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PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2007 12:00 pm 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
pd wrote:
Geoff wrote:
Supreme Commander has a continuous transition from low-level detail view to very high level strategic view with icons for units [but] you end up spending a lot of time zoomed out to get the big strategic picture, and rarely zoom in to see all the nice details...
1. That doesn't mean it has to be the same way in fO, does it?

No, it doesn't, but the observation is something to keep in mind.

Good to know, because you made it sound like a reason against using icons.

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2. What do you suggest instead, if you dislike the idea of icons? There is no alternate way besides 3d representations, yet.

I didn't say I disliked icons...

But you didn't say you liked it either, which makes me think you are in favor of the idea using 3d models, since this is the one you've been arguing for previously.

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Also, in case there was confusion, the "icons" I referred to in Supreme Commander replaced whole units when zoomed out. They weren't just to provide details about an already-visible unit.

(Much of the rest of your (pd's) post seems to have misinterpreted the meaning of the Supreme Commander "icons" in my post.)

No, there is no misinterpreting at all. Much of the rest of my post was about arguments for icons and against 3d models(for subsystems) and until now you didn't really reply to the problems I was talking about when using 3d models for sub systems. Implying 'misinterpreting' doesn't help the discussion.


Mockups are going to clear things up, but there is still a lot of things that can be clarified without them. I'm busy this weekend, so I, for one won't have time to create them.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2007 5:20 pm 
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pd wrote:
Another thing that popped into my mind: The weapons or other systems, that a ship is equipped with could be shown with icons floating next the ship. When combat starts, non of those would be visible, only once a ship makes use of a certain sub-system, the icon will appear. Usage of advanced scanners might also be a way to let those show up. This way you wouldn't have to scroll in and take a close look at every ship, trying to find familiar looking turrets and stuff, because this would be tedious and boring. Opinions please!


Basically this icon system seems fine, since it can show you important info about the ships. However I am not so sure about if the icons would interfere with other battle functions like explosions and ships firing at each other. So could it be a good idea if in normal battle view you would only get to see the basic function of the group/ships, for example a carrier group consisting of two PD ships and 10 carrier ships (maybe also the overall health bars of every ship).

To get more detailed information about the weapon locations and the condition of the subsystems on the ships of the group you would move your mouse over the enemy group and press a particular key to see all of the icons. Now I am not of course sure if this kind of a system would take too much of the players time, especially if he/she would want to have almost real time battles.

Geoff the Medio wrote:
The point is that because the game is best played at the strategic level, you rarely get to see the eye candy during actual gameplay. This is unfortunate, because just seeing tactical / strategic maps with faction-coloured icons instead of eye candy can greatly reduce the enjoyment of a controlling a battle, which is the whole point of the system ot start with. Another way: in this case, gameplay depends a lot on having eye candy... to the point that some games (GalCiv 2) eliminate the "gameplay" from space combat, and just have eye candy, and other games (MOO3) that have particularly poor visuals are particularly criticized for it.

Obviously it would be better if we could somehow design an interface that lets the user have both eye candy and good strategic / tactical control, though it's not necessarily the case that we can completely sacrifice the former for the latter.


This is very well said. I would also hope that we could achieve both, good quality graphics and good strategic/tactical control. There is so much that good quality graphics, even if they become not so great looking when technology develops, can offer to the overall experience. Probably one of the main reasons why I like the Total War games so much is the overall feeling during battles that you are actually commanding a real historical battle and this most certainly couldn’t be achieved if there were just icons representing the troops. On the other hand the reason why I still don`t have GalCiv 2 is that you can`t command your own ships in it during battles and so there are no interesting decisions to be made.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2007 8:31 pm 
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This topic really isn't going much of anywhere in terms of figuring out how to actually display the details. What we need is someone to come in with a fresh idea that will work zoomed in or out. So here I am.8)

My idea is this: the ships have nice 3D designs. Different ones for each different shape and size. Different colours for different empires. Which parts of the ship will change colour to make the coolest effect is up to the art team, of course. Different ship styles for different races is just too much work. It's unnecessary, since the players will be using different shapes and sizes of ships anyway for the most part, and they are distinguishable between empires by colour.

