Wing Commander: Hostile Frontier - Developer Diaries
Entry 7 - Mission Design
Hello there, readers. It's been a long time, and there hasn't been a new entry.
Well, we are making good progress on some of the missions, but there is still much more work to do. Designing good-quality missions from the ground up is a long, involved process. The first step involves writing the mission script, which outlines what happens in the mission, what characters and ships appear, dialogue sequences, briefings and debriefings, objectives, etc. The mission script is NOT the one-and-only basis for the actual mission, although the mission events that the script outlines remain largely unchanged in the finished version of the mission.
The second step involves taking the mission script and making it into an actual mission. That means placing/swapping ships in templates, coding events, writing ingame comm messages, balancing the gameplay, writing briefings and debriefings, and generally following the script to make the mission.
The third step involves tweaking, balancing, finalizing, polishing, writing, and rewriting. I play through the mission several times, making note of all the little bugs, errors, or inconsistencies which need to be changed, tweaked, or fixed, and then I go and tweak the mission accordingly. Of course, I often don't catch them all in one run, so I play the mission again, and tweak it until I'm satisfied.
The first mission of the WC: Hostile Frontier demo is nearing completion, and all that needs to be done (I think) is tweaking the dialogue at the "start" Nav point and the "end" Nav point.
And at the end, it is indeed amazing to see how far the mission has come since it was started. I still have a few videos showing early versions of the WCHF missions, and after watching them through, I'm proud of my accomplishments so far, and I'm still improving my missions to perfection.
Also, don't forget that we're still looking for people to help make the missions. If you're interested in joining the team, please contact me on the WCHF forum on HLP or by e-mail.
Entry 6 - Collaborative Work
When I'm not working on WCHF, I'm sometimes doing collaborative work for other projects. One of them is Woolie Wool's Wing Commander: Advance Guard mod. I'm the person who does a lot of the POF conversion and re-texturing work. Since the Standoff team doesn't want anyone else's mod project to look like their own, every model from Standoff that other mods use needs to be retextured. I create the new textures for the Standoff ships, convert the models, and give them to Woolie Wool for tabling when I'm done. On some occasions, I create new models for use in WCHF or other projects. Here's a few examples of retexturing work that I did for Wing Commander: Advance Guard.
I also made this nice high-detail Dorkir model for WC: Advance Guard. It's based on the WC1 ship bitmaps.
I'm also retexturing and importing models for Deathsnake's WC2 Remake project. You can see some of the models I gave to him in some of the pictures he has posted.
Speaking of which, I'm planning on writing up a tutorial soon on how to make textures like the ones I made for the fighters in WCHF.
Entry 5 - New Bhantkara
After so much hard work in Blender and GIMP, the new WCHF Bhantkara-class Supercarrier is now ingame! This ship represents the supercarrier KIS Karga which attacked the Landreich after the (formal) end of the Terran-Kilrathi war, and was then driven off by Landreich and Confederation forces.
The model itself is not really anything new; it's an old model by the WCSaga team. The model came in a big archive of old WCS models. The original old model used a lot of textures, so I had to redo the UV mapping for the entire model to make it use less textures. Reducing the number of textures a model uses, as well as using the same textures between different models will make the game run faster. The old model was also literally in pieces, so I joined all of the pieces to the main mesh and got rid of some of the pieces that I didn't need, such as extra turret mounts.
I also put some fighters in the hangarbay. There's a row of darkets and dralthis on the main runway, based on what is seen in WC3, as well as some Paktahns and Vaktoths sitting in the sub-bays. They can't take off at any time (although that would be possible if I used dockpoints and docked fighters instead of subobjects.) so they're just there for the eyecandy, although you can fly into the hangarbay and blow them up.
Here are some in-game screenshots of the Bhantkara and the background I will be using for the Vaku system.
Entry 4 - Model and texture upgrades
Progress seems to have slowed down, due to things going on in real life.
1. Model/texture updates
2. Release plans
Once WCS The Darkest Dawn is out, the WCHF demo will be rereleased as a director's cut version that is compatible with WCS:TDD. Once the voice acting is complete, a "Speech pack"* for WCHF Director's Cut will be released.
*I'm calling it a speech pack as an homage to Origin Systems, since they released voice acting addons to their games as "Speech packs"
Entry 3 - New features, new ships, explosions, and a history lesson
If I had to rate the progress of the WCHF demo from 0-100%, I'd say the demo is at 70%. When I was on IRC before the WCPedia planning party, I gave a short progress update. Here's the full story.
1. Kilrathi ships update
2. Landreich ships update
3. Cockpit update
4. Mission update
5. AI update
6. Graphics update
7. A history of WCHF
A month or so later, I finally got an idea on how to make half-decent textures. I sometimes refer to the time before this texture idea as the "Old Hostile Frontier" because, when I put that texturing idea into action, it almost seemed like the project had taken a completely different direction. Then, I did a lot of retexturing, converting, and coding the Standoff models into the game, and progress on the project's assets went much quicker. I also made some of my own models, like the Andrew Carnegie and the Rapier II, and converted them to work in game.
