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Shallow Space is a 3D Real Time Strategy game inspired by Nexus: The Jupiter incident and Homeworld. Shallow Space focuses on organised mass RTS space combat in a fully 3D environment. Ships in Shallow Space are nearly always grouped into Flotillas and Wings, and orders issued to these structures cascade to the subordinate members. Rather than stressing out clicking on the units or dragging selection boxes during the heat of battle, standing orders are issued in advance leaving you to zoom around, activating abilities and arranging support and reinforcements. Should the tide turn in battle traditional control is still available.

Post news RSS The Omega Directive

So it’s business as usual here at Special Circumstances, interesting ideas flying at me from all corners of the team as I silently enact Plan B which I loving codenamed ‘The Omega Directive’ (shamelessly plundered from a cool Star Trek: Voyager episode admittedly,) but what is this Omega Directive? and what does it mean for the project? Well before we go into that we need to discuss a few sacrifices.

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So it’s business as usual here at Special Circumstances, interesting ideas flying at me from all corners of the team as I silently enact Plan B which I loving codenamed ‘The Omega Directive’ (shamelessly plundered from a cool Star Trek: Voyager episode admittedly,) but what is this Omega Directive? and what does it mean for the project? Well before we go into that we need to discuss a few sacrifices.

So when the crowdfunding failed a couple of the team were ‘bummed out,’ faced with the prospect of not being paid they picked themselves up and walked off. Actually this isn’t a bad thing, because inevitably you bring others on board and they have other ideas for the game that often contradict my own. One of these was ‘mass space combat;’ ‘mass space combat sells’ he said, ‘I want thousands of ships shooting at each other’ he said. Well that was never going to work because that would have had to have been in the design from the start and it wasn’t.

You see all the ships in Shallow Space have been programmed with behaviours; individual turrets have lines of fire and shoot real simulated projectiles, movement is lovingly crafted and every second hundreds of messages are passed between ships to create the realistic space-naval simulation you've seen. You can’t just scale that up to thousands of ships, it would be insurmountable for most PC’s and the UI just isn’t made for that. You see; to create something that hits SoaSE’s scale you need to abstract away all of that clever stuff and simplify it and it just wouldn’t be as exciting or appealing.

But less is more in this case I assure you, we steer away from the mindless ship churning of the standard RTS and look instead to the tactic of combat and we start to embrace the RTT elements that Nexus:TJI offers us and build on them. Abilities factor into that premise directly; forget about the SoaSE active ‘combat command enhancer’ ability nonsense (sorry Ironclad!) Our abilities will be things like Launching probes to get an idea of who is lurking in an asteroid cluster, Set/Withdraw to Emergency RendezVous point and Short Range Jump. There will be very few stats altering abilities and we will instead use the mechanic to physically alter the flow of the engagement and in some cases, make terrain out of this otherwise featureless void.

This embrace of RTT methodology (Real Time Tactics) means there will be a sacrifice; the click drag selection box. It’s annoyed me from day one really, it is directly incompatible with the flotillas and wings system (contradictory unit groupings) so sadly it has to go. Even if I could get it working it would be the primary source of bugs and whinges so I’m taking it out of the game for player ship selections (it can still be used to denote manual targets.) Besides, it’s just not the way I want the game to be played, select all; right click – nope, I want you to think about your formations a little more than that. Bounce between your flotilla’s using TAB and the number keys, it makes much more sense or if it doesn't right now, then it will.

Another sacrifice includes modding. On the long list of things that we have to provide now with little funding (Skirmish, Campaign, Multiplayer) modding was the least important and yet the most time consuming. If the game makes us a fortune and we have time to revisit it we will and I acknowledge there is a huge modding community. But I approached a Star Trek mod admin for SoaSE and I was ignored and Unity as an engine isn't made to be modded so it's altogether time better spent elsewhere. Since been informed that a number of games have overcome the limitations we experienced when testing it out, at the moment we're only ruling out the importing of models because it would take too much time to implement with turret positioning, arcs of fire and such, attributes can be imported/exported in JSON format and tweaked. We're not ruling out bringing it in an expansion if the game proves to be popular.

Finally the Omega Directive is about turning the crowdfunding failure into a positive. Removing the expensive and troublesome parts of the team and strengthening the core and looking at the areas of the project we could optimise and even improve in the process. The ship designs are at the top of that list, we currently use someone who is extremely expensive (by indie standards) and if we are brutally honest, is producing mobile quality assets. We’ve found a guy who can work to today’s standards, utilising new technology such as PBR and new lighting systems paving the way for us to upgrade to Unity 5. Above is a sample of one of the new ships being created, we're not quite ready to unveil it just yet...

