You haven't heard from me in a while, and thats ok. I have been working hard on Astral Clause to make sure that its a high quality program. I figure I should bring you up to date on some of the more recent improvements to the game.
Inspired by Freelancer's animated menu, my menu displays the scene of a solar system. But it's much much more than that. Freelancer had static animated menus. It always played one of a few predefined scripts. However, my animated menus have a unique scene every time the game starts. Let's look at a real world example.
That is absolutely epic! It will get better once NPC AI is up to speed, I can have things flying around or fighting in randomly generated scenarios. Who says a main menu has to be boring?
You will notice that the scales are a bit off. In order to make the menus interesting their systems are a bit smaller than the actual game. This helps pack more objects into the scene to make it visually appealing. It sure is pretty. And remember, every game session will have a unique menu animation.
I have gotten the "fly to" command to work with large scales. You can type "fly to celestialName" in the command console (how many games are so badass they use a terminal as a main method of interacting with your ship?) and your ship will align and fly towards it at near-light speed.
I am currently working on two things in autopilot. First of all, it needs to conpensate for orbital mechanics so you arrive exactly where you're supposed to despite a moving target. Secondly, it needs to be able to properly navigate smaller scales (less than 1000 kilometers across) for docking and flying to stations.
(Click for full size image)
You are looking at the improved starmap, now capable of properly displaying the positions of known solar systems you can fly to. (By the way, flying to a system involves typing "jump systemName" into the console!) Jump drives allow you to jump anywhere in the universe you actually have enough antimatter to reach, which removes the tedium of traveling to half a million gates to get from one side to the other.
Ambient Lighting done Right
My first attempt at ambient lighting resulted in planets being fairly bright even on their dark side. At first I was simply applying the star color as an ambient light. Since this wasn't doing what I wanted, I wrote a method to reduce the brightness of the star's color by 50% before making it the ambient light.
Get tired of staring down the nose of your ship? Simply press space to enable a free cam that can be arbitrarily rotated around the ship. Since the controls to move the free cam are different from moving the ship, you can still fly around with your custom view!
This also allows you to get more observation time on objects you're flying away from. This is especially cool with the new dynamic lighting (the lighting now moves with the object controlling it, probably a good fix). You can watch your ship warp by a sun in a very EVE-esque way.
Comments? Feedback? Contact me here or at firstname.lastname@example.org !