Jump to content

Highest Reputation Content


#7966 Descent Essentials

Posted by Drakona on 12 March 2015 - 08:21 PM

Descent Essentials
 
Whenever a beloved series is rebooted, you have to ask yourself "what can be changed?" and "what should be changed?" and "what should be left the same?".  Some things are incidental, some can be improved, and some are essential.  When you Reboot Star Trek, by all means update the prime directive, nobody cares what you do with the Andorians, you should probably keep the Vulcans, and for heaven's sake, don't change a THING about the Federation.   
 
Sequels rarely exceed the original.  Successful ventures rarely have worthy heirs.  But sometimes!  Star Trek did.  Starcraft did.  Dungeons and Dragons did.  The developers of Descent Underground have said it is their goal to make a worthy successor to Descent, and I see in that both a worthy goal and an ambitious one.  These are big shoes you're trying to fill, here. 
 
There were several things about Descent that were unique, and you will not get as compelling a game for free just because you build a 6DoF.  The 6DoF nature of it was ONE of SEVERAL things that were unique about it.  I have personally seen many, many attempts to recreate Descent fall flat.  What I am going to try to describe for you is what I see as essential in a reboot.  What are the Jedi and X-wings of the Descent universe?  What is its Federation?  What is the essential heart of it, what is the source of its magic?  
 
Who am I to say?  I have been playing Descent for 20 years, and have been called one of its greatest pilots.  I maintain its competitive-oriented source port.  And I am deeply involved with the modern Descent community on a daily basis -- I know these pilots, I call them friends. 
 
That doesn't mean I fairly speak for everyone.  Pilots are a notoriously individualistic crowd, and they don't agree with each other about . . . anything.  I write this from the perspective of someone who thought Descent 1 was the best game, and highly competitive 1v1 on a ladder is the best form of that game.  There are -- other factions.  But you have my word that these things are, in broad strokes, things I think Descent players as a whole consider important.  And beyond that, they are things I think were critical in making Descent compelling and its successors just blah.  Whether I'm telling you the truth -- I'll have to depend on other pilots to vet what I'm saying.  But here goes. 
 
There are three things that I would consider sacred cows for Descent.  Things that you absolutely should get 100% right and not compromise on.  And I think if you DO get them right, you will have a game Descent players are interested in and will want to play, really regardless of any of the other things you change.  And then beyond that, I have two things that I think are unique and special about Descent, and contributed greatly to its success, which you would be wise to emulate -- but which the community will probably forgive you if you insist on not doing. 
 
The sacred cows
 
 
(1) The ship has to fly right. 
 
There is a magical interaction between the size of the ship, its speed, the size of its weapons, their size and speed, and the size of the spaces you fight in.  There is a tendency as a game designer to just pick values for these out of thin air, and balance from there.  But make this decision with care!  The whole feel of the game is derived from it. 
 
In Descent, the ships are large and slow, and the spaces are small.  The hit sphere for a pyro is about 10 game units in diameter, and the standard game cube is 20 units on a side.  This means that in a 1x1 tunnel, your ship has 4 non-overlapping spaces it can be in.  You are in one of the four corners, and if someone puts a shot in one of those, you have to move to another.  If you think about this in standard FPS terms, the ship is large.  Or the space is small.  They're equivalent.  Now, this cube is the smallest space we typically fight in, but in the high level modern game, it is perfectly common to have intense fights in spaces that are 2 x 4 x 4 cubes, or 4 x 8 x 8 hit spheres.  That's downright roomy -- almost too big for the fight to get to a conclusion in a reasonable amount of time.  Think about that in groundpounder FPS terms!  Can you imagine having an extended fight in an open space that is only 8 hitspheres on a side?  
 
Descent ships are big.  Descent spaces are small. 
 
Now, it takes the ship (at single chording speed) about 350 ms to traverse a cube, or about 175 ms to traverse the length of its own hit sphere.  That's a long time in combat!  That's a long time in human reaction times, too.  175 ms is just long enough for you to notice something and react to it.  When ships move in Descent, they move slowly enough that you can see what they are doing and adjust your tactics in response.  You can see that the guy is going from the top left corner of the cube to the top right, and have time to put shots there instead of in another, wrong corner.  But just barely time.  The limit of human reaction time is around 150, maybe 100 ms if you're fast.  That most events in Descent slower than this time horizon -- but only barely -- is a large piece of what makes the combat so compelling.  You have time to react, if you're trained and if you're quick.
 
Guns in Descent, like the ships, are slow.  They vary in speed -- vulcan is light and instant-hit, but notably in Descent's history: the heavy instant-hit weapons (gauss, mass driver) have been controversial at best, hated and banned at worst.  Descent pilots like dodgeable weapons. 
 
The guns vary in speed, from missiles that are 1.7 times the single chording speed of the ship through guns that are twice, maybe three times as fast.  But this still means that if you are being shot at from a couple cubes away, you have time to see the projectile and react.  Maybe not enough time; maybe you have to at least have a clue about where they're going to aim and be ready to move.  Playing within the limit of human reaction time, but not over the line, introduces elements of fakery and guessing, which adds a deep mental element to the game. 
 
This is the magic mix that makes Descent dogfights unique.  Large, slow ships.  Small spaces.  Dangerous but dodgeable weapons.  
 
In stark contrast to the groundpounding FPS, it works because in three dimensional space you have a great deal of freedom of movement.  If two groundbound marines are exchanging shots, they have only two ways they can go -- left or right.  And walking your fire will close down one of those options.  So gun battles must revolve around the use of cover, and around aiming speed.  In three dimensional space, this is not so.  An opponent can move in four cardinal directions, and in practice, many move at diagonals.  Really, you have 8 options, plus sitting still.  Walking fire cannot cover that.  In combination with the slow weapons this means that a Descent dogfight, in a small open room, is fundamentally an interesting contest.  You CANNOT simply walk fire onto your opponent.  You MUST get inside their head to hit and lead them, you must predict which way they will go better than they predict you.  The spaces must be small so the possibilities are limited so this is an interesting and possible game.  But in the right space -- it is magic, and it is unique.
 
Many people playing Descent competitively for the first time find this surprising!  Coming to a new FPS, you can usually land some hits with the faster guns, in the more limited spaces.  But a new Descent pilot playing against an experienced one will find they cannot hit the other pilot -- AT ALL!  
 
This is deep magic. 
 
Speaking as a pilot of 20 years, I would find it a daunting, imposing challenge to attempt to improve on the flight mechanics of Descent.  Many pilots will tell you it isn't possible.  Many will tell you D1 is perfect. 
 
If you do not KNOW you know better than them -- don't change it. 
 
I literally cannot emphasize this enough.  Copy D1's flight mechanics for the pyro letter for letter, and you will be guaranteed to have a game with some dogfighting magic, and you will win the love of pilots of that game.  
 
Get the ship to fly like D1.   This is at the top of everyone's list. 
 
Let me mention a couple notable examples at the other end of the scale. 
 
In D3, the ships were made relatively small and fast, and the spaces were made relatively large.  Small tunnels didn't have a cross section of two by two hit spheres -- more like eight.  And while I don't have numbers, the ships traversed their hit spheres pretty fast, especially with afterburners.  Relative to Descent 1, this led to an emphasis on fast guns (the instantaneous MD), guns with large profiles (triple fusion), guns with high refire rates and flood potential (Napalm, the faster plasma, microwave), and missiles with room-clearing potential (frags, napes, impact mortars, and I hesitate to mention . . . black sharks).  The small, fast ships necessitated fast, large guns in order to hit them.  Where most of Descent 1's guns cover a profile that would fit inside of a hit sphere, many of D3's are larger than a hit sphere.  Some much larger.  The result is a loss of geometry.  In a Descent 1 dogfight, moving one shiplength to the right or left is a meaningful strategic move; in Descent 3, depending on what you're facing, it may not matter. 
 
At a further extreme is Freespace.  In this game, of course, hit spheres are so tiny relative to movement speeds that there is no point to measuring things in hit spheres.  They are essentially points.  Hitting ships in Freespace requires weapons that are incredibly fast, multiples of the ship speeds.  It requires lead indicators.  It requires missiles that are so effective that the only way to avoid them is to introduce countermeasures.  And above all!  It requires the elimination of strafes.  Because a truly fast, small 6DoF ship in free space . . . cannot be hit with a dumbfire weapon.  
 
Now, Freespace was a great game, but it is worth noticing that the game as a whole relied on fighter vs. bomber vs. capital ship combat, and that fighter vs. fighter combat was fundamentally frustrating and unsatisfying.  Freespace never spawned the robust 1v1 community that Descent did, and the fundamental mechanics are the reason why.  No, for a fight in Freespace to be fun (for you), your target had to be relatively big and slow. 
 
That's not to say you couldn't make a good game around that.  You could.  They did.  But it wouldn't be Descent. 
 
Fundamentally, if you want the game to play like Descent, the most important thing you can do -- the VERY MOST IMPORTANT THING you can do -- is take the physical characteristics of the D1 pyro ver batim as a starting point, and do not change them.  Preferably do not change them at all -- if you must, do it with expert pilot feedback and have a darn, darn good reason.
 
Of particular importance when looking at ship characteristics to import: 
 
Turn rate should be limited, and it should be slow.  It takes about three seconds for a D1 pyro to complete a full 360 degree turn on its fastest axis.  That is a miserably, painfully long time.  Because orientation takes a long time to change, facing right or left is a strategic decision, and perhaps most crucially for a dogfighter -- being on someone's "tail" matters! 
 
This is a point of departure from most of the FPS genre, but it is a critical contribution to the highly strategic nature of Descent.  And if you think about it, it's space-like.  Standing with my feet on the ground, I can pivot extremely fast, as fast as I care to.  But have you ever seen an astronaut in a spacesuit turing around?  It is a ponderous affair.  Since thrust must be counter-thrusted, movement in space is always slow.  This is okay, and the game is still interesting, because this slow movement is balanced by the profound FREEDOM of movement in 3D.
 
An interesting historical note here.  In the D2 days, the SpaceOrb controller included a button that let you flip your pyro 180 degrees at the press of a button.  In most FPSes, this feature would be ho-hum.  No one would care.  In Descent, it was universally reviled and hated as a cheat, and in many circles, the use of the controller was banned.  That's how important SLOW turning is in this game. 
 
Another interesting historical note: D3 initially shipped with a feature called mouselook -- it essentially locked your turning to your mouse, so you could turn as fast as you pleased.  There was immense backlash from the community about this feature, and the devs made it a server option.  Pretty much every server ran with it disabled. 
 
Limit turning speed.
 
Trichording!  Trichording is considered a fundamental skill for a Descent pilot.  You, of course, know about chording in a common, old school FPS context: moving forward while sliding right results in a speed boost while you move diagonally.  A lot of modern games disable that, either with slow strafes, by normalizing the resulting vector, or by giving you a run key that moves plenty fast for any sane person.  Well, in Descent you have three axes to work with, and the result is a speed boost of aboutu 70%.  Almost double!  It's significant. 
 
Now, whenever someone wants to remake Descent, trichording is always one of the things they put on the chopping block.  Don't do it.  Trichording provides an essential tradeoff between speed and visibility.  It provides an essential connection between orientation and speed.  I can move slowly one shiplength to the right, or I can move veryveryvery fast up-right-back -- but they'll be expecting that, and I can't see what's there.  In the microcosm of a Descent fight in which speed is precious and rare, and getting inside your opponent's head a criticial factor, the existence of trichording serves to limit the options from "an infinite number that mean the same thing" to "four that mean this, four that mean that, and a few others that mean something else".  That makes for an interesting strategic landscape. 
 
Turning speed.  On a pyro, the horizontal turning speed is twice the vertical, and rolls are much faster than either.  This serves to make orientation important when you're trying to turn with a target.  You want to be turning on your horizontal axis, and you want to roll to align your horizontal axis with the way your target is moving.  And again, if you're covering an empty room -- you want to be looking down the long axis, and you want your horizontal aligned with the second longest axis.  This is interesting.  The tendency in a new game is to make these speeds all the same, and eliminate this strategic interest.
 
Weapons should not inherit velocity.  This one's counterintuitive!  When weapons inherit velocity, if one pilot is chasing another, it doesn't matter who's the chaser and the who's the chasee.  The fight is exactly the same as if they were holding still!  But if weapons do not inherit velocity, the chasee actually has a big advantage.  This leads to a cool bit of strategic back and forth -- you land on someone's six, and have the advantage since you can shoot at them.  They fly away, because they can't turn in time to counter you.  You chase them and get some shot in, and then ultimately -- using a corner, sacrificing some speed, whatever, they manange to turn around.  And suddenly, you're flying into their very fast shots, and yours are slow -- you have the disadvantage!  You break off and rengage elsewhere.  Maybe they chase you.  This shifting of advantage in the space of milliseconds is at the heart of the struggle that makes Descent dogfighting interesting and deeply strategic, and it is weapons that do not inherit velocity that is a huge part of why it works. 
 
That's not to say you couldn't make a good game in which weapons did inherit velocity.  Maybe you could and maybe you couldn't, I don't know!  But it wouldn't be recognizable as Descent. 
 
Vision should be limited.  Information should be limited.  There have been versions of the game that incorporated a radar; they have never been good.  One of the old games -- I want to say Forsaken -- included a warning sound when enemies were close.  This was generally considered sucky.  Information is critical in the powerful mind game of Descent.  Even if you don't follow Descent's model exactly, make knowing where your opponent is something you have to fight for, something you have to pay for.  
 
Motion and turning should incorporate friction.  This is my beef with Talon; the ships were slidy and slippery and hard to control, and hitting walls hurt too much.  I know it's spaceish to be low friction or even frictionless, but it isn't fun, and it isn't conducive to the type of dogfighting that Descent is known for.  Perhaps you could make a good game like that, perhaps you couldn't -- but it wouldn't be Descent.
 
That was long!  But I really do want you to take this point seriously.  If you want the game to be Descent, the ship HAS to fly right.  I highly advise you to take the easy road: painstakingly copy D1.  What D1 has is magic.  I am not sure I'd be capable of designing something better, and I say that as an expert, expert pilot.  If you just pick some random values in ignorance . . . it will suck. ;)
 
Sacred cow #1: The ship has to fly right. 
 
--------------------------
 
(2) Weapons have to be balanced. 
 
This is one of the distinctives of Descent in its era that you don't typically hear about.  You hear about the 6DoF.  What you DON'T hear about . . . is that it doesn't have a BFG.  And it doesn't.  That was revolutionary at the time, and is still somewhat uncommon today.  Oh, people try to balance stuff, but they make weaker guns and stronger guns and try to avoid making any one of them overpowering.  
 
The startling thing about the primaries in Descent 1 is that *any* of them is a match for *any* other in a heads up dogfight, and while some may have situational advantages in a specific geometry, that geometry is something you change over the course of the fight.  That's interesting and strategic.  Literally, give me any two primaries off the list, and I can tell you a situation where one dominates, a situation where the other dominates, and a list of strategies for what to do if you find yourself on either end of either situation.  How cool is that??
 
I know what you're gonna say.  Mega missiles.  Earthshakers.  Here's the thing.  The Descent community has control over what weapons go in their maps, right?  We abandoned mega missile early on, and have never looked back.  We have been given unbalanced weapons, big weapons, room-clearing weapons, and we voluntarily discarded them.  That's a big hint!  Don't put them in your game!
 
Now, you do have some room to play around here.  You don't have to include, exactly, the classic 5 primaries of Descent 1.  But for what you do create, I advise you to  keep them slow and keep them balanced.  What is fast should be light and unreliable.  Focus on interesting fundamental variations on classic quantities: weapon speed, rate of fire, cone size, blob size, damage, splash.  Gimickry like weapons that bounce or weapons that mess up your controls, geometry-collapsing tweaks like weapons that home, these have historically been found by the community to be uninterseting.  Geometry-enhancing gimmicks like fusion's ability to go through targets, on the other hand, are beloved. 
 
