Dev Diary 025: Outlaws of Gravity Beta

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Matt Barton's picture

Outlaws of GravityOutlaws of GravityI know it's been awhile since I last made a dev diary. I've been working steadily, but it took me a long time to get enough of my "Outlaws of Gravity" to be able to offer a working prototype. Quite a bit has changed since the last version! Note, too, that this is an executable file. I do plan eventually to make this playable in a browser, but there's some issues with inputs that I haven't worked out yet. The standalone versions allow the user to setup their own controls for joysticks, so that's what I'm going with for the time being. There's no online multiplayer (yet), so it shouldn't be an issue anyway. Download the prototype here. Okay, so here's what's new:

1. Choice of ships. I downloaded a "star fighters" pack from the assets store for $30. I got about 8 or so ships and was able to use all but one of them (it was oriented differently than the others, and I couldn't figure out how to change it).

2. Each ship type has a different speed, hull, energy, and bonus damage variable.

3. There are now three types of weapons: Cannon ball (your basic shot), Guided Missiles, and MIRVs. Guided missiles and MIRVs are controlled by the joystick; simply fire one, and your ship controls are now controlling the missile. If you hit the fire button while the missile is in the air, it explodes, doing splash damage to whatever is nearby (including you, so be careful). If it's a MIRV, it explodes into multiple cannon balls, which shoot off in random directions.

The different weapons have cooldown periods based on strength. The idea is that your ship's reactors have to build the projectiles, and of course it takes longer to build a missile than a simple cannon ball. I've tried some initial variables, but still need some refinement with the formulas.

4. The ships can now "thrust." Note--this isn't free movement. Your ship is constrained to an orbit. However, you can move within that orbit, rotating and moving around the planet. This is very useful for aiming as well as dodging enemy shots!

5. Joysticks required. I haven't implemented a system for joysticks or keyboards yet...Frankly, the interface just screams for an Xbox 360 controller, which I find a helluva lot more fun than a keyboard for this. I actually don't own two gamepads, so I haven't been able to fully test the multiplayer yet. However, unless I've made a silly typo somewhere, it should fine with two Xbox 360 joysticks, which I assume most people are using these days for their PC gamepads.

6. Some sounds. I haven't added music yet, and only a few basic sounds. I plan to add a lot more later.

7. Way more planets. I worked out a way to make "rings" and multiple planets per ring. I've worked hard to try to make sure that they aren't too close together, though there might still be some issues there. IMO, these additional planets make the game way more fun to play.

To do:

1. Instead of using the mouse to select each player's starting planet, use the gamepad somehow.
2. More sounds/music
3. Title screen, instructions, etc.

Wish list:
1. Online multiplayer. I would *love* to have this functionality, but unfortunately it may not be possible for someone of my limited ability. I paid $100 for something called "Fieldkit Readymatch" that was supposed to reduce it to a non-brainer, but that was wrong. I tried for hours and hours and couldn't even get their demo to work. And my request for a refund was met with silence...GRRR. I'll probably try it again, though, and if it still fails, I have a "Smartfox Server" to fall back on. The downside of that is that I have to run the server myself--which utterly sucks. Plus, it's a LOT more complicated to setup, and will probably take weeks (months?) of trial and error to get it working.

2. More weapon types. I think a game like this only gets more fun with different kinds of weapons! It wouldn't be too hard to add a laser weapon, for instance, and maybe different kinds of missiles. I also thought about having a "store" and some way to accumulate money between matches, so that you could buy additional weapons and upgrades for your ship.

3. AI so you can play this single player. Again, something well beyond my ability at the moment, but obviously possible.

So, that's it for now, please download and give it a shot--preferably with a partner! I strongly suggest you use the default 1024 x 768 resolution, since the other resolutions mess up the interface for whatever reason.

Download outlaws here.

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Matt Barton
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Has anybody been able to get

Has anybody been able to get this to work with their 360 controllers? I had a guy on FB say it wouldn't recognize his. Seems to work fine on my end.

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Rowdy Rob
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It works.
Matt Barton wrote:

Has anybody been able to get this to work with their 360 controllers? I had a guy on FB say it wouldn't recognize his. Seems to work fine on my end.

There appeared to be no trouble with the XBox 360 controllers on my end. I didn't think to try out the second player joystick, though.

Matt Barton
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Thanks, Rob. Apparently he

Thanks, Rob. Apparently he didn't click on the planets to set them at the start of the game. Totally my bad; I need to fix that. I haven't decided yet if it'd be more fun to randomly assign planets or let players pick them. If I go with the latter, I'll need to do some GUI work to make it clear what's happening.

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Matt Barton
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Not Enjoying the Silence

So, are you guys just really busy or are people just not wanting to hurt my feelings? Give it to me straight, doc. If this project is a no-go, I'd rather know about it now rather than spend more time on it.

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TripHamer
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Answer.....
Matt Barton wrote:

So, are you guys just really busy or are people just not wanting to hurt my feelings? Give it to me straight, doc. If this project is a no-go, I'd rather know about it now rather than spend more time on it.

I'd say it doesn't matter. At this point, it's more important to finish it and learn and gain experience than it is to see how many people will play it. Yes, building a "following" is important and as you progress and hone your skills, I would expect that to happen.

I haven't had time to do anything but download it and run it...didn't get to play it...yet, but it does look like it's shaping up nicely.

So don't get discouraged....keep going! :D

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Rowdy Rob
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Silence lifted.

I'm trying not to go off into all these long-winded posts and be more to the point, but here goes....

