Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Looking for Playtesters

Hey Everyone!

We're currently in a closed alpha, and looking for more playtesters as we iterate our game approximately weekly. Today's build is the first to feature some custom missions, which I'll talk about more in the coming days, and its also the first build where we're starting off with a build for all three major quality levels, which we'll also talk about more this week.

Anyways, WE ARE LOOKING FOR ADDITIONAL PLAYTESTERS. Contact us if you want in.

Here's a quick teaser for one of the new custom missions...


Monday, December 17, 2012

Hello! I'm Matthew, music composer and sound designer for Galactose!

Hello Galactose Fans! I'm Matthew Pablo, a well seasoned composer in the professional video game industry. I am glad to finally officially announce my involvement with Galactose: Pastries in Space! As of now, there are several exciting audio tracks in the game which I have composed. I also create those exciting sound effects you hear in Galactose.

I was first contacted by John, one of the leading developers on the game when they were looking for some fairly simple music tracks to just kind of paste into the game and asked if they could use one of my pre-made tracks from my website. When I actually first played a demo for the game, I was really inspired to create brand new and original music to really bring Galactose to life! Currently, I'm working closely with the developers to create an immersive music and audio experience. With the few music tracks in the game, there will surely be more to come! Stay updated on our blog for updates on new music, gameplay and more!

Recently, I created our first official announcement trailer. I produced the video and composed the music for the trailer as well. Check it out!

Also, if you want to follow me on my website for updates on new music, visit my official website: http://www.matthewpablo.com

From me, John, David and the rest of our development team to our Galactose fans; Thanks for all your positive feedback and support! We hope you all continue to support our game!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Galactose - End of Capstone

Hey everyone!

We've accomplished a lot in these two quarters, and our game is now at 1.0!

A fair number of things have changed since our last blog post nearly 3 weeks ago, so we have a lot of cool videos to show off today.

We held our fourth playtest recently and got some pretty useful results. I'd like to take a second to thank everyone who showed up to our various playtests this semester, as their feedback has been invaluable to improving our game.

We've done a lot of polishing in these last three weeks, and we have added final versions of all our art assets. We found and received permission to use some pretty awesome music. We added in a planet in the background (a donut with an ring), to give a sense of location. We also overhauled the UI significantly and tweaked our shaders and visuals a bit. We'll talk about all of this below.

Mission 1 - Start:

New & Updated Content

We received final art for the player's mothership, a donut model for the planet, some neat backgrounds art, and also a bunch of really cool music. We now have backgrounds for the victory, defeat, briefing, and title screens. In addition, we were able to find an awesome, freely usable font on Google's webfonts page, Nova Square ( http://www.google.com/webfonts/specimen/Nova+Square ), which greatly improved the readability and style of our typography. For the music we got songs for missions 1 & 3 from Matthew Pablo ( http://www.matthewpablo.com/ ), "Theme of Agrual" (Mission 1, also All-You-Can-Eat Mode), "Dark Descent" (Mission 3), and "Space Cake" from Sarah Wikman (Mission 2).

Mission 2 - Start:
Mission 2 - Game Over:

New Features

We made several major changes to our game in this period, the biggest three of which were rewriting sound and the user interface, and adding the ability to retry a failed mission.

For the user inteface, we got some pretty neat wireframes and images from Madeleine, which helped us greatly bring up the polish level on our game with these user interface tweaks.

We completely rewrote our audio engine this time, adding support for 3d positional sound, and better control over a couple of things. FMOD is pretty well documented, props to them.

The third major thing we added was the ability to retry a mission which took a couple of tries to really make robust but works very well now.

In addition to the major changes, we also tweaked a number of smaller things, such as tweaking the shield effect to have smaller particles when not near an impact, which really helped reduce make the shield look less distracting and further emphasized the impact areas. In addition, we revisited some of the shading parameters to the turkey and other things, making things look nicer overall.

Mission 3 - Start:
Mission 3 - End Game:

Monday, April 30, 2012

Three Cups of Playtest and a Dash of Progress

Our third playtest turned out pretty positive results again. We've gotten the process nearly down to a science and had our section of the lab set up in record time. Things started off slowly but picked up about an hour in, and by the end we had gotten more testers (or at least more responses) than ever before. People who had tested with us previously indicated that they were happy with how the game was progressing, and everyone else seemed to be enjoying their first experience with it. The tutorial functionality we added proved helpful although a little text heavy. There's still a few things we need to explain a little better though, as people still didn't quite understand missiles on the fighters. We believe that part of it is because missiles needed a target lock to fire, and when people tried it without one they started to believe that missiles just didn't work at all.

