Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Screen art from the game - teaser

As you may have read, a huge inspiration to the game was the Digital Computer Corporation PDP-8 family of computers. They had a large number of interfaces. In the game I call them ROM panels. There are many but I've designed them to use similar interfaces because old computers don't work quite the same as new ones.

So when piloting a ship in the game, you are responsible for more than just picking a destination and clicking a "go there" button. You have to manage the systems of the ship. Each system has one or more ROM panels which allow you to control different aspects of the ship. One of the main panels is to control the distribution of electricity. The short of it is that your ship is not capable of producing enough energy to power up everything. So you have to make choices, sometimes tough choices, about what/when to power different areas.

The main areas are divided into six simple categories, Auxiliary Systems, Collection Systems, Life Support, Stellar travel systems, Interstellar Travel Systems and Combat Systems. There are also Intergalactic Travel Systems but that's a discussion for the future since they are not a primary system.

 Besides controlling what the reactor is running you also control the battery backup systems. From the main control panel you can run tests on the batteries, switch from A to B systems (if you spent the money to have backup systems). And most importantly, monitor how many Kilowatts of power you are consuming in the primary six areas.

Below is an image of the actual in game artwork. Please note, this game will largely be a proof of concept until I get some money to create better artwork or someone clicks on the employment tab and volunteers their artistic talents to making things look better. But for someone who can barely hold a paint brush, I think it looks pretty good. Inspiration came from the KL 10 interface used in some PDP installations. A google image search may surprise you on the small amount I changed the original interface which was really done for the sake of gameplay.

Note that across the bottom are switches used to control on/off for each main area. In the shot all buttons are turned on, for most ships this would not be possible (or advisable even on the ones that can).

Another huge aspect to gameplay is the in game terminal. I'll post more on that later with some explanation of how it works. But it is essentially a BASIC compiler with some extra features. The most significant is the ability to use reflection which allows you to control analog switches on the ROM panels. So you could write a program in game to turn switch 7 on or off rather than go to this panel and click the button.

But it gets better, since it is a multiplayer game, it is also possible to gain control of a friend's ship and write software that can control your ship along with theirs.

Aside from reflection in the form of reflecting real world interfaces to source code another key addition to the BASIC compiler is the ability to use pointers and references. Granted this capability is geared towards those that have some understanding of programming, it helps to make for some interesting options in writing applications that could autopilot your ship. Or in the event you need to overload the value of a reflection panel but are constrained, create a variable with the overclock value you want and then point the address from the ROM panel to it. Granted it could blow up your ship but hey, no risk, no reward.

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