Speaking of which -- I suggest you keep some of the guns, and the one I most strongly suggest you keep is fusion.  Of all the guns in all three Descents, it is the most widely loved and the most iconic of the game. 
 
Even if it isn't a gun *I* particularly like. ;)
 
Focus your weapons heavily on nearly-unlimited-ammo primaries.  In the guess and counterguess dogfight of Descent, you need a lot of shots.  You need shots as feints and distractions, you need shots to close down options, you need shots to mislead, and walls of shots that you expect one of to hit.  This game is a very interesting game!  
 
What homing missiles you include need to be dodgeable.  This leads into a more general philosophical point: you're making a 6DoF.  The point of the game is to FLY.  FLYING should be the powerful thing, MANEUVERING should be the criticial skill.  Not aiming.  Not being in the right room.  Those are important, but geometry should always, always be king.  So for missiles, you want things that have geometric ramifications.  Homing missiles that are easy to dodge, but force you to be in a certain half of the room.  Not freespace's countermeasures-or-bust model; whether I am smart enough to dodge three homers and a wall of shots given nothing but my wits and the infinite freedom of 3d space is a much more interesting question than whether I brought countermeasures to the fight.  And avoid D3's everything-in-this-room-dies model.  Because then you need afterburners and fast ships and cover and avoiding being in the wrong spot you're back to basically playing EVERY OTHER FPS IN EXISTENCE, which is not necessarily SO bad . . . but it isn't Descent. 
 
Sacred cow #2: Keep the weapons balanced.  And philosophically, make weapons which enhance geometry, which encourage piloting skills, which are fun to dogfight with. 
 
---------------------
 
(3) Piloting skill has to be king. 
 
This one's short.  Descent was typical for the era, in that it was a game about skill.  It comes from a time before microtransactions, before achievements, before medals and badges and levels and in-game stores and gems you could use to give your sword +3 fire damage.  DOOM was like that.  Quake was like that.  It was an era still mainly influenced by arcades, an era in which everyone spawned into the game equal, and skill was king.  
 
This is probably the thing that has Descent pilots most worried about DU, to be honest.  The game is described as a building, mining, trading, buying RPG grind.  Which is, like, literally every other game out there.  You're not going to do THAT better than WoW!  Don't even try!  You're building Descent.  Do what Descent's good at: interesting 3d fights. 
 
And I know you're kind of committed to your meta at this point, what with kickstarter and all.  But just the same, this really is a bit of a sacred cow: a Descent game is about piloting, not grinding.  The grinding you do in Descent is learning how to dodge well, learning how to fly well, and the rewards are stored in your hands and in your brain, not in your bank account.  
 
That's not to say you can't do some buildup and customization.  That stuff is fun.  I was a huge fan of Starscape, a game that revolved around a delicious cycle of customizing your ship, mining for resources, and re-customizing it with new items.  If you build a Descent clone that turned on that mechanic, you'd have crack double dipped in sugar, at least as far as I personally am concerned.  But Starscape did this right in that the weapons were still tools, were still fundmentally balanced against each other, and the biggest baddest ship you could possibly build had significant disadvantages compared to different big bad ships you could build, and -- at the end of the day -- the biggest ship wouldn't save you if you couldn't fly.  Piloting skill was STILL king, after all that. 
 
You gotta do that.  
 
If you make an RPG, you will not be making Descent.  Skill must be king.  The primary metric of progress in the game MUST be how well you can fly. 
 
----------------------
 
Those are my three sacred cows:  The ship has to fly right.  The weapons have to be balanced. Piloting skill must be king.
 
I've also go two "nice to have" items.  These are shorter, and these are things I think the community will forgive you for screwing up, but you would be wise to do them just the same. 
 
(4) Networking should be peer to peer.  
 
This was something Descent did that was unique at the time, and in the history of popular games -- as far as I know -- remains pretty unique.  There are a lot of reasons modern games are client/server.  It's easier to be secure.  It makes world management a lot simpler to program (someone "owns" it).  It makes complicated game modes a lot easier to write.  
 
But there is one thing peer-to-peer brings that client/server can never do: it is utterly, relentlessly fair.  I cannot have an advantage because I have a better connection to the server.  There is only my connection to you, and your connection to me, and whatever it is -- 5 ms, 80 ms, 800 ms -- it is the same for both of us.  It is part of the terrain.  The game is skill against skill alone. 
 
You would be astonished how big of a deal this is to this community.  I truly expect you to disbelieve me, and I'm going to have to ask the guys to support me on this, but it's true.  The relentless fairness of a peer to peer model contributes to the skill-is-king nature of Descent, and is part of its unique flavor.   
 
Of historical note, Descent has had a robust high skilled 1v1 culture for pretty much the duration of its existence.  I have already said that I think this is the highest incarnation of the game -- though others disagree with me, I acknowledge.  I think there's esports potential here, I really do.  I hope to persuade you. 
 
But of equally interesting historical note, Descent 3 was never embraced by that 1v1 culture, and never developed a significant 1v1 enthusiast following.  There were a lot of reasons; I think less interesting dogfights was probably the biggest one.  The interplay between multiple ship types making head-to-head fights come with automatic tactic emphases is another one (being stuck in a tank for a whole match could sometimes suck).  But one of the ones everyone cited at the time . . . was its client/server nature.  You cannot have a fair fight on a server, not to the stardard a Descent pilot expects.  
 
There's a point that goes along with this, from a networking point of view: hits in Descent are adjudicated client-side.  If I dodge something on my screen . . . I dodged it.  End of story. 
 
Modern games never do this because people cheat.  Now, that's not an insurmountable problem -- people cheated in Descent, too, a lot, and the things we did about it were effective enough that the community survived.  We can talk about that if you like.  But leave that to one side.  That's the down side of client side hits. 
 
The up side is elite dodging. 
 
Descent pilots are known for two very unique things, unique as far as I know in the FPS world.  One is pocket dodging: a pilot will occupy a very small space in a dogfighting room; perhaps 2x2x2 hit spheres.  He will move minimally to avoid incoming fire.  He will seem not to move at all.  The shots will just all . . . barely miss.  It is ninja.  It is zen.  It is awesome.  A few pilots in the history of the game have been absolute masters of this, and it would not be POSSIBLE if you did not know, with absolute certainty down to the microsecond, where those shots were and where they had to be. 
 
The other is elite missile dodging.  There are pilots who can dodge homing missiles and smart missiles in ways that would make you swear they were cheating. 10 homers, one after the other, in an extended dogfight -- they all miss by a hair.  Homers in a single cube hallway.  Smarts in a single cube SPACE.  These pilots do some Matrix Neo Bullet Time Ninja Jedi Master stuff that would not be possible if they did not know *exactly* where those missiles are. 
 
This is good stuff.  This is a big piece of the magic of Descent.  The peer to peer networking plays into two larger philosophies that you would do well to repeat over and over to yourself, say to yourself when you go to bed at night and when you wake up in the morning: Skill Is King.  And Maneuvering Is King.  Skill is more important than everything else, and maneuvering -- how you move your ship, the implications of geometry -- is by far the most important skill. 
 
(5) Levels should be small, uncomplicated, and easy to build. 
 
There is a tendency in modern games -- of any style -- to make large, complicated levels full of beautiful terrain and pokey-outey-bits.  The Descent community has occasionally seen levels like this, and they have never been popular.  Watch a good Descent pilot fly; the motion has a flow, almost a skateboarding or parkour-like element to it.  They move through the level very fast, they are very sure of where openings are, and fly through them at high speed and with high precision.  
 
Levels which are too complicated to do this in, which have ledges that tend to hang you up, are not fun. 
 
Now, I understand that this is part of what "updating" the game means to a lot of people.  The old, cube-based engine could not do this, but a modern engine can!  Let's do it! 
 
But the thing to keep in mind is that the old, cube-based engine COULD do it to some degree, but the levels that did it fell by the wayside.  The ones that were easy to fly through were the ones that dominated in popularity.  
 
Keep your levels small and geometrically simple. 
 
But there's another point that goes along with this, and relates to the final note I want to leave you with. 
 
One of the things that I think Descent accidentally did right is it made level building super easy.  Its segment-based engine is a relic by modern standards, but it did make building levels something everyone could understand.  You don't have to be a 3d artist to build a Descent level.  You don't have to become deeply intimate with a lot of tools and concepts.  You basically just have to understand legos! 
 
This is part of the magic of Minecraft, by the way, too.  Why would anybody do 3d modeling in a crappy-graphics voxel space, when there are free rendering tools you could use that would do SUCH a better job, that coudl give you MUCH more complex geometry?  Those very limitations make it easy.  It's gamish.  It's accessible.  Everyone understands it.  You can go in there RIGHT NOW and start creating, and that makes it FUN. 
 
Descent did this accidentally, and I think it was one of the critical factors for the community's success.  The original devs said they were astonished by what the community did with their level building tools.  This was back when you could sell a pack of levels for a not-too-small-fraction of the price of a full game!  User-generated is a buzzword in the modern gaming world, but back in the day, this was revolutionary.  
 
Descent level-making is very easy, by gaming standards.  Some of the greatest maps, some of our most popular maps, were made in an afternoon.  Four hours.  It's easy enough that a pilot can do it, and this is a critical, critical thing: Descent benefitted from an intense positive feedback mechanism, between skilled pilots evolving tactics, and levels shaped to support and challenge those tactics.  Sometimes it was top pilots making levels themselves.  Sometimes it was level-building experts with unique insight into the game whose designs were made in concert with top pilots.  But there has always been a lot of tweaking and feedback, and ultimately, pilots have been in control of the level designs.
 
I do not know what makes a Descent level good.  The greatest level builder ever, DKH, may not even consciously know.  I do know that much of it is emergent; you can't tell whether a map will be good until you play it.  And sometimes you are surprised what happens!  DKH once made a map for Jediluke, one of the greatest pilots ever -- the map was called Mindtrix.  It was a great little arena, but after they played it the first few times, Jediluke called DKH's attention over to a corner of the level.  "This wall needs to move", he said.  Not much.  Half a cube, maybe.  But that would improve the flow through that part of the level. 
 
DKH did it in minutes, re-released the map, and the game is better for it.  
 
Because the map-making tools are simple, and the process is easy.  And THAT is the critical little bit of magic that you want to be careful not to lose.  Pretty graphics, meh, you get used to 'em.  You want your maps to look nice, to look professional, but this is the frosting.  The intense feedback loop between top pilots and top mapmakers, enabled by simple tools, simple geometry, fast and easy distribution -- that's the cake. 
 
As a closing thought, Descent has always been a game that was owned and shaped by its own community.  Some of it was a product of the era; we had no centralized meeting place to organize games, to exchange information, and so forth, because this was before that sort of things was done.  We built, not one, but a hundred of our own.  There was no centralized organization to prevent cheating and manage pilot reputation, and the security of the game was weak.  We created our own organizations -- not one, but thousands.  None of the original levels that shipped with the game were ultimately popular in its long history.  We created the levels, we created the weapon balances, we created the structures and metagames and expectations that made Descent great.  Ultimately, when the source code to the game was released, we took up maintenance of it, and nowadays it is truly our own. 
 
Descent is a game that is owned and shaped by its fans, more than any other game I have ever seen. 
 
It has been, in a way of thinking, in development for 20 years.  Not just software, but levels and organizations and tactics and meta -- we've been building all of that.  The fans.  What other game can say that?  It is rare.  That dynamo of passion and creativity is why Descent is currently as great as it is, and is -- in my opionion -- the heart of the magic.  
 
This community has always had a special passion for its game.  Communities always love their game, but with Descent, we always knew we had something special.  Stuff like that doesn't knock on your door every day.  Embrace it! 

  • 20


#11550 Descent Shareware Unzip-And-Play (Works on Windows 7 and 8!)

Posted by Groundhound on 02 April 2015 - 05:13 AM

Do you want to know what Descent is, and how it plays? Do words bore you, and videos seem a dull parade of images? Would you actually like to just play Descent on your modern Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 computer, without installing anything? Check out the shareware source port unzip-and-run distribution of Descent: Destination Mercury that's linked below!

Regarding Controls:
A common complaint about 6DoF games is the complexity of their control schemes. Unlike most shooters, there is no gravity in Descent. This means you can float up or down, left or right, and forward or backward, without an external force stopping you... until you hit a wall! In addition, you can turn or roll your ship. This incredible freedom of movement means that you're able to dodge enemy fire in ways that simply aren't possible in other games!

Because this is such a strange concept to the gravity-accustomed human mind, playing Descent can be disorienting at first. Try thinking of it as a zero-gravity Counterstrike. Or, if you've ever played a game that lets you use a jetpack, think of Descent as that without gravity to pull you back down!

I've included a small "quick-start" guide in the ZIP's readme to help beginners remap their controls. Here are the vital bits, just in case:

//-----\\
Playing Descent can be disorienting at first. I've found it helpful to treat the game's Six Directions of Freedom as extensions of the usual movement we have in other shooters.

WSAD in most shooters handles Forward, Backward, Strafe Left, and Strafe Right, respectively. In Descent, you might consider mapping those keys to "Accelerate", "Deaccelerate", "Slide Left", and "Slide Right".

E and Q are handy keys for rolling your ship left or right. E would map to "Bank Left", and Q to "Bank Right".

Many games allow you to "jump" or "crouch". Descent allows your ship to actually slide vertically up or down. Try mapping "Slide Up" to your Spacebar, and "Slide Down" to your Left Ctrl.

Make sure to enable your mouse as well, and try out the different mouse modes to see which one works best for you.

This is just a quick-start guide. Be sure to experiment with control setups that you feel better fit your flight style!
\\-----//

(By the way, if anyone has ideas about control setups, or other suggestions to help rookies get started on Descent, sound off in the thread below!)



Download Links:
Descent: Destination Mercury - MEGA This is a link to MEGA that works for most people. However, some folks have reported that Chrome's latest version quarantines it as malware without giving a reason.
Descent: Destination Mercury - GDRIVE This is a Google Drive link that should work if the MEGA link does not. If Chrome claims that the file is not commonly downloaded, right-click the little arrow next to the download and select "Keep".

Finally, if the above links do not work, you can of course grab the installer directly from the Descent Rebirth website. http://www.dxx-rebir...ad-dxx-rebirth/ << Click on the "automatic Windows installer" link under "Third-party packages", and be sure to install the shareware game files when prompted during the installation process!



Now, a bit of an explanation:
I was on RSIchat today, talking to a friend through private messages about Descent: Underground. He was interested in pledging, but didn't know if he would like the game. He had never played Descent, though he had always wanted to. I thought about the problem for a few moments, and remembered one of the great intellectual achievements of the '80s and '90s: Shareware!

3OeDQiY.jpg

However, there was a second hurdle. He did not know how to get Descent running on his computer. Instead of fiddling with DOSBox, I asked LotharBot in DescendentChat about the Descent Rebirth: Retro port that Drakona maintains through some eldrich sorcery. He directed me to where I might find a download of said port, which I then slapped together with a copy of Descent's shareware version, and zipped up for my friend. He greatly enjoyed playing Descent for the first time without any hassle at all, even though I had to help him setup his controls properly before he could begin!

This gave me a great idea that I honestly should have had several weeks ago. Many of us know Descent. We've played it, we love it. Some folks here know more about Descent than I ever will! However, there's a lot of people out there who have never rotated their Pyro GX three-hundred-sixty degrees, then scurried down a tunnel to blast some evil-looking drones. Those folks need to know why Descent is fun. We can tell them, we can show them, but thanks to shareware software and the hard work of the folks who made this source port, we can actually say "Here, go give it a try, and come back with questions!"

