Pondering bridge simulation game creation.

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  • (my apologies for my silence; we're doing our dress rehearsal test event this weekend and I'm up to my eyeballs in activity; taking lots of pics and will share later how things go; will definitely engage in the dialog thread when I can come up for air)
  • edited January 15
    I'd like to see something a bit more comprehensive personally. I mean if you want to do another quick fire game that's basically an EE remake then by all means but I think that effort would be better spent improving the existing game (i.e. getting rid of mine sweeper).

    I'd very much enjoy getting my teeth into something that required more planning and had three dimensions. I think you'll find there's a sizeable chunk out there who like the idea of 'hunting' down their opponents. (Subsim.net) and would very much enjoy doing that in a more collaborative way. Whether space themed or sea themed I don't think it matters much (surely that can be modded :D).

    One of the things that admittedly frustrates me about EE and similar games (for as much as I like them, they still have a critical issue). Many of them are basically pure arcade and designed to be as such, the collaboration is...stunted because of that and there's no time to work on a solution. There's no time to discuss options before you're on top of another ship, Captain barking orders, you're trying to communicate with engineering because you don't have enough power and they clearly weren't given the time to prepare never mind the ability to hear you over the din.

    I definitely feel that some sort of 'in game' system would be needed for a new spin up where they can keep 'notes' maybe a couple of keys to near automate certain responses or provide 'help/cues', like 'We've detected an enemy...' (way after Science have checked it off...) ...'have you asked for power for shields?'.

    ...That reminds me. I appreciate space means pretty much everyone can be seen at all times, but I wonder if it were possible to have some fun and games with regards to tracking their range? Maybe the sensors get distorted after so much distance and long range sniping shots require a bit of coordination to track the trajectory, grab the range and then estimate a shot at much longer ranges requiring in some cases much less direct combat. Equally to bring up the fun make it more challenging in terms of what happens if someone gets a shot on you or some space dwelling lifeform decides you're worth a snack.

    Well those are just my thoughts, I'll stick with EE in the mean time. EE mk II would definitely have to bring something new to the table to get me to switch.
  • I like the idea of extreme range missiles requiring some coordination between several stations like Relay to have a probe around the target, science to give a direction and distance and weapons to program the missile for the direction and distance provided by Science. Maybe science has to have completed a double scan to enable the long range missile to track. The probe may be optional if the target is in science's scan range.

    Some of the combat focus can be relegated to lesser importance through mission scripting. I've written several scripts and while they do have combat in them, there are other goals as well. However, many times the players just want to shoot things rather than pursue the non-combat mission goals.
  • Well, lots of parts of EE are designed to be arcade like. Easy to pickup, bit harder to master. I know very few people that are willing to spend long to learn a game like this. And, people like to shoot things, gives them a clear goal with clear defeat and victory.

    If there wasn't any time to prepare for battle, that's generally down the captain. We've pulled some crazy stunts with some preperation. And, with the scenarios I've made, there is generally some time to prepare for battle, or the battle is skewed heavy in your favor (can't speak for other peoples scenarios)



    Also, I think any spritual successor to EE will be nothing like EE. EE is there, it works, making it again would just be making more of the same. And like you said, that time is better spend on improving EE.
    If you read my other posts, then you can clearly see that I don't want to make another game exactly like EE.

    I will most likely make it full 3d, like 6 degrees of freedom 3D. Not the 2.5D that Artemis does, or the 3D that freelancer does (ability to go up&down, but limited pitch&roll, like an FPS), but actually where up and down are not really defined directions other then related to yourself or other things. (Decent)
    I appreciate space means pretty much everyone can be seen at all times
    You forget how mindblowingly big space is. When they talk about how visually big something is in space they talk about "arcseconds" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minute_and_second_of_arc
    Smaller things quickly become too small to propely detect at a distances in space. So, it's actually quite easy to hide in space. Remember that EE makes all distances tiny compared to actual space, which is also why planets are so... odd.
    (Eve online does this a bit "better" with distances. And there you can also pretty much hide in systems and need to be properly scanned to be found)
  • Don't get me wrong, I'm all for shooting, but the thing that draws me personally to bridge simulators is not the bridge part, it's the simulator part. I use them to develop my skills and at the moment, due to the arcadey-ness I don't currently think any of them are able to do that. In this case, the skill I want to improve is collaboration and teamwork...hence being drawn to the LAN nature of bridge sims.

