Escape Velocity: Star Fleet Genesis

Chat about the Genesis project and storyline
Bradster
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Escape Velocity: Star Fleet Genesis

Postby Bradster » Sun Nov 10, 2002 4:46 am

note to Andy: I wasn't sure if this would belong in Genesis or Other Creative Work. Feel free to move it if you see fit.After reading about the game systems that Shane and Crash Override have been tinkering with in the Other Creative Work forum, I have started giving some serious thought into developing a plugin set or a "total conversion" plugin for Star Fleet into the space shooter/strategy game Escape Velocity Nova. I had started developing 3D models and compiling data for a Starcraft plugin for EVN several months ago, but never finished it. Here are a couple of shots from it:http://brad.project-think.com/starfleet ... w-2.jpgThe carriers had bays with 8 little interceptors just like in Starcraft. They and the scout and the arbiter all fired custom particle weapons. I hadn't worked out any good physics for the ships, though. Why did I give up on it? Eh, I didn't have any new ideas or real motivation to work out writing missions and inventing ship outfits and custom pilots and constructing all the rest of the ships in 3D.Oh... I guess I should explain what *is* this EVN game first. ;)Escape Velocity started back in 1995 as a *huge* hit game for the Mac. There are people today that are still addicted to the original. "Escape Velocity Nova" is the third installment of this game. By overwhelmingly popular demand, it is now being ported to the Windows platform. In fact, some people want it *so* badly that they run Mac emulators on their PCs just to play it! The Windows version is still in early beta development. This latter bit is the big reason I'm thinking about developing this plugin -- because all you other PC folk would get to experience it too. :biggrin:Okay, now, what *is* this game all about? It is an overhead-view game where you basically get to do whatever you want in the galaxy. You start out with a single small shuttle and a paltry sum of credits. From there, you choose your own path. You can be a trader and fly shipments and ferry passengers to planets and system for money. With that money you can buy a variety of upgrades or weapons for your ship or buy a new ship altogether or even hire escort ships. Alternatively, you could be a pirate and attack other ships, board them, steal their goods and credits, or take the ship itself! If you are really daring, you can even dominate whole planets and make them pay you a daily tithe. If you rather keep to yourself, you can buy an asteroid scoop and mine the drifting rocks for precious metals to sell on a nearby planet. There are several "lifestyle" options for pilots in Escape Velocity.There's a lot more to Escape Velocity than just running trade routes and pillaging, though. There are a number of different government factions and alien species throughout the galaxy. If you play your cards right, you can attract their attention and go through one of several intricately intertwined mission strings. The choices you make and how you perform in the mission strings can actually affect the overall development of the galaxy itself.Here are a few in-flight screenshots I just took. Click the thumbnail to get full-size.And here are two movies I just captured from the game. Unfortunately, the videos have awfully low frame rates (about 6 FPS), but that can't be helped because constant screen capture to disk eats a huge amount of memory bandwidth and just chokes when doing full-screen video. The game itself performs fantastically and the graphics aren't nearly as jumpy as they may appear here. Both video clips require the free QuickTime 6 Player.http://brad.project-think.com/movies/evn-demo-1.mov (1 min 35 sec long, 2.1 MB)http://brad.project-think.com/movies/evn-demo-2.mov (3 min long, 3.8 MB)Yes, these are both basically just suicide runs and in both of them I am using a ship with a single clumsy, unidirectional laser. But, hey, at least my fleet of ships helps me kick some ass before going down in a blaze. ;)Escape Velocity is also completely customizable through plugins. For developers, there's an 85-page "Nova Bible" that just barely covers all the details without any examples. Needless to say, there's a LOT that you can change. Even with all that documentation, there are still some things you just have to figure out on your own through experimenting.Here are a couple of links:"Escape Velocity Nova" home pageEV Nova for Windows progress logEV Nova FAQs pageEV Nova web boardSo, where does Star Fleet fit into all of this? Well, I want to replace the Nova universe with a universe tailored specifically for Star Fleet, complete with an array of ships, ship outfits and weapons, planets and systems, basic trade missions, and even some mission strings that can work you into becoming a trusted member of EDF, an agent for the Imperial Alliance, a Callinian mediator, or something else altogether. I don't have an outline of missions yet, but I do have several ideas for them. Over the past couple of days, I have been compiling a list of canon items that would be included in the game before creating anything new. I now have a full list of ships, weapons, and planets/systems that are used or mentioned in the series.Before I get started on the actual code, I was wondering how many of you would be interested in seeing this. It will be a HUGE undertaking if I follow through with it. Fortunately, it can partially work in tandem with the 3D models I'm doing for Genesis because I'll use the same models for the graphics in the game. Unfortunately, I'm not sure exactly when to expect an actual release of the Windows port. I could be testing this "solo" for quite a while. The progress log sounds promising, but I wouldn't expect anything until early next year. When it *is* released, though, there is one last caveat. You have to pay the US? shareware fee in order to use plugins. You can try the game for as long as you want (though, missions will also be limited) for free before deciding to pay. Personally, I thought it was well worth the price and payed just two days after it was released.Also, if Andy wouldn't mind, I'd like to borrow some of the plot points from his excellent Genesis story to be part of the mission strings. I may have a lot of technical knowhow, but I'm not the greatest writer or storyteller.Thoughts? Comments? Questions? :confused:(Edited by Bradster at 4:50 am on Nov.
10, 2002)(Edited by Bradster at 3:56 pm on Nov. 20, 2002)

