Working Through the Technical Side of Unity

Sam, Malcolm and I have been diving into the more technical side of Unity development for the last couple of weeks. I expect this will go on for a while to come as well. There will probably be items on this side now and again as the Cluster game hits plateaus along the way and there are graphical bits and game play decisions to talk about.

Currently the technical content is being written up on my career blog. Perhaps a less than ideal naming choice as it gets most of the hard technical content yet I’m never likely to take a job in the games industry.

I’m currently working out a new scheme for partitioning up the pieces of the game and making the cross platform support (Daydream VR, Vive VR and flat screen PC) workable. I’m also likely to rebuild some of my spaceship assets as run-time created prefabs rather than manual prefabs.

Cluster Game Description

Inspired by SPI Stellar Conquest but with a somewhat different spin as this is computer mediated.

I’m looking to keep the game rules relatively simple so only a limited number of tech options, a few ship types, a couple of planets per star (tops). If all of this comes together well, I might add a few embellishments to the thing later on.

  • Multiplayer (up to four initially, likely two in early development, more possible later)
  • Semi three dimensional star placement.
  • Three kinds of warships along with scouts and colony transports.
  • PC screen, daydream vr and vive vr support initially. Might look at direct web interface as well (three.js perhaps) at some point.
  • Industrial production system.
  • Build ships.
  • Develop technology.
  • Grow populations.
  • Goal is to dominate the star cluster.

The Rationale

The ancients built massive stargates capable of flinging ships far across the universe to places far beyond the reach of conventional warp drives. The cataclysm that ended their presence in the galaxy may have destroyed their planets but their gates remain, orbiting stars amid the rubble of their shattered worlds.

No one understands why but these gates open at times for a short span providing access to distant parts of the universe. Many of the younger races station small colonization fleets near known gates in order to colonize the far flung places that a gate opening gives access to.

When the gates open, several gates generally connect to the same target area. Only a few ships can make it through before the gate closes so each race engages in a scramble to dominate the new star cluster before the others can gain a foothold. The gates only allow limited technology through (whether this is an inherent limitation or a security feature, no one knows) so the initial task force consists of a few simpler vessels.

Nothing prevents the construction of more capable ships and equipment once established colonies can produce the necessary infrastructure. This adds another facet to the struggle as each species works to enable use of the technologies they brought with them, in this new place.

In the end, the victor will eventually build the tools to force the gate open to their home galaxy and re-establish contact and trade. By the time this task is complete the control of the cluster will have been long ago resolved and a thriving web of colonies established.

February 7, 2019

Looking at Blender and Unity as tools.

Spent some time last night playing with prefabs for the Cluster game I’m prototyping. Not too much detail yet, just looking to create prefabs that are distinct enough to make it clear what is going on with each and have them look interesting.

Got the google daydream headset in from Amazon and got my phone configured to use it. So far I’ve only loaded the software on my phone and played with it a little bit. In the short time that my wife and I played with it, it burned through 50% of my phone battery and left my Pixel XL quite warm. Eventually this may be the item that causes me to upgrade phones…

At lunch today there was a discussion about the awkwardness involved in working with blender and some discussions around working with UV mapped textures directly in VR. Potentially interesting thing to try. Should be possible to implement a visual airbrush…particularly with the vive where the artist can walk around the model being worked on and see it from various angles. This is an interesting idea, but if I spend any time on it at the moment, I’ll never complete the game work I’m messing with so on the shelf it goes.

Spent some time looking at game rules last night…

I spent some time looking at miniatures and wargame rules last night (and bought a discounted Unity book from Packt that I’m hoping will give me more insights into areas of interest).

I need to take the next step on build-out of my ‘Cluster’ game in the next few days and generate a population of stars from a prefab and then get hit-testing of mouse clicks to star working. I think I have most of the bits in had to carry this off, but I need to test it out.

In the initial pass, I’m not looking to implement anything overly fancy in the star generation and positioning code. I may even simply walk them around the board with reckless abandon at first.

I found some examples here that seem to show how to take a mouse click position on the UI and hit-test the viewport normal from that position. This code even does (or suggests) the zoom function I was thinking about implementing in order to view individual systems.

