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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 10:14 am 
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The issue of ship apperance in battles and how this interacts with ship designs and 3D modelling has been brought up. I don't have a nicely-prepared initial post about it, but this seems important enough to warrant its own thread.

The issue was raised in this context:
eleazar wrote:
[In] almost any way of portraying space-ships, the engines aren't just any component. Engines are integral to the form of the ship. This of the Enterprise or your favorite space vessel. You can't just move the engines around without completely changing the ships identity. It's not the same for any but the most outrageously large weaopons. You can add lasers, missiles, ect. without making the hull unrecognizable. If i were designing the ship models i would not want to deal with a system where the user could stick engines anywhere.

Before addressing the particularities of engines, it would seem best to address ship models and parts in general...

The quote assumes that the 3D models will change significantly depending on the design of what they represent. Presumably this include weapons, engines and various other ship parts being visible on the model during a battle. Ideally, this would allow the rough details of a design to be apparent from player inspection, without having to check each ship in a battle. Hopefully it will also made distinguishing between already-known ship types fairly easy as well.

However, it's not been established that doing this is practical or desirable overall...

Technically, I believe it should be possible to position properly formed smaller part models on the surface of ship hulls. tzlaine can hopefully correct if this is not likely to happen, but for now I'll assume it is.

Artistically though, having to make ship models compatible with having other models stuck on to them in a variety of positions might not be ideal. It's presumably much easier to make a nice-looking / stylish / evocative / purposefully bad-looking design if the artist has no restrictions regarding the need to articulate with weapon or engine or sensor array models that are to be placed on the surface afterwards by the engine.

What are artists' and modellers' thoughts on this?


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 10:46 am 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
....However, it's not been established that doing this is practical or desirable overall...

Technically, I believe it should be possible to position properly formed smaller part models on the surface of ship hulls. tzlaine can hopefully correct if this is not likely to happen, but for now I'll assume it is.

Artistically though, having to make ship models compatible with having other models stuck on to them in a variety of positions might not be ideal. It's presumably much easier to make a nice-looking / stylish / evocative / purposefully bad-looking design if the artist has no restrictions regarding the need to articulate with weapon or engine or sensor array models that are to be placed on the surface afterwards by the engine.

What are artists' and modellers' thoughts on this?


First off, I don't claim to be a 3D modeler, but 3D modelers have worked at adjacent desk(s) for several years, and i've worked with them on various projects.

I certainly expect it to be more work for code and art enable the ship's appearance to change with the equipment. Probably this will be implemented at the end of v.4. But the benefits seem pretty compelling. No matter how cool our modelers could make a medium-sized hull appear if they built it all as one— after a few seconds of "ooh" and "ahh" the player will be much happier with an appearance that he had a hand in. The player wants to see what he did, see his mark on the game-world.

Besides, who wants to see a bunch of ships that look identical but really have different powers?
Not only is it boring, it's confusing. There's no better way to indicate that a certain ship has a stellar destroyer, than by putting a crazy big weapon on the from of the ship. Even if some/all of that info is displayed in text somewhere, it's most obvious if it can be seen on the ship.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 12:31 pm 
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I think its just not practical, if we have different races using non-identical ships, then for any new component you need to have an extra 3d model for every single race you have! (note identical ships for all races are more boring than static ship designs)

Doing so means that the cost of creating an extra component is what, a dozen 3d models? Not to mention the cost of creating an extra race. It just isn't practical. And the limitations it places on modder's abilities to create additional components and races...

As for how you can design a ship that looks good when someone places engines and stellar converters in unusual places, I can't see it. Unless you want to limit ship design based around where these components could "look good"

It just isn't worth the effort.



Besides actually looking at the ships is a very inefficient way of gathering info, you have to zoom in, and check each ship individually. Some way to tell ships en mass and from a distance is required. Drag selecting and getting the names of all ships in the selection box would work. Providing you already know what a titan class is equipped with, if not a simple in battle way of bringing up its details would work.

We've all played Master of Orion 2, I'm sure we can all live with static ship designs.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 2:52 pm 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
The quote assumes that the 3D models will change significantly depending on the design of what they represent. Presumably this include weapons, engines and various other ship parts being visible on the model during a battle. Ideally, this would allow the rough details of a design to be apparent from player inspection, without having to check each ship in a battle. Hopefully it will also made distinguishing between already-known ship types fairly easy as well.


I am no artist or modeller, but from my point of view if it is possible to have 3D models that change significantly depending on the design and don`t limit other strategic options too much, I hope that there will be these kinds of models.

