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Author Topic: Please read before making suggestions  (Read 10336 times)

Offline H-Hour

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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!