I expect in the longer run, there will also want to be various control panels supplied with information that is more classically UI style to make managing the overall effort easier. Ideally this could be done without these, but I’m not quite sure how to get there at this point.

I think I may set up the board game tonight and look at running a few turns solo just to get back into the feel of the game. If I do, I’ll post pictures of the board with counters on it and related items.

More Games in my Collection

The bigger, mostly newer games I have.

Star fleet battles. Big, complex, huge number of ships and options. I haven’t had anyone around who knows the game in decades and it is a really hard game to get people started on with the rather massive basic rules set.

My original star fleet battles set. Simpler rules from simpler days. The game has become so much larger since then. Better balanced and with far more options. I haven’t cut the counter sheets for the newer edition as I have plenty of these older counters to use should the opportunity arise.

Federation commander is a simplified version of star fleet battles. I picked it up with hopes that it might be a simpler option. May be at some point.

Federation and Empire (and the earlier Federation Space) are both strategic level old series Star Trek combat. A complex game and one that I’ve never yet had a chance to play against a real opponent. Seems like another game that badly wants computer support to really play. It would be pretty amazing to get a real play through of this though.

And StarFire is the truly huge scale strategic game with massive scope but also massive complexity. On balance I’ve found this game fascinating to read through and containing well though out technologies and mechanics, but without computer support I can’t really imagine finding the time to play it.

Traveller isn’t primarily a wargame, but it is full of ideas for space game trading and space combat. Add in Striker with tactical ground combat and the possibilities for inspiration are pretty extensive. Lots to play with here.

I’d also love to run a traveller game sometime. Perhaps far in the future in retirement…

The core of my wargame collection

Here’s the core of my wargame collection. These are all rather old and I still regret not having bought more back when they were readily available (but the back then I had much less money to spend).

I also had two of the core GDW Europa series games, Fire in the East and Scorched earth covering the eastern front through the entire second world war. I tried setting them up to play with a friend and circumstances resulted in the counters and some other related parts being left with the friend when we lost touch. I still might try to replace these at some point, but that is likely to be pretty expensive.

I also have a batch of metagaming micro-games that are interesting.

I expect that my copy of Chitin-I is also around somewhere but it isn’t with my core collection. I’d be interested in getting my hands on a copy of battlesuit if circumstances permit.

I have an extensive starfleet battles collection including a full set of federation and empire. I’ve played a lot of SFB in the past but never yet found an opportunity to try out F&E.

I have various editions of starfire around though while the game is fascinating to read, I’m not at all convinced that it is playable without a major amount of computer assist.

I expect to be trying to build some simple wargame-like games using unity over the next year or so. I expect to take inspiration from the games in my collection, but as these are still under copyright I’ll not be directly cloning content.

I expect to post some more information here as I get to coding and I’ll try to post some more detailed comments on the individual games as I get to them and time permits. I’m also making a concerted effort to ensure that all relevant parts are reunited with their game boxes.

Permeability and Permittivity of free space…

I’ve known for a very long time that the permeability (µ0) and permittivity (ε0) of free space determine the speed of light in a vacuum. I had not realized that this would interact with E=mc2 to alter the mass/energy relationship and thus the balance between matter and energy in the universe. This would seem to have some strange implications (aside from all of the other bad things that happen if the fine structure constant is not a constant) for changes to the way the universe works if either of these constants changes over time (or perhaps even in very high energy environments as were present in the early universe).

Ice VII!

Interesting new solid phase for the water molecule mentioned at ArsTechnica.

Not an issue here on earth, but the potential for very high speed transitions from liquid to solid phase (and I have to wonder about energy and volume differences in such cases as well) makes for interesting movie plot options…

New Site…Likely for Creative Things

Years ago my daughter bought a ‘panda massage mallet’ at Disney World. It was essentially a plush panda head on a stick. Since then our panda mallets have been a running joke in the family.

When I logged into my hosting provider to renew my site and domain registrations this year they offered me the domain on the splash page and I couldn’t refuse. I have been planning to get involved in some more creative endeavors (in addition to my photography) and this seems like the perfect spot to place those with an interesting new URL and a fresh wordpress instance.

Not sure how fast this will come together as I’m a bit busy at the moment but the domain is live, the site is up and waiting to be configured and loaded with content…