Starting Over

Web log of development issues.

Starting Over

Postby adamsderk » Wed May 20, 2009 5:30 pm

Greetings,

Well it has been an interesting 6 months away from BattleTech. I focused on work and home and gained some distance from BTS. But I have BattleTech in my blood; it may have thinned, but it never goes away. And over the six months, it started gaining in strength again.

It gave me time to get away from the details of BTS and look at the big picture again. I had done a lot, but it was organic, not structured. I learned a lot about programming and the complexities of BattleTech especially with the new tomes coming out that unified the gameplay. While I was away, I really got into object-oriented programming. And looking at Torque now, the setup make a lot more sense and I can follow the concepts better.

So where does that leave me? What I have done is good and useful, but it is going to make continuing more grueling. So its time to start over. This isn't the first time and by no means is it any easier to bear. Last time I was forced by a system failure and a lack of backup strategy. But that was only 8 months of work. This is 5 years.

It isn't a complete rewrite and it isn't on a new engine (although I looked at the field again before deciding to stay with Torque). That means it will be faster and easier than before.

With the experience of the last 6 years of development, I made some of the newbie's mistakes. Although starting too big is not one of them :) rather I got sucked into my weakness instead of focusing on my strengths. What are they? I am weak on art content and I focused on getting each model setup and in the game and stopped developing the game until each unit was in. My strengths are data compiling and system development, and that is exactly what I am going to focus on.

So I'm starting over and going bigger. I wanted aerospace in the game and about 2 years ago I figured out how to do it, but I was too caught up doing the models to work on it. Before I started on Mech combat and worked my way back, bad idea. Now I'm starting at warship and infantry and working my way to the middle. It is important to know the extremes so the system can handle them all. I'm not working on art content. You will see generic place holders for every object in the game. I will leave it to another to develop the specific pieces, unless I finish the system and have time to do it myself. But on the flip side, every unit will be in the game.

So what does that mean for you? Well, there will be a quiet time while I power the system up; but I'll keep you informed. I'm going to focus on single player but use a multi-player structure that will be built out once the system is working. I can't do it all myself. Some of you have already stepped up and put a lot of time and effort into the game, and for that I am appreciative. But I have been the hub through which everything has moved. It's time to share... I need individuals to manage aspects of the game. And in return, you'll get access to the inner workings of the system.

Right now, I know I need one or more art directors (mechs, vehicles, aerospace, buildings, extras). I need a sound director. I need an interface designer. And I need all of you to continue generating content to feed myself and the directors. As usual, I will continue to do all the roles, but will not be splitting my time between them, but doing them sequentially.

So big things in a simpler and cleaner way. And looking forward to the first planetary drop and the fight from the jump point.

Thanks.
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Postby BATTLEMASTER IIC » Thu May 21, 2009 4:37 am

Why don't you contact the fellas over at MekTek about your plans? I'm sure they would give you some names :)
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Postby adamsderk » Thu May 21, 2009 4:16 pm

BM2C,

But I am connected with the guys at MekTek. They have their own program (which is progressing nicely) to work on, that has different play requirements.

Thanks.
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Postby fennec » Fri May 29, 2009 7:53 pm

That sounds interesting, though I wonder if increasing the scope to add aerotech etc. is a good idea.

After all, hasn't the existing complexity and scope of your project, with all the mechs, vehicles, campaign, etc been the main obstacle to success?

Also, as a 3d modeler myself, I have to say that calling for people to contribute huge sums of models in very broad categories, for diverse unit types that may or may not even be implemented in your game is not a good idea.

You may have more success soliciting work (and importantly, quality work free of errors) if you request a very tiny number of models, by name, in the few unit categories that you plan to implement first.