In an effort to keep the filesize small, this is just the barebones shareware and port. I've scanned it with Norton, but if a few other folks could download, scan, and then post on this thread to verify that everything's kosher, that would be much appreciated.


Credit where it's due:
- Interplay and Parallax, for Descent shareware and the game's source code.
- Those fine folks at the DXX-Rebirth project, for converting said source code into an awesome port!
- Drakona, for the Descent Rebirth: Retro variant of the Rebirth port.
- LotharBot, for helping me turn this from an idea into a downloadable package.
- Elfindreams, for figuring out why Chrome kept falsely flagging the links as malware, and helping me get the Google Drive link working.


Disclaimers:
This distribution of DXX-Rebirth is done for the purposes of demonstrating Descent's fun gameplay, and is a compilation of DXX-Rebirth, Retro, and the original Descent shareware files. No claim of ownership or warranty is made on my part. To my understanding, this is acceptable in the eyes of the DXX-Rebirth team, according to their disclaimer:

"These packages can also be used for distribution of DXX-Rebirth on game compilations or Linux distributions. Feel free to use them but if it’s not to much to ask, let me know, will ya?" Source: http://www.dxx-rebir...m/game-content/


A nod to the future:
This episode of Design Underground, hosted by Designopotamus (Rob Irving) and WingMan (Eric Peterson), explains how the team at Descendent Studios wants to keep the awesome action of Descent while building atop that core gameplay. If you haven't seen it yet, it's a great follow-up to a session of Descent: Destination Mercury!

  • 20


#10053 To Kali Skeptics: Why I'm A Believer

Posted by Drakona on 23 March 2015 - 12:03 AM

Microtransactions? Lots of ships? What is this crazy mining grinding currency-collecting unlockable-class-based role-based Team vs Team thing? Not Descent, that much is clear. Maybe someone else's cup of tea, but to a Real Descent Pilot? The whole idea stinks on dry ice.

Why aren't we talking about the new weapons? Will the new ships even fly right? Where are the pyros? Where's the anarchy?

Who's even building this thing? These guys say they loved Descent, but I mean, not enough to actually show up on Kali, right? How much can they really get it? Why would I trust guys who don't know about Spaz and Sirian and Uberfest and Minerva and Ugh and IDL and what we built and what we became and who we are and why we love this thing so much?

It's just a bunch of carpetbaggers that got the rights to the name, that don't get us, that really want to build something they're inspired by, something that isn't actually Descent, right?

It's Freespace again. It's another D3. It might be okay in its own way, but it's not gonna be Descent.

Right?

That's what you're thinking. That's what I thought. If you're a Kali pilot who lands on the Kickstarter page, that's what you're going to think.

But you're wrong.

I talked to the guys running the project, and I got answers to all of these questions, and those answers were surprisingly good. And now I'm on board. Not a little, either. A lot. I'm excited. I've put serious money into it. I'm investing serious time in its success. I think they have a decent shot at building a better game than D1! I think there is a very good chance that a year from now, I will no longer be working on Retro because Retro no longer matters.

Let me explain. As one pilot to another, let me tell you what I see.

Why the change of heart?

It's not one big answer. It's a lot of little ones. So go get some popcorn, it's a Drakona post. But I'll bottom-line it for you at the start:

These guys love D1 and D2. They're building something true to the spirit of that. And they're legit developers. I've talked to them. They know what they're doing. If that's their true goal, they know how to get it done, they aren't gonna screw it up. That's your bottom line.

The Crazy TvT Mode we're all so worried about? It's gonna be okay. It's not the main game. Not for us. What it is, is an attempt to fix something D1 and D2 screwed up, something that's been broken for so long in this community that we don't even see it anymore. Something that is a total blind spot for us.

What am I talking about?

I'm talking about the fact that Descent is a brutally difficult game to get into. Even single player only helps so much. But if you throw a new pilot into an anarchy game, they are going to die, badly, horribly, painfully, and there is nothing they can do about it without years of training.

We've all seen that. We've all had that conversation with a friend we're trying to get into Descent, or with someone we're trying to get back into the modern game. They spawn, they die, a lot, and they're depressed. "I suck at this game," they say. And you say, "It's okay, everyone does for the first year or two." And the light goes out of their eyes. Two years until it's fun? I've got better things to do than be target practice for you and your buddies, man!

Of course, if they'd stick with it for a couple years, they'd find out . . . well, the line that was given to me back in the day is, "Descent anarchy on Kali is the most fun you can have with your pants on". Not really an overstatement from where I sit. But they never find that out. It's too hard, and it takes too long, and other things are shinier.

And so the Descent community has always been small. It's always been niche. The people who persevered are the ones who, like me, spawned in the mines the first time, rolled the ship 360, and fell in love so hard that it didn't matter that the whole thing was a ball of thorns dipped in pain. It was worth it. It would always be worth it. We would have done anything to fly that ship.

We're the ones who made it. A lot of pilots . . . didn't.

For all these years, we've been thinking that the Descent community is small because flying is just, well, hard, and so it isn't for everyone. On some level that might be true, and that might always be true. But there's also a practical problem. Something we're so used to that we never even realized it's something that was broken.

There have been many, many gamers who might have fallen in love with our game. Pilots who might have some day learned to see the magic, but who didn't, who fell away after the first few tries, because . . .

Because the training SUCKED.

That's what the Crazy Ships Mode is about. It's about fixing that.

See, you and I, we look at these specialized ships and we see a poorer game. We see a mining ship that's highly maneuverable but which basically slides around and looks for mineral deposits all day, and think, "that's it?" We see an assault ship that fires missiles all day, and we think it's just one piece of the larger tactical puzzle we love. And TvT matchups isn't going to fix that. We look at what they've proposed and we see a simpler game, an easier game, a less interesting game than the one we love.

We're right! How could we not be? What we're missing is that that's the POINT.

That game is not for US. It's for someone who has never, ever touched a pyro. What's that new player going to see? A game too simple to be interesting? No, they are going to see a game mode that teaches you how to fly your ship. Nothing fancy. Just getting from point A to point B.

They have to unlock the ship that lets them fire missiles because they don't know how to fire missiles yet.

Remember back when flying alone was enough to get you to fall in love with Descent? That's what that mode is about. That's what they're capturing. They're taking those little things and making serious flight styles out of them, making them friendly, making them fun, making it so you can just do that without constantly dying.

The Crazy Ships Mode is not a replacement for anarchy. It's a replacement for single player! It's a replacement for co-op! It's more than that, it's better than that, it's the pilot training simulater we never had!

And sure, in designing it, they haven't forgotten about us hardcore pyro jockeys. They're making it so we can get good at that game, too. We might even like it. They're going to make it so that good pilots find fighting in those ships interesting, so that I will enjoy taking the crappiest ship on my team against the strongest one on the opposing team and showing just what a badass pilot I am because I can take it down. That's being designed in. I've heard 'em talk about it, it's interesting stuff, that's the goal, and believe me, they're smart enough to do it right. But that mining game, ultimately? For me? For us? Is not the point.

The dream is that a new pilot has learned to move from point A to point B, once they've learned to fire missiles and dodge missiles, once they've spent some time hiding and they've spent some time stalking and they've spent some time in some basic dogfights . . .

. . . they're going to look at anarchy and think, "Hey. Let's see what I got."

Anarchy will be there. Anarchy will rock. Anarchy is what they're building, what they remember loving so much on LAN that they wanted to build THIS game. How could they NOT make it rock? They're guiding pilots to anarchy. And maybe from anarchy a new pilot will graduate to 1v1. Or true teams. Or flag. Or whatever the heck the modders cook up and by the way I'm so TOTALLY going to BE one.

The devs? Weren't on Kali. But they love Descent. Not D3. They love D2. They love D1. They played anarchy a lot, a lot, on local LANs, and loved it. They love that game. They're building that game. They're bringing 20 years of the games industry's advances in knowledge into improving that game, and I don't mean just the graphics. This team didn't go looking for an opportunity to make money, they went looking for what they wanted to build, given that they could build anything they wanted, and the answer they came up with was Descent. They wanted to build that. They loved that.

Wingman said to me, "I want to be working on this for the next 10 years." He's going to try to engineer this thing so that that's possible. Consider what kind of statement that is! This isn't a quick buck! If he gets his way, this will be what he has chosen to do with a good chunk of his career, out of all the possible options he might have picked, given total freedom to work on anything.

People. This is a man who loves Descent, and who has no illusions about what it is.

Yeah, these guys weren't on Kali with us. But they are right there with us in what they care about, in what sort of a game they want to build.

And here's the thing, here's the real thing we Kali people should sit up and take note of:

We are welcome here. We're more than welcome. We were invited. We are being courted. These guys want our input.

I wrote a letter to Wingman on day 1, and I said, "There is a hardcore Descent community out there, but it's like 30 extremely opinionated people. We can help you build Descent if that's what you want, and if that isn't what you want, we'll stay out of your hair." He could have said "no thanks, you people sound crazy". He could have said, "we'll make you happy if it means you'll give us money". He could have said, "Go back to D1".

What he SAID is, "you are my community, come get involved".

I wrote a huge forum post about what Descent is and isn't. They could have said, "Thanks for your input, we'll take it under advisement." What they did is highlight it in the most visible possible way, cheer, think about it carefully, take the best suggestions seriously, and in a couple of places change course in order to account for them. They didn't address everything I said, but that's design stuff, and it's early yet. That's okay. What you should pay attention to is that they clearly care. I said as loudly and as clearly as I could, "This is the game I love, are you building this?" And they didn't say yes or no to every point, but what they did say very loudly is, "That is so darn COOL." They share the vision. They think pilots are cool, pilots are worth listening to.

I put up a video of what Descent flying looks like, what it really looks like at a top level. They could've said, "That's that game, this is this game." They could've said, "Your showing off isn't relevant here." They could have said, "Don't expect to do so well in the new game." What they said is, "That's awesome! I love watching this! But we really need to get you out of that graphical ghetto."

Nor is it just WM. It's everyone on their team I've interacted with. Kali guys! Hardcore modern guys! They want us here. We are not their whole target audience, not even close, that would be foolish. But they want to make a game we will love. They want to make a game that captures the D1/D2 anarchy crowd and brings them into the elite part of this experience.

This game . . . is for us.

I want you to understand what a tremendous opportunity this represents. We have never had a professional game studio that loved Descent, that wanted to make Descent itself, that wanted to make a game that hardcore pilots would like. I mean, past Descents, D2, D3, they did want us, but they were doing other things too, right? There were corporate entanglements that forced some sucking. We are Descenters. We never liked or trusted the PTMC, and two decades of getting screwed by them has left us skeptical and cynical about everyone.

But there is no PTMC here! This thing is kickstarted. It's paid for up front. These guys are professionals, solid game developers, and they want to build a Descent that is awesome in the way Descent is, that is better than it ever has been, that will give another generation of gamers a chance to feel the freedom and the mastery and the magic of the mines, and there IS NO CORPORATE CRAP to distract them from that goal.

That has never happened before.

This is new.

This is different.

These guys are the real deal.

That is why I am so excited about this project. We've never had a team with this level of talent and expertise that truly wanted to remake the magic of D1. These guys are it. I think they might just be smart enough and passionate enough and humble enough to get it done! Sure it's a hard job, but if these guys want to do it and can't, I don't know who could. And they want to. These guys know how to build a game, and they want to bring back old pilots. They want to train up new pilots. They want an entire new generation to experience the magic they remember from endless local LANs.

What I see is an amazing possibility. This team has a good shot of doing what they set out to do, and if they succeed?

Kali won't be the golden age of Descent! THIS WILL!!

That's possibility here. That's what they're trying to achieve.

Yeah, it's ambitious. It might not succeed. It's a freakin' Kickstarter, people. But this team? They are talented. And they have help. And if you're still wondering if they've got the expert pilot input angle covered -- Lotharbot and I are in for as much early access as we can get, and we intend to USE it. They will likely have more Descenter input than they can use.

I'm rooting for these guys. What they're trying to do is crazy hard, if you could just go out and MAKE a good game, you'd already be rich, but I think they can do it. I have every confidence in their abilities and in their expertise. I love what they're trying to do, I believe we want the same game, and I think they have every chance of success, and I really, really want this thing to fly.

I've never said this before. I didn't say it about Talon. I didn't say it about Sol Contingency. I'm saying it now.

Guys.

I think this is the one.
  • 17


#26067 I (we all) need to take a minute to say thanks.

Posted by Void Stalker on 19 October 2015 - 12:36 AM

Playing DU, in this early state, as well as all of the forum threads here that I have had the privilege to participate in, has got me thinking.  Never have I, or I wager most of us, had the chance to see and experience such open, honest, and accessible development of a video game.  It is really something that has few precedents.

 

Here I am, playing a game that I helped make possible. And I’m not just talking financially.  I see things that were talked about in a thread come to life on my screen.  I see the work put forward by people that actually take the time to talk to me (and you) and reason things out.  All of those videos, from Wingman’s Hangar, to Design Underground, put me in the seat of a tiny little studio full of passionate people, giving me (and you) access that I would have never had the chance to have.

 

And I see that all of this is on a shoestring budget. These fine people at Descendent Studios aren’t getting rich off of this. Heck, just adding up the head count and dividing it up against the funding totals, and I see people that aren’t even making what they are worth. (And I sure hope that changes when the game launches.)  Every hour they put in, it has to be an hour that has a little bit of passion, and a little bit of love for what they do. (And I also understand that every time we ask for something in the game, we are using up those precious hours, and the often give them to us, freely, even though time is tight.)

 

In a nut shell, everything about Descendent Studios, the game, the videos, the time they take to talk to us, is extraordinary in every sense of the word. 

 

So I just had to take a minute to say THANK YOU to the whole team.  Thank you for brining me along for the ride, and thank you for bringing the game so far in such a short amount of time. And most of all, thank you for all of *this*, the community, the camaraderie, and the entire journey that lies ahead.

 

-Tracy Atkins


  • 16


#27665 Some thoughts on gun mounts, hit boxes, and rolling

Posted by Drakona on 29 October 2015 - 07:07 AM

So, I did some dogfighting in the latest build of DU and found it a really unsatisfying experience. I don't mean that I lost, exactly -- I did pretty well. Got a lot of kills. But I found the experience of getting the kills to be flaky and frustrating.

I've been thinking about why.

And the answer I've come up with is, it has to do with the relationship between hit areas and gun mounts.

Let's start by looking at what I'm used to from D1.

d1_damage.png

So, in D1, all targets are spheres. So I've drawn a circle here -- that's the target I'm shooting at. On the next line, I've drawn what my own shots look like in relative size. In the simple case, on the left, D2 gauss -- it's just a dot that shoots straight out of my reticle. Like every other FPS in existence. ;) Quad lasers are more interesting, four shots spread between 50% and 75% of the width of the sphere itself. And fusion -- fusion itself is huge. The shots themselves actually overlap.

So, what I've drawn on the next line is, how much damage do I do based on where my reticle is?

In the case of gauss, it's really simple -- did I hit the ship or not? If my reticle was inside the shield's outline, I do full damage. If not, I miss.

Lasers, now. Lasers get a little interesting. Depending on where I'm aimed, either one, two, three, or four bolts land. My reticle can be about a third of a shiplength off of the target, and I still graze it with a shot. Or it can be dead center and all four land.

What I like about this is that it makes lasers a weapon that really reward precision, and that behave differently in different circumstances. In a live dogfight against a target that's aware of me, it's hard to get any of the shots to hit at all, but if I get a good, accurate prediction in, I get a solid hit. Messier lead, less damage. Cool. And if I catch someone holding still? I can line up for a VERY deadly shot.

One thing to notice is that the "maximum damage zone" for lasers is pretty small, but it's practical to hit in some circumstances. I didn't carefully, carefully check that this drawing is to scale -- it's from memory -- but it's close enough to make the point.

