September 19, 2014

Parker Coombs

Ship Inventory and Store interfaces

Parker here! I'm one of the designers here at Warballoon.

I wanted to give you all an update on what we are working on and show you how game concepts change over time. Interfaces have the potential make a game really good - or really bad. We are often borrowing from well known and polished examples found in some of our favorite games. For a starting point of our building interface we took a look at Civ 5.
Civ 5's build system shines at relaying a lot of information but without being an overwhelming wall of text and options. The interface is capable of giving most building's bonuses readily while still relaying important modifiers for the city. New players are given recommendations using small icons and can play accordingly.

Here is our first attempt at a build screen. Items are grouped in categories relating to function, and more information regarding power use and added effects are given using mouse-overs.

We also took some inspiration from another well polished inventory system, that of Dota 2's.


DOTA2 has a more visual system, with icons used to represent every item and all the information given in mouse-over. We tried to incorporate aspects of this, mainly the icon system and categorical sorting functions. However, there is a higher learning curve for players as they attempt to guess an object's purpose and effects by it's icon. Experienced players simply buy the item they want by knowing it's icon, while inexperienced players are able to mouse-over. 

The environment is a fairly high Actions Per Minute style RTS, really hurting new players who are forced to make decisions in real time. DOTA's remedy to this is a "recommended buy-build" system where players can edit, download and share builds which helps make the game more accessible.


Our first attempt at implementing some of the Dota 2 store features.


Our latest iteration enhances sort-ability further, so that players can quickly figure out how objects would affect your ship's function and performance. Further play-testing will tell us if this helps new players overcome the learning curve of identifying ship objects by its icon. 

More to come next week!

-Parker

September 11, 2014

Tim Anderson

You can make anything with SCIENCE!

Howdy everyone!  I'm Tim, a developer here at Warballoon, where we know how awesome designing/building/modding a game truly can be.  Today, I'm going to talk to you about a new breakthrough coming in the not-too-distant future, S.C.I.E.N.C.E.



I like science!  Wait, what is it?
Well, bold-face font, S.C.I.E.N.C.E. is the Star Command Isometric Enhanced New Creation Editor, which is our modding tool for the community to use.  It is a way for you to design new objects and add them into the game for you and your friends to visit and/or use.  Simply put: build things, create worlds, share it all, expand the universe.

Good tag line, but how does it work?
Once you open up S.C.I.E.N.C.E., you can choose what you would like to build.  You can build such things as Ships, Planets, Objects, and Characters.  Once you have chosen what you would like to build, you are given a graphical interface to develop it with.  This allows you to draw your objects, set up walls on your ship, or even add in Flora and Fauna to your new volcano planet.

Can these objects/ships/planets do anything, or do they just look pretty?
Perhaps you want your new object to emit radiation, or you want your new ship to have beautiful Avarian architecture.  No worries, S.C.I.E.N.C.E. has your back.  You can set properties for each object such as how much power it will take, or how obnoxiously loud it will be to deafen nearby crew members.  You can also bring in sets of alien architecture to work with your design, allowing you to make various alien ships.  Ever wanted to see an Antorian Cruise Ship or a Midorian Trade Cruiser?  This is your chance to make that a reality!

Neat, I made something.  Now what?
So you've finished your new Ship/Planet/Object of Doom and you want to share your new scientific creation with the world, possibly via email or at a large conference.  Well then, it's time to Export it into a game readable format.  Currently, we're looking at both LUA and XML as potential export options, and have tested both.  Here's a little of what the ship looks like in LUA format currently.



And here's what the ship itself looks like post-creation.



How much is this new S.C.I.E.N.C.E. going to cost me?
At Warballoon, we believe in sharing all of our new S.C.I.E.N.C.E. with the community.  So how much does it cost?  In a word, nothing.  In five words, it will cost you nothing.  Rather, it will be a free download for everyone on the planet, separate from Star Command: Galaxies.

I'd like to challenge your hypothesis on this new S.C.I.E.N.C.E.
The tool is still somewhat in development and we are always open to fantastic new ideas.  What would you like to see in the tool, and what questions do you have about it? Tell us on Facebook and Twitter. We're always listening. Always. (Cue creepy music....)

Remember, you can make anything with S.C.I.E.N.C.E!

September 3, 2014

Jordan Coombs

Upcoming Mobile Update

We have been super busy and wanted to take a second to catch our mobile fans up on the status of Star Command.


We are currently beta testing mobile and wanted to talk about the features that will be coming up for mobile. So peel back your eyelids and check it:


We have upgraded the entire engine to Cocos3.0 - which means support for Windows Phone! Star Command will be coming to Windows phone for the next update! Live in the shadows no more Windows users.


The next big thing is the new combat engine. You will now be free to roam the galaxy with the ability to choose when you get into battles. We have removed all mini-games in free roam mode and now players will be able to target each enemy subsystem during battles.


With the introduction of free roam you will now be hunting the remnants of the Star Command fleet - pirates! Pirates will offer much more challenge to you with abilities like healing, grenades and other surprises for your crew.