There have already been various good reasons for having these kinds of models mentioned in this topic, like the models ability to display information and the players "finger print" on the ships. Also I don`t think it is a big secret that the overall graphical quality of the space combat will be a big part of the players overall gaming experience. Now you could of course have good quality graphics with the static ship designs too, but if we can achieve this with changing 3D models I would like to think that the overall gaming experience would be much more unique and so more interesting also.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 4:51 pm 
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Tortanick wrote:
I think its just not practical, if we have different races using non-identical ships, then for any new component you need to have an extra 3d model for every single race you have!


Two assumptions here i don't share.
1) that each race will have different 3D models for the components: I don't see why they should. Each race has exactly the same tech tree. Why should we undertake a huge amount of work to make 12+ different appearances of the Mark1 Laser Cannon? That's "too much work" and not really a good idea. If these component models serve any purpose the player much know what they are, and that's quite hard if each race has it's own visual version.

2) that each race will have different 3D models for the ship's hulls: This is a nice thought but much more work than making models for components. The engine should allow this if possible, but i don't think it should be considered necessary for each race to have it's own set. That would severely limit the number of races.

[soapbox] It's highly unlikely that we can develop FO fast enough to compete with commercial products on an "ooh, pretty! shiny!" level. So we should make FO look as good as we can, but never choose pretty graphics over richness of gameplay. Gameplay, more than graphics is what keeps long-term players anyway— who are vital for the success of a large, free project.


Tortanick wrote:
We've all played Master of Orion 2, I'm sure we can all live with static ship designs.
Irrelevant. MoO2 is turn based, and the player has as much time as he wants to mouse over and read stats. Besides MoO2 fleets generally have few ships, FO will almost certainly have more because it has so many more systems to divide them amoung.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 4:58 pm 
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There have been good reasons stated for and against displaying different ship parts on the outside of the ship hulls. Being a designer and 3d artist, I think it's a bad idea. The two major reasons are:

1. There is no way of making a really good looking design and providing a way for the player to customize the ship parts positions at the same time, unless they are small(see homeworld) or we go for a more cartoon-like look. Having small ship parts doesn't make sense, if the purpose of having the parts visible at all is being recognizable. I don't like the idea of a cartoon-like, heavily stylized look either. Designing a space ship, as designing pretty much everything, is a very intensive process. The form language, silhouette, proportions and placement of individual parts have to be very well chosen to create a successful design.

2. Having race specific ship designs means we would need race specific ship parts as well. This would be a enourmous additional effort. Using the same kind of ship parts on varying race's ships is out of the question. Especially considering plant, insect or mineral space ships, all with the same metal turrets and engine types. This simply doesn't work.

So yeah, I'm for fixed, but much better looking and diverse ship designs.

There have to be some boundaries and you can't allow the player to have control over everything.

Look at Spore for example, where you can 'design' your creatures as you like. This only works because it's using a cartoon-like style.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 5:14 pm 
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pd wrote:
Especially considering plant, insect or mineral space ships, all with the same metal turrets and engine types. This simply doesn't work.


It's already been decided that all races have the same turrets and engine types. There is one tech tree.


pd wrote:
Look at Spore for example, where you can 'design' your creatures as you like. This only works because it's using a cartoon-like style.

Spore is far, far more ambitious that anything that's been realistically suggested for FO.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 5:24 pm 
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eleazar wrote:
pd wrote:
Especially considering plant, insect or mineral space ships, all with the same metal turrets and engine types. This simply doesn't work.

It's already been decided that all races have the same turrets and engine types. There is one tech tree.

But that's not what I was talking about. I don't care what's inside the hull. This entire thread, is about whether we should display some of those things on the outside.

Quote:
pd wrote:
Look at Spore for example, where you can 'design' your creatures as you like. This only works because it's using a cartoon-like style.

Spore is far, far more ambitious that anything that's been realistically suggested for FO.

What is your point? Spore just served as an example, how things like this can work(by using a cartoon like style).


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 5:38 pm 
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What will be possible is to have relativly small 'gun emission points', which could be placed pretty much freely on the surface of the meshes. So that if the player decides to put a laser weapon somewhere on the left side of the ship, it will actually fire from there. Those should be relativly small and simple, so that they're not much of an effort to create and fit to the racial designs. Maybe we could even use colors to indicate whether there is a laser or ballistic weapon underneath.

This way the weapons don't interfere with the designs itself, and still there is an indication of the weapons used.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 6:29 pm 
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eleazar wrote:
1) that each race will have different 3D models for the components: I don't see why they should. Each race has exactly the same tech tree. Why should we undertake a huge amount of work to make 12+ different appearances of the Mark1 Laser Cannon? That's "too much work" and not really a good idea. If these component models serve any purpose the player much know what they are, and that's quite hard if each race has it's own visual version.

This assumption was dependant on assumption 2. If races do have diffrent models for ship hulls. Or to a lesser extent if organic ships look diffrent to metal ships. Then there must be a different model for the same component for each style of ship. Otherwise they just won't fit. A large metal turret on an organic ship just won't work.