Fusion has the same thing going on as lasers, only more so. It's a huge target, but to get full damage, I have to hit my target more accurately. It's okay for fusion to be huge because it's a one shot weapon; I have to hit my opponent both in space and time. But if I do it accurately, I can get a huge amount of damage out of it! And if I get close, partial damage.

That's a nice smooth slope, rewarding improving skill right there. I like that.

So what happens in a typhoon? Simple case, let's imagine a typhoon shooting at a D1 pyro.

pyro_damage_from_typhoon.png

So, I didn't measure this either exactly -- it's from memory -- but the thing I really remember about flying in a typhoon is that those gun mounts are really wide relative to the overall width of the ship. This drawing is kind of a guess at where they are.

So, the first thing that happens is my double damage zone takes on a much more complicated shape. It's no longer a vertical oval, right? It's kinda propeller shaped. That's a lot harder to keep track of and handle in combat. Which you see in the game, right? Getting two of your typhoon guns to hit is pretty fiddly, and kind of requires a target that isn't doing fancy dodging. If D1 quads are easy to miss with entirely in a dogfight, getting a shot inside of that propellar is going to be pretty tough to do on purpose. Hitting the target in space is tough enough without adding the angle into it.

But look what the wide gun mounts do to the triple damage zone! It's teeny! Hitting that is going to involve way more luck than skill, unless someone sits still and lets you line up on them.

But that's theoretical. Typhoons don't have anything spherical to shoot at.

What happens when a typhoon shoots at a typhoon?

typhoon_from_typhoon.png

Well . . . crap. There's the problem.

Where I have to have my reticle, just to hit the thing has virtually no relation to its hull. Between the wide gun mounts and the skinny target, there's no way I'm going to be able to hit that in flight. Forget triple damage. That requires him to be holding still AND me to be holding still and it's so precise it takes multiple tries. But even hitting the target at ALL! That's such a complicated target area, it feels pretty hopeless.

And what's extra interesting here -- it's super sensitive to how I'm rolled relative to my target. If I roll the other ship just 30 degrees or so -- all of my aim spots change radically.

It's worth mentioning that a ship might roll that far while my shots are in the air.

It might also be worth mentioning that a typhoon like to roll really fast.

That's why the dogfights were so unsatisfying. I'd put a lot of shots in the vincinity of my opponents, but whether they hit or not had nothing to do with how well I'd aimed them, and everything to do with how lucky I got. Spray and pray. Bleah.

But this isn't totally accurate and up to date, right? I'm not sure exactly what they did last update, but they made the hit boxes bigger somehow. And the above drawing is kind of a from-memory guess at what the model looks like.

Let's put some shields on it.

typhoon_shields.png

Now I'm really making stuff up. ;)

But if I were to put shields on the ship that were thick enough to preserve its shape as a target, this is about how big I'd make them. What's that like to shoot at with laser mounts that are near the edge of the wings? It's like this.

The triple damage is looking kind of plausible on a still target, but single damage in a dogfight is still a total crap shoot. And it's still extremely sensitive to my roll relative to the target's. But at least if I shoot near the center of the ship, I'll probably hit something. Maybe. It's still a crap shoot all told though.

What if I bring the gun mounts in? Here's the same target (well, I've drawn it as bigger shots rather than shields on the typhoon -- mathematically they're the same thing). But the main thing I've done is move the gun mounts much closer to the center of the ship. They're now 50% of the wing length rather than most of it.

typhoon_plasma.png

That's . . . much better. The target area is now contiguous, so if I aim at where the ship is in general, I'll get some damage. The double and triple damage are still funny shapes, though, and still extremely sensitive to roll.

I'm not crazy about that. Speaking as an experienced dogfighter, getting damage on a target is pretty dang difficult when that target is a sphere. Doing it with a time constraint (fusion) is crazy difficult. 3D space is just . . . humans aren't good at it. Adding in a roll constraint, too? That smells to me like "too difficult to be fun" and "hard enough to get right that I'll just take my chances". Spray and pray again.

But still. The lesson here is that bringing the gun mounts in closer to the center of the ship gives us a dramatically more sensible target area.

So let's step back a second. How do gun mount widths interact with target shape and rolls in general? Here's a study.

Shooting at a sphere with two gun mounts spaced at 50%, 75%, and 100% width. (I'm treating these shots as having no width of their own to eliminate that variable).

laser_study_100.png

The thing to notice here is how dramatically the increased width reduces the double damage area. At 50% width, I *might* be able to hit that in flight if the other pilot isn't very good or isn't dodging me specifically. At 75%, I'd need a still target and some time. At 100%, you'd have to be a computer to do it.

Of these, I really like the 50% the best. I think the fights are most satisfying if the double damage areas are big enough to be skill shots. Nobody likes spray and pray, and having a tiny double damage area is like having a tiny vulnerable point on your ship that sometimes just happens to get hit. Lame.

What if we start varying the shape of the ship? Let's squish that sphere to 75% of its height, and see how sensitive it is to rolls.

laser_study_75.png

What's interesting to notice here is that the 50% case already sees a dramatic difference in the size of the double damage area, just from a sphere that's 75% height on one dimension. How you are rolled relative to your target is literally going to change your damage output by -- I'm eyeballing here -- like a third or a half. But it's continuous and easy to understand and forgiving -- if you get the roll slightly off, the target area doesn't change too much.

This would make me nervous. I'd have to fly with it. But if you want to start introducing roll sensitivities to dogfights, this looks to me like a reasonable place to start. This might be fun. :)

On the 75% laser width line, we've lost all contact with reasonableness. The lasers can straddle the ship along one dimension, the target areas are significantly roll sensitive, and the double damage area is way too small to hit on purpose.

Not even gonna talk about the 100% width line. Don't go there.

One more study -- how about a sphere that's 50% tall in one dimension?

laser_study_50.png

Eeeeew. All of it. That does not even look slightly fun.

------------------

So what's the upshot of all of this analysis?

Well, some recommendations.

I would keep the frontal cross sectional area of the ships as simple as you can in shape. Even just those ovals got out of hand when they got too flat. You could maybe do a rounded triangle. I wouldn't do more.

I would encourage keeping the frontal shapes similar widths as the ship rolls, to keep the roll sensitivity of aiming under control. Like, even if you want to do a propellar typhoon shaped ship? Give it a big center section so you can at least shoot for that.

Bring the gun mounts in so they're comfortably inside the smallest shape you might ever be shooting at with them. 75% as wide. No wider. Like, if a wasp is going to stay super flat? The widest gun mounts in the game should be 75% of that distance apart. Otherwise that ship is going to be spray and pray to dogfight with.

As a final thought, if you're going to ignore all of that and stick with the complex target shapes . . . consider giving me a more helpful reticle. At least tell me what direction and distance my guns are, so I can try to line up!

----------------

But Drak! Other FPSes use complex models and don't have this problem? What are we doing differently?

Well . . . we have two things other FPSes don't: multiple gun mounts and the ability to roll.

In GS:GO, your target area looks like this:

csgo_damage.png

It looks like that every time. You can't roll. You don't have gun mounts to align. Click the dark blue areas for extra damage, that's it.

In Descent, that target would look like this:

csgo_in_descent.png

. . . ;)

Which just goes to show ya. When you copy ideas from groundpounders into a 6DoF, weird stuff happens!

But yeah. In D1, at least? The combination of the stable, simple target profiles and good separation on the gun mounts -- not too little, not too much! -- make a center mass shot into what a headshot is in other games. Weird, I know. But it works in 3D. You get a reasonable, skill-accessible target profile from any direction. :)
  • 14


#5797 Official Clue Collection and Brainstorming Thread

Posted by elfindreams on 05 March 2015 - 11:26 PM

Since the first clue is going to be dropping in half an hour, I figured it would be good to have a place to put all the clues and host collaborations about what they mean.  Since they are being posted at all hours, if people reply to the thread with any clues they catch and I haven't I will post them on the OP so we have one place to go to see them all. (gotta collect them all)
 
Here is the announcement post as a reference {((LINK))}

=== URGENT TRANSMISSION ===
Our agents have discovered a hidden signal transmitting to a nearby harvester owned by the Eternal Venture Corporation. We believe that these messages are tracking activity back on Earth. Follow this traffic and look for any actionable intel hidden within the data.
 
HOW TO PLAY

  • Starting at 6:00 PM CST on Thursday, March 5, 2015 (12:00 AM UTC on Friday), we will begin delivering intercepted transmissions on the main page at www.descendentstudios.com.
  • New transmissions will appear on this site every 2 hours initially, but the rate will increase as the countdown to our Kickstarter launch draws to an end.
  • Each transmission contains one piece of an encoded message. Identify the correct pieces and order them properly to reveal the final message.
  • When you have discovered the complete message, send the answer in a private message to the user CONTEST on the Descendent Studios forums.
  • All registered users who submit the correct answer by 1:00 PM CST (7:00 PM UTC) on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 will receive 5 Pals (high currency) for future product purchases.

As a tool for clue finders, here is part of the raw output of a cronjob I have running every 15mins to capture text and images from the website. So if I am not around and a clue get missed, we can go back and find it: {((LINK))}.

In addition Mourf is maintaining a brainstorming data collection google doc that people are using to puzzle out the solution. You can find that here: {((LINK))}

And finally here are the text and image rips. For all but the second one, the text used is from the HTML source that preserves caps. I update these periodically throughout the day... however newer clues might be found in the thread, the spreadsheet or the raw data that haven't made it into this list yet.

1st {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot B23150304.200315.S}
Has anyone else been noticing a pattern in the water riots recently? They seem to be happening like clockwork. Just this morning, there was one in the Podlaskie Economic Opportunity Zone. I’m convinced that there is something going on here. If you hear about a riot, can you post the link?

{EOC}


2nd {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{GRENADIER21 B23150304.200315.G}
CHECK IT OUT, I’VE GOT VID OF A RICE RIOT IN THE RATCHABURI EOZ: {((LINK))}

{EOC}


3rd {((IMAGE))} 
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{MrChungu B23150304.221541.C}
Holy cow, there’s smoke pouring out of the Isiolo arco campus!

{EOC}

 
4th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Hiryu35 B23150304.235328.I}
There is a large, angry crowd gathering around one of the big Blue Water plants in Okayama EOZ.

{EOC}

 
5th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{VeritasMax B23150305.021354.A}
Did you see this? {((LINK))} I think the people are rising up in the Romagna EOZ!

{EOC}


6th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Tovarisch42 B23150305.040347.C}
I just saw people throwing rocks at police contractors in the Ingushetia EOZ.

{EOC}


7th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{GauchoLibre B23150305.061703.R}
Tairona, man. The Santa Marta arco just went into lockdown.

{EOC}

 
8th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Sportskonig D23150306.020158.A}
Things are not going well for Henley’s corporate “liaison” in the Thuringia EOZ. She’s having trouble keeping her predecessor’s promises.

{EOC}


9th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Aqilhadi D23150306.041312.D}
The Muscat arco seems to have enough water for now, but I do not think it is so for the rest of Oman EOZ. I saw smoke to the northwest earlier.

{EOC}

 
10th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{DoberaiDolphins34 D23150306.060405.I}
Greetings from the Manokwari arco in West Papua EOZ. We have many problems getting thorium and the electricity is very unreliable.

{EOC}


11th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{GimmeChifa F23150306.080951.P}
I have no electricity here in the Punta Arenas campus. Maybe in the arcologia proper the ejecutivos have it. We need thorium here quite badly.

{EOC}


12th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{ClueBy4 F23150306.101122.F}
I cannot breathe. It feels as if half of the Rajshahi campus is burning! The smoke is everywhere.

{EOC}


13th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Espadachin2291 C23150307.061218.A}
I have seen little to report near the Sevilla arcology. There are rumors that Andalusia EOZ’s outlanders had been harvesting snow from the Sierra Morena until recently, when Parthenorbital sprayed the area with chemicals.

{EOC}


14th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{GoMetMeteors C23150307.080242.R}
I don’t know what you guys have been seeing, but here in the New York EOZ, I got fires all over the Brooklyn campus, not to mention the Queens campus. And up there in their pretty city, NEX’s fat cats just play with human beings like we’re rats.

{EOC}


15th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{FrereMagnif C23150307.100433.A}
The Marseilles arcologie is wreathed in smoke this morning. I fear that what remains of our government is in flight. Our beautiful city hall is overrun with the tide of humanity and I have no doubt that Panastrium will use this chance to reclaim its control over the Provence EOZ.

{EOC}


16th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Rusvoboda B23150305.081703.C}
The Yalta arcology is sending APTs to one of the “reeducation” camps nearby. I heard there was a prison break.

{EOC}


17th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{BlondesRule92 B23150305.100304.Z}
{((LINK))} There is something going on just east of the Dakarco. I’ve been seeing smoke.

{EOC}


18th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{HoosierDad B23150305.121137.E}
We’ve got issues in the Indiana EOZ now. Some farmers south of the arco are killing Henley “seed purity officers”.

{EOC}


19th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Habile-Prof D23150308.001223.Z}
Here in the Ivoire EOZ, there are many people angry with our “leaders” in the Abidjan arcologie. I see many men sharpening machetes. They say that tomorrow they will drink good water or they will drink blood.

{EOC}


20th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Xiaoqiuyin D23150308.020815.H}
The campus around Taipei arco is flowing wild this noon! Last night, the Tigers crushed their foes and we will finally get enough iron to build more housing. I am tired of sleeping standing up!

{EOC}


21st {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Daryush14 F23150306.120442.Z}
We are running out of bread in Esfahan. I do not care what the Aktigos call their acropolis, our city is Esfahan and we need food. We also need chromium to fix our aeroponics plants.

{EOC}


22nd {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{TrueBeliever15 C23150307.120433.E}
I have seen aerial bombardment in the western parts of the Khyber EOZ. The action is rather far from the Islamabad arco, so I cannot tell you much more than that.

{EOC}


23rd {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Safavid33 B23150305.145814.C}
In Semnan EOZ, we have been seeing a lot of crowds throwing things at Aktigos security contractors. I think things will get ugly soon! :(

{EOC}


24th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Mugalman B23150305.160851.F}
We are starting to see crowds massing near the Ludhiana water plant. I think Punjab EOZ is about to rise up!

{EOC}


25th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{MsEnsense B23150305.180904.U}
Hey guys, I wouldn’t put too much stock in this being some vast uprising or a conspiracy. There are riots all the time. Heck, I’ve got people hurling molotovs outside my window in the Angelino EOZ. It’s nothing special, it just means it’s Friday morning. {((LINK))}

{EOC}


26th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Hackeroo B23150306.140718.L}
Can you see this? {((LINK))} There have to be a few hundred blokes nicking bread from that shop in Tasman!

{EOC}


27th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Shinshio D23150309.210227.I}
There is much disruption in the Tokyo arcology campus. Trash pickers from the outer parts of Edo EOZ have begun to destroy salvage purchasers’ warehouses. I believe it is due to the falling price of iron oxide.

{EOC}


28th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Namunyak54 D23150310.221501.C}
From the Nairobi arcology, we can see the Dadaab elevator, yet little of those goods make it to our people. Last night, I heard some men plotting to storm the ground station. They want to make sure that our people get the lion’s share of the resources coming down from orbit.

{EOC}


29th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{GreenForever D23150310.090812.C}
The Dadaab elevator is under attack now! I do not think that men with machetes will fare well against the rental cops and their armored machines.

{EOC}


30th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{CaballosFeroces C23150307.000433.A}
Extremadura EOZ has been seeing flash mobs all week. I think the outlanders are raiding the Merida arco campus for food and water.

{EOC}



31st {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{CamelCowboy C23150307.015907.C}
Here in the Saudi EOZ, I sent one of my drones to check on the dump miners east of the Riyadh arco today: {((LINK))} The Salvage Shack guards beat six of them senseless when they tried to sell their scrap. I don’t know if it was revenge for something or just senseless violence.