Not all of the feedback was what we had hoped for though. Previous tests showed that people wanted keyboard controls in addition to or instead of the mouse. We did implement a keyboard control scheme, although the majority of testers were not fond of it, so either we need to heavily tweak it or our game might not be as conducive to keyboard control as people had hoped. There were also clear difficulty issues. The first mission puts the player against an enemy squadron outnumbering them three to two, and several players were never able to pass this wave. Once they were however, some discovered very quick ways to win a battle, including one tester who essentially solved endless mode and was clearing each wave in about 60 seconds, never losing more than a few ships.

As mentioned above, we added tutorial functionality, which primarily serves as mission briefings and hints or tips during the game. In story mode such tutorials pop up during each mission explaining new gameplay features unlocked that round and the player's objective during the battle. This proved very helpful in getting the players to understand the game. We also made the teams more distinguishable, as the player's ships have a pink exhaust trail while dinner keeps the flame colors. During the playtest several people requested an option for inverted controls, so we added an options page. As of now control inversion is the only thing there, but there is more to come. The final change is one that has been long overdue: an overhaul of the order giving system in mothership mode. The huge bulky buttons have been replaced with icons, with tooltips for clarity. Icons showing each squadron's current orders are now displayed alongside their portrait, with similar tooltips.

Gameplay Updates
The last round of new features are in! We should be mostly feature complete now, so there probably won't be any major gameplay updates after this, but don't worry; we made these ones count. For starters, the last type of ship has been added. Scramblers are the third drone type and are purely a support class, not dealing any actual damage. Instead, their weapons temporarily disable targets, sending other drones berzerk and point defenses firing off shots randomly. The enemy also fights back more intelligently now, as the admiral of the opposing fleet issues some basic orders to its squadrons. For example, when its mothership loses shields, it tends to focus on eliminating the player's main cannons. Saving the best for last, we split the gameplay into two separate modes: Story and Endless. The story mode is a short campaign which also acts as a tutorial for new players. It begins with the player controlling a single squad and progresses until they control a mothership and a full fleet. Endless mode is a sort of all you can eat buffet of battles. It starts off by throwing the player right into the full game, two motherships with full fleets duking it out. Each time the player defeats a wave they have a chance to repair and recover and then it's on to the next fight.

Art & Graphics
Alissa and Madeleine have started the final phase of the ship models: texturing! Until now everything had programmer textures; passable, but not even comparable to what's to come. So far we have the turkey, broccoli, and cupcake models with more on the way. Our lighting model has also been updated to add in bump mapping and a specular map. As shown in the turkey example below, it really makes a big difference!


After Bump Mapping

Final (bump map + specular map)

The bump map added a lot of interesting surface detail to the turkey, but it brought the issue of shininess to the front, which we resolved with another texture which contains per-pixel specular lighting terms. The only problem now is that the "metal" tends to look like Tin, which seems an unlikely material for a gun barrel.

If anyone's interested, we used the GIMP normalmap plugin for our bump mapping, it's really handy!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Playtesting and Usability Improvements

We had our second playtest last Friday and got quite a bit of useful feedback from our testers. We had testers play both the C++ and Unity prototypes and take a survey on each, followed by a comparison survey to see which implementations people preferred.

Mothership View Improvements
We made a few updates to the mothership view to get it ready for the playtest. The UI got a minor update compacting it allowing the player to keep a more complete view of the battlefield as they assign orders. Distant ships also got an icon overlay so they can still be seen and identified from far away. We also implemented the shop that the Unity prototype had, so the player can now buy new ships and repair their motherhip between waves. After the playtest we learned that the Unity prototype had a more useful camera to navigate the battle, and that people like to be able to click on the ships themselves instead of only their icons on the side. We updated the C++ prototype to have similar camera controls, allowing panning around instead of locking it to the player mothership. Squadrons are now also clickable as we added picking functionality.

Drone View Improvements
A lot goes on in a Galactose battle, so any helpful information can improve the experience dramatically. We added health bars indicating what the player is shooting and how close it is to being destroyed. The target reticule has also been changed to go down the line of fire for the player ship so they can see just where their shots are going. Arrows have also been added in to show what direction the motherships are, helping the player orient themselves in space. Another helpful update is improved collision mesh detail. Each object can have a set of capsules defining its shape, so the motherships are a lot more difficult to accidentally crash into now.

