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Topics - H-Hour

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Mapping / WIP on alien base
« on: June 16, 2010, 12:13:57 am »
I've started working some on a new alien base theme. It's all still very early, but I thought I would dump WIP stuff up here every now and then for people to give feedback. I may not always take it, but it's often useful.

First things first, I'm trying to rough out a concept/style for the overall base. The screenshots below are very early work I normally wouldn't show, but I thought I'd go ahead this time. I'm starting to narrow down the texture style and this was my first attempt to start exploring the brush work (the architecture and shapes).

Another thing I'd like to do in this thread is share a little bit about the process I go through when making a map, in case others might learn (or give me advice) about what goes into a map beyond just the technical details.

One of the main things I want to try with the alien base is to explore simpler shapes than I have in +city. I'm often not confident enough to prevent myself from over-complicating something, so I've decided to try to stick to some simpler stylistic motifs with this theme (look at the bunker map for a great example of simple shapes used very effectively).

This is going to be the "power core" -- basically the power supply for the base. I'm thinking I may wall off the area of the power cores from the walkway so that it is more of a self-contained room. But at the moment I was just looking to implement the texture for the power core that I had made to see how it looked and what kind of "room" it needed, and I was also trying to work out a wall pattern (seen with the mirrors opposite the power cores) since the pattern will likely be used a lot throughout the base.

At this stage, I expect a lot of detail to still be added, but I'm really asking myself a few questions (and feel free to answer/comment):

1) How do the textures work together and will it be easy to blend new structures and rooms with them?

2) Are the shapes I'm using visually interesting and will they get too repetitive if used across the whole base?

3) What architectural/tactical possibilities come to mind now that I've gotten this far?

(sorry for the poor screenshot quality, I'll try to improve it next time)

Mapping / How to start mapping
« on: June 10, 2010, 10:43:00 am »
The forum is the place for all of your questions, but the wiki is where we put all of our information. If you want to get started mapping for UFO:AI, head over to the mapping section on our wiki to learn more about the editor we use, UFORadiant.

Discussion / The new "making suggestions" post
« on: June 07, 2010, 11:08:54 pm »
I've added a new post about making suggestions and made it sticky in this forum.

In the future, when new suggestions are offered, I would appreciate it if older users would point newer users to this stickied post. It contains the clearest explanation of why many suggestions won't necessarily be accepted.

Of course, everyone is still welcome to make suggestions and comment on others' suggestions. This shouldn't replace the regular debate and exchange that goes on.

But in the past when devs have explained why an idea isn't accepted things have gotten hostile. With the upcoming release of 2.3 we will hopefully have a lot of new visitors. With them will come a lot of new ideas that probably won't fit very well within the current direction of the game's development, and this thread is an attempt to explain clearly and politely what is not likely to be an accepted proposal.

Discussion / Please read before making suggestions
« on: June 07, 2010, 10:55:58 pm »
Got a great idea for UFOAI and want to share it? Lots of people do, and ideas are welcome on our forums. But keep in mind that there are lots of ideas that pass unnoticed or discarded for every idea that gets implemented. We don't want to discourage you from sharing, but you shouldn't take it personally if you don't get the reaction you wanted.

Why? The biggest reason is time and capability. We already have a long list of proposals that are well documented, with a lot of thought put into them. Many of them have been accepted by the development team, but they're still unimplemented. This is because implementing ideas takes a lot of time and hard work. In addition to working on new ideas, the development team is also very busy working out existing gameplay mechanisms, adding new content like maps, and all of the other work that goes into turning an idea into a functioning game.

The other reason has to do with game design and story coherence. New weapons or a tweak to the existing storyline are two common suggestions that aren't really given consideration by the dev team. This is because they often involve a lot of work for very little gain. New weapons aren't useful unless they really add a new tactical dimension to the game, and the devs are pretty happy with the game mechanics they have in place. Story contributions are some of the most difficult to integrate. The storyline has been built to be internally coherent, and adding a new idea here and there can unravel all that work.

For these reasons, we often don't accept or fully consider many of the suggestions posted. That doesn't mean you shouldn't offer a suggestion if you think it's worthwhile. If you do, here are a few things to consider.

Contributions are better than ideas
Let's face it, we all have lots of ideas for cool things that games could do. That's why UFOAI's developers have put in all this time. But it takes an extraordinary amount of effort to turn even a simple idea into a functioning game.

We need contributors much more than we need ideas. Take a look at the proposals already in place, or the TODO list. Whether your thing is coding, modelling, mapping, 2D artwork, music, UI design, whatever -- you can find some way to contribute to UFOAI. Even if you've never done any artwork, it's not that hard to learn and people in the forums will be happy to help you out. Because we've recently updated our engine, there are even lots of ways you can help out the artwork that don't require an artist's eye, such as making normalmaps for existing textures.