Still pd has joined the thread, so listen to him and not me ;)

eleazar wrote:
Tortanick wrote:
We've all played Master of Orion 2, I'm sure we can all live with static ship designs.
Irrelevant. MoO2 is turn based, and the player has as much time as he wants to mouse over and read stats. Besides MoO2 fleets generally have few ships, FO will almost certainly have more because it has so many more systems to divide them amoung.

No we're not. I quote from the design doc.
design doc wrote:
The combat engine will be hybrid real-time and turn-based. Individual turns will play out in real time, but player input, through orders, will only take effect once per turn. Orders may be given at any time (paused or not) and are queued to be processed in subsequent turns.


I'm not entirely sure what that means (and I'd like to talk about it) but its quite clear that it is not an RTS. I'm under the impression players get infinite time to chose their orders.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 8:53 pm 
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pd wrote:
2. Having race specific ship designs means we would need race specific ship parts as well. This would be a enourmous additional effort. Using the same kind of ship parts on varying race's ships is out of the question. Especially considering plant, insect or mineral space ships, all with the same metal turrets and engine types. This simply doesn't work.

So yeah, I'm for fixed, but much better looking and diverse ship designs.


Well if race specific ship designs together with changing models can`t be achieved then I will also agree that static/fixed designs would be the best alternative, since if you can clearly see that every race has the same basic hull design it doesn`t really convince you that you are dealing with unique alien species.

Although one possible option comes to my non graphical designer mind. MOO 3, which was horrible in space battle graphics, had the same set of ship hulls for alien groups like the insect aliens for example. Now instead of that could it be possible to have different hull designs for individual alien species, but have for example all of the aliens that have mineral space ships using the same set of parts?

But then there is of course this problem:

pd wrote:
1. There is no way of making a really good looking design and providing a way for the player to customize the ship parts positions at the same time, unless they are small(see homeworld) or we go for a more cartoon-like look. Having small ship parts doesn't make sense, if the purpose of having the parts visible at all is being recognizable. I don't like the idea of a cartoon-like, heavily stylized look either. Designing a space ship, as designing pretty much everything, is a very intensive process. The form language, silhouette, proportions and placement of individual parts have to be very well chosen to create a successful design.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 9:04 pm 
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Quote:
Now instead of that could it be possible to have different hull designs for individual alien species, but have for example all of the aliens that have mineral space ships using the same set of parts?

If we had race specific ship designs and race specific components, certainly this would be possible. But I doubt it will lessen the effort we need, because the question is, will there be 2 mineral(or whatever) races? Especially in the 1.0 release I think we should try to get as varied races as possible and avoid anything too similar.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2007 1:31 am 
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pd wrote:
1. There is no way of making a really good looking design and providing a way for the player to customize the ship parts positions at the same time, unless they are small(see homeworld) or we go for a more cartoon-like look. Having small ship parts doesn't make sense, if the purpose of having the parts visible at all is being recognizable. I don't like the idea of a cartoon-like, heavily stylized look either. Designing a space ship, as designing pretty much everything, is a very intensive process. The form language, silhouette, proportions and placement of individual parts have to be very well chosen to create a successful design.


Actually, I beg to differ... Sword of the Stars does this quite well, with 3d models... mostly due to a command point system that limits the amount of ships per side in battle at any one time. Of course, a specialized ship known as a command and control mission section increases this amount, but again... there is an upper limit. Bigger ships cost more command points to field then smaller ones. You really should look at how they did thier ships...

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2007 2:05 am 
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Zanzibar wrote:
Sword of the Stars [has a] command point system that limits the amount of ships per side in battle at any one time.

What does this have to do with whether ship parts can or should be shown on ships' 3D models?


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2007 2:14 am 
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One thought that comes to mind (at least for pre 1.0 releases), is to emulate the real world. The world's leading combat aircraft are produced by a small handful of countries like the USA, Russia, France, etc. and dozens of other countries buy from these few to equip their armed forces. We could have 1-4 advanced races that sell their ships to the open market (lower tech versions). Or perhaps only one race, but with competing industries(and competing styles) offering their wares.

The point being, we could utilise as few as three or four ship styles being used by all races. Consequently, exterior attachments could be limited in number of styles\design. Note, this is not necessarily my preference, but I am offering a simple solution to pre 1.0 ship design. Obviously, this does not take into account organic, or mineral based ships (at least not easily)

There could be some "galactic rule" that limits the installation of weapons and other parts that are in advance of your current tech.

This setup could possibly be utilised in post 1.0 environment, however, I would imagine by mid-late game a race would achieve sufficient tech level to match the "advanced race(s)", and could design their own ships. This scenario would allow a limit to "custom" ship design, yet still allow it, within a controllable time span. This scenario would create a relatively small, finite amount of ships\styles.


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