Adding Polish for the Next Release

Anytime you make a game available to the public, you want to add as much polish as possible because you only get one first impression, amirite? With that in mind, I’ve recruited someone who has said he could polish the game with a capital ‘P’. Wow! Who could turn that down?

This will also be an excellent opportunity for me to get all of the underlying translation code work out in preparation for even more in the future.

polish_tease

In-Game Help for new players

The original Master of Orion had “Master’s Tips” that would pop up at opportune times to remind you about features you need to use.

Remnants is going to do something similar in order to help new players get up to speed with how the game works. Experienced players will be able to easily ignore them, although there will be a setup option to disable them for those players who’d rather not see them at all.

For example, the screen below shows what you’ll see as soon as you start up the game and get past the introduction: a tip that says, “hey, the first thing you should probably do is send out your scout ships to look for a habitable planet”.While this is common sense for experienced players, a first-time player might spend 5-10 minutes just staring at and navigating around the main screen before figuring out what to do (or not) and then hitting “Next Turn” to make things happen. In other words, basically me every time I fire up Distant Worlds — the most inscrutable 4x I’ve ever played!

helptipscouting

In  an attempt to maintain immersion, all of these “tips” are coming in the form of a suggestiono from an advisor to you, the Emperor. They will give general advice, but will NEVER something gamey like “Click on your fleet and then a destination, then clickDeploy”

Here’s another example of advice you receive right after landing your first colony ship. It’s something every experienced player knows to do, but it might take a new player many games before figuring out this important, but simple, technique:

helptiptransports

Anyway, this is what the game will be getting in lieu of a tutorial. Tutorials are bad. If your game needs a tutorial, that means it’s either too complicated or that your interface is non-intuitive.  Fix those things first.

Anyway, that’s what I started working on today.

The “State of the Game” post from last week is now linked directly on the front page of the blog. I’ll try to keep that post updated with progress for all of the steps needed to get to the next Alpha.

State of the Game

As many of you have undoubtedly noticed, I post very frequent updates on this game — very likely more often than any other comparable game in development. In my line of work as a software developer, it’s routine to post regular project updates to management so that they can ensure projects stay on track. This kind of transparency is essential to keeping people honest about what they are doing and it’s a practice that I carry over to this personal project.

With that in mind, this will be an update on the progress on this project towards its next public alpha where MOO fans can play the game in its latest state. The general principles of the project will be touched upon as a reminder to interested fans and as reassurance of its eventual public release.

The Vision

Remnants of the Precursors, originally coined “Java MOO” and started in March 2015, is intended to be a strict feature clone of the original Master of Orion game from 1993. Bugs and exploits will be fixed, the AI will be improved, and all artwork, music and user interfaces will be modernized. Nevertheless, Master of Orion fans should recognize it has a faithful recreation of the 1993 classic. If you enjoy playing the original Master of Orion more than the finished version of Remnants, excepting nostalgia, then I have done something very, very wrong…

The target audience for this game is anyone with a PC that can run Java 8 (i.e. Windows, Mac & Linux) and that likes a good 4X game. Because I am writing this game in straight Java, there is also no requirement for a video graphics card. The game can currently run on as little as 1GB of memory, but the ultimate goal is to make it runnable on a Raspberry Pi Zero with 512Mb.

Finally, special thanks always goes out to Wargaming.net for giving me permission to use the original race names from MOO in this game. This is both very cool and appreciated.

The Team

What started out as a single developer’s hobby has slowly blossomed into a more serious project by a coordinated group of five professional creators. Every contributor is doing the kind of work they normally do professionally and they are all being compensated for their work. Our artist is working full-time on this project while the others work part time when needed.

If you  do get frustrated waiting for the eventual completion of Remnants, please remember that there are a ton of space 4X games currently on the market if you really need that MOO fix! (tip: start with Wargaming’s MOO)

The Schedule

I am also a believer in constantly working towards demonstrable versions of the software. This means that every 6 months or so I hope to release a  version available for public testing. This is a wonderful way for me to get lots of constructive feedback and squash many bugs as early in the development cycle as possible. It should also serve as a reminder that this game is not “vaporware”.

Game Code

Ray Fowler (me) is the software developer for the project and is responsible for all code and integration of creator assets. I work about 10 hrs/week on the game and usually take a month off from it about twice/year to avoid burnout.

  •  all bugs reported in last Alpha are fixed (completed)
  • Race Introduction screen at game start (completed)
  • Race Rankings screens (completed)
  • Sakkra race added (completed)
  • Darlok race added (completed)
  • Support multiple translations (completed 11/26)
  • Empire-wide taxation to increase empire reserve (completed 1/29)
  • Mass change of ship design across colonies (completed 2/15)
  • Mass reset of rally points (completed 2/17)
  • Mass deployment of fleets to target system (completed 2/18)
  • Improved memory usage to allow even larger map sizes (completed 3/25)
  • Mass assignment of transports to target system (completed 3/31)
  • Remember user preference settings between games (5/29)
  • Implementation of graphic redesign of user interface (see below, in progress)
  • Ship Combat – UI & basic animations (in progress)
  • Ship Combat – player control
  • Ship Combat – AI improvements
  • Ship Combat – animations
  • Diplomacy: add option to request ally to join war
  • Diplomacy: add option to request empire leave their alliance
  • Diplomacy: add counter-offers
  • AI: will accumulate and use Empire Reserve to speed colony development
  • AI: improvements to Destroyer ship designs

Artwork

Petar Penev is the artist for Remnants, working full-time, and does amazing work.