The playtest results revealed a few other needed changes. The keyboard control in the Unity prototype received a lot of good feedback, so we've been working on implementing a hybrid version in C++. There were also a lot of complaints that when a missile warning appeared on screen it almost inevitably meant death for the player. To give players more time to dodge, the game as a whole actually slows down in a "bullet time" type effect. This allows the player to react and gives the game a more epic feel during a battle. We also pulled the boost control into the C++ prototype, which can act as a missile escape utility or for just getting around empty space more quickly. Lastly, we're experimenting with the roles of the weapons. It used to be very difficult to destroy anything with the lasers, so we effectively swapped the missile/laser damage and made missiles fire much more rapidly to keep them useful.

Other Changes
There's been quite a few other updates, some subtle, some behind the hood, but really the little things can make a big difference. Various UI bits have been cleaned up and are nicer looking and more functional. Different blend modes like additive have been implemented along with other special effects improvements, notably prettier shields and just generally better looking explosions. We added support for MSAA, an icon for the executable, and cleaned up the shaders. And finally, we added asteroids back in. Also we turned them into popcorn.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Updates and What Have You

Updated Models
We've gotten newer versions of a few models and some new ones altogether. The motherships have been replaced with (nearly) their final versions. UV's and texturing are still temporary but the main structure is all there! The burger has also been updated with new wings and some guns, and the temporary bomber has been replaced with the pie ship.

New Hard Points
We've gotten the rest of the hard point types implemented: shields, main cannons, and engines. The shield generator emits a field around the mothership that block incoming projectiles but it allows ships to pass through and projectiles can still exit through it. The engines just allow the ship to move. While the player ship is the only one that actually does move right now, the speed is now dependent on the number of engine type hard points remaining. Lastly the main cannons are operational. They deal huge amounts of damage but have a long cooldown and won't be very useful in a fight until the enemy's shields are down.

Look and Feel
The shader's been updated and is back to smooth rendering as the noise effect wasn't terribly popular. Space itself is also a little brighter now helping give the game a more cartoony look. The mothership UI has also been updated a little bit to show the squadrons as icons with health bars for how many ships they still have. It's still a long way from where we want but its getting closer to UI that's been planned. Lastly some camera effects have been added such as interpolating, making everything look a little more smooth and giving a better view of the models, and a camera shake when the player takes damage.

There's been a few other minor changes worth mentioning as well. The AI has improved a bit and the bombers will actually make passes at their targets. We almost made it so that after ten seconds of inactivity in the player drone the AI takes over. This was originally a debug feature to look into what exactly the AI does, but we found its also good for little things like keeping the player from flying out of the battlefield and walking away. The battlefield has also been expanded and the motherships are much larger now, allowing for more hard points and a longer more widespread battle.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mmmmm, Galactose Progress

New Features
Galactose has changed a lot in the past week. We've even gotten some new features in! The environment has become more interesting with the addition of asteroids which the ships have to dodge around. They can also be used as shields or even weapons if pushed at enemies. The arrival of the dinner fleet is also more exciting now as the ships warp in, just a few at a time as if pouring out of hyperspace with their mothership.

New Models
Madeleine and Alissa have begun work on the full fleet of ship models! The player's armada of dessert based space fighters now consists of the cupcake (pretty much the mascot of Galactose), an improved cake mothership, and a bomber. The opposing dinner ships are comprised of a delicious but dangerous turkey command ship, broccoli bombers, and hamburger interceptors.

UI Improvements
The UI has gone through a few updates as well. The player is now more aware of the status of the battle thanks to health bars for their drone and the two motherships. The aiming reticule has been improved and now snaps to where bullets will actually impact a target. The missile lock is also nicer looking, now with its own texture. Finally, the minimap has also been updated and is more readable, helping the player to navigate the three dimensions of the battlefield.

Galactose is meant to be pretty, so a lot of work has been put into the graphical effects recently. Ships and projectiles now feature improved trails, which not only look cleaner, but they're also compatible with DirectX 10.1 making them available to older machines. Other particle effects have also been revamped, and the there's now more explosions than ever.