    Also, thanks for the responses much appreciated.
  • edited January 16
    Greetings all -

    Trying to do a little catch-up here. Just got done with a great EE test event, but won't muddle the thread here with a report. I'm planning to start another thread to discuss our main event in Feb, and will also include a report on the test. Hope to start that thread soon.

    Going back over the previous main points.

    @Daid, ref eliminating Engineering. I confess, I felt wounded. (ha, kidding) Being an engineer, I personally identify with the importance of there being a person who specializes in understanding the finer details of a system and how to manipulate it better than others. However, I do agree with your overall observation that the engineer does tend to not be as verbally collaborative as the other players. Of course, a team allows for members with different skill sets and strengths to work together, and having the engineering station does allow for the option of a position that's involved in the team, but not as verbose. My personal opinion, I would keep it as part of the mix.

    Ref alternative setups. I'm all for providing console options, but I gather you're talking about your next game and not making modifications to EE. I -definitely- agree with the "Planning" console idea. If you recall, we discussed this thought somewhere else within bridgesim.net under the guise of a campaign map. I think it's a much needed item. For our upcoming event in Feb where we're going to play CtF (thanks to @Xansta!) (http://bridgesim.net/discussion/406/capture-the-flag-in-ee), I resorted to an old-school mechanical technique and we've made an EE grid map on posterboard with little foam space ships so the wing commanders can track movements and plan strategy. Yea, we went there, but we're psyched to implement. So yes, a "Planning" console would be welcome. (Of course, said console should be implemented on a 40"+ touchscreen turned flat on a table top... ;]

    Along that general thought, we had a CtF planning discussion this weekend during our test, and part of the discussion involved allowing the wing commanders to decide on their fleet makeup (within certain cost and personnel constraints, of course). This is easily done via the variety of ships currently available as well as the excellent ability to modify their performance characteristics. However, all the consoles are essentially the same. Wouldn't it be great if different ship classes (races?) had different layouts/motifs, even if it was just superficial? Of course, it's always a trade-off on effort involved and how much use it would get.

    @Sabasti, what, you don't like mine-sweeper? ha. I do agree with your general sentiment of yearning for a little more group problem solving and a little less just shoot and run. I have the basic outline of a scenario script that is along this thought and hope to start working on it soon. @Xansta, kudos to you for the effort you've put into make more involved mission scripts. I hope to get a crew here to play them through.

    @Daid ref EE successor, yes, having full 3D space would be awesome (and I truly appreciated the Decent reference!).

    Overall, I really appreciate having the flexibility in the console choices in EE. Even with this minimal set, it does allow for some reasonable variation in bridge crew configuration. I remain immensely happy with the GameMaster console and how easy it is to modify the environment and how well it performs. If I had a request for how to improve EE before introducing its successor, it would be to improve the geometry of how spatial bodies are seen in the main view screen relative to their distance. Meaning, planets/blackholes that are still far away appear to be much closer in the main view screen and this can throw the game play off in some circumstances. Also, if there are nebula in between you and the planet, at the further distances you can see the planet on the main screen, but none of the in between nebula that would otherwise obscure the planet.
  • I resorted to an old-school mechanical technique and we've made an EE grid map on posterboard with little foam space ships so the wing commanders can track movements and plan strategy.
    That sounds really awesome actually. You could use a projector to project the map on it for a bit more sci-fi loop.
    Not sure how EE could provide something better then that really.

    If you take a 3D printer (for example, an Ultimaker, shameless plug) you could 3D print the ships to have an accurate representation.