{EOC}


32nd {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Roosterman F23150310.140418.H}
If you want riots, the Shandong EOZ is filled with rice riots now!

{EOC}


33rd {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Maestragradable D23150308.041035.R}
Little worm? You crawl on your belly to the megacorporations who feed you sports instead of food. Here in the Ecuador EOZ, we are preparing to take back our Quito arcology from Torchlight!

{EOC}


34th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{EuQueriaChurrasco D23150308.060245.P}
We are still getting poisoned rain from the dump mine fires west of the Rio arco. The favelas are worse than ever: typhus runs rampant and the megas do nothing to help the poor.

{EOC}


35th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{ProfHill D23150308.075813.S}
I don’t think the Iowa EOZ will have a corn crop this year, again. Not in the outlands, anyway.

{EOC}


36th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{MisterKiwi D23150308.100110.M}
Have you been watching the NorthZea EOZ lately? {((LINK))} There are a number of rather rowdy protests in progress surrounding the Auckland arcology.

{EOC}


37th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{PharaohImahoppedup F23150308.180147.B}
I don’t care what’s happening in the Cairo arcology, but the rest of the Eqypt EOZ is starving. We need food and we need water to grow that food!

{EOC}


38th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Bierknecht F23150310.231214.A}
If the Frankfurt arco could just get some zinc, I think we’d stop having so many HVAC problems.

{EOC}


39th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{DelhiDaggerFTW B23150308.222015.E}
I am saddened to say that there are many dead here in Rajasthan. A group of the forgotten ones came down from the Aravali to beg for food and water. Troops from the Jaipur arco opened fire on them.

{EOC}


40th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{VikingMom2303 B23150309.001122.A}
There are no riots here in the Danemark EOZ yet, but there might be soon. Panastrium announced today that they’re limiting people to 3l of Blue a day, regardless of how many dubchits they’ve got. I am sure that the arcoskidt have no limit!

{EOC}


41st {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{CaptProwler B23150310.021215.X}
We had a bit of a row aboard Edinburgh earlier. Several chavs thought they deserved more than their standard ration and tried to come back through the queue.

{EOC}


42nd {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{UX091FWM D23150309.180128.H}
Got bad credit? EZCred can help! Dubchits to diamonds in no time! Just ping ezcred-123 today!

{EOC}


43rd {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Disgusto D23150309.201832.Z}
Some hackers we are! Can’t we even keep corporate spam off of Liberete? Anyone near the Freetown arco? We need more picketers by the south gate!

{EOC}


44th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{RocketsHateMe C23150305.200813.Z}
Here on Pisces station, some of the maintenance workers just locked themselves into the Blue Ring’s aeroponics labs because the air fees are going up again.

{EOC}


45th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{UncleDanFan02 B23150306.161513.Z}
I see a large group of people with picks and knives heading towards one of the scrap metal buyers outside the Conakry arco.

{EOC}


46th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Freiheitslieb B23150306.180539.A}
There are fires in the distance west of the arco in Hesse EOZ. I can see troop carriers headed that direction.

{EOC}


47th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{ColdDeadHands B23150308.201212.S}
Oklahoma EOZ reporting in! I’m seeing fires off in the direction of the old Tulsa dump mine. I can’t get my drones too close, but I think those dang Torchlight goons are trying to clear one of the refugee camps.

{EOC}


48th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{AnatolianArrowsRule D23150310.100249.B}
The Istanbul arcology is quiet tonight, but there is much activity to the northwest, somewhere along the Edirne EOZ’s border with the Hellas EOZ.

{EOC}


49th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Desteptule99 D23150310.112056.B}
There is a long line outside the Quietus “temple” next to the Bucharest arco. I guess people in the Romania EOZ are just really depressed.

{EOC}


50th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{LucLaStrange F23150308.120717.R}
The Hispanola EOZ is enjoying a quiet night, I think. The Port-Au-Prince arcologie is rather pretty against the sky.

{EOC}


51st {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{AbuelaOrgullosa F23150308.140554.Z}
Without more neodymium, several factories in the Asuncion campus may close. I fear if that happens, the unemployed workers could bring violence to the Paraguay EOZ.

{EOC}


52nd {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{ColdCanuck F23150308.161138.S}
The Regina arco went dark for 20 minutes earlier. I think that someone sabotaged the power.

{EOC}


53rd {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Thorsson314 C23150307.160633.Z}
Iceland is pleasantly quiet, except for the brokers at the Reykjavik Exchange crowing over their profits. It seems that all these riots you people are having must be good for somebody’s business.

{EOC}


54th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{YMeYNotU C23150307.180412.A}
Nlamey arco is running out of staple foods. The campus is already very angry. Things will get bad very soon.

{EOC}


55th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{BroomJockey C23150307.201309.Z}
One of the big harvesters, Heracles, just docked at Gemini station. There was some kind of mutiny by the support crew.

{EOC}


56th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{BrutalBeaversFan F23150310.000536.R}
You think you’ve got problems? The Ottawa arco has bad air handling and all the water tastes like piss. If that’s Blue water, I’ll eat my hat!

{EOC}


57th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{LatvianLion F23150310.010829.B}
The Riga arcology is much worse. We had to abandon the campus entirely. Now Xorn says that the arcology may not be worth keeping open.

{EOC}


58th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Stallion89 F23150310.121212.R}
Hey, at least the Detroit arco has enough water and power. Last month, we ran out of silicon and the main enviro plant went down for a week.

{EOC}


59th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot F23150310.130346.S}
Can we stay on topic here? This is a thread about riots and uprisings. There was one outside of the Edmonton arco and another in the Ethiopia EOZ and none of you posted about them!

{EOC}


60th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{AdmiralVorona C23150309.061346.K}
Vladivostok is quiet, but I hear rumors that all is not well in the northern Primorsky EOZ.

{EOC}


61st {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{PreacherJohn C23150309.081801.S}
Dear sweet Lord! They’ve torched the syntholeum plant just west of the Omaha arco! {((LINK))}

{EOC}


62nd {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{SamudraguptaII C23150309.100543.F}
Chhattisgarh EOZ is desperate for aluminium to fix the Green Water plant at the Raipur arco! Without it, the Blue plant is unable to run at capacity and I am seeing many who die of thirst.

{EOC}


63rd {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{pennyroyal11 C23150307.040151.W}
Blackpool had a brief scuffle with some toughs who claimed that our mooring island used to be their headquarters- I think they were from the “Rarotonga Corporation” or something ghastly like that. York provided air support and we routed them, so wicket one for the good guys!

{EOC}


64th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{MedvedOkhotnik C23150307.135447.E}
Fans of the Underground Games have not even waited until nightfall to begin drinking and breaking things. Why can Novy Moskva never have a quiet mineral sports season?

{EOC}


65th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Renard2290 C23150309.115321.A}
The Alsace EOZ has no bread today. Chengchao’s factory broke last week and they are still waiting on enough copper to repair it.

{EOC}


66th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Namunyak54 D23150310.221501.C}
From the Nairobi arcology, we can see the Dadaab elevator, yet little of those goods make it to our people. Last night, I heard some men plotting to storm the ground station. They want to make sure that our people get the lion’s share of the resources coming down from orbit. RETRANSMISSION: CORRECTION TO CORRUPTED DATA

{EOC}


67th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{KhuchitMoriton C23150310.050142.G}
We are facing many angry people throughout the Tuva EOZ today. The outlanders have no pasture and come to the arco for help. There is none.

{EOC}


68th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{DeepDish4Eva C23150310.061044.S}
Has anyone seen the food riot outside the Chicarco? {((LINK))} Last year, Illinois EOZ didn’t get enough titanium to keep the aeroponics plants running, now people are PISSED!

{EOC}


69th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Espadardiente C23150310.071308.S}
There is no clean water in Oaxaca now. There is no Blue, no Green. There is only the lluvia envenenada.

{EOC}


70th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{BeerOutback C23150310.080259.I}
Hey Espadardiente, I wish we had any kind of rain in the NorTerr EOZ. We could do something with that, but all we’ve got is dust. Want to trade?

{EOC}


71st {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Caffiend B23150310.030455.B}
There was a run on cassava earlier, but no violence aside from a few bumps and bruises. I know they are a giga, but so far Aisha’s patronage has been keeping the Rwanda EOZ fairly quiet.

{EOC}


72nd CORRECTION {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Bierknecht F23150309.231214.A}
If the Frankfurt arco could just get some zinc, I think we’d stop having so many HVAC problems. RETRANSMISSION: CORRECTION TO CORRUPTED DATA

{EOC}


73rd {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{IMissTacos B23150310.035806.T}
Seriously, Caffiend?! I thought you were on our side… Maybe Aisha’s flacks keep the thugs in check over there, but here in Sonora EOZ they just finished bombing some outlanders who dared to mine one of their precious landfills.

{EOC}


74th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Balconista09 D23150309.140435.Z}
I know not what the rest of the Portuguesa EOZ looks like, but the Lisbon arcologia has no silver for air filtration. I am certain to catch some diseases.

{EOC}


75th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{LightMUp D23150309.160845.S}
Well, sir… I can tell you that we’re shy on just about everything short of measles around the Dallas arco.

{EOC}


76th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{VikingMom2303 C23150307.215723.A}
It begins! The people of Danemark EOZ are rising up against Panastrium! A huge mob is headed towards the Copenhagen arco.

{EOC}


77th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{OldNCold C23150309.020625.U}
Parthenorbital’s transports are late again this week. The bigwigs in the Portland arco keeping saying there isn’t enough Blue for the whole Oregon EOZ.

{EOC}


78th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{DixieDragonsFan C23150309.040838.R}
Raleigh arco is lit up like a Christmas tree. I’m not sure what happened over on the east side, but the smoke is clear enough.

{EOC}


79th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{DoctorAres C23150305.220813.Z}
Speaking of air fees, the same thing just happened here in the Olympus complex.

{EOC}


80th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{PlumFish2305 C23150306.000158.G}
I believe that Chengchao’s forces are clearing Forgotten from the western part of Sichuan EOZ. I do not know what is there that is worth fighting over.

{EOC}


81st {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{JengaKahn C23150306.201743.H}
They are doing the same thing some distance south of the Taiyuan arcology in Shanxi EOZ.

{EOC}


82nd {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{rebelde57 C23150306.220433.P}
The Teresina arco has smoke pouring from the north tower. I saw a mob headed that way earlier, probably towards the “government” center. I think we will have different a corporate overlord by this time next week.

{EOC}


83rd {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{GomezGrande F23150310.150357.R}
The wealthy have retreated to the Bogota arcologia! The people hold the Colombia EOZ!

{EOC}


84th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Fungineer F23150310.160238.A}
Does the Bata arco have to burn before the Equiguinea EOZ can get some carbon nanotubes? Our elevator is falling apart and I don’t want to be under it when it does!

{EOC}


85th {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{Sobo2278 F23150310.170915.I}
The Naha arcology lacks Blue water. We need a delivery quickly or violence may erupt.

{EOC}


86th (final) {((IMAGE))}
PACKET DECRYPTED//
{WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot F23150310.180742.S}
Thanks for the data, fellow civs! I just heard about a riot starting in the Trang EOZ. If I’m interpreting this correctly, I think that I’ve figured out what the plutarchs are up to. It looks like a message to one of the megacorps’ mercenary operatives!

{EOC}

Special Thanks to our Clue Catchers:
Kyro, Milkman, Captain Bosh, JazAero, MoverMarcus, JareelSkaj, JaredJ, VicToMeyeZR, Papa Victor, Joxer, EliteGurke, ripptide, lujanhm99, Louhikarme, Papa Victor, Ducaso, Tikka, J. "Tech" Priest, AC Black, Redacted, Specter, Grue, Mourf, Tikka, Sharft, KarnEdge, Tinuva, Xyphon, Tuk, Groundhound, Gorynych and any I might have mistakenly missed.
 
Special Thanks as well to Mourf who is maintaining a spreadsheet of the clues with possible solution words/etc:
{((LINK))}

And a Very Special thanks to the fine folks on the dev and web teams at Descendent Studios who made this possible especially to Dunkelza who has been revealed as having been the architect of this little mind bender.
  • 12


#12362 The Unofficial Descent: Underground wiki

Posted by roncli on 08 April 2015 - 04:43 AM

So after having more than one run-in with people in the Kickstarter comments that just simply don't have time to do their research about the game, I realized... it's actually really HARD to do that research right now.  Most of the information is scattered throughout a wide variety of videos.  Around SEVEN HOURS of video between all 9 Wingman's Hangouts (Yup, 9, that's 5 during the Kickstarter and 4 prior to it!) and 3 Design Undergrounds!

 

This is not to mention the countless other places where our esteemed developers at Descendent have been giving out tons of information.  No doubt Wingman and company are hard at work doing what they can to get big press, wow us with these awesome vids they've been putting out, and to sell us on the promise of this game the best that they can.  I really don't expect them to have time to breathe, let alone try to categorize all of the information they are putting out.  And yet somehow they still seem to have time to answer our questions in chat and on the forums.  Honestly, I don't know how they do it.

 

It's been HARD to keep track of all of this.  I know, because I've been keeping track of it!  In fact, this weekend I had the idea to keep very, very good track of it.  So I created The Unofficial Descent: Underground wiki!

 

There still is a lot of work to do on this wiki, but right now, the major talking points are there... currencies, microtransactions, single player, the Torch, game modes... pretty much anything that has been asked either already has an answer on the wiki, or the devs simply haven't answered it yet.  All of it is sourced, so if you get that occasional potential backer that says "But the creators...!" you can point to where the creators actually said it.

 

My purpose of creating it this late in the Kickstarter was for the benefit of the final 48 hours.  As you know, you can star a Kickstarter campaign, and with 48 hours to go, Kickstarter will remind you to check out the campaign.  It is my hope that this wiki will help not only potential backers get their questions answered, but also help Wingman and company to have one resource they can easily point people to without having to create that resource with what little time they have.

 

Also, this is a wiki.  If you see errors, fix em!  If you want to add something, add it!  In fact, on the talk page of the main page of the site, you will find a list of things that still need to be done.  I don't believe they're critical for the campaign right now, but if someone wants to go knock something out, have at it, it would be much appreciated!

 

And now, on to $600,000... and beyond! :)


  • 12


#33205 Trichording demonstration video

Posted by raptur on 23 January 2016 - 07:12 PM

I've posted a video introduction to trichording in D:U:

 

 

What other techniques would be good for tutorial introductions?


  • 11


#28937 Thoughts on Discoverability and Feedback in D:U

Posted by Paradox on 09 November 2015 - 03:09 PM

I'm a bit of an old-schooler when it comes to gaming.  I've always hated tutorials and love games that teach you to play while you're playing - IE "when I was a kid, we taught *ourselves* to play videogames...after walking ten miles back from school in the snow!"  All of the really old classic videogames (the good ones anyway) got away without having tutorials or infodumps by essentially by doing two things well (definitions are my own take on these concepts that are probably already familiar to most):

  1. Feature Discoverability - The ingame ability for a player to figure out on their own ingame actions are available and how they work.
  2. Feedback - Clearly informing the player when, how and why something works (or doesn't work)

 

D:U currently doesn't have any tutorials aside from the recently added quick game-mode popups, and I like that.  However, there are a number of areas in D:U currently where I feel feature discoverability/feedback are currently lacking and could be improved.  The ultimate objective should be for new players to be able to learn all the important game mechanics simply by playing the game - IE without having to come to the forums/chat to ask how things work (or adding tutorials to the game -hint hint).  

