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The Jovian System Development Update 1 : The Road to Combat.

MF

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It's been a while since the announcement, but I kept putting off posting an update until I felt I had something to show you all.

The Steam Store page for The Jovian System is now up. It's not 'coming soon' by any means, but at least you can wishlist it if you feel so inclined.



The Jovian System has seen a lot of progress in the last couple of months. The world map is pretty much done. All the moons orbit around Jupiter as they should. You can burn to travel within the system and choose to orbit a moon when you get near. The ship/station construction element is mostly complete, but doesn't have a lot of content yet.

After some helpful advice in the last thread, I decided to come up with a concept for a new interface first lest I got stuck transplanting things from Titan Outpost that didn't really work. Here's a screenshot of the new construction interface, for example:

SpaceshipConstruction-1024x576.png


It's not final, of course. Some of the skeuomorphic elements are WIP and the resource bar doesn't need to be shown twice.

travelscreen1-1024x576.png


World map. Text on the right is a debug dump.

timeline-1024x576.png

Here is the timelapse screen. It's not just a cosmetic change from Titan Outpost. The 'days/hours/minutes' dials appear as a context widget if you hover over the clock and it has more room for relevant stats.

Of course, the biggest hurdle to take is the combat system.

The primary unique feature is momentum-based movement in three dimensions.


A character has action points and movement/orientation points. Action points are used for attacks or skill application, while orientation points are used to initiate movement.

combatscreenshotgrid-1024x575.png



If you’re in a gravity environment or wearing magnetic boots on suitable tiles in zero G, movement is pretty traditional. Moving a certain amount of tiles costs a certain amount of movement points. In this screenshot, the tiles visible in the grid stick to your magnetic boots and can be traversed by walking.

If you’re not stuck to something, you can push off against a surface to gain momentum in the opposite direction. Each turn, you will move x points in this direction until you hit another surface, you use a tether to stop and pull back, or you use a thruster to alter your momentum. If a character pushes off in space without a tether or a thruster or somebody helping, it can fly off into the void without means of getting back. If the character runs out of oxygen this way, it dies. Exploiting this to kill others is one of the primary ways to kill people.

The stack of tiles rising up indicate a vertical 'push off' direction. You can toggle this grid per level and per tile with the buttons on the lower right. In the bottom-right corner is a gizmo that tells you what this character's current momentum is and in which direction.

I'll definitely implement a UI context wheel for pushing off after the mechanics of the system are finalized. I want navigation to feel intuitive despite its complexity.

Attacking works as follows:


You select a weapon from your inventory and place it in your hands, just like most RPGs. There are ranged weapons and melee weapons, including unarmed.


Ranged weapons include harpoons and various CLGG guns/firearms with oxidizers. The latter are rare. Some weapons have enough recoil to create significant inverse momentum.


Destructible terrain is already in and works, but not all terrain can be demolished. There will be explosives.

Damage is split into two categories: Personal damage and suit integrity.


Personal damage is a straightforward hit point system. There is a hard damage resistance mechanic in place where your suit can soak up most of the damage. The fleshy bits of characters won’t be able to weather a lot of damage and hit points are limited.


Suit integrity determines how much your suit has been breached. If it’s depressurized, you have one or two turns to respond or you die. You usually never run out of oxygen within a combat session by itself, but after your suit has been depressurized you can get to critically low levels where you have to act.

You can upgrade a suit with more protection, integrated thrusters, ballistic panels and things like that. You can also don different suits. Right now, starting a fight in pressurized environments that you can't finish in a single turn means you have to scramble towards a suit because the whole combat arena is one big environmental hazard if you don't.

Stats & Skills

Physicality determines your movement points, awareness determines your base to hit chance, intelligence cancels out some of the momentum penalty in aiming. Charisma reduces a delay in orders. You will be able to gather a small party but you can only indirectly control NPC’s unless your charisma is maxed out. This may change if direct control just turns out to be more fun.

There are two combat skills: Ranged and melee. They increase THC modifiers and that’s it. Perks, gated partly by those skills, will do the heavy lifting in terms of character customization.

If you have questions I’ll be happy to answer them, but a lot of the system is still very much in flux so going into a lot of detail right now would be mostly spitballing.