    Note that the point of the minesweeper is that it's totally optional and just gives Relay something to do in combat. The effect is limited.
  • I'd like to contradict that "totally optional" statement. We found someone who happened to be able to play and win minesweeper once. Saved us from dying outright on at least three occasions... (kudos to him).

    I mean, the base still got destroyed I think and we lost anyway, but newb crew.
  • edited January 17
    hahahaha. Actually, I joined in a couple of games with Xansta 2 weeks back; I sat Relay, and had a great time hacking the opponent ships. It was quite the matter of pride to do it as fast as possible. You can hack the same system multiple times sequentially and bring it to its knees! ha! (But I do have to confess, it took a couple of failures for my 'clue' light to come on to realize you can't 'mark' a flag. duh)

    So on that note and to pull that thread a little more, I was amused the first time I encountered the MS mini-game as part of the Relay console. At first, I thought it was a bit of a joke, but on further reflection, I thought it was a bit of brilliance.

    Obviously, in a conflict, it behooves a combatant to reduce/eliminate their opponent with the least amount of force/energy/effort as possible so there are more resources left to face the next opponent. Hacking a system to achieve those ends is a highly efficient approach (just ask Adama, or Kahn...ha). But how to represent what can be a highly complex and specialized task within a game that doesn't bog down the game and is actually fun to carry out -- voila! Minesweeper. Simple logic puzzle that everyone should already know how to play, but made more difficult because of the time factor and the diverted attention. That's why I thought it was a bit of brilliance.

    So then, to the bigger question. In Daid's follow-on to EE, how could the mechanics of a ship-ship cyber attack be improved but not bog down the game? Should that be a separate console station with a variety of tools at the operator's disposal? Perhaps it's a specialized ship to accompany others in a convoy/fleet?

    Several lines of thought to consider here.
  • This means there is no longer engineering that can call out "But captain, I'm giving it all she's got!"
    And you can't have dialogs like this:
    "How long do you need to fix that?"
    "Err, about two minutes, sir"
    "Enemy is approaching! You have one."
    (optional)"Okay, guess I can make it in 30 seconds."
    I came to this idea, also, because in our games, engineering was generally silent. And worked "solo", reacting to things happening without interaction, just managing things on it's own. Which is fine, but goes a bit against the hidden goal of the game of having people interact with each other.
    Well, if you put it the other way around, you have a station that can be used by rather silent people who don't like to have too much spotlight, while still having a very important job contributing to the team effort.
    And if you want to to enforce more communicating i guess the captain and other crewmembers should be able to achieve this. If there are frequent damage report request or a general damage report policy, and requests for more power, there will automatically more communication with the engineer.
    I resorted to an old-school mechanical technique and we've made an EE grid map on posterboard with little foam space ships so the wing commanders can track movements and plan strategy.
    That sounds really awesome actually. You could use a projector to project the map on it for a bit more sci-fi loop.
    Not sure how EE could provide something better then that really.
    That gave me an idea: Another way to add a scifi-touch would be having a glass table, illuminate the glass plate, and put a transparent grid sheet like those (the "transparent" and "quadratic" ones) on top: https://gamerboard.tp-media.at/shop/index.php/en/grids
  • Yes! On plexiglass! A great idea! Now you've gone and done it... (thinking feverishly if it can be done in time and at what cost...)
  • edited January 18
    Find a local lasercutting shop, they can engrave perspex, and that will look great. While you're there, you can also cut ship shapes from perspex as well, to go with the whole look. Shouldn't take a lot of time.

