DevBlog: From the mist, a shape, a ship (re)appears

So, we’ve been quiet for a while. What have we been up to? I hope I can answer that in this blog post.

First, the reasons we were quiet: I started an apprenticeship to become a trained IT Specialist for Systems Integration. In short: A certified sysadmin. I’ve also moved to a different City. That has taken up most of my time for a while, but now that I’ve settled in, I can focus on Ardent Seas more again.
The other reason: We’ve rewritten a significant portion of the game. With Koen’s focus on Global Conflagration, and my lack of time to dedicate to Ardent, we haven’t had much to show.

Now, I’m not coming empty handed, we’ve made quite a bit of progress behind the scenes.
-We have a working, if incomplete, tutorial.
-Ships have proper wakes, that look good at all zoom scales.
-The TDN is art-complete. Balance is still an issue however.
-The CA only needs one more ship to be art-complete.
-We’ve started porting the old Shuriken Particle FXes over to VFX Graph

The Tutorial

The Tutorial, which is also the first mission in the game, is playable from the start to finish currently, but it largely incomplete.
-No voice acting
-Objectives need expanding
-No AI behaviour yet

What it does, is covering the basic functions of the game. It begins with island capture and base building, then covers resources, introduces the player to unit production. It then goes on to cover combat, showing CIWS, Missile, gun weapon interactions. After that, it covers maintenance costs, water zones and amphibious/air transports, and finally, taking over an enemy island.

The Tenorran Defense Navy

The TDN is now complete as far as models and textures go. Weapon FXes are used by several factions, so I’m not including them in that list. What this means is: The TDN now has all ships, tanks, buildings, weapons and aircraft that they will have at initial release.

This means, over a dozen ships, half a dozen aircraft and just as many vehicles and buildings.

Art Complete in this case, does mean unit-specific effects, such as the wakes of ships, which I want to get to next.

Frigate in warm lighting, leaving a trailing wake Destroyer moving in front of a much larger warship, leaving a trailing wake

Wakes and water FXes

This one deserves its own point, since we’re a naval RTS. Something we’ve had on our minds from very early on is how does the water look, and how do ships interact with it?

Depending on the details of how a water works, a possible issue is that wakes look good up close, but disappear from afar, or look good from afar, and completely broken from up-close.

I think we’ve found a good balance there now.

Three ships with trailing wakes. One in the back has a repair area indicator.

An aircraft carrier with a trailing wake A battleship leaving a trailing wake

While I’m at it, I’ll include some of the new weapon FXes as well. These are highly Work in Progress, as we’ve only just begun converting particles from Unity’s “Shuriken” particle system over to VFX Graph. One of the FXes, which causes foam to appear on the water, is still one of the old FXes.

Shuriken is Unity’s older, CPU-based particle system. The main advantage it has over VFX Graph, is that it is physics-enabled, so wind zones, collisions, etc. can affect Shuriken particles.

VFX Graph in turn is a GPU based solution, allowing for drastically more particles, better looking FXes, but not as many physics features as Shuriken. It’s thus perfect for most of our FXes.

But the Railgun and Destroyer gun FXes here are both new VFX Graphs.

Left to right, we have the Cruiser with the splash FX, still using old particles, and then we have the Battleship and a Destroyer firing their guns, with VFXGraph effects, and without the splash FX.

Foam on Water

The Coalition Armada

Size comparison of the large ekranoplan Render of a very large ekranoplan. A ship emerges from the front, helicopers fly above it

The Ship that the coalition armada is missing, is their Flagship.

The Coalition Armada Flagship is going to be an enormous, nuclear powered ekranoplan that produces frigates, amphibious vehicles and basic aircraft. It’s also just as heavily armed as the TDN Flagship.

Buy and large, it has the same functions as the TDN flagship. It is faster, and not quite as sturdy, however.

They have any many ships, buildings, aircraft and vehicles as the TDN.

Last but not least

Finally, I want to talk about what our plans are. In the long run, we’re looking at an Early Access launch. In the medium term, we want to do a public playtest. Everyone will be able to join it, and it will likely run for about a month.

There’s a good chance we’ll do multiple ones, focusing on different areas of the game.

What do we need before the playtest?

We want to completely finish the TDN – Art-wise, it is done, but it still needs a lot of work on the balance, and needs unit voices. The CA is in a similar state, minus the missing Flagship.

We still have some parts of the gameplay open-ended, such as how to handle base building exactly – or rather, which building is to handle it. Right now, we’re going back and forth between the MCP and the port authority.

Once those are complete, we’ll be ready for playtest.

That’s it from me for today. I’ll leave you with a few more screenshots.

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