AndyThomas
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Escape Velocity: Star Fleet Genesis

Postby AndyThomas » Sun Nov 10, 2002 5:37 pm

Ah. Now I see why the Mecha section was so timely for you Brad. I did think about including planets but they didn't really fall under the mecha category somehow, and of course some don't actually have specific names...EVN sounds a lot like a development of the original Elite - thinks like being an asteroid miner were mentioned in Elite's original flight manual but couldn't be included in the old 8-bit game for obvious reasons. The sequels then expanded those ideas a little. From the screenshots this is more of a shoot-'em up style game though, at least space combat wise?I suppose my immediate thought is that you'd be going it alone to some extent as this is only available on the Mac. That said, you obviously have experience of modding this gaming environment already and you seem capable of generating models very rapidly. For a game like this they wouldn't need to be hugely detailed either, yes?From my personal, self-interested point of view I'd love to see a conversion of a PC game like Homeworld or perhaps Freespace. I believe Homeworld 2 is coming out in 2003 and should include far more modding tools than the original did. Whether it's coming out for the Mac I don't know...So, yes, great idea but an awful lot of work for you as an individual if others aren't able to contribute due to the platform constraint. If the models don't have to be too detailed I could probably have a crack at simple ones like the EDF fighters...?
Andy Thomas - SFXB Webmaster and Forum Moderator

Bradster
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Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2002 12:43 pm

Escape Velocity: Star Fleet Genesis

Postby Bradster » Mon Nov 11, 2002 8:37 pm

Well, I'll be a... :o I Googled for that Elite game and found that it seems to have been a lot like Escape Velocity. Bah! I had thought EV was unique and the first of its kind. No matter. To answer your question, though, EV is indeed a bit more of a shoot 'em up style game. If all you did was find shipping routes and run cargo back and forth between a few key planets, it'd get boring pretty quick.Yes, I also have a little bit of experience in developing for this game (well, its predecessors, but they're mostly the same). Going at it alone for a while is no big deal. Part of me wants to do this simply for the challenge. Using Star Fleet as the theme for it gives me some nice ideas of how to design it. A classic Captain Kirk quote comes to mind. When asked why he had risked his life climbing El Capitan, he quips back, "because it's there." I'll make a plugin for a game just "because it's there.":biggrin:(of course, historians will also recognize that as a quote from the British climber George Mallory when asked about climbing Mount Everist back in the 1920s... but I prefer t think of Captain Kirk)The ships in the game are much smaller than the models I've been working on lately for Genesis. Though, they are still well detailed. For example, one ship is called the Starbridge. Its sprite is no larger than 48x48. However, during the missions and when buying ships or hailing ships you can get much larger, high quality images such as this:http://brad.project-think.com/images/st ... Regardless, it would be great if you wanted to help in the ship building process. The meshes themselves will all probably be very simple and small. High-res textures really aren't a necessity for the sprites. I've got a few sketches for meshes that I'll try to put up here later. Now that I think about it, that EDF "ocean fleet" fighter that you were working on would be a fine addition.I'll keep you posted as I develop the idea. I've already started laying out some basic star charts and planets...(Edited by Bradster at 8:40 pm on Nov. 11, 2002)(Edited by Bradster at 3:55 pm on Nov. 20, 2002)

AndyThomas
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Escape Velocity: Star Fleet Genesis

Postby AndyThomas » Tue Nov 12, 2002 1:40 am

You... you... you've never heard of Elite?! But, it's the grandpa of all space trading/combat sims everywhere! You can even play the original 8-bit version as a Java applet on the Net! Actually, I know why this might be - it came out on computers which were probably far more common here in the UK than they were in the US. The first PC version of Elite came out pretty late in the day so wouldn't have made as big a splash then... It was a real landmark - 3D vector graphics (just lines) on a machine with 32KB of memory. I kid you not. This was, oooh, 20 years back now. God, yes, it really was... that's scary...!Ahem, anyway, so these ships are just sprites - I used to understand them ;) How many different degrees of rotation are needed? All the o'clocks, more, less?
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Happosai
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Escape Velocity: Star Fleet Genesis