Development Challenges:

A fully 3D grid to play on is a tough cookie to crack. The common pathfinding algorithms are based on 2D vectors. Even games like JA or X-Com or nuXcom, even Silent Storm, have 2D grids with height values. Moving to another plane on the z axis in those games requires a predetermined path upwards, like stairs. Even the jetpacks and grappling hooks in nuxcom aren’t incorporated in the pathfinding. Truly having six degrees of movement means I have to innovate. Testing it PvP was fun, but getting an AI working is proving difficult because there is so little to fall back on. After banging my head for a few months, I have a foundation to build upon. I want to finalize the system itself first before I start iterating it.

Making a combat area is a chore right now, because every tile is hand-placed and every tile has a lot of values besides its position. Health for destructible terrain, ferromagnetic or not, connected to a pressure area, 'special' function tiles, etc. etc.. I apply the art to the abstract 3D grid after the fact. Even for this small example, that’s 32x32x32 tiles whereas in most games it would be 32x32 or 32x32x(3 or 6) at most. I’m working on some tools for myself to facilitate easier mapmaking.

Animating all this is something I dread. Having transitions for six cardinal directions and setting up realistic blendtrees for pushing off seems like a nightmare. In abstraction it's an easy concept to grasp, but for animation I'd have to consider when/if a character pushes off with his hands or his feet, or nudges with the body, etc. It's something I'm trying to accommodate in the back of my mind, but I don't want to go down this rabbit hole until I finalize the system. Odds are it'll remain abstracted visually. I don't think most lovers of turn-based combat would mind.

Meanwhile I’m working on content, which is chugging along nicely. Here’s a screenshot of the intro sequence.

IntroScene-1024x576.png


I’m also working on what I think will be the last major update for Titan Outpost, in which the timeline will be compressed. That's pretty much done, but will be spending more time on the test branch first.

Hope you like what you see. I'll try to keep updates on development a bit more frequent and in-depth now that the game is past its embryonic state.
 
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DraQ

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Peg me as interested.

A few points:
  • Drop the shitty DoF (like in the last screen). Seriously, it's awful, it's fugly. Also in space it's actually hard to tell how far something is in the distance, because of lack of air (let alone shitty DoF) in the way.
  • If you're including any non-improvised weapons (like proper firearms) you *want* cover to be part of combat. Floating in the middle of a room while everyone takes potshots at you is an abruptly bad end.
  • I'd suggest dropping grid-based, actually, but keeping some grid-like provision (on hotkey) to help gauge movement vectors and whatnot. Grid is going to interact badly with your 0G combat, because you can't change direction after pushing off something (unless you have specific means to do so). Limiting this to cardinal directions (because of grid) will greatly constrain the number of reachable destinations compared to realistic version. At the very least limit grid to surfaces and handle off-surface movement continuously.
  • I might lend a hand with combat system design and adjusting movement algos for 3D. I'm not making any guarantees, but ping me if you have anything you'd like to discuss.
 

MF

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A few points:

-Needs more bokeh, right? Kidding aside, the depth of field is just in the intro and the shot doesn't last long. You're looking through a surveillance camera and even in a vacuum, an aperture fraction is still just that. It's a cinematic intro and the camera pans to that view from looking at the sun.

-Pushing off with little force will leave you floating slowly and exposed and can be a death sentence, that's part of the system. Partial line of sight reduces THC, current momentum of target reduces THC, current momentum of attacker reduces THC, etc.

-I did think about that issue. Right now, the grid resolution is twice as high under the hood (you can see it in the z axis tiles shown) to accomodate more destinations for diagonal movement, but it's a pain in the butt. Using continuous values in the empty spaces and a grid only on surfaces would make life so much easier, I like that suggestion. I could just make characters snap to the nearest tile when hitting a surface. It would make pathfinding even less straightforward, but maybe I can just raycast other surfaces within LOS and continue tracing from there.

-Sounds great, thanks! I'll spend some time thinking about dropping discrete values for non-surfaces and ping you after I get some sleep.
 
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Technomancer

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Lift whole turn-based combat rule set from AoD or CS, they simply nailed it. It is simple and surprisingly deep. I even liked it in Dead State.
 

Black Angel

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Underrail is a better iteration on Fallout combat than AoD is.
Not really because AoD is the one that implements aimed shots/strikes system like Fallout's. You can still technically do some kind of aimed shots/strikes in Underrail, but you need to spend feat points for it, and the options are still relatively limited in comparison.