    (Discovered 2 days ago that my new game engine SP2 doesn't support text entry yet, so working to adding that. Hopefully it will be less hacky then in EE/SP)


    What I ment with hacking being optional, is that it does give you an extra edge (else, what would be the point), but the game is fully playable without it. Unlike for example, scanning, without scanning your targets you are flying so blind that it suddenly becomes very difficult.
  • If there wasn't any time to prepare for battle, that's generally down the captain. We've pulled some crazy stunts with some preperation. And, with the scenarios I've made, there is generally some time to prepare for battle, or the battle is skewed heavy in your favor (can't speak for other peoples scenarios)
    Hm.. even for the ambush in beacon of light? I don't see how you can prepare for that situation (if played the first time, of course.)
    Maybe it's easier if you have a full crew but it did not felt like skewed in our favour when we played it back then. You are thrown into a situation where you are more or less outgunned, and trying to escape and regroup is not easy and risky as well. Don't get me wrong, this is a fun scenario, but for this specific encounter I'd say you only can prepare for it if you already played it IMHO.
    You forget how mindblowingly big space is. When they talk about how visually big something is in space they talk about "arcseconds" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minute_and_second_of_arc
    Smaller things quickly become too small to propely detect at a distances in space.
    Fully agree. For anyone who want to try out how difficult space combat at sight on a realistic scale will be, I would recommend Pioneer.
    It has pretty realistic physics, and you can use a computer assistent, where you can set any targetable object as a reference point. So you can, for example say, I want have a relative velocity of zero to that object, or get closer at a slow speed. While that is incredibly useful for docking and rescue missions, it won't help much in combat, as your engine simply can't keep with the nav computer - e.g if you would need to do a thrust reversal at high speed. At least the new feature of beam weapons that should be in the next release might make it a little easier to hit for the brief moment when your target and the crosshair is alligned.
    But I guess the best way to do combat on a realistic scale would probably be to fight from a distance, and rely on your scanners as well as on homing projectiles. So basically a 3d bridgesim-version of objects in space.
  • As for real combat in real space:




    As on the engineering station, what I noticed Sunday, people do not really notice when you have a top notch engineer. Their ship was pretty much running at 200% efficiency due to the engineer doing a fantastic job. But nobody really knew, which is a bit of a shame. Maybe the efficiency values shown at engineering should also be shown at the other stations? But that does clutter the UI quite a bit...


    As for 3D EE2 something (just using that name for now), I'm thinking about sensors, different types of sensors. Like a "ping" sensor to measure distance, RF sensor to discover stations/ships (but I think the sun also sends out RF, need to check that) spectrometer to measure the chemical composition.
  • Well done vid. Thanks for sharing. It does raise lots of vary valid points, and I appreciate how many references Scott made to the different space sims, and using Kerbal was of course an excellent approach. Loved it near the end where he says "Frankly I don't think we need to have physically correct space ships." ha. That's all the license we need /grin/.

    Ref sensors; bravo. Am definitely all for a more robust set of sensors to have crews figure out their environment.

    On a minor related side note, I played EVE Valkyrie on PS4 VR for the first time this weekend. Crazy. Great immersive space fighter feeling. First sim that gave me motion sickness almost immediately after inducing roll and yaw simultaneously. Just like flying, ha. Could only play about 45 mins before the body said stop or you're gonna hurl. Great sim though. Hope I can acclimate to it.


  • Just a test I did today with dynamic generating planet terrain while getting closer to the planet. It's "falling down" towards the planet thing from 90km up down to 1 meter. And the planet has a 30km radius.

    Transitions between levels of detail a bit jumpy. I think this is also because the color calculation is still wrong right now.
  • This seems like it fits in this topic.

    "In this 2017 GDC session, Red Storm Entertainment's Jay Posey shares his experience as lead writer and senior designer developing Ubisoft's VR game Star Trek: Bridge Crew, and explains how Red Storm tackled telling a story without stealing the focus from the social dynamics at the heart of the gameplay."

  • Interresting video (if you ignore the parts about being so happy about working with star trek material)



    I just figured a pretty large issue I've not being paying any attention to. And that's that space is mindblowing big. Why is this an issue, well, floating point precision. Lots of things are generally done with 32bit floats, especially when rendering things. Which brings me to the point, that a 32bit float, has 24bits of precision.
    Now, if we take earth, which has a radius of 6371km, you end up with a precision of about 0.3m. Which is still at that precision when you get near the planet. So that's actually a much bigger issue then I suspected.