The engine conversion led to a lot of major changes, and some important parts of the game had to adapt. In our last post there was a distinct lack of hard points on the motherships and the AI wasn't quite what it used to be. Both of these have been properly integrated with the new systems now and are fully operational.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Galactose & Luciferin


While refactoring our engine, due to a rather random series of events we changed the theme of our game to be about cupcakes vs dinner in space. This doesn't change the gameplay of the game significantly, but it does present a very different look and feel. Therefore, our game is now known as Galactose.

Luciferin (Engine)

We've completed the vast majority of our C++ engine overhaul behind the scenes recently and are back to working on improving the game beyond cleaning up our codebase. Basically, we now have a fairly nice component based engine.


We've added a few things since last time.
-Battlegrids, which help to help orient the player in the battlefield. These show up as a grid aligned to each mothership.
-a real model loader which parses obj files, and is used to render Madeleine's cupcake fighter, and also our quick programmer-art cake. (Thats still a work in progress, we haven't exported the material settings)
-basic toon shading - still very much a work in progress, though
-six degrees of rotational freedom for the fighter (you can fly in whatever orientation you want)

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Over the last two weeks or so things have been moving ahead.

New Team Members
We recruited some awesome artists recently who have started working on some models to replace the programmer art we're currently using for the fighters, bombers and motherships.

Engine Refactoring
We're currently about halfway into our conversion from a hierarchical engine into a component-based engine, which should help clean up a lot of bits and pieces and allow us to do some really neat data driven things. In addition we're going through and cleaning up a lot of the leftover stuff from our previous project which have persisted in our engine so far.

We have some interesting ideas with this component based engine once we get it up and running. We're also looking into using Awesomium to rewrite our GUI code.

Some Outtakes

This emerged when we were trying to stress test our engine to find a polygon budget, but the initial attempt to make a cylinder got the winding order wrong for every other face, resulting in what looked like "sound" waves.

Since our test shapes looked like sandwich cookies, we decided to go all out with that until we get actual art assets. Technically its a usability improvement since its easier to distinguish friend from foe now...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

C++ Prototype First Look

Here's a few videos of the C++ side of our prototyping process. It's the more technical side, where we test out various features and mechanics, although it's a lot less pretty than Unity.


Drone combat is the more active fast paced side of Star Chronicles. Here's a look at what we've got for it so far. The beginning of the video shows the dust effect for a sense of motion and the camera zooming effect for a sense of speed. We then return to the battlefield to give a view of the scope of the combat. Finally we really enter the battle itself and try to take out some enemy ships.

Mothership View

Here we demonstrate what the battle looks like as a whole. From the mothership you can get an overview of the battle and see everything that's going on. We give a quick look around the battlefield to see it just as it's beginning and then move in for the action as it starts. Moving out again gives glimpse of just how epic the game is supposed to feel. Just imagine how it'll look when the fleets are full sized!

Mothership Orders

From the mothership you want to be able to do more than just look around. Commanding your ships is important and you'll want more agency than controlling a single one. This is where the squadron orders come in. Each squadron you control can be assigned to a different task, and of varying specificity. This video shows a quick battle and some task assignment by the player.

Other Features
There's a few other things you may notice in these videos. Ships can kamikaze dealing more damage than any standard weapon, but of course at a high price: the drone itself. In the drone combat video the player is actually destroyed at one point. However, when this happens the player is immediately granted control over another drone in their squadron. This drone becomes the new squadron leader and the rest will continue to follow the player around. When testing this can become problematic however, so we added in some cheats. The player activates god mode at the end of the video and turns completely white.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Unity as a Prototyping Tool

During the initial design phase of our game, we ended up with many questions about how over-scoped certain features were and if those features were to be kept, how to implement them. We also needed a better way of presenting our ideas than text and hastily created drawings to demonstrate how our game would actually function - both for outsiders looking to critique our ideas, and to give ourselves a common focus for how the end game would look and play. At this point, prototyping became our number one focus.

We wanted a prototype that would allow us to explore spaceflight mechanics, so 3D capability was a must. This ruled out simple paper prototyping, as well as ActionScript3/Flash(no one on our team is experienced with the 3D Molehill API, so that wasn't a time-friendly option). We also wanted a way to keep some of our prototyping code for insertion into the final product, with or without some minor language translation. At this point we became torn on whether to go ahead and start restructuring our engine from a previous quarter's class to use for the prototype, or use Unity as a prototyping tool. The former option could prove more time consuming and fall short of giving a good look and feel for how we wanted our end game to look like, but the capability for code reuse is very high. The latter option allows for fast prototyping with an easy way to express end look and feel using Unity's built in shaders, but no one on the team had much experience in using Unity.