With CS, it's even better thanks to the graze mechanics. Now the only thing they need to complete the experience is to implement some sort of critical failure, something that actually spiced up not only Fallout's combat, but also the entire experience with it.
 

MF

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I like Dungeon Rats and CS combat. Even liked Dead State's before it wore out its welcome. However, combat rules are tied to character systems and I already have one. Itemization, perks and environments are going to play a much bigger role in this than in AoD.

Underrail is probably a bit more crunchy than what I'm going for. I'm not going to have that much weapon class variety, no distinction between melee and unarmed and no psionics. On the other hand, movement will be more involved. I like some of the cooldown mechanics on innate abilities, although I would tie them to a depletable parameter rather than a turn timer.

That said, I'm not above lifting things that work.
 

HoboForEternity

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the UI and everything already looks 1000x better than Titan outpost. to be honest i ended up ditching TO despite really liking its concept due to mostly various QoL annoyances.
 

JarlFrank

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This looks like a great step up from Titan Outpost, and adding combat is welcome.

Do check out Space Wreck for inspiration, it also does zero-G turn based combat roughly inspired by Fallout, with features like kicking dudes into the void of space. It's less hard sci-fi simulationist than yours though.
 

MF

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the UI and everything already looks 1000x better than Titan outpost. to be honest i ended up ditching TO despite really liking its concept due to mostly various QoL annoyances.

When was that? UI changed after 1.2 and I added a lot of QoL. Still clunky though, not gonna lie.

This looks like a great step up from Titan Outpost, and adding combat is welcome.

Do check out Space Wreck for inspiration, it also does zero-G turn based combat roughly inspired by Fallout, with features like kicking dudes into the void of space. It's less hard sci-fi simulationist than yours though.

Yeah I'm following that thread. Already played some of the demo, it's awesome.
 

HoboForEternity

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the UI and everything already looks 1000x better than Titan outpost. to be honest i ended up ditching TO despite really liking its concept due to mostly various QoL annoyances.

When was that? UI changed after 1.2 and I added a lot of QoL. Still clunky though, not gonna lie.

This looks like a great step up from Titan Outpost, and adding combat is welcome.

Do check out Space Wreck for inspiration, it also does zero-G turn based combat roughly inspired by Fallout, with features like kicking dudes into the void of space. It's less hard sci-fi simulationist than yours though.

Yeah I'm following that thread. Already played some of the demo, it's awesome.
Early 2020

I will try it again probably.
 

MF

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kinda like the wood paneling/analog skeuomorphic UI on the top/bottom, do you plan on applying it to your entire UI?

Missed this one, but yes. It's much easier to get this to read well and it still fits with the theme.

In-universe, the holograms are an IASA affectation. The industrial organization you start out with in the Jovian System favors more practical tactile screens and buttons.
 

ERYFKRAD

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Strap Yourselves In Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire [Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.] Pathfinder: Kingmaker I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
So how's the 3d combat and pathfinding working out?
 

MF

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Tough, not gonna lie. I started writing a continuous system after DraQ 's comments and never even got around to discuss pathfinding, because I went back to the drawing board. His suggestion of dropping the grid made so much sense to me. It has its benefits but also comes with new problems. Turns out I like the grid better. Less realistic but more fun. I'll probably end up using a hybrid approach for momentum-based movement.

Reading back what I wrote above, "I'll spend some time thinking about dropping discrete values for non-surfaces and ping you after I get some sleep." that turned into a three month rabbit hole. I'm glad I tried a completely continuous approach though, otherwise that would have haunted me throughout development. I also managed to flesh out the starting area and add content while doing that so it's not like I wasted all that time. Couldn't do much in June, but I'm back on track now.
 

MF

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Quick update: Combat is almost done. At least the basics. Stuff like environmental interaction is in place in terms of data and code, but I haven't actually implemented that yet. Shooting and moving works, so the biggest hurdles are behind me.

Here's a little teaser screenshot. You can see I moved the momentum gizmo from the lower right corner of the UI to right above the character's head, which provides a lot more readable indication of movement. The character is shooting a gun with kickback 1, so it will get 1 momentum in the opposite direction of the shot. The arrow is currently pointing upwards with 1 unit per turn, so it will add those two vectors. Unless that character eventually fires a 'thrust shot' towards Europa in the background or has some other means of propulsion, it will keep drifting off into space. You can also see the different damage types for this gun. I'll post more info later.
CombatLatest.jpg
 

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