We’ve added a crucial mechanism for understanding events in-game now with the notification panel. It’ll provide contextual notices along with links allowing you to move very easily between Zones, Ships and Space Objects.
You’ll also notice in the videos that unit groupings are now dynamic as promised, with ‘soft’ groupings enabling quick formation moves of ships and ‘hard’ groupings further adding keyboard shortcuts and distinguishing icons shown in tactical and on the map. With all those ships in play you’ll notice the fleet panel getting a little crowded there, but shortly soft groups will be listed under the emblem for each faction and they (and the Players hard grouping icons) will enable filtering of the fleet list.
Clarity is the name of the game for the UI in general at the moment, if the right parts are noticed at the right times and its obvious what the elements do then we consider it a win. Though some colours still need tweaking and some icons redesigned – functionally it certainly does the job, it’s a lot more inviting now with the feedback animation and we’re looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it.
Swinging development chat back round to combat, we needed a decision to make as to how exactly we would display damage. When polled over on the forums, the majority of people wanted to see rolling damage counters which kinda fits with the finding and fitting of better weapons and support modules you’ll come across on your travels. The alternative is health-bars, which really add a lot of visual load especially in dense scenes. Considering the scale we’ve now adopted which allows us to view more of those glorious details, we think a touch of realistic damage modelling might instead suffice to indicate health, if you’re too busy drooling at the battle to spare a cursory glance at the fleet panel.
On that note, you might notice nothing is exploding just yet – we’re implementing a number of solutions there including smouldering wrecks, damage decals to tear open those bulk heads and toying with the idea of mesh deformation. We’re also looking at really using the physics engine to decorate the battles with ships spinning out of control, visibly reacting to shots hitting the hull.
Under the hood is also progressing well, taking the time to rewrite the base layers has paid its dues. With the implementation of NVIDIA Physx and all the background concurrency stuff we feared it might perform a little worse than the current alpha, but surprisingly not so. We’ve tested over a hundred ships in a zone and let them fight and the framerate doesn’t really drop and we can have much more NPC traffic milling around in the background zones than we actually need so it certainly all bodes well for the inclusion of other Planets and perhaps even other concurrent planetary systems.
You’ll probably also notice that all the ships have names, we’ve gone through all the suggestions over the years, filtered them into good names and evil names and put them in. I think after we discarded the unsuitable ones we have over 300 hundred but it’s not enough. For the crack we added a few of our favourite sci-fi TV show characters to pad it out which hopefully made you chuckle but we should probably add some more… mature suggestions, we sure would appreciate it if you could pop some in the comments below!
The focus now is completing combat which is pretty much there, implementing the mission and dialogue system so we get some meaningful enemy unit placement, we also need a very basic tutorial and then we’ll put up the Beta. That’s obviously going to be a very exciting time as we have a series of tests and topics planned to get some constructive criticism flowing but the most exciting bit being you guys actually getting your hands on it!
On that point, it’s really tricky knowing just when is the right time to put it up and honestly, I say this with meaning – thanks for remaining patient. We’re pushing to get the Overhaul into the public domain very soon even with a rough alpha so we can get back to the normality of testing and updating.
As always thanks for the continued support!