 

To that end, I've included a list below of areas of the game that I think currently have poor discoverability and/or feedback, and my suggestions for how they could potentially be improved.  This shouldn't be read as criticism - I love the game already and I understand that it's in early alpha. However I really want it to be as accessible as possible to new players so they can jump in and quickly understand what they are doing, as this will be critical to D:U growing a healthy community.  Some of these suggestions are my own, others I've gathered from suggestions/questions I've seen people ask on the forums or in chat.  *I am not trying to specifically address mechanics or balance in this thread* but rather want to start a discussion about good a job items and ingame mechanics inform the players of how they work, and how that can be made better or easier to understand.  I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts, but please do try to stick to the topics or feedback and discoverability.  That being said, here are my thoughts:

 

--Multiplayer Kill/Death Feedback (NEW)--

Some general thoughts on how to better communicate kills and deaths to players in multiplayer matches

1) Teamkills - Add something to the kill notifications to call out when a player has killed a team mate.  Currently the notification for killing a team mate is not visually different than killing an enemy (yay! three kills with that mega, but why did my score go down??)

2) Weapon used in notifications - Add a picture or text to the kill notifications that displays which weapon was used in the kill (UT style).  I think this will help new players learn more quickly which weapons are good in various situations (by being able to see what was used against them).  In conjunction with #1, it will also let players see when team kills happen, if they were deliberate or accidental (IE, if a team kill is done with proxy mines or a mega missile, it was probably accidental).     

3) Death replays - (moved here from previous section)Even if all of the above is implemented, it can be difficult to know what killed you sometimes.  If you are in the middle of an intense dogfight and suddenly run in to a wall or corner, you can die very quickly without realizing what happened.  Optional death replays from outside your ship (maybe as a button on the drone respawn interface) would make it much more clear to players what circumstances led up to their unfortunate demise.

 

--Weapons Available / Weapon Switch indicator (NEW)--

I've run in to a lot of players who don't seem to understand that the Panzer and Typhoon still have mining lasers they can switch to.  Since Tools are all inherent to ships currently and not picked up, there is not great way ingame for players to discover they have more than one available.  There are also now that there are multiple gadgets available (and plans for different gadget starting packages for ships).  I think it would be a good idea to include some kind of HUD indicator showing how many devices in each category (Tool/Weapon/Missile/Gadget) are available. It could highlight the currently selected weapon and show where the player is in the forward/backward switch order. 

1) There are little "bubbles" under each HUD section already, but it looks like they are all currently always shown, and do not appear to highlight or do anything currently(?).  Are these going to be this type of weapon switch indicator? If so it looks good and is pretty similar to what I had envisioned.  Will these bubbles be hidden entirely when only when weapon is available?  I think it's important that there is a fairly big/noticable visual distinction between the states where weapon switching at all versus entirely unavailable (it will inform players of starting options).  Once more than one weapon in a category is available, the indicator could become visible - highlighting the currently selected weapon in the order and greying out (or hiding) the "bubbles" for any weapons the player does not currently posses.

--Dealing and receiving damage--

1) Taking Hull Damage / Life Bar display - The directional hit indicators when your shields are struck are pretty good now.  However taking hull damage is a bit of a different story.  It is easy to miss the "thunk" sound in the middle of a firefight.  I also don't think the current UI does a good enough job of indicating how vulnerable you are when your shields are down.  Players may not innately understand the difference between the "blue life bar" and the "green life bar", so it might be good to call out a little more clearly that your shields being down is REALLY BAD.  Suggestions:

    - When your shields are down, slowly pulse the green "hull" life bar between red and green

    - The sound that plays when you receive hull damage should be louder and much more noticeable.

    - When hull damage is received, maybe display sparks or wobble the camera slightly (but do not move the reticle or disrupt aiming))

 

2) Dealing Hull Damage / opponents who are heavily damaged - Here again, it is fairly visible when you hit an opponent's shields, but harder to notice when you've struck their hull.  It would be nice for this to be more visible so you have at least a vague idea of how damaged your opponent is.  Knowing this would allow players to make more informed decisions about whether to stay and fight, or try to run away.

  - Noise when dealing hull damage noise should be louder

  - Like above, maybe have the opponent's ship spark or flare/smoke briefly when you deal hull to them

 

3) Getting Hit by Missiles - Currently doesn't feel very different than getting hit by any other weapon, to the point where you can't always tell what you've been hit by.  Missiles should feel more dramatic.

  - Missile explosions should be louder, whether they hit your ship and nearby.  The explosions visuals could probably stand to be a bit more dramatic as well.  If you see explosion fire in front of your camera, you'd know you've been hit by a missile :)

 

4) Increase Contrast of Shield Health Bar (NEW) - In my opinion, the shield health bar is currently difficult to read.  The dark blue of the "regular" shield bar and the light blue of the "double" shield bar are too close in color.  The numeric readout helps, but is difficult to consume "at a glance".  I think the contrast between the two shield bar colors should be increased. 

 

--Impacting Walls or other ships--

There are a few interesting conversations going on in other forum threads about collision mechanics.  I'm not going to comment here on how collisions should work mechanically, but I do strongly feel that players need better visual/audio feedback when a collision occurs. Right now hitting a wall abruptly stops you in your tracks.  If you back into or slide into a wall, you won't always know why you stopped. Suggestions:

 

1) Collision Sounds - There should be a noticeable sound when you collide with a wall or player

 

2) Minor camera wobble - To further both immersion and feedback, I think the camera should wobble or shake a bit when a collision has occurred.  I think this effect should be relatively minor so it doesn't obstruct view or throw off aim too badly.  It should just be present to inform players they have hit something, and nudge them towards better piloting in the future.


--Names of Tools and Gadgets--

I've been playing quite a while, and I still can't keep straight which abilities are "tools" and which are "gadgets".  I think these are placeholder names to begin with, but a new player looking at the binding interface certainly wouldn't know what these mean.  My suggestions would be :Ship Abilities" and "Tertiary Weapons."  "Tertiary Weapons" are not super descriptive either, but if the binding is called "Drop Tertiary Weapon", it should at least be clear that this is a category of weapons you drop or deploy. 

--Mining Laser--

Currently, it's quit easy to tell when the mining laser is on or off, but difficult to know if it is actually doing something.  This could be made more clear to players by having the beam change when the beam is doing actual work.  My thoughts:

 

1) Turn the beam green when it is "collection" - When the beam is engaged and targeting a valid collection target (like the core), it could turn green to indicate that it is working.  To really improve feedback, you could also have "bulged" travel up the beam from the target to the ship to make it look like something is actually being beamed to the ship.  The frequency of these bulges could correspond to the power of the ship's mining laser, IE, more frequent for the Wasp or Auger and less so for other ships.  This would be a good visual way of informing players of different mining laser strengths, and giving them an idea of how much variation there is in mining laser strength.

 

2) Turn red and narrow when "drilling" - If destructible terrain is still planned, the mining laser could turn red when it is "drilling" to indicate that the target is valid/destructible.

 

3) The Mining laser is the only current non-toggle tool - I don't know that this should necessarily be changed, and I certainly don't know what other tools are planned, but currently the mining laser is the only tool that is not a toggle.  If all future tools are also toggles, this could get confusing as players would build a paradigm of tools being "toggle on/toggler off" with the mining laser being the only discrepancy.  If this is going to be the case, it might make more sense for the mining laser to be its own separate action and binding rather than just another tool.


--Ship Action Feedback in General--

The HUD indicator for the other current ship actions (Typhoon Spin and Panzer shield) are pretty easy to miss.  The Typhoon is somewhat helped by having a noise while it is spinning, buy the Panzer is silent and it's easy to forget that the blast shield is active.  Since the tool indicator blinks blue/green very slowly, it's hard to tell at a glance if it is on from the HUD alone.  As several people have noted on the forums, it's also currently impossible to switch tools if one tool is alreayd active.  Suggestions:

 

1) Leave HUD Tool entry green always if a tool is toggled on - This will make it easy to tell at a glance if a tool is active.  For more noticeably, maybe also add a small blinking red LED type indicator to the tool HUD.

 

2) Toggleable gadgets should disengage automatically if you switch gadgets - I think this is already planned
 

--Deploying Laser Grids and Gadgets--

I love laser grids, but I think right now they are unpredictable and hard to understand. 

 

1) Audible noise when deploying a grid or mine - Currently deploying a laser grid makes no sound and gives no feedback that the action has been completed except for reducing the number of laser grids.  I've seen players drop all of their grids at once, presumably because they just mash the button to make sure it works.  If dropping a grid or gadget/mine made an audible noise (like a clang or a door/hatch opening sound) this could be avoided. The same sound could be used for mines and any future gadgets as well.

 

2) Ideally, do not drop the tool if it is not currently usable - A lot of players don't seem to understand where grids can be deployed and where they can't be.  Losing a grid for what seems like "no reason" can be frustrating.  If a grid cannot deploy, rather than drop it as a collectible item, the player should just keep it.  Maybe play a beep or error noise to inform the player that this is not a valid deployment location.  There would still be some trial and error to this, but it could give players the ability to at least experiment and discover how they work. 

 

3) Maybe add hud notifications for certains tools (grid deployed/ect) - I'm not crazy about this idea, but if any deployable gadgets are going to have complicated rules, some text feedback might be necessary for players to understand how they work.  Small messages could appear in the "missile lock" area with short messages like "Laser Grid could not deploy" ect to let players know when their actions have succeeded or failed. 


--Laser grids in the environment--

In addition to laser grids being a bit clunky to use, they are difficult to interact with in the environment.  If someone has deployed one in front of you, the only warning you get is a tiny black dot that appears in the center of the hallway, which is very difficult to see.  If you are close enough to your opponent, you will often drive through it without even realizing they have done something.  If you are too late, it will open right in your face without you having time to stop.  If the timing is just right (which it is surprisingly often), the grid can open right on top of your ship and you die without any clear visual feedback at all.  Some thoughts on making grids more interactive:

 

1) The Grid "deployment package" should be much easier to see - In my opinion, the little sphere that drops should be at least twice as large.  It should also probably glow to make it easier to see.  I was thinking maybe it could look more like the little lightsaber drones from star war: http://vignette3.wik...=20080124042606 - IE a little sphere with round glowing holes.  If you really want to make it look cool, the little holes could also project narrow red beams (like sniper sights) which would be the grid using lasers to detect where the nearest walls are. 

 

2) "Spin-up" noise and "pop" when it deploys - When dropped, the grid could emit a series of increasing frequency beeps as it prepares to deploy, and popping noise when it actually does.  This would again, inform players that a grid is deploying nearby and indicate the timing (which will help players learn the timing of a grid deployment). If this is audible in the environment, it will also help the player who deployed the grid know whether it has worked or not as they are flying away.  This, along with #1 make the grid deployment and timing much more discoverable to players.  This would change grid deployments from their current somewhat random feeling into a conscious, tactical choice.  If you are chasing and a player drops a grid in front of you, you would then have to think: "Can I make it in time?  Can I afterburn through?  Should I stop"?  Success or failure is in the players hands, and they can learn from any mistakes they make.  

 

3) Audible humming/buzzing when it is active - An active grid should emit a humming or buzzing noise that's audible nearby.  This would give players some warning if they are about to back or slide in to one. 

 

 

 

That's about all I've got for now.  I'm hoping we can have a good discussion on this topic. I'll try to keep this first post semi up-to-date with suggestions people might have, or comments on new features as they are added. 


  • 11


#30672 My frustration with the vulcan

Posted by Zero on 08 December 2015 - 04:09 AM

Let me preface this by saying i understand the game is nowhere near a finished product, this is merely my 2 cents.


The vulcans projectile speed needs to be increased.

I've played Descent 3 for years and have built up a lot of experience in terms of how much i should lead my shots. In Descent 3, vauss, which is the equivalent to D1 Vulcan, was instant hit so you didn't have to lead as much. I've also played a little bit of D1 in which the vulcan wasn't instant hit but still had pretty fast projectile speed. In the end you didn't have to lead too much with these weapons because they were so fast................. unlike the vulcan in DU

Here's a short clip of how much you have to lead with this thing. (pay attention from 8 secs onward, sry for quality)

https://www.youtube....h?v=xwfTMZujymA

That is just silly.

so a few things to note

1) Its just too slow
By looking at the video its obvious, just look at how far away my reticle is compared to the location of his ship. Newbies will have a hard time hitting anything with this thing.

2) Hitboxes
I was lucky that guy was in a typhoon, if that was a predator, wasp, or torch i probably wouldn't have been able to kill him in one clean sweep

3) Decent pilots will NOT move in a straight line like that!
If everyone flew in straight lines I wouldn't even bring this subject up, but they don't. So the fact that you need to LEAD that much AND be able to anticipate where they're going to move makes it extremely difficult to hit someone.


4) Learning how to lead your shots is hard
As someone with a good Descent background learning how to lead your shots is pivotal in learning how to dog fight, and DU isn't exactly making things easier, its just making it way harder.


I've basically played Descent 3 since 2003 and recently played a little bit of Descent 1 for the first time. I can honestly say I have never had to work so hard in all these years of playing just to get a kill, or even a hit for that matter. The combination of of slow projectile speeds and tiny hitboxes has made it extremely difficult to hit someone, not because your getting out played, but because of the physics of the game, it has taken away the fun factor. It has resulted in lonnnggggg drawn out fights because its so hard to hit someone, which often leads to your ship losing energy so you have to constantly recharge which prolongs these already long tedious fights.

This is mainly my problem with DU right now, its too hard to hit people. I'm not saying this because i want easier kills so i can dominate everyone nonstop, the reality is whatever game you guys make I can probably adapt to it no matter what, but i don't want to adapt to it if I'm not having fun.

enough of my rant :P if anything I hope you guys at least realize that the vulcan needs some tweaking.
  • 10


#20091 Grade School and High School "Descent" fan art

Posted by defcon_x on 30 June 2015 - 07:22 AM

My god. I just went through my art archive. I had totally forgotten just how much time I'd spent making drawings of Descent in class. Some of them I can't help but think are hilarious and embarrassing.

Are there are any salvageable parts buried here? The reward of having a vindicated inner teen geek produce a "flamethrower boss" in the Build-A-Bot contest is more than enough to shoot me over the moon. But now you may know the true extent of my out-of-control fandom and what drove me to be here in the first place.

 

Here you go. Feel free to use any and all of these designs in D:U, Wingman and crew! Hahaha!
 
Probably from 1996 or so:
 
grade7_computerdesc.jpg
 
 
1998. I think I may have a kindred spirit on this forum:
1998_Afbeelding55.jpg


Interesting notes from when I was porting D1 level 4 to D3:
Afbeelding160.jpg


Apparently, my attempt to take apart the Pyro piece by piece, (including how all the weapons are molecularly stored!).
Warning: adult language!
Afbeelding127.jpg
z_23.jpg
z_22.jpg


8th grade. A mine? Not sure if this actually would work physically? Haha!
8th_83.jpg


I like this one. Like I was really just trying to play the game on paper.
8th_79.jpg


I remember distinctly trying to design a 'Descent' clone (with absolutely no knowledge of how to do it) which involved deformable terrain. Check out the weapons!
8th_58.jpg
8th_59.jpg

 

Mines I'd wanted to make, but had never figured out scripting for.

8th_44.jpg

8th_43.jpg


Seems I also really wanted there to be a "grinder" missile that could burrow into the walls and take out rock, and a "chaos beam" that would throw robots into the walls.
z_88.jpg
z_30.jpg
z_12.jpg

I had hopes to make many derivative robots and mines, I guess.
z_29.jpg
z_28.jpg
z_35.jpg
z_26.jpg
z_20.jpg
z_18.jpg
z_15.jpg
z_14.jpg
z_11.jpg
z_8.jpg

Did my childhood self predict Descent:Underground?! Haha!
z_47.jpg
z_46.jpg

Well, anyway, I hope you enjoyed this trip into a teenage imagination spoiled by Descent.


  • 10


#10035 Promotional Graphics For Everyone - Help Keep Us Going Strong!