Now for the important part. The UI in combat. My idea is quite simple. We have icons for ship role and health meters that appear when, and ONLY when your mouse is over that particular ship. That way we don't have a bunch of icons getting in the way, and the player can very easily see what type of ship he's up against. If the player wants more detailed info, he can right-click on the ship to get a pop-up screen much like MoO2. (Possible tech that hides certain systems/weapons from detection?)

Now, about the specifics of these icons, they should be determined by what's actually in the ship rather than a scroll-down menu selected by the player. Otherwise, you can just plain trick your enemy into thinking a missile boat is a point defense vessel. For ships with multiple roles, multiple icons would come up, their size depending on the ratio of each weapon type on the ship. So if you have 5 medium slots on a ship, 3 are taken up by fighters, 2 by missiles, and 1 by PD weapons, you would see a carrier icon, a slightly smaller missile icon, and an even smaller PD icon. Alternately, we could have a bright coloured meter next to each one with the meter fuller depending on how full the ship is of that weapon type. (If the icons of the other method might get to small or not be precise enough on larger ships, this would be a better method.)

This method allows easy and instant access to basic information without clutter as well as possible access to more advanced information without taking too much time.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2007 2:58 am 
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It looks like we have a rough consensus around using icons to indicate ship properties during battles, and not attempting to attach 3D models of individual parts such as weapons or sensor arrays onto a base hull model.

Hopefully some ship characteristics can be conveyed through the general appearance of the hull model though. Obviously size and general shape can be shown. Perhaps general stealthiness levels, or combat-resiliance, or whatever other properties we decide to imbue hulls with can be semi-consistently conveyed through model designs as well. If engines are integral to hulls and not a separate part choice, then hopefully the hull models could incorporate consistent representations of the different propulsion types that are included in the game as well, without requiring the level of (or any) flexibility that pd is opposed to.

I'd still like to see some mockups, from pd or others, though, and additional comments or concerns are welcome...


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2007 11:50 pm 
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I find it rather ironic how you dismiss SotS style ships as being "cartoony" and "unrealistic", but homeworld ship designs are desirable, since basicly the same people made both ships!!

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2007 7:20 pm 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
Hopefully some ship characteristics can be conveyed through the general appearance of the hull model though. Obviously size and general shape can be shown. Perhaps general stealthiness levels,
IMHO, the stealth level shouldn't really affect the appearance of a ship once you are actually able to see it. If you can see it, you can see it. It shouldn't be physically any different from a normal ship except that it has a cloaking device inside.
Geoff the Medio wrote:
or combat-resiliance, or whatever other properties we decide to imbue hulls with can be semi-consistently conveyed through model designs as well. If engines are integral to hulls and not a separate part choice, then hopefully the hull models could incorporate consistent representations of the different propulsion types that are included in the game as well, without requiring the level of (or any) flexibility that pd is opposed to.
If engine type and other like information is shown, that kind of takes away the option of having a Trojan Horse style strategy by which your enemy doesn't know the full potential of your ships. On a semi-related note, I think that that a player should be able to know that the enemy ship exists before having full knowledge of its equipment and weaponry, for instance, if you have to be X distance from a ship to know that it exists, then you would have be 1/2X distance from the ship to know all of what it is equipped with. Possibly, a tech could be made that guards certain parts from detection. (A sort of single part cloaking device.)

Geoff the Medio wrote:
I'd still like to see some mockups, from pd or others, though, and additional comments or concerns are welcome...
These are my comments and concerns, however useless they may be. :lol:

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2007 8:56 pm 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
I'd still like to see some mockups, from pd or others, though, and additional comments or concerns are welcome...

I'm pretty busy this week, I hope I can flesh out something on weekend.

I invite everyone to do some mockups until then. This is realy nothing fancy. Just some icons and/or bars around a small picture of a spaceship. Try to find a good balance and arangement.