We ended up taking a hybrid approach: two of us chose to prototype the main gameplay mechanics using the existing 3D engine architecture while one of us (me) recreated the parts of the game that would most benefit from a look and feel demonstration and/or fast iteration of feature designs. This includes portrayal of ships using primitive geometric shapes with glowy textures on them (cubes mostly), weapon control schemes, weapon visual styles, and interface design for both the drone and mothership views. There is also experimentation with positional awareness within a 3D space void (what backgrounds to use, having a particle field to give a sense of movement, planet placement, etc...), and iterative experimentation with ship upgrade schemes.

Flying within the starfield - the player is the blue ship, enemies are yellow ships. The orange trails are gunshots from enemy ships. Minimap textures taken from Starcraft II and Heroes of Newarth.

Flying over a mothership - orange cubes are hard points that are especially vulnerable to enemy attack.

From my experience with Unity so far, I can definitely say that this is a fantastic tool for the entire development process, from prototyping to final product. Even without any prior experience with Unity and after being away from C# for several months, it took very little time to get an environment up and running. The documentation and community are fairly good resources for learning how to do things, and the entire system has a very intuitive feel to it. There are two main problems I've run into that may detract from its usefulness as a full blown development tool: 1. External version control is a pain (though I hear this is going to be fixed in an upcoming patch) and 2. The GUI capabilities are rather limited (for example, not being able to simply rotate a screen aligned texture).

Shooting basic lasers using the mouse to aim.
For our particular group, creating two nearly mirrored copies of our game in two different environments is a waste of time and unfortunately, most of the scripted code from Unity cannot be easily moved into our existing engine without a fair amount of tweaking either. However, the Unity project remains an excellent tool for playing with visual effects and control schemes. I plan on reverting to working on our C++ engine full time within a few weeks after the initial look and feel prototyping is mostly complete, but will be keeping the Unity project for quickly playing with design ideas as they come about throughout the development process.

Next steps: more prototyping and playtesting, some code refactoring of our engine from a previous class, and  hopefully a clearer vision of how to implement game features.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Space Chronicles (Working Title) Dev Blog

This blog is an account of the upcoming RIT 2012 Graduate Capstone game Space Chronicles 2142 (working title) - a game that combines the fast-paced action of the first person shooter genre with the mental workout of tactical strategy games. We are currently a 3-person team of programmers looking to recruit willing artists and programmers over the next few weeks for creation of art assets as well as increased manpower in engine, AI, and gameplay subsystems. 

The game is set in outer space, with the player facing waves of enemy space fleets consisting of large, hulking motherships and small, fast drone ships, all hellbent on the player's destruction. The player's own fleet consists of a similar composition. During gameplay, the player has the option of taking the view of either the high level commander, able to see the entire battle from afar, or an individual drone ship within the thick of battle. 

In commander view, the player will be able to view the ongoing battle from a zoomed out perspective, as well as give high level orders for squadrons of drone ships to carry out against the enemy mothership - for example, one squadron may be ordered to attack the enemy mothership's engine, while another squadron may be ordered to flank the enemy mothership from either side to take out its anti-drone turrets. In drone view, the player will be able to aim and shoot at opposing drone ships and motherships in a way similar to Starfox 64. This will allow a greater feeling of destructive control for the player, who may choose to offensively attack specific hard points of the opposing mothership directly or simply attack opposing drones to defend the player's mothership.

The player will be able to fight fleet after fleet of enemy ships with increasing difficulty, with the option to upgrade their ships over time. The player loses when they have become completely overwhelmed by the enemy's forces and have no remaining drone ships nor mothership.

While the combination of several genres is not unique in the game industry, our market research has shown that there are not many modern 3D space shooter games with our proposed combination of gameplay styles. We also hope to enhance the traditional visual styles of space games with a heavy emphasis on visual effects, including generous use of brightly colored particles, glowy auras, and lots and lots of explosions. We also plan to use models consisting primarily of primitive shapes (cubes, cones, cylinders, etc) - an extension of the recently popular voxelized art styles of Minecraft, 3D Dot Game Heroes, and Voxatron. 

Our team is currently in prototyping phase, which may give rise to several changes in the game's mechanics and/or direction - updates and more detailed posts will follow!