Excalibur breaks the mould of traditional space simulation games by putting the player firmly in the boots of an experienced Starfleet captain. From the outset you will be able to control your character and command your ship as if you were standing on the bridge yourself. From taking direct control of the helm, to transferring command of any ship in your task force, or even calling your senior staff to the briefing room to discuss mission tactics; Excalibur is the most immersive Star Trek experience ever. Set six months after the events in Star Trek: Nemesis, Excalibur's story mode deals with the turbulent political scene caused by a decade of war and turmoil. From the second Borg incursion in First Contact, to the fall of the Dominion and the collapse of the Romulan political system; these events resulted in huge loss of life and changed the Alpha Quadrant forever.

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Blog RSS Feed Report abuse Latest News: Concepts - From the Drawing Board: UI

9 comments by Cadet on Sep 4th, 2014

Hi everyone!

The following article is an attempt to illustrate some of the technical and artistic design concepts that Excalibur development has gone through. Hopefully this will shed some light on the inner workings of how some things start on the drawing board, get loosely sketched into the engine, and then are remade or even abandoned in lieu of a better design. Whether it be due to a technical, functional, or useability impasse, designs for many things have come and gone during development so here's a look at one of those concepts that went through an internal trial-and-error process and was eventually replaced.

Every project starts at the table where artists and developers put their ideas down on a piece of paper. The Excalibur project is no different...

One of the main things when working on a large scale project is to break down your ideas into manageable chunks. Just as the fictional saying goes "Ideas are easy, implementation is harder". It is important for all artists to start their work with basic concepts and then determine which are good enough to be developed further.

There is a lot of thought (and even more work) being put into ideas which can turn out to be either good or bad in the end. This crucial process of the development approach takes time and only a handful of presented ideas ever make it into the working build of the game due to so many pieces having to fit together in order to sustain the overall goals and vision of the project itself, and to not break other areas of the game!

Because the concept process is usually fun and artists/developers have a lot of creativity when attempting to come up with design solutions, we think it would be fun for everyone to see some of the ideas our talented team has come up with over the years of developing Star Trek Excalibur.

Since Excalibur is still being developed, many of the concept ideas that will be shown here are either drastically changed by now (for the better) or are replaced by other solutions in general. Nevertheless, we would like to show you some of the ideas that the team started with.

Please note that these are concept images which means that most of these ideas may be drastically different or have been completely replaced.

So without further ado, let's dive into the concept work of one of the lead developers, Rob!

Excalibur's Past Concepts

Gameplay UI

Name: Rob Mann aka Rob Archer
Age: 26
Position: Lead developer for gameplay mechanics
Responsibilities: Rob is currently responsible for the development of the game's mechanics, which is the development of the ways that the user/player will interact with the components of the game and how those components will respond. The tricky part of this is understanding the technology of Star Trek and transforming it into a gameplay mechanic.

Here are some of his concept ideas that did not make it into the game in their concept form;

EXC Master Engineering Interface Power Controls

"So this image is a concept design for managing the power systems. This would be the menu used to change power allocations to subsystems on a whole and it's based off of the Star Trek Bridge Commander menus. Of particular note is the submenu marked "Profiles". One thing we were (and still are) keen on implementing is having a mechanism that would allow the player to customize how the player's ship responded to a situation/mission. Rather than tweaking sliders when you need to fight in a defensive manner you could instead set the profile to be "Defensive" and the power priorities would update accordingly."

EXC Engineering BC Style Power Menu

"While the command wheel showcased our minimalistic approach, this menu shows our "BC Approach". The general feeling is that Bridge Commander was an awesome game and while the UI was not the best and the game's mechanics lacked a certain level of depth, we were initially curious if we could use this as a jumping off point for experimenting with more advanced menus. This lead to the following concept image.

On the top we see the familiar power management menu with a slider for the key systems. Engines are split into thrusters, impulse, and warp drives. We also have transporters, tractor beams, and the deflector added. The power profiles menu, which has already been discussed, is also implemented.

However, a new addition to this is the "Advanced menu".

This would have allowed the player the ability to not only customize how their phasers as a whole would respond in a given situation but it would have allowed us to customize how individual weapons would behave. Allowing you to create even more complex power profiles such as "Attack Run" and "Forward Phasers 120% power". You should also note that the weapon system has the ability to be switched between "Primary" and "Secondary". This allows you to switch the weapons' power source to an alternative input (Secondary/Auxiliary Power Grids), a mechanic which still lives on. "

Command Wheel Progression Engineering Demo 1

"Similar to artistic movements, Excalibur has also gone through a series of phases. The Command Wheel originates from our "Minimalist Phase." The concept was to condense our interfaces in such a way that they did not need to be on screen, but could still be accessed quickly. To begin with I started with the following structure: Engineering -> Transfer Power -> To Weapons. What I then did was translate this statement into a process; "Open Engineering Menu, Open Power Menu, Transfer The Power"

Since we are looking for a minimalistic approach we then minimise the actions that need to be taken by assigning the command wheel to a right click action. With it we eliminate the need for the user to move their cursor to a region of the screen to then open a menu and relocate the cursor to that menu. It also makes everything exist on a clear arc. Infact you see this right click context approach everyday when you use most windows based machines.