Posted by Jaxley on 22 March 2015 - 09:50 PM

Hi everyone, I designed a few assets that you can use for your social media profiles and forums. These all have Wingman's seal of approval, so feel free to download and share these to help promote the game! Download instructions are posted below for people unfamiliar with Photobucket.

 

1. Social media profile pic. (300 x 480px) - Suggested placement: Facebook profiles, 'About Me' pages, 'Bio' pages, New blog entries, Profile pics

I usually like to design original art for games that I am supporting, but with Descent Underground being so new, I didn't want to take liberties that were not mine to take. Instead, I used various graphics and art that have been release by Descendent and created some new compositions. I will try and make some new ones and update this thread as I do.

Descent_community_promo_zpskbj2zhge.jpg--Descent_poster_b_zpsipolvfyh.jpg--Descent_poster_d_zpshsbqnrpw.jpg

 

2. Forum Signature. (500 x 130px) You know where to put these ;)

Descent_community_sig_zpspdprb0iy.jpg

Descent_sig_ends_zpspuuoqapy.jpg

 

Descent_sig_b_zpsfiqknqal.jpg

Descent_sig_b_ends_zpsbqdhfcce.jpg

 

Descent_sig_d_zpsh2w0w0tf.jpg

Descent_sig_d_ends_zpsvkvxu65o.jpg

 

Descent_sig_c_zpsujefszaz.jpg

 

(A signature made by Dunkelza!)

NZLnjoR_zps3ljs0dne.png

 

Facebook friendly signatures!

Descent_sig_facebook_zpsrbwrvmum.jpg

Descent_sig_facebook_b_zpsfclccgzy.jpg

 

 

3. Avatar or Supplement to a forum signature (130 x 130px) - Suggested placement: As your avatar for ALL YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA :D or tacked to the end of a forum signature you already have.

Descent_community_sig_sup_zpscmhnm6zc.jp--Descent_sig_sup_b_zpsgwhf9pcp.jpg--Descent_sig_sup_c_zpsn8hdrifp.jpg--Descent_sig_sup_d_zps39kskufp.jpg

 

 

Example of how I'm supplementing my organization's forum signature with the avatar pic:

SC_ForumSig_shortcopy_zpsac185222.pngDescent_community_sig_sup_zpsl7hscwdi.jp

 

Thanks everyone!

 

 

Download instructions:

1. Click on image you want to save. A popup window will appear with the image.

2. Click on the 'Save' button in the bottom right of the popup. You will be redirected to Photobucket.

3. Click the highlighted button to download. :)

Instructions_zpsf6ljodks.jpg


  • 10


#31199 The Four Timescales of Descent Combat

Posted by LotharBot on 15 December 2015 - 08:05 PM

"Descent is not a twitch game".  It's been said many times on this forum.  Reflexes matter, but not so much that players dominate based on reaction time.  Strategy and tactics also play a role.  How does it all fit together?
 
I've observed that there seem to be four different timescales in play in Descent combat, in all four Descent games, in every game mode, from single player to anarchy to CTC.  Some timescales are more important in different game modes, but they're all present to some degree all the time.  I've termed these four timescales as Reflex, Position, Tactical, and Strategic.  What follows are descriptions of the four timescales, and how they can be seen in Descent:
 
Reflex (fractions of a second) - These are immediate reactions to what's going on in the game, often trained on a subconscious level. Examples include pressing a key or moving your controller in response to the unexpected sound of a robot firing missiles at you, trying to pull back when you see the flash of a laser grid being deployed, or trying to keep a bead on an opponent when they change direction.  The generally slow speed of weapons and ships in Descent tend to put the emphasis on reflex in dodging and avoiding moreso than reflex in aiming, though single-shot weapons like fusion and mass driver make aiming reflex somewhat relevant.
 
Position (a few seconds) - These are conscious decisions about how to fight or fly in the immediate moment.  Examples include trying to stay near the top of a dogfight room, backing away from an enemy down a tunnel, or re-orienting your ship to face up or down a vertical mineshaft so that you're able to turn more quickly in that direction.  Mechanics like trichording, different turn speeds (yaw/pitch), and a wider-than-tall cockpit/camera view, all contribute to the importance of position and orientation.
 
Tactical (several seconds) - These are decisions about how to try to gain a temporary advantage.  Examples include ducking out of a fight and then spinning around to line up your weapons on the doorway you just came through, choosing to dogfight with somebody in the area around the core, or ducking in and out of cover trying to get your opponent to guess wrong so you can get behind them.  The relatively slow turning rate of ships, and the ability to kill a ship quickly from an advantageous position, contribute to the importance of tactical movement.
 
Strategic (minutes) - These are decisions about how to tilt the overall game in your favor by playing to strengths.  Examples include choosing to destroy the robots guarding the energy center before trying to reach a weapons cache, trying to stop people from reaching your flag by blocking a forward choke point, always attacking the core with another teammate present to try to split opponents' fire, or camping in a dogfight room because you're a better dogfighter than your opponent.  The presence and spawn pattern of heavy weapons, energy recharge locations, and mission objectives (cores, flags, etc.) serve to emphasize the strategic aspects of Descent.
 
It's my belief that one of the strengths of classic Descent is that all four timescales are relatively important, in every game mode.  Relative weakness in one area can be compensated for by strength in others, but weaknesses can also be exploited by opponents (even bots) who focus their efforts well.  The overall design of every aspect of the game contributes to this sense of "timescale balance" -- everything from the power and speed of weapons to the size and shape of levels to the location and strength of powerups.  

  • 9


#27158 Modern Direction In D:U

Posted by deftflux on 26 October 2015 - 09:13 PM

I've been following this thread silently since it began, trying to figure out how I can best contribute to the discussion.
 
I wanted to start by saying something about my perspective.  Based on my most recent posts, I'm sure many would peg me as a "classicist".  However, I've never played Descent competitively and rarely ever played online on Kali.  I played Descent a lot back when it was new, and I've always pulled it out and played it again from time to time since.  I've also played plenty of other games during that time and since.  I enjoy a good immersive modern game too.  So I'd like to think that I have somewhat of a balanced perspective.
 
To prove my point, if you go back to my very first post on these forums, it was basically, "I never liked trichording; why don't we do XYZ instead?"  Definitely not what you'd expect from a "classicist".  Definitely something you'd expect to get shot down, and it was.  And at first, I was furious.  But after some time passed and I stopped being offended that people who've stuck with Descent for 20 years didn't react like "OH MY GOODNESS I CAN'T BELIEVE WE DIDN'T THINK OF THAT YET" to my half-baked idea, I actually read what was posted with an open mind, and it made sense.  Lothar & Company was right.
 
I've since developed a lot of respect for them, because they know their stuff.  They know Descent and what made it fun and how the various mechanics combine to produce a fun experience.
 
---------
 
But why is that important?  Why should we care what the original Descents did?  We're making a new game, after all.  Well, the best way I can think of to explain it is in programming terms, because I write software for a living.
 
There's a common mistake that I've made and I've seen others make when working with unfamiliar code.  You see something in the code and think, "Why on earth did they do that?  Why don't we do this instead?"  And rather than find out why, you change it in ignorance.  Inevitably, one of two things happens: 1. It breaks the program immediately, or 2. It seems to work fine, but later on, you find bugs that can be traced back to this change.  So you end up realizing that it was written that way for a reason, even though you didn't understand it then.  Either you revert your change, or you realize that if you want to keep that change, you will have to change other things too, and you may or may not want to make those other changes.
 
So I've noticed a similar dynamic between a developer who's very familiar with a codebase (like a "classicist" is with Descent) and a developer who is new to a codebase (like D:U backers who aren't familiar with Descent).  The new developer has a suggestion, and the developer who knows the code tells him why it's a bad idea, or at least why it may not have the results that they think it would have.  If the new developer has an ego, it gets hurt.  But it's not that the developer who knows the code doesn't want to improve or change it; he just knows from experience which kinds of changes will work best with the code, or that it will require significant other changes to account for it, or he may have already considered and tried that idea before, etc.
 
That's basically why it's valuable to consider what Descent did and why, because we're building off the figurative "codebase"--gameplay mechanics--of Descent.  We need to get familiar with that "codebase" before we can make positive contributions to it.
 
This point is proven by history.  One thing that I think many people who haven't been following Descent and Descent-like games for the past 20 years don't realize is that the idea of making a modernized Descent game is nothing new.  We've seen it before a handful of times.  It's old news.  Yet, every single one of those attempts either never saw the light of day or failed to reach the popularity of Descent or even be profitable.  So it's not as if all you need is 6DoF and you can recreate the magic of Descent.  All of those other projects had 6DoF.  And even saying "it's just the [insert any set of mechanics here] from Descent that we need to keep and none of the other stuff" is also naive.  Other projects made such assumptions, and it led to their demise.
 
---------
 
Anyways.  There is one possible miscommunication that I want to address which I think will help get us on the same page again.  Almost right after the proving grounds release, people started complaining that it was too hard to hit enemy ships, battles took too long, there was "too much spray and pray", etc.  At first, I (and some others) responded by saying basically, "Well, that's how Descent is.  It has always been hard to get hits, and battles take a long time, and it's not 'spray and pray', it's making the best use of 3D space to corner your enemy," etc.  And because we said "that's how Descent is", people started questioning whether the original Descent mechanics are relevant to modern gamers.  It came as somewhat of a disillusion.  However, I think this is really one big misunderstanding.
 
What I didn't realize was that it is actually harder to hit enemy ships in D:U than it is in Descent.  In other words, that's not how Descent is.  In the original games, the reason battles took a long time was not because the game mechanics just made it that hard to hit things; it was because the players who were battling were very experienced, highly skilled, well-matched, and wouldn't allow themselves to get into situations that carried a high risk of a quick death.
 
That is definitely not what I see happening in D:U.  Instead, I see a mixed bag of players of varying experience and skill levels fighting in close quarters and not getting killed for a while.  That is not what Descent was ever about.  In that sort of situation, someone should die quick.
 
So there is a problem here that needs to be fixed.  Here's what I think the cause of the problem is.  There are 3 mechanics that I can identify that make it hard to get hits in D:U:
 
1. Slow-moving projectiles.  This was a mechanic taken from Descent.  It gives the target ship time to dodge even an accurately aimed shot.
2. Maximum turning acceleration and speed.  This was also a mechanic taken from Descent.  This (sometimes) increases the time it takes to aim accurately.
3. Tiny targets.  This was not taken from Descent.  It comes from the way Unreal Engine detects hits.  It uses the actual 3D shape of the target.  Descent, on the other hand, used a spherical hitbox that enveloped the ship and much of the volume around the ship, producing a relatively large target that made hitting easier.
 
So do the math.  We took 2 mechanics from Descent that make hitting harder, ignored one of the balancing mechanics that made hitting easier, and instead put in a mechanic from twitch games that makes hitting even harder!
 
And I'm sure someone along the way made the same kind of common mistake as what I mentioned earlier and thought, "Why did Descent use a spherical hitbox of that size?  It was probably just because they didn't have the technology to do anything else.  Why don't we just use the shape of the ship instead?"  Well, that's why.
 
It's worth addressing the point that maybe Descent did it that way because of technological limitations.  True, using the exact shape of the ship itself would have been too computationally expensive at the time.  But they could have used other shapes that more closely modeled the shape of the ship.  After all, a sphere isn't exactly the most computationally cheap shape to calculate.  They could have made it a distorted cube.  I mean, the whole engine was based on distorted cube geometry, so implementing that would probably have been trivial.  They probably could have pulled off a distorted sphere too.  They also could have made it bigger or smaller than it was.  For all we know, they could have experimented with all of the above before settling on the relatively large sphere.  So the fact that the hitbox is the way it is was definitely intentional, and it plays to the other mechanics.
 
So we have two options: revert the change to the hitbox mechanic, or change the other two mechanics also (slow-moving projectiles and maximum turn speed).  I see people here leaning towards the latter.  Can you see why we might not be happy with the way things are going?  We're talking about taking away even more of the Descent mechanics that made Descent unique, and bringing D:U closer to twitch games rather than celebrating what made it different.
 
Interestingly, Lothar almost immediately identified the problem with hitboxes and did an awesome write-up on the forums with charts and diagrams explaining why this is going to make it harder to hit things, and even included possible alternatives that were neither exactly what Descent did nor what D:U was currently doing.  And everyone pretty much dismissed it as just another instance of the old guard trying to turn D:U into an exact remake of D1.
 
In any case, hitboxes.  Yeah, I dared to bring it up again, because it's relevant and it matters.  Yes, it would be unorthodox to use a simplistic spherical or even spheroid hitbox these days.  So what I suggest is that, rather than replace the mechanic, let's modernize it.  Modern gamers are used to what-you-see-is-what-you-get when it comes to hits.  For instance, if you shoot a person in an FPS and the bullet goes right by their left ear, but it doesn't make contact, then you wouldn't expect a hit to be registered.  If it was, it would upset the immersion factor.
 
So let's visually call it out.  Make the larger hitbox the "shields" of the ship.  When you hit the shields, have a portion of the shields briefly visible.  Not only will that make it more intuitive and immersive, but it will also help with the problem of knowing when you've hit someone.  If you see a flash of their shields, then it would be really easy to tell.
 
I can't take credit for this idea, however, because it was also brought up some time ago by Vorxion, but it was swallowed up by the Katamari thread.
 
It would also have another advantage--simplifying the balance between ships.  Right now, hittability is directly affected by the shape of the ship.  So the devs aren't free to make the ships look however they want without affecting gameplay mechanics.  They could still make the ships differ by distorting the hitbox sphere in different ways or making it an overall different size, but they could do so independently of the visual look of the ship.
 
Best of all, the slow-moving projectiles and maximum turn speed would no longer be a problem.
 
It's a great and fantastic solution.  Everybody wins.  It's Descenty, it's modern, and it's immersive.
 
---------
 
I also don't think what classic gamers want and what modern gamers want is that much different.  We both want fun gameplay and an immersive experience.  Back in the day, Descent was immersive.  It felt like you were really flying a real ship through real tunnels fighting real bots.  That's why some people actually got motion sickness from playing it.
 
But technology has advanced since then, and the bar has been raised.  The primitive boxy geometry and cheesy textures of D1/D2 aren't enough to convince modern gamers.  I get that.  I go through the same thing when I try to play games that were popular before I started playing games, or when I watch certain TV shows or movies that came out before my time.  I have trouble suspending my disbelief.
 
But what made for a good show/movie back then wasn't all that different than it is now.  You still needed a good story, relatable characters, good acting, an engaging plot.  But nowadays the possibilities are expanded.  Action can be more intense and realistic.  This led to longer action scenes, and more of them.  Eventually, some movies relied too much on them, and it became just a bunch of fluff that didn't make any sense.  The intensity, the realism, and the detail were all important for the modern movie-goer, but there still needs to be good writing, just as there was in times past.
 
When it boils down to it, games have always needed, still need, and will always need good gameplay mechanics.  It also needs to have a level of detail and definition that satisfy the current-generation gamer, and the bar for that keeps going up.  It's not as if that is the only thing that is needed, however, but it is needed.
 
The gameplay mechanics of D1/D2 are great.  I have no doubt that a modern gamer would appreciate them too.
 
It reminds me of another franchise--Star Trek.  The original series was before my time, and I have trouble getting into the show when I watch it.  The acting leaves something to be desired, the props are laughable, and the special effects are pathetic.  I just can't suspend my disbelief.  However, I can appreciate that it has really good writing, and I can see how others would have been into it.
 
Star Trek lasted a measly 3 seasons before it was cancelled.  It was only afterwards that it gained a following and people clamored for more Star Trek.  Eventually, they tried to bring Star Trek to "The Next Generation" with a new TV series.
 
