So… here’s something new.
While working on something totally unrelated* I saw how much wing shapes opened up spaceship design, and I thought damn, I wish I’d known that when I built Captain Forever. Then I remembered that I’m still building Captain Forever, in so much as I’m rebuilding it anyway. So I added space wings! Of course, space wings make no sense and decorative modules would starkly oppose the CF design, so… they’re shields. Which totally works. Think of them as ablative shielding for re-entry, serving double duty as laser fire absorbers. They’re lightweight and can take a lot of damage, but you can’t anchor other modules to them so they don’t replace girders. I think they’re pretty neat!
These won’t appear in Captain Forever Trilogy: Captain Forever because I want to keep the CF module pool constrained, but they will appear in Captain Forever Trilogy: Captain Successor and Captain Forever Trilogy: Captain Impostor. Also apparently I didn’t think ahead when naming any of these things.
After adding the shielding I saw opportunities to revamp or completely redesign other modules, so I’ve been sweeping through the module list doing exactly that. You can see here that I subconsciously copied the rounded girder shape from Remix, for example. Sorry about that Dean & Brian! Most modules have simply been tweaked to add variety of line intensity, which adds a surprising amount of texture to the screen. A handful of others either looked weird in the new renderer (eg bubble shields) or have always looked a bit terrible in my eyes (eg torpedo launchers), so they’ve been redesigned completely. I’m super happy with the results. It’s weird, but 7 years on CF is finally starting to look like it did in my head back when I started building it.
* Or maybe it’s not unrelated. Either way, it’s a surprise :)
I’m working on a thing! It’s a Captain Forever thing! The Dawn Star was unwell, with the renderer failing on many machines, the design disappearing into the wilderness, and a secret new Blue Manchu project dominating my schedule. I decided to scale my CF ambitions down to something I could finish, and now it’s done! Almost. It’s 90% done, and I’m working hard on the other 90%. The new project is Captain Forever Trilogy, a re-release of the first three games (Forever, Successor, and Impostor) in glorious full screen, high framerate, GPU accelerated glory. The flash software renderer behind the original games is too slow to run fullscreen, which is why the GFX have been redone in this mode. They looks a little different, but I still like ’em.
Tonight I’m working on the ?????????? part which unlocks after you complete the three games, then it’s on to options menus, polish, packaging, and release. Woo!
Speaking of release… I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. These days a downloadable game is either Minecraft, on Steam, or dead in the water. So I’ll aim for Steam. But even then, I can’t just leave the supporter program running and give out steam keys to all new supporters. If you do that people buy copies with stolen credit cards, sell the keys on G2A or similar, and leave it up to the real card holder to reverse the transaction. I’d not only lose a sale, but I could end up paying a fee for credit card chargebacks. Multiply this by a few thousand and you can see why it’s not my preferred option. This is why we can’t have nice things. It’s also why my options are limited to:
1) Try to release Trilogy on Steam, but only give supporters access to a non-Steam download.
2) Try to release Trilogy on Steam, give existing supporters steam download codes, and rework the supporter system so new supporters pay less but don’t get Trilogy.
2a) The same as 2), but shut down new purchases into the supporter system. Of which there are now very few.
My, what a snazzy new helmet. The pilot’s reflection is only really visible when lit by something particularly bright, which is all the excuse I needed to show off the new explosion effect. It’s not subtle.
I also ported the ping effect to GPU, but though my experiments with integrating it into the vertices of the background geometry looked cool, they failed to express “communication wavefront”. So it’s just a circle again now. I then found success with the new road renderer, which shows transit routes as dashed lines on your HUD. These look quite nice as they wind along ahead of you, and they add a lot of structure to the environment.
Oh, and I finally fixed the bug that causes a camera jump whenever modules are added to or removed from your ship. That took me, what, six years? Anyhow, the scrolling adjusts smoothly now. So that’s nice.
A long standing issue with Captain Forever is that the ships themselves – especially player ships – look like what an old workmate would call “blobs of multicoloured puke”. So that’s not great. In The Dawn Star I’m toning the module colours down, indicating module level on small decals* rather than across the whole sprite. Of course that makes the module level much harder to discern, so what’s a pilot to do?
Why, they just click on a module of course! Then this happens:
Neat! In this mode module shapes and levels are clearly visible, and building is super easy. Once you’re finished building you simply hit the thrusters (or any other key) and…
…the renderer fades back to gorgeous lighting + background + details + etc mode.
Other things you might notice here:
- There’s a new font! In fact there’s a whole new font rendering system based on Signed Distance Fields which – unlike the composited flash text fields – does not cause my CPU to melt down five times a day. Hooray!
- There are new mouse cursors! In fact, there’s a whole new line rendering system, again to avoid CPU-hungry compositing issues.
- The UI has moved in a little toward the middle of the screen. I like it there. The unit information display is also docked to the nearest screen corner.
Next week I’ll port VMEDS to the new text system, and very likely change the button layout, add colours, and hopefully even add some map icon characters. Fun!
*I haven’t added these yet.
Woo, colourful! These screenshots show off the evolution of The Dawn Star’s emissive rendering. The first shot shows little red and green blobs representing the ship’s running lights. You can also see a big row of blobs that are actually placeholder lane markers for the new road system. Did I mention there are roads now? They’re cool, but they could be a lot prettier. I’ll fix that. Anyhow, this blob rendering system has been quite handy! I discovered I could warp the blobs to create a nice thruster effect – shown blasting out the main boosters and also in little blue jets from the command module. The warping effect creates a teardrop shape, and looks really great in motion as the exhaust flames flicker around. I also discovered I could stretch these blobs in a completely different way to create laser bolts, and that’s exactly what I’ve done here. Fun!
Other things you might notice:
Dynamic lights! There is no ambient light in these images, just light from the thrusters, laser bolt, and running lights. The Dawn Star was built to handle a ton of dynamic lights, and it’s super exciting to see these in action.
There’s a new command module! I don’t much like this direction though and plan to scrap it and try again.
It’s a standalone game now! Okay maybe you can’t see that in these images, but it’s still true. I’ve ported The Dawn Star to AIR, which means it now runs outside the browser just like a regular game. It also runs on more systems and at a much higher framerate.
It’s great to be back on this and making progress again. Next I’ll add GPU-based font rendering using Signed Distance Fields, which should be fun. After that I’m considering a complete UI overhaul – more on that later!