So why didn't we use this approach? Well, two reasons; First, it was very difficult to implement it graphically in our assigned interface mechanic and secondly, it was too simple and we had difficulty implementing our mechanics within the constraints applied to the menu."

That is it for now Captains...

We hope you have enjoyed this short presentation of Rob's ideas and hope it provides you with an idea on how things come and go within development. These could also help encourage ideas for people (you!) to mod and/or create entirely new UI interfaces based in part on past designs! :)
-Article by Nejc.

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Post comment Comments  (40 - 50 of 327)
SandraOleandra Dec 16 2013, 2:30pm says:

Voted! :) Anything that supports modding has a special place in my book :)
If it will support quick modding as Starpoint Gemini 2 does, all the better. We need smarter sci fi games out there :)

+1 vote     reply to comment
shanebonkowski3 Dec 17 2013, 11:00am replied:

The whole game and engine was designed for modding. They really want people to take it and run with it.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Guest Dec 14 2013, 11:18pm says:

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Ben2028 Dec 13 2013, 10:33am says:

I voted! After reading all the modder Q&A, this game is going to be outstanding. :o

If it's not the way you like it upon launch, it's easily moddable. They still release Bridge Commander mods every now and then! That game is like what...10 years old? Excalibur is going to be around for a long time. :)

+1 vote     reply to comment
jedimastereraol Dec 14 2013, 2:47pm replied:

We hope :)

+1 vote     reply to comment
thesystem Dec 10 2013, 2:04am says:

There is a lot of great work that is being done by the devs right now it seems like they are really woring hard to get this finished!
on another note
i would be alot more happy if there was a release date out there. an official one so i don't have to guess anymore even if that release date is a year a way!
Anyway keep the great work up you guys!

+4 votes     reply to comment
-Farflame- Dec 5 2013, 11:15am says:

This project looks great so far, congratulations. I was hoping for a long time to find true Star Trek experience with all the elements - exploration of unusual planets or strange derelicts and objects in space (I especially miss this element), mission briefings, ship combat, diplomacy, crew chat, using of ships systems and sensors, exploration of planets. Hopefully Excalibur will have it all or almost all.
And it would be nice to have a little bit of ethics and morality above that. One can hardly forget Picard's speeches. :-)

I have few questions:

- How will exploration of planets look like? I understand that create big planet surfaces could be too overwhelming. I think that small locations free to explore would be enough. I mean if there is nothing interesting on a planet surface there is no reason to go. If you have some info from NPCs or you find out something using sensors then you could go to that locations. Its ok solution for me. What do you think?
- Could you choose members of the crew that will go to planet surface (as a landing team)?
- Could you escort guests or prisoners on board and talk with them?
- How will the dialogs look like? Linear sequences or branching dialogue trees like in RPGs?

+4 votes     reply to comment
Ben2028 Nov 26 2013, 7:44pm says:

I can't wait to damage ships engines and watch them drift into planets / suns.

I also can't wait to kill my own engines and warp out at the last possible second before being consumed by a black hole.

+1 vote     reply to comment
mechwarrior24 Nov 28 2013, 3:34am replied:

If the scale is done realistically, you'll be waiting some time. :P

0 votes     reply to comment
mechwarrior24 Nov 30 2013, 2:00am replied:

As in, whomever down voted me, realistically an object would take a long time to 'drift' into a planetary body.

But anyway. I wasn't in the best of moods when I posted that, disregard and all that. =P

+5 votes     reply to comment
Zeph3r Dec 5 2013, 2:14am replied:

But in Star Wreck: Into Dumbness when the ship loses power it falls to earth in like 2 minutes. If this game used realistic physics it wouldn't be Star Trek.

+1 vote     reply to comment
mechwarrior24 Dec 5 2013, 7:10am replied:

Your response is... striking. Yet illogical, Captain. For a ship would burn up in entry, making a crash landing of such a description improbable. I sense, however, that a comparison to the new films is deserving of an airlock tour. :P

+1 vote     reply to comment
Zeph3r Dec 6 2013, 9:05am replied:

Mr. Vulcan, we humans have this thing called 'sarcasm'. You should look it up sometime.

+1 vote     reply to comment
mechwarrior24 Dec 6 2013, 5:21pm replied:

Sarcasm... a human emotion? Nah. Klingons.

+1 vote     reply to comment
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Star Trek Excalibur
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Avalon Studios
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