UFOAI's "realism"
If your suggestion involves realism, it's worth keeping in mind that UFOAI aims to create a realistic atmosphere rather than a simulation. The story is science fiction, not science. Above all, the game seeks to present a world that is internally coherent. This means that it provides compelling reasons and motivation for the kinds of game mechanics it has implemented, but it can not compensate for those mechanics that don't fit.

The most obvious example is that the player will not command the full weight of a large-scale military, ala Civilization or other 4x games. This does not fit the small-unit tactics and RPG elements necessary for this game.

The game mechanics which do guide the game's realism are, in brief, a small unit, turn-based tactical game combined with RPG elements, and a logistical, base-building and resource management game. This is what gives UFOAI -- and its inspiration X-Com -- its distinctive characteristics. It is also what dictates much of the storyline, and the choices of weapons and equipment.

Changing the game engine
This question gets asked a lot, and the answer is always no.  The reason is that switching to an entirely new renderer would mean that all the assets from the current game (things like artwork, interfaces, etc.) would need to be re-built from scratch.  Basically, this would require starting over entirely with a new game.  If that's what you want to do, it's cool; you can start your own project and if it turns out well we'll probably all come play it.  But any new idea that will invalidate existing content is basically never going to be implemented (unless the content is generated automatically, of course).

While we can't replace the rendering system, it is entirely possible to add new features to the existing rendering codebase without breaking any backwards-compatibility.  As an example, the ability to apply normal-maps to animated models has recently been added to the renderer, as has the ability to do HDR-style soft-glow as a postprocessing effect. If you want to suggest new features for the renderer, feel free, but keep in mind that most changes will require lots of work for both coders and artists, and this will reduce its likelihood of being adopted.

So, you've offered an idea and no one's jumped to implement it? Well, many things in UFOAI can be added or changed without modifying any of the core code. You can distribute .pk3 files so that others can use your additions and you can even implement an entirely different campaign with a different tech tree, different weapons, different soldiers, etc.

If no one else will make your idea, make it yourself. This is all open source!

Mapping / Ideas for changing level flags of UFOs?
« on: May 08, 2010, 03:55:29 pm »
Has anyone figured out a good way to change the levels of UFOs? For the small ones its not really a problem, but it can become a quite elaborate process prone to human error to change something like the Harvester craft so that all level 1 brushes/entities are on level 2, and so on...

Just thought I'd check to see if anyone had a general strategy for this, or if there's a shortcut that I've missed somewhere in UFORadiant to change levelflags automatically.

With r29422 the +city RMA is available in skirmish mode and includes a Fighter UFO, a Firebird, and spawn points for aliens, humans and civilians. There are lots of little fixes and additions I want to make here and there (like adding cars!), but at this point there shouldn't be any show-stopping bugs. I say shouldn't, but it hasn't been extensively tested. I haven't even been able yet to compile and load just to test the new UMP file. But it should work.

I'm hoping people will now try out this map and give me some feedback. This is my first map for UFOAI so I need feedback on a wide range of things to make sure I'm getting things right. In addition to major bugs or bad functionality and performance, I'd like to ask especially for the following feedback:

1. Were you able to do things on the map that met your expectations? For instance, were you able to move where you thought you should (based on past experience with the UFOAI maps), or were you able to move somewhere that you think maybe you shouldn't? I want to make sure the player isn't frustrated by the map's design, and that it matches their expectations (with the exception of things that the engine can't handle, like jumping over railings, etc.).

2. How does the AI perform on this map? Will they shoot down from the balconies, will they find the stairs and change floors? Or do they sit up top too much? Should they spawn more spread out? Etc.

3. Did the map present you with interesting tactical problems to overcome? Were there enough locations for your men to take cover? Were you able to use your men fluidly, across the whole map, or do you find that there is too much of a bottleneck? When dealing with this last question, keep in mind also that in the future this will be one building amongst several, so much of it was designed to relate to other buildings. But it should still be an interesting map alone.

4. Does the map appear to be a convincing location? It's supposed to be a parking garage, in case that didn't come across. There will eventually be signs to make that clear and to fill out the "clutter" of an urban space. But does the architectural piece work?

Many thanks for any feedback you can give on this. I hope it will make it into 2.3 and so I would like it to be as well-balanced and fun to play as possible.