  • individualized transport ships for all races (completed)
  • “hostile environment” version of ground combat troops (completed)
  • all Sakkra race artwork (completed)
  • all Darlok race artwork (completed 11/19)
  • GNN news event artwork for non-random events (completed 12/16)
  • individualized GNN screen for each race: Darlok (completed 12/16), Psilon  (completed 1/10), Bulrathi (completed 1/19), Alkari (completed 2/7), Meklar (completed 2/17), Silicoid (completed 3/8), Sakkra (completed 3/30)
  • all Mrrshan race artwork (est. ETA: end of July?)
    • Laboratory background (completed 4/28)
    • Soldier animation (completed 5/2)
    • Scientist animation (completed 5/18)
    • Diplomat animation (completed 5/26)
    • Spy animation (completed 5/30)
    • Galactic Council background (in progress)
    • GNN background
    • GNN Host animation
    • Colony image
    • Ground Combat soldier
    • Transport Ship animation
    • Racial insignia
    • Diplomacy text box
  • Ship images for ship design & ship combat (24 per race, est 2 months?)
  • individualized colonist animation for (1 per race, est 2 months?)
  • holographic technology images for new technologies (30-40, est 2 months?)
  • all Human race artwork (est. 4 months?)
  • all Klackon race artwork (est. 4 months?)
  • Orion homeworld background
  • Guardian ship icon
  • GNN new event artwork for random events
  • End game animations

Writing

Jeff Colucci is the writer responsible for creating immersive backstories and motivations for each of the races. Although the backstories do not appear in the game, they are used to enhance interaction between the races and will eventually show up in the User Manual. Jeff works part-time on this project.

  • detailed backstories for each race (completed)
  • introductory text for each race at game start (completed 11/14)
  • race-specific advisor text (in progress)
  • Mrrshan
    • backstory (in progress)
    • introduction (in progress)
    • advisor text
  • introductory text for galactic council vote
  • gnn story texts
  • individualized diplomatic dialogue for each race

Graphic Design

Kaitlin Lindsay is the newest member of the team and is responsible for modernizing the look of all of the user interfaces, as well as making the game more accessible to inexperienced players. The plan is for her to stay about 2 or 3 designed screens ahead of my coding. She will also be doing illustrations for the manual when we get to that point. Kaitlin works part-time on this project, as needed.

  • Race Introduction screen (completed)
  • Race Rankings screen (completed)
  • Main: Colony Panels (completed)
  • Main: Ship Fleet Panel (completed)
  • Main: Rally Point Panel (completed)
  • Main: System Scouted Prompt (completed)
  • Main: Colonize System Prompt (completed)
  • Main: Deploy Transport Panel (completed 11/13)
  • Main: Display Transport Panel (completed 11/20)
  • Main: Beginner’s Notes for new players (completed  11/21)
  • Main: Adjust Colony Spending Prompt  (completed 12/3)
  • Main: Espionage prompt (completed 12/6)
  • Main: Miscellaneous Turn Notifications (completed 12/9)
  • Colonies UI (completed 1/29)
  • Colonization UI (completed 2/18)
  • Main: Bomb Planet prompt (completed 2/19)
  • Ground Combat UI (completed 3/11)
  • Tech discovery UI (completed 3/25)
  • Fleet UI (completed 3/31)
  • Load/Save Game screens (completed 5/6)
  • Setup UI (completed 5/22)
  • Race Introduction UI (completed 5/27)
  • Technology UI (design complete)
  • Select Technology prompt
  • Map UI
  • Ship Design UI
  • Sabotage target UI
  • Galactic Council UI
  • Races UI
  • Credits UI

Music

Efe Tozan creates music for the game and works on an as-needed basis, but he will always be needed for something in each alpha…

  • Individualized musical themes for each race

Translation

We hope to have a foreign language translation available in the next Alpha. Hopefully this will be the first of many and streamline the process for later translations

  • Greek Translation (completed 5/6)
  • Polish translation (in progress)
    • Technology descriptions (complete)
    • Diplomacy text (complete)
    • UI labels (in progress)
    • Race Introductions (complete)
  • Spanish translation (in progress)

Wrapping Up

Once these features are complete, the game will enter a permanently public Beta test. Once I feel the code is stable and bug-free, it will be “officially” released and I will open-source the code under a GPL license. If I had to guess based on past progress for everything, I’d say somewhere in mid-2018.

At that point, plans for a follow-up release will begin with a selection of features from MOO2 as well as others. These should include, but are not limited to:

  • Antarans
  • Trilarians
  • Elerians
  • Gnolams
  • Leaders
  • Wormholes
  • Space Monsters
  • Strategic Resources
  • Deeper Exploration
  • Governments