Some questions to the game design team:
What information has to been shown exactly? Health, Shields, Fuel, Role? What else? Specific subsystems like weapons and engines? Is it possible to have four different weapon types like SR, LR, PD and Fighters or even more on one ship? I know this might be hidden in the design document, but a summary of what has to be shown might be helpful.

Quote:
I find it rather ironic how you dismiss SotS style ships as being "cartoony" and "unrealistic", but homeworld ship designs are desirable, since basicly the same people made both ships!!

Artists/Designers are usually capable of producing different styles. Also, are you sure about this? Homeworld was produced by Relic, right?


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2007 11:42 pm 
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Bigjoe5 wrote:
IMHO, the stealth level shouldn't really affect the appearance of a ship once you are actually able to see it. If you can see it, you can see it. It shouldn't be physically any different from a normal ship except that it has a cloaking device inside.

If present, the differences would be stylistic. eg. stealthy hulls tend to have a particular shape or texture or material applied to them. Details are off topic.

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If engine type and other like information is shown, that kind of takes away the option of having a Trojan Horse style strategy by which your enemy doesn't know the full potential of your ships.

There are plenty of other properties of ships or details of their designs that would not be visible.

General engine characteristics would be considered "blatantly obvious", like general hull size or shape... However there would be various non-visible engine modifications / add-ons of significant importance as well.

pd wrote:
I invite everyone to do some mockups until then. This is realy nothing fancy. Just some icons and/or bars around a small picture of a spaceship. Try to find a good balance and arangement.

Some questions to the game design team:
What information has to been shown exactly? Health, Shields, Fuel, Role? What else? Specific subsystems like weapons and engines? Is it possible to have four different weapon types like SR, LR, PD and Fighters or even more on one ship? I know this might be hidden in the design document, but a summary of what has to be shown might be helpful.

These details haven't all been worked out yet... The point of this thread isn't to finalize the battle UI, but rather is to figure out the basics of how ships should be shown, particularly as relevant to other design decisions.

For these mockups, I'd assume that up to all four weapon types are available, and that there are a few other meters / values to show, like shields and armour or hull integrity levels. Binary indicators for functional / damaged for individual parts might also be good. Not all of these necessarily have to be shown all the time, though... (but when they do or don't hasn't been determined yet)


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2007 4:40 pm 
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The Silent One wrote:
if a weapon was used, the icon would fade in, and after a short period would disappear again; so basically, the icons would show "this (weapon) system is in use right now". This way, only one or two icons would be shown at one time, preventing that the models would be obscured by icons.

Since nobody has commented on this, I'd like to demonstrate how this would look.

Image

This ship is selected; shield/systems design by utilae.

- on firing a weapon, an appropriate icon fades in (here, it's "1st"). the icons positions should be fixed, eg. top left is primary weapon, top right secondary weapon, the bottom positions may be for specials/systems. This way, the icon's position will tell the player about its function
- if the selected ship belongs to the players empire, all icons will be displayed
- if the player selects a group, a circle will be drawn around all ships; their health etc. will be averaged (?)
- I could easily imagine up to 8 icon positions inside the circle, and even more on the outside


Image

This ship isn't selected.


Image

(A different icon layout.) This ship has been selected and belongs to the player.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2007 9:40 pm 
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That's a good start Silent, I'm in a rush now and so I'll comment later.

Here is a .png with proper transparency, if anyone else wants to make mockups.
Image

Geoff wrote:
The point of this thread isn't to finalize the battle UI, but rather is to figure out the basics of how ships should be shown, particularly as relevant to other design decisions.

I'm not sure I understand. I always thought we would have basicy a 2D plane, where the ships are moving on. The ships should figure out their height on their own, depending on formations, terrain and other aspects. Also there is a camera which can be moved, rotated and zoomed by the player. Is this what you are after? If not, please clarify what you mean by 'how ships should be shown'.

I didn't think about finalizing the battle UI either, but thought that we would start working out the basics now.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2007 11:00 pm 
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Regarding the weapon icons fading in when used stuff, and the assumptions about when and how weapons of enemy ships would be visible that it makes: We'll probably have some rules about when players can see what weapons or other parts enemy ships have, but it probably won't be just "when the ship is firing and immediately after". For graphics planning purposes, you should consider how to display these sorts of icons in general, and not worry about specifically when players would have access to this information. (I mean when in a strategic sense, not in a sub-turn timing sense, as discussed below.)