Astonishingly; all of this can be funded out of my own pocket if the worst happens. It’s a beautiful thing crunching the numbers and knowing you can create the finish of a AAA game from one man’s salary. OK so it means I’ll have no life for a little while longer, but we’re still self-sufficient and here’s the rub: Boy am I glad the IGG crowdfunding didn't come off.

You can still assist us in our quest to perfection: Pledge.

James

Comments
Dark_Ansem
Dark_Ansem

No modding, I'm out. And I did pledge on indiegogo.

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SharkYbg
SharkYbg

Well people get refunded when the campaign has failed so pledging there means nothing if it fails except that there is some interest at least. If you read the article carefully that's why compromises need to be made. Modding is not easy to implement like some think it is..

I am looking forward to the game since it looks really good so far.

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mawhrin-skel AuthorSubscriber
mawhrin-skel

Shrugs, sorry to loose ya Dark_Ansem - I'm not superman bud, gotta draw the line somewhere. If you were in my shoes you'd do the same.

It's off the list of promises but rarely do I leave a job unfinished, if the means justify the end then modding will happen.

Cheers SharkYnb, appreciate it.

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pikachu01
pikachu01

Is there no way to support modding at all?

It doesn't need to be elaborate at the first instance. At the very least, definition parameters or Steam Workshop integration for sharing ship customizations?

Further along the way, after the first release, you can decide if you want to implement modding support as a free update/DLC (maybe alongside a paid expansion?)

A lot of game devs seem to be heading into free update + paid expansion (namely Paradox games). Seems to be pretty successful. They managed to extend the life of games that are more than 3 years old.

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Dark_Ansem
Dark_Ansem

"shrugs", thus not caring. Fascinating.

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mawhrin-skel AuthorSubscriber
mawhrin-skel

Stop being unreasonable. Modding 3D Unity games is pretty much impossible.

I'm not shrugging it off because I feel like it, the actual extensions to the game tools are missing. You can import a model but not it's textures it seems.

Modding attributes is possible and there will be a lot of ship customisation going in anyways and likely skins. But the only way to currently support modding completely (TC's etc.) would be to hand out the source code and teach people how to compete with me directly which I'm simply not prepared to do.

Again bare in mind this is being coded by two guys and modding the game is irrelevant next to making the game itself.

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Wookienator
Wookienator

Damn :) Was hoping for a Babylon 5 mod :') But I understand.

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pikachu01
pikachu01

I know that coding for modding is not a small task to perform. Having attributes and parameters is a good start. Perhaps a later expansion would enable modding? :)

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mawhrin-skel AuthorSubscriber
mawhrin-skel

Well I have absolutely no experience in modding games, it's just not something I even consider doing! Perhaps we'll pick someone up with some experience in modding that can make our life easier.

Yeah I'd say there was a good chance of an expansion enabling it sure, but there's also a chance this game could flop hard, all of a sudden there's a million and one space games, 'space is the new zombies' I keep reading everywhere and that is the sort of flippant ******** that can strike off thousands of man hours in this painfully fickle industry.

We'll have to see.

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pikachu01
pikachu01

Great. :)

Then we'll be sure to provide the necessary support to get it going. Shallow Space has one of the best concepts i've seen in a while. Really hoping that it can be a reality.

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mawhrin-skel AuthorSubscriber
mawhrin-skel

Oh it will become a reality don't worry about that, it might take us a game or two to get it made up properly.

I hope that support comes in, there are just no guarantees.

Playing games is very different to making them, people just don't understand the effort - it's colossal.

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Guest
Guest

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I would much rather play a great game without modding that has a lot of working content than the opposite. Nexus gave me many, many hours of play. Almost every mod I tried for it was buggy or started and never finished.

Make a great game and let players enjoy it. I don't need to "turn it into" Red Dwarf or Star Wars to have fun.

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Guest
Guest

"Modding 3D unity games is pretty much impossible."

*looks at Kerbal Space Program*

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mawhrin-skel AuthorSubscriber
mawhrin-skel

Perhaps when I'm rolling around in money it will become possible.

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nacs
nacs

> Modding 3D Unity games is pretty much impossible.

Erm, what? There are lots of games made in Unity that support modding. Look at City Skylines for an example. Move some of the unit properties to JSON or XML files and you immediately have "modding" support at it's simplest form.

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mawhrin-skel AuthorSubscriber
mawhrin-skel

Yeah that's done already actually - they are in an internal database that is runtime importable/exportable in JSON format, that counts as modding? I considered it standard to be able to let people tweak attributes....

Cities: Skylines is a Unity game?? wtf OK clearly I didn't look into this very much! I google'd it for a couple of hours and assumed runtime texture importing wasn't possible. I knew KSP did it, but they have resources I can only dream of right now.