Postby Happosai » Tue Nov 12, 2002 10:51 am

Ah, Elite...*goes all misty eyed*[Happosai]

Bradster
Posts: 542
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Escape Velocity: Star Fleet Genesis

Postby Bradster » Wed Nov 13, 2002 1:19 am

Ah, sound effects! Yes, I'll be in need of custom Star Fleet sounds as well. Thank you very much for the offer -- that'll save me from more tedious video captures.All in due time. Right now I'm laying out the basic structure of the game and using dummy images for the ships as I program them. Here's my outline of work as it stands now. First, I'm constructing the various ships and outfits. Second, I'm creating the galactic map and the planets and space stations for each system. Once these first tasks are mostly complete, I'll start with the main plot threads, secondary threads and missions, special characters, and then improved graphics and sounds.(Edited by Bradster at 1:22 am on Nov. 13, 2002)

Bradster
Posts: 542
Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2002 12:43 pm

Escape Velocity: Star Fleet Genesis

Postby Bradster » Sun Nov 17, 2002 2:42 pm

Wow. This is some complicated stuff! I'm having to re-learn a lot of the things I used to know about the old versions of this game because a lot of behind-the-scene parts of the engine have changed pretty dramatically from what I knew.Anyway, I figured I'd post in this thread from time to time with my progress. Right now, I've got the Sol system and the first few surrounding systems mapped out. The Sol system has five ports: Earth, the moon, Mars, one of Jupiter's moons (I haven't decided which yet), and Pluto. For the systems close to ours, I'm using the names of the *actual* stars closest to our sun. Proxima, Wolf 359, Sirius, etc. are about an even distance from Earth. One jump away from Earth is the Proxima system. Proxima Alpha Base, a space station, is to be a major strategic military spaceport for Earth Defense Forces. Pluto Alpha/Beta Base logically is standing down as the last outer defense perimeter. To get to Earth, the enemy would have to pass by Proxima Alpha Base -- if they can.I've also started with four basic transport ships. They are the Space Hopper, Shuttle, Heavy Shuttle, and Cargo Transport. I've generated some very boxy and simple 3D models for each and will be adding much better detail later. I may call upon Andy's skills to help me with these. I've also written out plans for the various small EDF fighters, but I haven't actually coded them in yet or built models for them.I've created five governments so far, but I hope to have more. There is Earth's government with EDF and Star Fleet, the Gelma Empire with the Imperial Fleet, and three other lesser ones that don't yet officially have names. I haven't decided on a name for Earth's government. How does "The Federation" sound? It's simple, recognizable, and already widely used in the sci-fi world as an Earth-based government. Does anyone else have a suggestion for another name?Of course, I'm obligated to post pictures. ;) There's not much to look at yet, but here's a shot I snapped when I hailed Andy as he was passing by me.http://brad.project-think.com/starfleet ... rge2.jpgIn that pic, Andy is flying the cargo transport as seen in episode 5. You'll note that I'm just blatently copying the little graphic Andy posted in the mecha section of his site. No worries, though. It will be replaced by a high-res 3D-generated image later. Also, normally you don't run this kind of game in a window, but I've switched off full-screen so I can switch back and forth between my editing tools while in the game.(Edited by Bradster at 2:47 pm on Nov. 17, 2002)

AndyThomas
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Escape Velocity: Star Fleet Genesis

Postby AndyThomas » Sun Nov 17, 2002 9:24 pm

Tsk. Looks like I'm on the cargo run again! So Brad, how is that small yellowy image done? I can see some of the workings on that screen shot, it looks very intuitive. Last time I messed around with something like this was way back on the Amiga with the 3D Construction Kit...
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Bradster
Posts: 542
Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2002 12:43 pm

Escape Velocity: Star Fleet Genesis

Postby Bradster » Mon Nov 18, 2002 6:31 am

Yep, I purposely arranged the background windows to show some of the inner workings. ;) As for your ship, it's only temporary until I add more to the plugin. It's customary for developers to add special characters for people on the beta team or otherwise have helped them out. The whole staff of Ambrosia Software is scattered throughout the EV:Nova game!The yellow image is the "target" image. When flying about, you can either click on a ship or press the tab key to select a ship. Its target image then appears in the sidebar along with that ship's name and class (or the pilot's name and subtitle if a special character) and the ship's armor or shield levels (if display is allowed for that type of ship). When you've selected a ship, you can hail it. Also, your turrets and guided weapons will lock onto it. The image itself is created by passing another image through a simple program that applies a grainy, lined filter and skews the saturation and hue to make it appear monochrome.The editor is pretty intuitive, but there is still a lot of information crammed in there. Here are a few shots of some of the resources:the shïp resource editorthe shän resource editorthe wëap resource editorthe sÿst resource editor(Edited by Bradster at 7:10 am on Nov. 18, 2002)


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