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  (60 - 70 of 327)
jonsin1459 Nov 4 2013, 5:51pm says:

It looks so amazing, i have no doubts in you guys but with the length of time involved would it not be an idea to let people play with an alpha or beta version to keep people interested? Then they will last until your release and you wont feel so pressured.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Shevchen Nov 5 2013, 5:51am replied:

There won't be an alpha or beta version, as the release-cycle is handled different from other games. Excalibur will release versions in a procedural manner, meaning, it will start with Quick Battle mode coming this year where you can fight with ships.
A full release of a campaign will come next year (storyline) and then there will be V 1.1, 1.2 1.3 etc, which include more and more features for every iteration. There is no feature-freeze like in a standard beta-version of commercial games, but this game will be enhanced further and further with the work of the Devs and the modding community.

+3 votes     reply to comment
jonsin1459 Nov 7 2013, 6:21pm replied:

This year, you mean 2013 we will have a quick battle available?

+2 votes     reply to comment
Guest Nov 8 2013, 5:28am replied:


+2 votes     reply to comment
yahiko24 Oct 30 2013, 10:43am says:

this is just awesome, soo much detail has been put into this.

+3 votes     reply to comment
Virtue128 Oct 14 2013, 10:03am says:

I have been waiting for this to come out for so long...
Just gotta be patient i guess.

On the note of funding (from previous comments) have you considered making a Paypal donations option?

-1 votes     reply to comment
Cadet Creator
Cadet Oct 28 2013, 9:13pm replied:

Thanks for keeping up with us and staying interested! We have some news updates we are preparing to release so keep your eyes open!

In regards to donations; unfortunately anything of the sort, regardless of how charitable the sentiment, could be easily construed as profiteering since this is not an officially licensed or endorsed endeavour. And besides, there is much to be said for manufacturing something entirely from scratch on your own merits, and releasing it to the public free of charge to boot!

+6 votes   reply to comment
xlenon Oct 1 2013, 2:13pm says:

I want to play this so badly :(

Heck I'd pay for some news, seriously.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Shevchen Oct 2 2013, 7:43am replied:

There have been several updates to the Wiki-page ( Stexcalibur.com ) the last couple of days. The Devs finished several ship models to be used within the game. (namely: D'deridex, Galaxy, Constitution)
Feel free to visit the wiki-page regularly, as those updates are silent, but still active.

+3 votes     reply to comment
xlenon Oct 2 2013, 8:34am replied:

I checked out those ships and they look awesome, the devs did an excellent and detailed job on them, I only hope that I get to play them someday.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Jarnis Sep 30 2013, 3:01am says:

Hey Devs make a kickstarter so you can get some money four the projekt. If you do ill back it up :)

+3 votes     reply to comment
Dark_Ansem Oct 1 2013, 5:15am replied:

I don't think they can.. they'd get sued..

+3 votes     reply to comment
Virtue128 Oct 14 2013, 10:00am replied:

Kick-starter only endorses projects that are intended to make money because they take a cut themselves. The only way they can due this without possibility of a lawsuit is to release it freely as a non profit endeavor.

If kick-starter wasn't such a corporate puppet and let people donate to anything regardless of end profitability it would be legal(at least to my knowledge). however that is not the case.

0 votes     reply to comment
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Star Trek Excalibur
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Avalon Studios
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