Give your crew the latest and greatest in gear with kits! Gravity boots and flamethrowers will be the first items out of the gate to help your crew navigate the new dangers in the galaxy.


So now that you can go where you want, when you want and give your crew new gear you're gonna need some new friends! How about man's best friend? Bam. Done.


Dr. Klebaticus Science Lab is the newest room in Star Command (Kickstarters will have instant access to this) that you can discover in the galaxy. Dr. Klebaticus has been working on secret experiments - and now you can benefit! Reanimate the dead? DO IT!

As you can tell we have a lot of new features. So when you ask the logical next question: "WHEN?" you will understand when we answer: "When it's done beta testing." We have a new platform, lot's of new features and, therefore, lots of new bugs and play balancing issues.

Love to hear your thoughts though! Send us a tweet @starcommandgame or visit our facebook page.

More from mobile and Galaxies soon!

Cheers,
Jordan@Warballoon

July 30, 2014

Jordan Coombs

Strange New Worlds

We are a live and working extremely hard. We will have a video up next week showing the new ship building system, but for today here is some concept art. Should start to spark the imagination of where we are going....






May 22, 2014

Jordan Coombs

Concept Art to Wet Your Whistle

Greetings all!

We have been hard at work doing some very dull stuff. We have implemented a SCRUM agile development environment here at the office and are now using JIRA Agile to make it happen. Boooorriiiiinnng.

We have also been polishing up our building engine to be more free flowing and allow you to basically do whatever you want on a ship. Rooms are now dead. Instead, if you want an engineering section you drop an engine; if that engine is putting out too much radiation you better build a containment wall around it; now route some power from your engine to your laser batteries using high capacity power conduit built under the ship; install a captains chair and route a low capacity power conduit to it - bam. You're ready for space.

This has been a huge grind - building is basically the backbone for combat rules, laying out enemy ships, and playtesting most of the game. So it's something that has to be done correctly and it is slow going and rather bland in regards to screenshots and status updates. So bear with us.

In the meantime, here is some concept art to wet your whistle!

Antorian High Command.

We are continuing to evolve the species in the game. We are expanding their mythology, their tactics, their look and how their own ships function. The goal is for each race to feel very distinct and very foreign - "alien" almost.

An antorian looks down on a local metropolis.



The most vital thing to the Avarians are their hatchlings.


Avarian Warriors will help protect the flock.


Avarians on a stroll discussing galactic matters.

The team is hard at work every day. We're really excited about the way the game is going and we think you will be to once we really start rolling out all the new features.

Cheers,
Jordan@Warballoon

May 1, 2014

Jordan Coombs

Star Command is One Year Old!

A year ago today Star Command was release for iOS on the iTunes store. We think this is a great time to do a retrospective, talking about our successes, our failures and most importantly the future of Star Command.

WHAT WE HAVE DONE RIGHT


In the last year we have sold over 615,000 copies of Star Command. The game was released initially on iOS and we were chosen as "Editor's Choice." Over the next 5 months we converted Star Command to Android and added 5 new missions, growing the game by 30%. We have been featured on Google Play and currently have an average 4.3 rating from our user reviews. We were also featured on the Humble Indie Bundle with over 175,000 units downloaded.

We were covered on IGN, Joystiq, Gamespot, TouchArcade and dozens of other sites - sites we have read for as long as we can remember. Seeing Star Command featured on sites that we never even considered having a chance of being on was (and still is) an amazing experience.

We are supremely proud of Star Command and the success it has seen on mobile devices. It's remarkable how much it has changed all of our lives and allowed us to become full time developers. And that is an accomplishment in itself. We have been to Steam Dev Days and people talk to us as developers and actually recognize our game. That is a very surreal experience - believe us.

We doubled our team size and expanded our desktop release to something that we know will be worth the undoubtedly long wait our fans of endured. Which brings us to...

WHAT WE COULD IMPROVE ON


We have our share of critics and often times we agree with them. One of our biggest mistakes has been advertising features too early. We would move into a polish mode, it would take far longer than expected and our release windows would have to shift. A lot of the reason for our silence in recent months is from this lesson - we want to have firm release dates for our features.

Overall release dates are pretty much shit for us track record wise. It's something we see, we acknowledge and do our best with. We have always said quality is most important and that will always be the case. We want to show features when they're actually close to release and we feel confident about the date - not before.

Another thing that has been a huge improvement is new blood - our new team members at Warballoon have injected new life, new ideas and new sense of excitement that was long overdue for Star Command.

WHAT'S NEXT?


First, let's cover Star Command Mobile.

We have been working hard on really expanding the game and giving ourselves a canvas to create content quicker while also addressing some requests from the community. Our next release will have quite a few new features.

First and foremost is Free Roam mode. You will now be able to freely explore the galaxy, taking on new enemies, collecting kits and new rooms for your crew. One of the problems with mobile is that custom written story-driven content takes a long time to create, bug test and bring to life. We have focused more on the random combat and expanded resource collecting (rooms, new uniforms, crew members, kits, etc).