You seem to have a compulsion to recreate the battletech universe in it's entirety, which is neither possible (not even for multi-million dollar professional production), nor does it serve the fun or quality of the gameplay. I really hope you don't arrive at a similar crisis point in the future, where you're diligently hacking away at an unworkably vast project.
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Postby BATTLEMASTER IIC » Sat May 30, 2009 12:13 pm

I don't think it's impossible, just look at MegaMek :)
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Postby adamsderk » Mon Jun 01, 2009 4:42 pm

Fennec,

Thank your for such pointed observations.

1. My scope has always been to cover the entire BT universe, I just started with the Mechs because historically, they are the most exciting.

2. I agree that contributing huge number of models isn't a good idea. Which is why I have changed to ask for a single model in each class that will serve as a place holder. This will allow me to put in all the "data" for the various units (they will just look the same).

3. My crisis point came from inexperience and wanting to rush to get something playable. Instead of focusing on each component and making it as good as it could be, I rushed to get anything that worked (and just the bare minimum). Once the core was in place, I started to focus on the details, but in my rush I made it difficult to work on each aspect individually. I had made a web of code instead of building blocks.

I am now developing separate from art aspects. Once an object class is finished, then, and only then, will I ask for it to be "filled in" with huge sums of models. But by then, the models will just plug in because each one will already have a working place holder.

Thanks.

P.S. I the last decade I have learned a lot about slowing down and doing things right. I want to play this game as much if not more than anyone else (why else would I make it?) and I let my desire get in the way of a good product.
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Postby fennec » Mon Jun 01, 2009 7:51 pm

I wish you the best of luck. You definitely know your way around Torque by now. But The dearth of successful projects similar to yours still makes me want to suggest simplicity.


One further question, though. Do you think that the play mechanics for such a variety of units will allow you to make each platform fun to play?

For example, in your previous versions, it's been possible to play as infantry, though the actual gameplay leaves much to be desired. Basically you float around as a hex of men and spray bullets randomly at nearby targets (provided they don't move away from you).

Granted, this is a very early stage, but it's debatable that it could ever work at all, given how ineffective and slow the soldiers are, and the necessity to represent a whole squad instead of one man.

Your goal is to represent the whole universe, but do you think it's possible to do so such that each unit type is fun to play? In particular, things at the absolute low and high ends of effectiveness and abstraction, like infantry and aerotech.

More specifically about aerotech, the short weapon ranges combined with their high speed seem to make them unplayable, if you're adhering to the board game rules (as you seem to be doing).
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Postby adamsderk » Mon Jun 01, 2009 8:42 pm

Fennec,

I certainly understand your concern, but the "non-simplicity" is what keeps me interested :) However, simplicity will be involved in that each class will be separated so it can be worked on individually. It should be possible to hand off a component to another developer to work on separate from my work, but still bring them together in the end.

This time around, focus is on the individual class, not just "get it in the game." I agree that infantry were not very fun to play. One of my unresolved issues has been that ProtoMechs are counted like infantry, but move like Mechs. Turning these "multi-individual" units into a single player's control is very difficult. Currently, I'm toying with making them a single individual with "aggregate" values, so a soldier would only be one person but they would have a squad level of life and a descending level of damage. Or, I might just remove them as player units. Or I might focus on them and make missions that were on their scale instead of a Mech's scale (no 2 km runs).

Your point is valid on the collisions between scales, infantry on Mech scale, Aerospace on Mech scale, etc. Either those units will have to be dropped from player control or the scales will need to be modified to make it more fun. I don't think anyone has come to a pen and paper BattleTech game and said, "I want to be infantry."

Aerospace will be very fun at the space level, but probably not at the planet level. It might become an AI unit that is called in for support. I don't know until I get there, but the code will already be in for the space level, so I'll have something to work with.

Thanks.
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Postby fennec » Mon Jun 01, 2009 9:17 pm

That sounds interesting.

I look forward to seeing what you come up with :)
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Postby felderup » Sun Jul 12, 2009 2:40 pm

having them as call in backup units, like, grenadier squads, that'd be pretty good, there would end up being some rts elements then.
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