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Post news RSS Flagship progress update 2021

A long overdue update on the status of Flagship and our plans moving forward.

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flagship bridge

What's up with Flagship?

Hello everyone. It's been a while! Over four years apparently.

As far as gameplay goes, Flagship is currently a game of two halves. The first half; the main core loop of tactical ship-to-ship combat is in pretty good shape. Battles can take place in a single engagement area, or multiple engagement areas spanning the current star system. You have broad control over allies -generally controlled by groups, and fairly fine control over your own ship's systems. There are still interface kinks to iron out, but this is the part of the game I'm most happy with.

walkthrough smlI've created a (fairly) robust system for scripting briefings, missions and general conversations. Damage to the ship can be carried over from mission to mission. Voice commands are now built into the game, so you won't need Voice Attack. Between missions, NPCs will talk to each other and you can play poker in the officer's lounge. You can sit in your ready room and read emails. I've created an automated lip-syncing system, and characters' eyes will dilate or constrict depending on the light levels and in some cases, their mood. There's a lot of work here that I'm proud of.

So what's the problem?

The second half, the stuff you do outside of combat, needs work. Managing your ship and fleet between missions is something I've iterated on a lot but never really nailed down. Pre-mission planning is pretty shallow. Shallower still is the simulation of crew aboard ship, who can have scripted conversations but otherwise just sort of stand around or sit at their stations. Going deeper with that stuff requires a level of work I can't really justify on my budget.

I had designed the Flagship framework with the intention of building other games with it later, but despite my best efforts, years of prototyping and retrofitting had led to inflexible code that was getting difficult to work with. In addition to this, the code was also written in a mix of Javascript and C# which not only made some work awkward but also meant compilation times were agonisingly slow.pre mission smlFrom a visuals standpoint, pretty much every peice of art in Flagship is a rough placeholder. Some of it looks okay, but bringing things up to the standard I'd like will take a lot of time and many cases, money to pay proper 3D artists. I'm pretty short on both.

In addition to this, designing interfaces that give the player full control without being overly complex, that work well in VR and on flat screens has proved a huge challenge. Even after all these years there's still a lot I need to figure out.

From a business standpoint, Urban Logic Games as a company hasn't earned a bean since we formed it about 7 years ago. Not taking any money from the general public has been a very deliberate choice, but it's left us covering the running costs out of our own pockets. Up until recently this had been fine, but without going into too much detail my situation has changed a bit over the last few years and it's getting harder to justify the cost in time and money. Suffice to say, if it weren't for my incredibly supportive and patient wife, this blog post would be a lot shorter.

Your wife sounds very cool.What's the plan moving forward?

We had three options, the first being to carry on as we were. When I looked at all the remaining tasks, we had around two years left of work ahead of us. This was assuming the remaining development went smoothly and that we committed to polishing the game and its core mechanics as they currently existed. The problem with this was that I wasn't completely happy with all the core mechanics, and sofware development never goes completely smoothly.

Option two was to stop development, cut our losses and do something else. I've got a lot of other ideas, and some are even sensibly scoped, so this was tempting. Despite the real risk of sunk cost fallacy, this still wasn't really on the table. There's a good game here, and it's a game I very much want to exist. It's just going to take a lot of work to chisel it out.

Option three was to use the Flagship framework (i.e. the systems that run the various simulations and AI) to build a smaller game, with the intention of circling back to Flagship later. I could use the opportunity to port the codebase to C#, strip out all the old and retrofitted code we were no longer using and generally clean everything up. We had often talked about making a starfighter-focused spinoff after Flagship, and starfighter combat was already technically implemented.

Introducing Alliance Peacefighter

AP announcement banner

In case it's not clear already, we went for option three; a smaller game where you'll be taking on the role of a starfighter pilot. It's not set in the Flagship universe, the tone will be lighter and we'll be using a much more stylised (and economical) art style, best described as a mix between Homeworld and Starfox. It'll feature a linear, mission-based campaign in the vein of the Wing Commander and X-Wing games, a niche that's weirdly underserved despite the resurgence of space sims (not to mention the fact that space sims and VR are a perfect match).

We're aiming to target both VR and flatscreens, with support for HOTAS joysticks, gamepads and mouse and keyboard. If all goes well, we'll release the mission editor so you can create custom campaigns of your own. We'll go into more detail at a later date, I don't want to derail this post too much.

alliance peacefighter smlIf you were looking forward to Flagship this might seem like bad news, but things couldn't carry on as they were. The good news is that all the work I'm doing on this is still building towards completing Flagship, which will benefit from all the improvements made to the framework. Better performance, smarter AI, a more flexible level designer, lots of stuff.

Flagship is still the end goal, we're just taking a detour on the way. As always, thanks for sticking with us.

Comments
Wookienator
Wookienator

I am just happy, that this still exists :)

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Guest
Guest

lol i remember hearing about this game when i was like 12. glad to see this still in production

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Erayser
Erayser

Wishing you the best. As long as you feel good about your decision and what you want to do, then go for it. Been tracking Flagship since the beginning, and will always do! I’m looking forward to your second game :)

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kev11106
kev11106

You know you're gonna get your chocolate and peanut butter together...

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Guest
Guest

Just as Wookienator said, I am just happy that this still exists! I hope that you are doing well and I am looking forward to your next post! Take care!
EDIT: Finnish reading the post now. I am also looking forward to your second game! :)

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TheVidmaster
TheVidmaster

Hey, great news. This exists! And while I am certainly looking forward to a Homeworld/BridgeCommander-Hybrid in VR more, a VR-compatible Flightsim is certainly my **** as well (just look at my avatar).
Games like "House of the Dying Sun" show how awesome even smaller games in that genre can be.
Just be sure you provide a DRM-free release on Humble or GoG (or even direct download) as well. Investing in DRM-stuff is a senseless endeavor for indies anyway, so leverage the good faith instead!

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Bronx9146
Bronx9146

Shame for Flaghship but hoping for the best for you and your team. Can't wait for Alliance Peacefighter

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Xorras
Xorras

Very glad that there is still hope for Flagship. Wish you luck with your second project!

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Wintercross
Wintercross

Glad you aren't choosing option two.
Good luck on the work, hopefully you will be able to get some funds and sort stuff out to keep working on Flagship in the future.

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Thaiauxn

Been 4 years, but my heart jumps every time I see an update. :D Start a damn Patreon, and I don't care if all I get is a monthly or bi-monthly "I did this cool thing and this other thing still sucks."

It's still worth it just to have one. Helps justify continuing to do it, and as it builds up over time, improves the long term success. You'll kick yourself for every day you didn't have Patreon content years from now. I do, trust me. Had I started mine 4 years ago it would be 10x better off than starting it 2 years ago, and so would I.

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TheBleachDoctor
TheBleachDoctor

I'm just glad that Starship isn't completely dead. I'll be right on board with your new game though, I've recently gotten into fighter pilot games.

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