The prologue mode will continue to exist in the game, unchanged, but a another big reason for Free Roam mode is balance: Star Command had a clear progression system, with enemies introduced at appropriate times with appropriate equipment. In Free Roam players can fight ships that are a quick kill and enemies that are epically difficult (with some good gear to collect). We will still have story driven content in the future, but the focus will be far more on in-game content.

Another big improvement in Free Roam is a reimagined combat system. We have removed all mini-games and made weapons all real time touch based. Your ship now has energy that is produced from engineering and drained from shields, weapons and other systems on board. Enemies are also much more intelligent with equivalent systems that can be targeted. They have a brand new logic system and should present much more of a challenge to seasoned Captains. Mini-games will still exist in the Prologue, just not in Free Roam.

The new targeting system in action.

Contraband will finally be making its debut with equippable items for crew members. The first two collectible kits will be in the form of flamethrowers and gravity boots. Flamethrowers will give your tactical crew members the ability to spray enemies with fire - while also setting your own ship ablaze. Also, there might be a bit of a liability to friendly crew members if they are killed in action. Gravity boots will give your engineers the ability to make repairs to your damaged hull without fear of being sucked into the vacuum of the space. Clearly more items like Dogs and some other goodies will be coming as well.

Burn em or just don't get sucked into space. The choice is yours.


With new player abilities come new enemies. The next race players will be fighting won't be a race at all - it will be collection of the wretched scum and villainy from across the galaxy - Space Pirates. The goal with the Space Pirates is to give a race equivalent powers of your own - healing, repair (damage in this case), grenades and rapid fire along with improved tactics.

The pirates are coming!

Eventually we will move into offering new zones that can be unlocked with a small IAP. Each of these zones will contain new enemies, new kits and contraband, new ships and rooms and other surprises.

Finally, for all of our Kickstarter backers we will be rolling out dogs as well as Dr. Klebaticus chamber - which you can see a snippet of below. Don't want to ruin all the mystery.

The good Doctor is in.

It's been a great year and we're very excited about this upcoming one. The PC version of our game is going to have so many new features your eyes will likely bleed and we will be covering in future posts as we get closer to rolling the game out.

Thank you to all our kickstarters, fans, bloggers, reviewers, critics and everyone else that has made the last year so amazing. You are infinitely important to us and we work hard everyday to make sure your faith is well placed.

Cheers,
Jordan@Warballoon

April 24, 2014

Jordan Coombs

Multiplayer is Dead - Until it Isn't

Over the weekend we asked a question on our Twitter and Facebook fans about the future of Star Command:

What would you rather see?

Deep multiplayer with cooperative ship vs ship battles and player controlled races that would be different?

OR

Deep single player with lots of races, research, and campaigns like civilization?

The response was quick and extremely one sided. At our last count the vote was 185 - 6 in favor of single player, and since the total comment count has passed 500 - with a similar trend.

So what does that mean?

One of the big reasons that we were exploring the idea of multiplayer was inspired by a quote from the FTL creators in a story that ran on Joystiq. You can see the story here but the short of it is was Matthew Davis talking about future clones of FTL exclaiming, "... it has to have multiplayer!"

This quote got us talking. We have discussed multiplayer plenty over the last three years creating Star Command but this was far more focused and action orientated - what would it look like, how would it play, how quickly could it be implemented, etc.

The two platforms, desktop and mobile, would have different executions for multiplayer as they have have different strength and weaknesses.

For the desktop we were looking at a player vs. player system growing into a much more robust experience on the campaign map. The initial launch would have been a simple ship vs. ship with one player controlling a Star Command vessel. Players could invade the enemy ship with their crew, take out their subsystems and go toe to toe with either their own ship with their own crew or a point pool where each player would build the best ship they could with a cap on points spent.

From there we would evolve into adding things like cooperative crews, with multiple players controlling crew members on one ship. The goal here would be expanding other races - now players could control the Antorians who would be very distinct from the Star Command ships in both form and function. Crews would go against other crews and work with other ships to expand the campaign map and establish bases on planets.

Finally this would have expanded into an ongoing universe where players earn unique equipment and grow their ship to fight other ships on individual servers.

With this system we basically remove research, mission cards and some of the dynamic galaxy elements and focus more on the players ship and combat.

As a self-critique we like both versions and each have their advantages and disadvantages. With multiplayer we like the glory and challenge element - we can never code an intelligence nearly as capable as human players. To that extent the glory of defeating an opponent in combat is really unrivaled. You are literally beating your very own "Kahn" - surviving on your strategy and ruining someone else's day, which is always satisfying.

On the other hand, single player allows us to blow out the universe, keep in numerous species and elements like space stations and research that become bogged down in multiplayer.

Some will say "Why not work on both?" and our answer would be - we will in some way. Multiplayer will always be in the back of our head but to really to make a good product we have to focus on one or the other. Our design doc was originally drafted as a deep single-player experience and we will continue to double down on that. Our mod support, storybuilder and content creation are much clearer now and the game will be that much better for it.

Multiplayer may be much more of an option for mobile - but for now our focus is on freeroam, the new ship combat system and crew kits.

Cheers,
Jordan