I've not been in a gaming mood the last few days, but I played "Outlaws" for about 20 minutes yesterday. Keep in mind my sedate mood as I post this, in case I'm not coming across as my usual enthusiastic self. Here are some thoughts:

1) It's very difficult to assess a "two-to-four-player" game when I don't have a second person to compete with! It looks like it could be a lot of fun, but I don't have anyone that I can get to play this game with. So the rest of the comments below are what I can assess and imagine based on what I'm experiencing.

2) The game is hard as hell! Even without a second player, it was extremely difficult to line up a shot at the non-moving/fighting opponent. I think it took close to 10 minutes before I even scored a hit!

3) the graphics look good. The new ships look cool, particularly in the ship selection screen. I am not sure what really needs to be better about the graphics; they look crisp, smooth, and colorful as is. Actually, it all appears to be good as is. Perhaps longer missile trails would be interesting.

4) The new weapons are cool, as are the different ships (each with their own strengths and weaknesses). The long charging of the various weapons makes sense, particularly the Mirvs.

5) This relates to point #2: The firing rate seems too slow, in my opinion. I'd prefer to have a faster fire rate for the low-powered cannon weapon, even if it meant reducing the damage inflicted. It'd make it easier to waste a cannon shot to line up your trajectory for a major Mirv attack. Note: this might not be applicable if played with another real human. In a real two-player battle, I can imagine that each shot would be a tense experience, which might be amplified by the slow rate of fire and the slowness of the bullet travel. If four people are playing, the excitement would be even more amplified!

As you can see, it's very difficult for someone in my position to judge the fun factor of this multi-player game while playing it solo. If you manage to get multi-player working, then I have no doubt that I would enjoy this.

Unfortunately, I think trying to program an AI opponent would be an extremely difficult programming challenge. Just trying to compute trajectories toward the player, taking into account all the gravitational effects of the planets, would require you to be a mathematical prodigy!

A few ideas:

1) perhaps a "handicap" system could be implemented to balance out the gameplay. If a good player (me) is facing a less-competitive player, I could be saddled with a slower rate of fire, less hull strength, less weapon strength, etc., while a "poor" player gets faster fire, better hull strength, more damage inflicted per shot, wider blast radius upon impact, etc..

2) Random bonus targets on the playfield. Hitting such a target (saucer, satellite, asteroid) yields a bonus of some kind (weapon power-up, money, healing, opponent-hampering, etc.). This might give the player a reason NOT to aim directly at the opponent, keeping the player constantly adjusting his/her firing arc. As it is, the game strategy appears (as in most artillery games) to be finding a general firing arc, then making minor adjustments to fine-tune their shooting accuracy. In a four-player battle, I think this would add even more frenzy to the game!

3) A single-player variant of some sort. Perhaps shooting at random moving targets is all that's required. Perhaps use it as a "practice" mode. That'd give people a reason to play if they can't find an opponent to play against. The multiplayer would still be the main attraction, of course.

Ok, I'm running out of energy, so I'll post this now. Hopefully there's some food for thought here.

Matt Barton
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Thanks!

Thanks, Rowdy, that's exactly what I was looking for--some feedback to help me finalize this thing.

It sounds like my two priorities for now should be creating an option for keyboard input and doing the networked multiplayer. I'm really looking forward to taking on the latter, as it's a huge challenge, but am still worried about the need to be running the server on my own PC all the time. I guess if I'm able to get it working and enough people want to play it, I could look into having it hosted somewhere.

Regarding the difficulty and such, my goal was to have lots of those "ooohh, sooo damn close!!!" moments that drive you nuts (while the other player is so relieved).

I know there's a problem with the cooldowns. My math is a little crooked somewhere, resulting in a ship with 85 energy being much, much slower than one at 90. What I want is for them to be 15 and 10 percent slower than the fastest cooldown ship. I'm open to ideas about how to balance the relative ships so that they're all roughly equivalent; i.e., Ship A has better armor than Ship B, but Ship B has faster cooldowns and such. It's really difficult to do any of this without the ability to play test it with another human being!

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clok1966
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I havent had a chance to look

I havent had a chance to look either, the Diablo III craze.. then this house buying stuff is far more time consuming then i figured. But I'M SOLIDLY against games with no solo play, even if its just crappy AI i can beat on like its broken. Multiplayer games have one problem I have always hated.. people with unlimited time.. they will make any chance of you getting a grip and feeling somewhat comfortble playing impossible. Play Starcraft II on release day, pick NOOB matchs.. get butt handed to me so hard. Try again.. this time it makes the last time look like i almost won, i lose so bad. Unless its a FPS (which are all basicly the same) its hard to "grow up" skill up with others.. loseing teaches, losing all the time makes you quit :)

Just an opinion, I dont buy any games without solo content, in fact i have skipped the last few MOH/COD games as they are basicly a few hours of scripted solo play .. they are now multiplayer games... and FPS.. CS or MOH:BO? no huge differneces.

I do plan on giving it a wirl though

Matt Barton
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I spent some time today

I spent some time today trying to wrap my head around the concept of networked multiplay. Obviously it's a helluva lot more complicated than what I've got so far. I've figured out how to set up the server, connect to it, make rooms, send simple text messages, etc. There's some examples that show a tic-tac-toe and a basic FPS game setup. Both work.

Where I'm having my confusion is how to generate the same solar system on both machines. I guess I need to re-think how I build the solar systems, creating an "instance" of the same system for both players rather than generate separate systems for each. It's making my head explode trying to conceptualize how that's going to work.

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Chris Rasmus (not verified)
Wtf...joysticks?!?! Who uses

Wtf...joysticks?!?! Who uses joysticks?! :P

I'ma gonna hurt you unlessin you add sum keyboardin, son!

And as far as the other thing...the server makes the system and sends a copy to each client when they connect.

Take care.

p.s. seriously, please add keyboard support!!!!

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