Also, we'll probably want to be able to shown a few different types of information:
- "this ship has a certain part type"
- "this ship is currently using this part type"
- "this ship has some characteristic about it that isn't related to a part type" (eg. it is owned by player X)
- "this ship has some meter value with a max and a current value" (eg. shield strength, armour / hull strength)

Also, fading in and out with a period of a second or so probably isn't very useful. Turns play out over several seconds at least, and even if the part has some sub-turn firing rate that's represented in the animation, it's probably still "using" the part for the full turn. As such, info about whether a ship is using a particular part should probably be tracked over the length of a whole turn and be available during a pause at the end of each turn.

pd wrote:
I always thought we would have basicy a 2D plane, where the ships are moving on. The ships should figure out their height on their own, depending on formations, terrain and other aspects. Also there is a camera which can be moved, rotated and zoomed by the player. Is this what you are after? If not, please clarify what you mean by 'how ships should be shown'.

The main issue of this thread has been whether models should have parts attached according to the design of the ship, or if such ship design information should be shown some other way, such as with icons. Also brought up was the issue of what to do when zoomed out so far that ship models are too small to be recognized, and whether this should be possible.

The points you mention above should also be verified though, and this thread should serve the purpose. Does anyone have comments or concerns about:
- Ships, planets, stars, and other objects in battles are located on and/or move within a 2D plane
- The player can translate, rotate and zoom the camera to view this plane, with some limits such as max/min zoom levels or always viewing the battle plane from "above" (details to be determined)
- Important or major objects in battles are always visibly centred on the battle plane. This includes ships, planets, stars etc.
- Objects' models can extend above and below the battle plane significantly. In particular, a star or planet might be much larger than a ship on screen, and is spherical, so would extend noticably above the battle plane. The object's effective shape in the battle plane is still 2D, however; a star or planet is a circle to ships flying around it, and the visbile extent above or below the battle plane doesn't affect gameplay.
- Groups of objects that aren't individually important, but collectively are important, or that can only be controlled as a group are also centred, as a group, on the battle plane. However, individual models within the group might appear above or below the plane as long as the group is plane-centred. Groups of objects of this sort might include clouds of small asteroids, or squadrons of fighters that the player controls as a group, but can't interact with individually.

Note that the above assumes that planets and stars are in the battle plane, and not a terrain type that you fly "in" or "over", and aren't suspended below the battle plane (as could have been done).


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2007 11:37 pm 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
There are plenty of other properties of ships or details of their designs that would not be visible.

General engine characteristics would be considered "blatantly obvious", like general hull size or shape... However there would be various non-visible engine modifications / add-ons of significant importance as well.

I don't see why we should make general engine characteristics as blatantly obvious as size or shape. I don't want my enemies to know what how fast my ship can go and how much it can take. It's very important information as far as strategy is concerned and the player should have to find out the normal way: getting within scanning range and having good enough scanning technology. You seem to want all the important stuff to be shown and all the unimportant stuff hidden, apparently without any thought to strategy whatsoever. All the people inside the ship can see is a big hunk of metal with a glowing back end flying towards them. They need scanners to know what type of engines and and armor it has, and it's better for gameplay that way.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2007 8:44 am 
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@The Silent One
Thanks for the credit. Inspiration was from here for anyone who was wondering:
space combat mockup

Also, yeah that looks good. Though Geoff is right that it might be too quick. Also if you look at the game Guild Wars they use a system where icons appear whenever skills are used. The icons appear whenever your characters use skills, and if an enemy is selected, it shows what skill they are using.

What you can do is show the weapon icon for the current weapon used and the last weapon used. So that way the last weapon used is always visible, though soon replaced by the current weapon.