Design / Suggestions for Mission Briefings Proposal
« on: April 05, 2010, 11:59:18 am »
The following are a few ideas/suggestions on the proposal for Mission Briefings:

  • In addition to displaying the briefing on the loading screen for tactical missions, the briefing should be available on the geoscape before dispatching a dropship. This would be realistic, as some basic information would be known quickly (downed-UFO, kind of terrain, special mission objectives if available). And it would play a key role in deciding which soldiers to dispatch and how to equip them.
  • Perhaps additional intel could be linked to research programs. As we learn more about their mission profiles, more information could be provided in the mission briefing, such as how many and which aliens are likely to be in a particular downed UFO.
  • For terror missions, information could be added over time. Initially, no information would be available except the existence of an attack and the location. A short time later new intel such as reported aliens and strength could be added as more intel comes in.
  • Caution should be used when giving suggestions to the player about weapons. The current example briefing could be taken by many players to imply that the game does not allow the use of grenades and indirect fire in civilian areas.
  • Not part of the core feature, but a possible expansion later on would be to add generated satellite imagery. For RMAs, if each tile had a small screenshot on file, with a standardized height/width (32x32 image for each 256x256 block of a tile?), then these could be spliced together and have a grid overlaid to cover the seams. The screenshots could have some post-processing that made them look like satellite images. One thing that would need to be overcome would be displaying the dropship tile without the dropship.

Mapping / Texture not appearing correctly
« on: March 03, 2010, 12:52:40 pm »
I'm hoping someone can help me figure out why I'm getting a problem with how a certain texture is displayed. I've tried recreating the texture and it's been made and saved in the same exact ways that other (working) textures have.

Please see the attached image. I've got a texture that is resulting in a red and black checkered box, which suggests to me that the texture is not being found (but it's there, sitting right next to the other new texture that works). Also, some of the faces are simply not showing up. You can see in Radiant that they have no surface or content flags that would make them not appear.

Any ideas?

Mapping / City street grid
« on: February 23, 2010, 07:13:38 pm »
Well, it's been many months and I'm a slow worker, but I've finally got the basics of a street grid for a big city RMA working. The streets need to be placed as fixed tiles, because it's a bit complicated for the algorithm, but then random buildings can be inserted into each block.

Now on to the buildings...

Mapping / Seams showing between brushes?
« on: October 27, 2009, 10:38:35 am »
I'm working on a series of street textures that can be mixed and matched to blend seamless transitions for different street needs. I've got the texture itself blending well (mostly), but when I render it in-game, I can see the seam. And it doesn't appear to be the texture seam, but rather the seam between the brushes. See the attached photo.

Now, I've caulked all the faces of the brushes except the top faces. Is this a lighting issue between brushes and is there a workaround? Are vertices welded in this game, ie - do I need to match up all the vertices of adjoining brushes for seamless transitions?


I've been looking through the list of maps and the suggestions for new maps, trying to decide what I should work on first. Ideally, I'd like something comparatively simple so that I can start to get a feel for how it all works before getting too deep into complex geometry.

Since I'm new around here and others have a better sense of what's urgent and what's not, I thought I'd post up the few things I'm considering at first to hear what people think is most urgent (also, if someone else is working on it, let me know). They are:

1. Working on the Desert or Ice RMAs. I imagine the geometry would be pretty simple for these and it would give me an opportunity to learn how to set up RMAs. Right now they've each got very few tiles.

2. Working on a map for one of the terror sites/infrastructure attacks -- probably government offices or a big factory.

Any suggestions on which is needed more? Is there something else I've missed that would be a better place for me to start?

Mapping / Some questions before getting started
« on: October 23, 2009, 10:56:08 am »
Alright, I've gone through the tutorial and I've got my shed and hedges. Got some soldiers, enemies and civilians in the map. I've tested out func_rotate and func_breakable, the materials feature to blend two textures, and I've got a little staircase. Before I start work on something that matters, I wanted to clear up a few questions I had about mapping and UFOAI.

1. I've built a little test thing to see at what heights the soldier can see over walls when standing and crouching. Standing, they can just see over my 44-tall wall, but not the 52-tall. Crouching they can just see over 28 units, but not 36. I know that there are currently new soldier models in development. Does anyone know if the visibility heights will change with the new models?

2. Is it possible to have a func_breakable spawn a misc_particle that loops? I know the entity has a particle key that will call a particle when it dies, but I'm using that for an explosion and I'd like to be able to call fire or smoke to continue going after the explosion. There's a targetname key as well for the func_breakable, but the misc_particle doesn't appear to have a name key. Is this possible?

3. Is the 64-units-as-one-level a technical limitation or a designing "best-practice". For instance, if I have a canyon and I want the floor of the canyon to be level one and the top of the canyon to be level two, can I make the canyon walls 128 units high? I would do this mostly so the player doesn't have to cycle through extraneous levels. But it might also come in handy if I've got a hill outside a house. If a floor at 68 units inside the house is level two, but a hill outside at 68 units high is level one, will this cause any problems? Or is the level system just for the ease of cycling up and down the levels?

4. I believe I've read somewhere that trees do not block sight. Is that correct?

5. And a style question... I've noticed that most of the structures appear as late-20th, early-21st century buildings. Is this is a conscious design decision that's been made by the team to keep things looking current, or is there scope for creating "futuristic" looking buildings (within reason, of course)?

Sorry for the long list. Thanks for any answers anyone's got.

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