    Next to that, for a space this big, you have "shifting origin", so you move "center point" which you use as reference for every other position around, so you do not have this loss of precision issue.
    This works great, and many games which large worlds use this. But generally, for single player. If you have multiple player ships, when you need multiple origins, but as soon as things are close enough, then things can exists close to multiple players which do not have to have the same origin. And objects can switch between origins.

    It's really exploding my mind at the moment. So many edge cases, so many possible problems. I start to understand why Eve online just created "shards"
  • Ha, yeah I have pondered the precision problem as well, multiplayer really throws a wrench in it. I am using doubles (64-bit) for world coordinates on the CPU, and in critical spots in the rendering code, and have a fixed origin. And still (iirc, been awhile since I confronted this), if you get too far from the origin, you will start seeing vertices jump around a little bit, so my code will teleport you back into the "zone of sanity" if you travel too far from the origin. For "far" travel (between solar systems), I teleport the ship into an entirely different process (disconnect all clients from one server and re-connect them to a new server and transport the ship state across servers via a 3rd process designed for that purpose.)

    Early on, we noticed that if we put Saturn into our game at full scale, it essentially occupied the entirety of what we had considered to be the playable volume. So, we sacrificed realism of scale and time for the sake of fun. Which brings up another point, the old trick of accelerating time to deal with travel over vast distances taking too long also breaks down with multi-player.
  • Which brings up another point, the old trick of accelerating time to deal with travel over vast distances taking too long also breaks down with multi-player.
    For that, I currently have listed a different solution. I imagine a ship having 3 different engines:
    * Cold gas trusters (Argon)
    * Hot gas trusters (H2+O2)
    * Fusion drive

    The cold gas trusters are for minor corrections and manoeuvring around stations. Where any other truster would be too powerful and too dangerous to use (aka, the station will complain that you put them at risk, due to hot gasses or radiation)

    The hot gas trusters are useful to navigate in orbit, getting from planets to moons or to different spots in orbits.

    The fusion drive works to travel between planets, requires "spin up" and "spin down" times much like the EE jump&warp drive combined. Emits radiation into space, so easier to track and not friendly for your surroundings.

    And finally, there are "jump gates" that you also have in many other games, to jump from system to system. Or, as I would like to implement them, jump accelerators, where your alignment matters, and a wrong alignment could strand you further from your destination that you would like.
    Or, an alternative, as I recently read the "Renegade star" books, there they have what they call "slip tunnels", tunnels that connect different sections of space trough an alternative reality which has much shorter distances. Entry/exit points are in specific areas in the system.


    The jump gates/tunnels allows for easy separation of system into different "shards", but still, as you noticed with SNIS, a single system is still very big even for 64bit floating point. (You could check if you can go up to the "long double" 80bit floating point, but that will most likely not work for rendering, and is only well supported on x86)
  • Interesting, I did not know about 80-bit "long double". (BTW, you no doubt mean "thruster", rather than "truster".) The "slip tunnels" sound a bit like something I saw in some Limit Theory video that I can't seem to find now. (That was a beautiful looking game, I wish I had half the programming prowess of Josh Parnell). I have "wormhole pairs" in SNIS that just teleport within a system from one to the other, but they are not really well developed, they were put in very early on, but not used much. The alignment for the jump accelerators sounds interesting, although if the sole effect is to either cause players to reach their destination as intended or be hopelessly stranded in deep space, I'd worry the latter situation could be frustrating without really adding much to the game.
  • I think the limit theory video I was thinking of was this one:

  • Ah. Nice effect. But very unclear if you took the gate or note.

    In renagade star the slip tunnels are described as a rip in space that gets pulled open bij the slip drive into a hole in space. In where there is an bright emerald colored tunnel.

    I envision this looking as a portal (from the game portal) when it is open. Bright light comming from it and a visible bright chaotic tunnel behind it.
    Rendering it won't be simple i think. But it could look very cool.
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