4 2014, 8:51pm says:

TBH guys and I want to be careful how I say this but after so many years is this ever going to be anything more than something nice to look at? That is not meant in a pressuring way, but is it a case of you have wanted to make something so amazing with so much effort that it can't ever be released?

+3 votes     reply to comment
Shevchen
Shevchen Sep 25 2014, 3:51pm replied:

It's fairly easy to say: The team has Devs for every aspect of the game. Sometimes two, sometimes three, sometimes only one. Solving bottlenecks on the Dev-timeline is the most important task. Once they are done (basic game logic), the other Devs can take over and build onto it.

To be honest, the graphic improvement on many games is mainly based on the engine side. You still use polygons, textures and lights. Done. Only the rendering differs. So on that side, you can safely say: It will stay up to date, esp. for space sims, where the surroundings have no such things as water, grass or similar stuff, but only dust and nebs.

Other than that, the production is steadily going on and - as we all hope for - the complex game logic including complex game mechanics have the priority before any maybe-deadline. Excalibur will come and it will be good. Maybe this year for QB, maybe next year. It does not really matter. Once it is out, you will love it, because you will be able to do much more than in any other space sim before. I'm even saying, you will have more options in your ship to control than the upcoming Star Citizen.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Guest
Guest Sep 6 2014, 5:36am replied:

I have to agree, you guys have put so much effort in and it looks incredible, but did you guys set the bar to high to actually ever complete the game.

0 votes     reply to comment
daetril
daetril Sep 6 2014, 10:42am replied:

I imagine they are close to completing Quick Battle since they are recruiting testers in their forums, this is a volunteer team that works on it in their spare time. I'd say Quick Battle will be ready early 2016.

+2 votes     reply to comment
orymus
orymus Jun 26 2014, 10:10pm says:

Birds of Preys... run for your lives!

+2 votes     reply to comment
Kill3rCat
Kill3rCat Jun 8 2014, 6:08am says:

I have a suggestion, which I feel is a rather good one (else I wouldn't be posting it). Hope that you good gents see this... Anyway, here it is:

Instead of having the ship name and registry as a decal, would it be possible to instead have the name and registry as text overlaid onto the hull in a fixed font size and font? Having a single value for 'Ship Name' would make naming your own ships much easier, as instead of having to create a new decal, then go through the entire ship changing the name in the top right of every control panel, the name displayed is tied in with a single value, which you can enter as the name of the ship. This would also make multiplayer much simpler, so you can fly your own ship in multiplayer without the server owner having to download the decal file for your ship.

+3 votes     reply to comment
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Star Trek Excalibur
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Avalon Studios
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