March Dev Recap

Another month has passed and we’ve accomplished quite a lot.

Destroyer taking damage
Destroyer taking damage

This month we have been making the entire interface what we call holographic – meaning no flat buttons on the screen — absolutely all game elements will be 3D and part of the overall experience. We think the major benefit of this will be deeper immersion. It will also give us a consistent user interface, which will make the game easier to learn and invite exploration.

UI sketches, tactical diagrams and camera perspective brainstorming
UI sketches, tactical diagrams and camera perspective brainstorming

A big part of what we’ve improved is showing the player what they can do. The actions you can take in XO change, sometimes based on what thing(s) are selected. For example, if you have your battleship selected and you target a civilian ship your actions might be Hail and Cover. If you target an enemy ship your options may be Intimidate, Attack, and Flank. If you target a disabled ship your options may be Board, Evacuate or Destroy. And targeting that same disabled ship with the Auxiliary your options would be Repair or Salvage.

Actions also change depending on what mode you are in. When you’re in starmap mode your options change as you hover over destinations to Scout and Plot.

That’s a lot of actions! So this month we have been iterating on a visual way to clearly indicate those actions without overwhelming the player with choices. The current iteration is a 3d model that rotates through available actions; the actions adjust dynamically depending on mode and selections. Even cooler stuff is on the way in that department – we don’t like to talk about stuff before it is done but woah are we excited about what we’re working on right now!

Selecting actions - Work in progress
Selecting actions – Work in progress

Also in March we demoed XO at GDC16 (with a huge thanks to Intel and Corey for making that possible!). We were also fortunate to be invited to another OMSI event in Portland. It was great to meet backers at both events, thank you for your support! As always we gathered valuable input from players.

The awesome Jim Guthrie put the finishing touches on the last musical track for the game, and –wow– what a soundtrack he has created. We are grooving out to it in our offices and can’t wait to share it with you! And in April the geniuses at SkewSound will begin putting Jim’s music into the game and rounding out the remaining sound effects.

This was the month that Dominic finalized swarm movements for the Harvesters. This is another thing that has been in progress for some time and the result is just what we hoped for – a creeping cloud of doom! He also worked a lot on cleaning up our codebase and did UI and visual work on making everything holographic and beautiful. With some additional wizardry he also made it possible for us to combine MSAA with HDR, allowing us to have super-sharp neon lines /and/ that awesome bloom on the lasers that we love. It’s kind of a peanut butter and chocolate thing.

Brian J started off the month updating and tweaking visual effects and lately has been working on improving the user experience with Dominic, implementing the action selection we described above. Brian J also worked on refining the input system, implementing a non-numeric display of ship health, and also did some spring cleaning on the codebase.

Brian D worked up a number of animations and models for action selection. He also built out all of the military ships with destructible meshes. If you read last month’s update you know that means that when military ships take damage, big pieces will explode off of them! As you can see from the picture at the top we are still tinkering with the explosive effect, but the models are completed. He also worked on adding gorgeous new vector-like effects into the game, and…

We’re excited to announce a new ship type! Bonus!! Behold the Shield Frigate, a purely defensive ship that can throw a protective shield around a group of ships. That’s definitely a ship to keep near those defenseless civilians… 🙂

Shield Frigate
Shield Frigate

Last month we also mentioned that there was an obscure but showstopper bug affecting us. We think we have crushed it, but this has delayed us quite a bit. In the process we uncovered a few things that we want to make better. So after thinking about it, we decided to take more time and not rush to alpha. Rather than give some kind of artificial deadline, we’re going to say alpha will be ready some time this Spring, keep you updated, and continue working hard every day on XO! We are really grateful for your support in this.

Our next demos will be in May and we’ll be at quite a few events – iFest, Power of Play and Momocon at the very least. We will also be putting on a twitch stream for you soon to showcase the work we’ve done to date for those of you that can’t make the demos.

Thank you again for all of your positive words of encouragement and support. It means a tremendous amount to us. We are more excited about XO than we have ever been!