Geoff the Medio wrote:
- Important or major objects in battles are always visibly centred on the battle plane. This includes ships, planets, stars

It depends on what the player considers important. Don't want the camera jumping off to some annoying location, then giving players the chance to move units, only to have to scroll all the way back there.

Bigjoe5 wrote:
I don't see why we should make general engine characteristics as blatantly obvious as size or shape. I don't want my enemies to know what how fast my ship can go and how much it can take. It's very important information as far as strategy is concerned and the player should have to find out the normal way: getting within scanning range and having good enough scanning technology. You seem to want all the important stuff to be shown and all the unimportant stuff hidden, apparently without any thought to strategy whatsoever. All the people inside the ship can see is a big hunk of metal with a glowing back end flying towards them. They need scanners to know what type of engines and and armor it has, and it's better for gameplay that way.

Agree completely.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2007 9:17 am 
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Bigjoe5 wrote:
I don't see why we should make general engine characteristics as blatantly obvious as size or shape.

It is assumed that the way an engine functions is fundamental to the design of a hull that incorporates such an engine. Thus the general type of engine being used is obvious from the rough shape of a hull, at least for some engine types. For example, Star Trek ships often have blatantly obvious nacelles for warp travel, and Star Wars capital ships have large engine ports sticking out the back for (I assume) sublight travel. This lets anyone observing the ships to know the general sort of propulsion that's used. Granted, in these sci-fi universes there is only one possible mechanism in each respective case, but the point is that ship designs often reflect how they function.

None of that is a gameplay argument, but such an argument is that we don't want all our hulls to look identical. Assuming engines are integral to hulls, hull will have to look different depending on the kind of engine that is in them.

Note that this doesn't mean everything about the ship's engine-related characteristics (or other characteristics) are obvious from its apperance. As noted above, there are various other parts that would alter how a ship functions that wouldn't be easily visible, and would be shown with icons or not at all, as appropriate. Knowing that a ship uses drive technology X doesn't mean you know how fast it goes or how much fuel it can carry, though it may indicate a tendency toward certain characteristics in these sorts of areas.

Quote:
I don't want my enemies to know what how fast my ship can go and how much it can take.

However you probably would like to know how fast your enemy's ships are.

Regardless, there are pros and cons to ship characteristic visibility, and there's nothing particularly special about the general type of engine that makes it absolutely unthinkable to represent this information in the appearance of the hull. Engines (in this scheme) are just one factor that influences how a particular hull functions, along with size and shape.

utilae wrote:
Geoff the Medio wrote:
- Important or major objects in battles are always visibly centred on the battle plane. This includes ships, planets, stars
It depends on what the player considers important. Don't want the camera jumping off to some annoying location, then giving players the chance to move units, only to have to scroll all the way back there.

??? Objects being affixed to a 2D plane has nothing to do with automatically moving the camera. The 2D battle plane is not "the screen".


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2007 4:23 pm 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
Regarding the weapon icons fading in when used stuff, and the assumptions about when and how weapons of enemy ships would be visible that it makes: We'll probably have some rules about when players can see what weapons or other parts enemy ships have, but it probably won't be just "when the ship is firing and immediately after".

The idea is that the icon stays longer than shown in the mockup. I just did it to demonstrate the general principle.

-------

Please read carefully or you may misinterpret this mockup (shields).
At the moment, I did not apply transparency to simplify things.
The ship has been selected.

Image

:arrow: shields (blue): the upper left shield arc demonstrates a large shield meter, the bottom right ones a small shield meter. we could have two and/or four shield arcs. the bottom left shield arcs have been weakened.

- The radius of the half/quarter-circle shows the shield meter.
- The opacity of the shield shows its current strength.

:arrow: armor (red): same principles apply.

:arrow: weapons/systems:

- Currently active systems are highlighted (in this example, the deadly natural tunnels cannon is firing).
- Functional systems are green in front of a grey background.
- Partly damaged systems are yellow/orange (badly done here).
- Destroyed systems are bright red/red (badly done here).

:arrow: Markings: this ships has (too subtle) purple markings that shows it belongs to the insect-despising Kibosh Empire.

Still thinking about how to show deselected ships.

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