So I basically had trouble importing textures at runtime along with the models. Then I considered scripting levels, UI customisation and I figured that's a lot of work on top of what is already a lot of work!

I will do modding, I know I will - I'm just a bit panicked about how much I've got to do with $0 in funds. I've been bent over and spanked over this article - reddit flamed me earlier...

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pikachu01
pikachu01

About the reddit thread, I can see it's been removed. However judging from the replies you've posted. I guess the homeworld reddit is a tough crowd. Point is, do what you think is the best option right now. It's your game and however it excels or fails is not up to a few individuals, but the whole gaming community.

One point I would like to give is to never give up on the community. Some might be outright rude (clearly demanding something out of nothing) or dismissive of what your future vision is. However, out of the many successful indie games out there, 10/10 of them are those that engage the community without fear or favour.

Also, about Cities: Skylines and Kerbal Space Program, yes they are Unity games. However, those games aren't done by a one man show dev. A lot of them required extensive modifications to allow modding. The good thing about indie games is that indie developers do help each other out. IF you face a problem with something, reaching out for a question or two won't hurt I guess :)

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mawhrin-skel AuthorSubscriber
mawhrin-skel

Wooooow - I think I downvoted you there by accident and it won't let me upvote you again, sorry about that! :S

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gamescroller
gamescroller

An interesting read James!

The great thing about a project such as yours is you CAN go back and re-visit other aspects later on with a "simple" patch here and there.

Yes people will whine and moan that (for now) there will be no modding, but like I said previously you can come back to it if there is a demand and I respect your decision to take that route.

As for the new ship designer that taster has left me watering at the mouth, its very sharp and the lighting is gorgeous, something that will compliment your game easily as it is already a great looker!

Looking forward to the next big update and seeing what there is in store for us!

Adam

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mawhrin-skel AuthorSubscriber
mawhrin-skel

Hey Adam,

Yeah exactly, and all due consideration has been made to ensure the mod work can be completed without unnecessary code rewrite later. Laying it on the line for the tech peeps; I'm having trouble with run time model and texture importing.

I have some ideas about how to rig it but it would just take too much time man. I ain't the type to dangle carrots in front of people and string them along and I hope people can appreciate the honesty in that.

Although keeping quiet about that might have had it's advantages it seems... Still, I'm feeling a minimap coming on - I want to blow the engagement area wide open, multiple objectives with UI to manage them.

James

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gamescroller
gamescroller

Ooh that carrot is looking tasty!

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Guest
Guest

This looks great to me. Glad to see this project still moving along!

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Erayser
Erayser

Played it on Mac for a bit, that was great! I'm curious though, do you plan to support Retina resolutions? Would love to play the game in 2880x1800. Good luck anyway.

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mawhrin-skel AuthorSubscriber
mawhrin-skel

Yeah of course, as soon as I get my hands on supporting hardware to test. Glad you enjoyed! :)

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TheVidmaster
TheVidmaster

Still want! A worthy successor to Nexus is a good thing!

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Chimas
Chimas

Drag-select out is surprising.
I hope you can get the most out of the game.
The other decisions are reasonable.
Less units and more tactics seems to be right.

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mawhrin-skel AuthorSubscriber
mawhrin-skel

Can't make it work properly, what happens if you drag around half a wing from one flotilla, two wings from another flotilla, how do you logically construe positioning for those ships?

The answer is with great difficulty, it would be a hack at best and I get the feeling it would become a 'stack-em and send-em DPS-fest' which chills me to the core.

There will be other ways to move the ships as a single body.

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Da-Fort
Da-Fort

This is true. I felt like I was not being efficient with dragging. It became annoying at times. So hopefully you guys can figure it out with the new model.

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Hell_Diguner
Hell_Diguner

Part of the problem I saw with your crowdfunding campaign was a lack of clear and interesting aesthetic and gameplay characteristics which define the player experience, so the hype didn't spread far.

Catering to the lowest common denominator has ruined the AAA industry, so I'm glad you want to go against the mass consumer desire. I'm not the only one tired of "RTS" games that focus on base building and rapid clicks per second to win. There's a pretty large number of lurking RTS players dissatisfied with most modern RTS games, so I think you'd do well to focus more on strategy and tactics, and less on millions of ships and base building.

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Cornflakes_91
Cornflakes_91

i have to say that im a fan of million [things] games and base building.

but the APM focus ****** me off like nothing else.
for example planetary annihilation is an absolute no-play game for me because of that stupid APM/competitive play focus (and its graphics style does nothing to alleviate that).

was expecting a supreme commander on multiple planets and better engine behind it, and got ... something.

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Cornflakes_91
Cornflakes_91

Mahwrin: im a bit surprised by the removal of drag selection, but i see why you did it.

now go work that i get something for the money i threw at you! :P

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