The new series was very irreverent to the original in a lot of ways.  All the props and sets were different.  All the effects were different.  The ship was different, the consoles and controls were different, the uniforms were different, the aliens were different.  Heck, they made Klingons look completely different and didn't even offer any explanation.  There were also more action scenes depicting what was happening in space outside the ship.
 
But the one thing they kept was the good writing.  The original series writers even put together a "bible" describing how to write a Star Trek episode.  The writing covered the same kind of subjects in the same kind of way.  They were betting on the fact that modern viewers would appreciate the story-telling of the original series if the other qualities were brought up to par with modern film-making.  And they were right.
 
In fact, the first season was written almost exactly like the original series was written.  It was only after they got into the swing of writing a good original series episode that they began to branch out in style and become their own unique series.
 
So I think the developers had the right idea to start with original Descent mechanics and then go from there.  The problem is that they didn't actually do that.  They started with some of the original Descent mechanics, but left out others, some of which are really important for the formula to work.  As a result, neither classic gamers nor modern gamers were happy.  And for classic gamers, it wasn't because it wasn't an exact copy of D1, and for modern gamers, it wasn't because of some lack of modern fluff.  For both groups, it was because the gameplay mechanics were lacking--it's too hard to hit your target.
 

And naturally, each type of gamer came up with a competing solution.  Classic gamers said "let's bring in a balancing mechanic from Descent to fix the problem", and modern gamers said "let's bring in a balancing mechanic from modern twitch FPS's to fix the problem".  At least that's the way I see it.


  • 9


#12688 Wallpapers!

Posted by Viewmaster on 09 April 2015 - 07:57 PM


Hi everyone,

 

Here's some purty wallpapers pulled from Kaji and Erio's most excellent trailer and Kris' stills.

 

Enjoy!

 

Michael

 

 

Attached File  descent_underground_wallpaper_01.jpg   80.1KB   33 downloads  Attached File  descent_underground_wallpaper_02.jpg   75.42KB   24 downloads  Attached File  descent_underground_wallpaper_03.jpg   52.72KB   20 downloads  Attached File  descent_underground_wallpaper_05.jpg   43.96KB   21 downloads  Attached File  descent_underground_wallpaper_06.jpg   66.34KB   15 downloads  Attached File  descent_underground_wallpaper_07.jpg   77.04KB   16 downloads  Attached File  descent_underground_wallpaper_14.jpg   59.24KB   16 downloads  Attached File  descent_underground_wallpaper_21.jpg   66.55KB   12 downloads  Attached File  descent_underground_wallpaper_22.jpg   71.7KB   13 downloads  Attached File  descent_underground_wallpaper_25.jpg   55.03KB   9 downloads  Attached File  descent_underground_wallpaper_28.jpg   60.61KB   14 downloads  Attached File  descent_underground_wallpaper_32.jpg   65.44KB   9 downloads  Attached File  descent_underground_wallpaper_33.jpg   87.23KB   18 downloads  Attached File  descent_underground_wallpaper_36.jpg   54.99KB   15 downloads  Attached File  descent_underground_wallpaper_37.jpg   61.15KB   16 downloads

 

Attached Files


  • 9


#11731 My DU Fan Trailer

Posted by Void Stalker on 03 April 2015 - 03:47 PM

I posted it up in the Kickstarter Idea thread, but I wanted to put it here if anyone is interested. Enjoy.

 

 

https://youtu.be/6b6nLXHNyP8


  • 9


#10973 Descent - Different strokes for different folks

Posted by Wingman on 28 March 2015 - 10:06 PM


As we continue through this process one thing has become abundantly clear - all the people who remember Descent and loved it remember and love it for different reasons.

 

Descent 1 and 2 people like it that way.

Descent 3 people liked the open areas

Single player maze solvers - loved fighting the robots.

LAN players loved the multi-player mayhem.

1v1 players love the skills required to be good at that.

 

Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE has a varying opinion about what made Descent great.

 

We love the passion.

 

We are going to talk this week more about our longer term roadmap for the game - this is just phase 1 - we chose getting the core game play done first - and using the $$ generated from the sales of that to continue to build it and add so much more as we go.

 

This was never a 600k pump and dump project, this is a 10 year never finish game - we want to do it all - from Epic Single player, rise of the bots, to great 1v1, and massive multi-player- to maze and puzzle solving - to adding new elements like team based goals, and a variety of ship types.

 

We can do all of that, but we will need to do STEP 1 first  - which is what we are aiming for at the moment.

 

There are challenges associated with resurrecting an IP that has been sitting for so long - but we are up for it, and we think you are too.

So, together we can make this happen - join us as we bring the old feelings back and introduce an entire new generation to what we all know is an AWESOME experience.

 

Thanks!

WM

 

PS. And I never even mentioned Descent: Freespace.... :)


  • 9


#20648 Does The Ship Fly Right?

Posted by Drakona on 14 July 2015 - 03:43 PM

A lot of people have asked me what we wound up doing with the ship motion, how close we got to D1, whether it flies right now, and so on. I can't explain where we're at better than just summarizing how we got there, so -- here's a summary of that aspect of the visit.

On Monday, we showed up at the office to enthusiasm all around. We were excited to meet the team, and they were excited to meet us. We'd discussed in broad terms that we'd be working on the flight envelope and doing some mapping, but we didn't know exactly what either of those would mean. They set us up with dev machines, showed us how to launch the game, showed us how to configure controls and showed us the inputs that controlled the physics.

And then more or less left us to our own devices, and went to do their jobs. :)

So Tom and I settled in and flew the ship around a bit. Bless their hearts, the team had put in values that were exactly what I described in my physics and level design post, down to the last iota. 20m cubes. Top speeds and acceleration figures exactly what I had described from D1.

It flew like crap.

No sense of weight, none of that sense of responsiveness from D1.

I mean, it was in the right ballpark, in terms of total speed, in terms of speed to ship size? But it didn't feel good, and it all felt a bit off. "It's too fast, isn't it?", Rob asked. "I . . . think so? I can't tell. Yeah, it does seem too fast." The numbers said the speed was right. I wondered if there was a scaling factor or something in the implementation that I didn't understand.

But we were flying around their fully textured test level and it was hard to judge spaces. I thought I could estimate distances in cubes, but I wasn't really sure. It would have been much easier if we'd had a D1 level to compare to.

So after getting settled in and looking at the numbers, I leaned over to Tom and said, "Well, what seems like the most productive thing to do right now? We could work on getting the ship to fly right--"

"YES," Eric yelled from his office.

"YES," Rob yelled from his office.

"--okay, let's do that." I continued.

So we did. We grabbed stopwatches. We grabbed D1. We measured spaces and timed flights. We tweaked acceleration values. We compared and fiddled and contrasted pretty much all day on Monday, and by the end of it, we had gotten kind of close. I sent my final set of numbers over to Tom, and had him fly around, and he said, "It's not bad. But it's not particularly good. I give this ship a B+".

We were convinced that was as close as we were going to get with the inputs we'd been given, and it wasn't really going to be good enough.

I called Jason over and had him explain to me how it had been implemented. The ships were following a linear acceleration curve, going from zero to full velocity by the same amount each frame, and following the same curve (essentially counterthrusting) when you let off the gas.

flight_model_1.png

That was what I had asked for. That was how I thought D1 worked. I was clearly missing something.

We left the office once we reached that point. I'm not sure it was even going-home time, yet. But we weren't done working for the day. See, I needed to nail down exactly what D1 was doing, and for that, I needed my computer and my dev tools, and they were back where we were staying.

We bugged out, got dinner, discussed next steps. I fired up my computer, looked through the relevant physics file in D1, and . . .

. . . crap. It has a drag model.

And you know what? I knew that. I had even worked on it before, analyzing the frame independence. But in the heat of trying to get physics values out there well before the end of the Kickstarter, so they could use them to make videos that looked right, I didn't do the full bore source-diving analysis, and I forgot it worked that way.

I spent a while tearing apart the physics model. The translational stuff looked pretty simple, and the rotational -- eww, that was a lot of linear algebra. I thought I caught the gist of what was going on, but it was getting late.

And then I thought, you know, it doesn't really matter what the source code says. That's worth knowing, but what I really want to know, when all is said and done, is how does the ship fly? What curve does the velocity follow when you hit the gas?

Well that's easy enough. I put a whole bunch of print statements in there for position and orientation, and crunched some numbers in Excel. Like a real scientist.

That gave me this:

d1_translational.png

Shark-fin shaped. Exactly what the source would have led me to expect. Definitely no way we could achieve that with the current implementation in DU.

And as we thought about it, it occured to us getting that shape was essential. The quick takeoffs give you the control and responsiveness. The slow skoosh at the end gives you the feeling of weight.

The next morning at the office, I did the same set of printouts with the rotational velocities -- roll, pitch, yaw. I hadn't gotten completely into that part of the code, but enough that I was pretty sure what was going on, and there was definitely a drag model functioning along the same lines. The graph gave me the same shark fin shape.

Tom and I approached Jason, and talked about what was possible in Unreal 4. It had a drag model, but it functioned differently and wouldn't give us the curve we wanted.

So we went to the whiteboard.

Could we recast what was happening in terms we could implement? Could we specify D1-style drag in terms of counterthrust, and what would that look like?

We spent the entire morning working that out, and came up with a formula that was super simple, that matched exactly. I was stoked. It's gonna be like, two lines of code, I thought, and we'd have D1 flight exactly. I went to my charts, determined carefully what constants we'd need to put in to get an exact match, and waited for a chance to discuss it with Jason.

It didn't come until the next day. He's a busy dude. :)

In the mean time, Tom and I tackled another element of the problem. We didn't have a good space to fly the ship in where we knew what the sizes were and what they meant. We needed a D1 level. The team seemed anxious for us to give their level builder some testing and feedback, so we thought -- hey -- kill two birds with one stone. We'll port Valor.

(Why valor? Because I made it and can do what I want with it. :) But it also has a great mix of classic D1 spaces and a good flow, which makes it a good test leve. )

So we spent the rest of Tuesday doing that. Wound up staying late, but we got Valor fully ported and ready to fly.

On Wednesday, we were able to discuss the flight model with Jason. I had a pair of equations sketched on a napkin -- one for acceleration and one for deceleration -- and asked if we could do them. He seemed to think we could. I said "Awesome!" and waited on pins and needles for the coding to complete.

. . . and waited.

. . . and waited.

A couple hours later, I came into the office and said, "I seriously was not expecting this level of pain!" I was thinking, quick implementation, validate it with some flight, and then make sure we'd gotten all the corner cases. Instead, Jason showed me a screen full of day-glo spaghetti (apparently that's normally what Blueprint looks like when things get complicated), and said that he had the implementation mostly working, but there were some serious glitches. Like, every so often, the ship would just jump on its own.

That's where we left it Wednesday.

On Thursday, we were still waiting for Jason to figure it out. As near as I can tell, he slaved over that flight model all day Thursday, and this from a guy who normally has an awful lot to do. It says a lot about how important it is to the team to get this right that he did that.

While we waited, Tom and I created a D1 level at Dunk's request. In one of the Underground meetings that morning, we'd discussed a map the team wanted to make for the new game, and he wanted to see what our take on it would be in a D1 context. Tom and I thought that was a good idea. Plus, we had that fans vs. devs game that evening, and we were excited about how some of their ideas would play out in an 8-player game with very mixed skill pilots, so we went to work designing and building a map for them.

That went really well, by the way. We had winglet there, and a couple of the devs who had barely ever flown D1 before. Pixley, with a serious FPS background. Wingman, with Kali experience. And me and Tom. In most maps, that would be a recipe for misery for most of the pilots, especially since Tom and I had promised to play all out. But we all had a -great- -time-! It was the map. It was thinking in terms of DU's roles, and designing something we could all play together and have fun in. We switched over to Pink Mist -- my usual go to casual map -- and didn't have a tenth as much fun.

Some of you are wondering if the new fangled stuff they're doing with the roles and the ships is something you want?

It is.

I'm not sure I'll ever want to play it competitively, but in a casual game, thinking in terms of making the community friendly and accessible for new players, in terms of making this game super popular, we want this stuff. This team has good ideas, and we should work with them.

Anyway. We're all laughing and having a blast in D1, and Jason is still slaving away over the blueprint. Partway through the event, he comes up to me and says, "It's done -- translational and rotational."

Sweet. As soon as I can get a break, I take a look, and . . .

. . . it's pretty good. Not identical like I'd hoped. Feels sluggish, especially on the rolls, and especially especially when I reverse direction. But it's close. It's darn close. It's almost fun to fly.

Tom and I had discussed the previous day that there was a wrinkle I didn't include in the formula I gave Jason. When you go from full forward to full reverse, you actually get the benefit of both the thruster and the drag, so you get a very quick response. Would anyone notice? I didn't know until I flew it. But I was a bit disappointed now that I was flying. I didn't want to ask Jason to implement an even more complicated formula, but it looked like we would need it!

That's where we left it Thursday.

On Friday morning, I thought, "Hey, I'm a programmer, too -- let me look at that blueprint implementation. How hard can it be?"

I'm digging through it all, and I run smack into another bug in the formula I had given Jason. It was what I had asked him to do, but it actually put you on the wrong curve if you tried to reverse thrust. Like, not only did you not go faster, like I wanted? You actually went slower. No wonder that felt sluggish.

I stared at it for a long time feeling defeated. We weren't going to get this done this week. We had a long haul ahead of us . . .

. . . and then inspiration struck with the math.

There was a much simpler formula that would work. One that was actually easier to implement in bluepring, one that resolved the bug, and that gave me the double reverse thrust, and it was ONE LINE.

I sketched it out on the whiteboard. I showed it Tom. We ran carefully through all the cases. We weren't going to "do a quick impelementation and catch the corner cases later" this time. We were going to get it right.

And right it was. The math was solid. It would be easy to implement, and exactly like D1.

So I go into Jason's office all sheepish, right? "Sorry for putting you through hell with that other formula? This is what I actually want."

It's 4 PM on Friday. Everyone around the office is laughing and joking and getting ready to go home, and Jason is slaving away at implementing my new new formula just so we can get one more iteration on this. I have no idea what it is he likes, ice cream, bourbon, what? Whatever it is, guys, we seriously owe him some of that.

This time, it really does get done in half an hour. Translational and rotational. I've got my tweaked constants ready to go. I fire it up, and . . .

And it's perfect. At least translationally. Rotationally, it's still a little sluggish, but just a little? But slides, thrust . . . it's just like D1. The math says it should be identical? And I can't tell a difference. We nailed it.

I'm a little disappointed on the rotational. I tweak the acceleration a few times, just flipping back between D1 and DU. I can think of a reason I might have gotten the constant wrong; the particular formula I'm using has a 50 ms delay built into it, and that's significant when we're talking about 200 ms total acceleration time. There's no time to math and see if that's the problem. I just gut it, comparing the two games?

And I get it to the point where I can't tell a difference, on either front.

And then it's time to go!

So -- how close did we get? We nailed the translational. I'd feel more comfortable if I could do another round of analysis on the rotational. I know we're on the right curve. The constants are wrong? Gutting them, I got close enough that I couldn't tell the difference anymore, but then . . . I wanted it to work, and I don't trust a subjective take like that. But we're in A terrority at least.

Ultimately? I expressed some disappointment to Wingman that we hadn't gotten all the way there over the week. I wished I'd gotten one more iteration in. And you know what he said? "It's all right. We've got months to get it figured out. And what you guys have done this week has *saved* us months in terms of getting it right."

Once the excitement around the LAN dies down, I'll go back and give the rotational another round of analysis, and I bet we'll nail that last little bit. This team is committed to getting it right, and they know they have a great resource in Tom and me. We developed a great working relationship over the trip, and I have every expectation we'll continue working well together over a distance.

So that's where it's at. The translational is 100% Drakona-certified, and the rotational is about 98%. I think if you see it, you'll be impressed. And we'll get there. :)
  • 17