After that, I got involved with another (as of yet unannounced) WC project, and I was able to improve my texturing style greatly.
Unfortunately due to my unwillingness to read (or re-read) the WC novels, I made 3 unsuccessful attempts to begin progress on the missions, which is one big reason why it's taking so long to get this project released.
Now that I have a stable base to build my missions on, release time will depend on my commitment to the project, the time I have to work on the project, whether the script is complete for the mission I'm working on, and if I have the skills to make the mission.
Entry 2 - Backgrounds, capships, cockpits, and storyline updates
This time I'll be focusing on progress in the other areas of the project, as well as showing off some more eyecandy and giving away some of the plot. Enjoy...
Since Saga is on a code fork right now, I'll have to get things up to speed once Saga releases. Therefore, I'll be providing a patch which will ensure compatibility with WCSaga once it is released, that is, if I release before Saga does.
4. Main Character/Plot
Jonathan's mother was a freelance merchant, trying to make her fair share of money. Working under notorious entrepreneur Jason E. Barrow, she did several important cargo runs for Barrow's company, and some of these runs made enough money to pay for a brand new fighter. These runs were fully legal, but they were highly profitable, since the cargo was taken where it was desperately needed. Later on, Barrow found out that her husband had been her personal escort. This made Barrow lose trust in Jonathan's mother, and her profits were slowly draining ever since. She then accepted a high-paying run of Brilliance, and at that time, Johnathan's father and mother had divorced. Jonathan's mother had completed her run, but she was arrested for smuggling, fined 800,000 credits, and sentenced to four years in a prison cell.
Jonathan's father was in the Landreich navy and fought in the Second Battle of Hell Hole, taking down numerous Kilrathi bombers and miraculously surviving an ejection when the dogfighting was two minutes to it's conclusion. One of his academy friends, who was piloting a smuggler ship, tractored him in and brought him back to Landreich. After that incident, he decided to step down from the Navy and join the Landreich Militia, being a personal escort for Johnathan's mother on several lucrative runs. Jonathan's mother and father divorced because his mother accepted a run of Brilliance from one of the businessmen of Zachary Banfeld's "Guild" and his father detested of that organization because of its supposed pirate activities.
Jonathan decided to follow in the footsteps of his father and entered Flight School at the beginning of the Battle of Earth, and graduated after Kilrah had been destroyed by the Temblor Bomb. During his training, he earned the callsign of "Rider" because he always uses the tactic of "Riding the enemy's tail 'till he's dead."
At the time Rider gets assigned to the FRLS Independence, his father will be teaching at the Saarbrücken Flight Academy in Newburg, and his mother will be released from prison in two months. Rider is an eager rookie who can't wait for some action, but he is only just about to experience the true horrors of war.
5. Lighting Settings
-fov 0.65 -ogl_spec 80 -spec_tube 8.0 -spec_point 9.0 -spec_static 2.8 -ambient_factor 130
To use these settings, copy them, open the launcher, and paste them into the "Custom Flags" box under the "Features" tab.
Here is the Hornet cockpit. I used black on the screens because I'm not a very good artist, and some of the default HUD gauges fit into the black areas. In the future, I'll replace some of the black areas with HUD screen textures. Thanks again to the Standoff team for this great model.
Here is the (WIP) Scimitar cockpit. I had to model this one myself, and it was very challenging because I have to consider the side and back views as well as the front view. It still needs to be textured, but it's a start.
7. Other changes
Among these things, I've been working on tweaking the shield/hull hitpoints of the fighters to better match the gameplay of WC1. For hull hitpoints, I am adding up the armor and multiplying by 16, and for the shield hitpoints, I am adding up the fore/aft shields and multiplying by 32.
With those stats, the Hornet can take about two or three hits from a Dralthi VII before its shields are gone.
Gun and shield energy also drains/recharges quicker, just like in the old WC games.
8. What needs to be done/We're hiring!
Entry 1 - Rapier II, Raptor, and afterburners
In these "Dev diary" updates, I'll be showing off new content as well as talking a little bit about the techniques I used to create the stuff. Enjoy...
Here's some of the new stuff that I've been working on for the past few months. I've been experimenting with GIMP to make textures for the ships. Here's what I came up with for a Landreich Raptor. Thanks to the Standoff team for the Raptor model.
I've tried to improve my modelling skills by attempting to model the Rapier II from WC1.
Lastly, I've been experimenting with the game engine to try and reproduce the good old inertia/newtonian physics of WC1/2/Prophecy/Secret Ops. The results aren't quite satisfactory, but it does work to a certain extent; it's good for combat, but not so good for carrier takeoffs and landings.
I'll release this physics mod as a separate download from the main WCHF package to give players a choice and a bit of a deviation.
Installing FS2_Open Mods