Post news RSS Late Saturday News Update

First in what is hopefully a weekly series of Saturday Updates. Here we'll talk about ... well, basically everything mod related we're up to. In this one we talk about our upcoming plans, show off some concept sketches, and in general talk about what's next.

Posted by on

Today it's time for the Saturday Update Day Update
-table of contents-

i. New patch in the works
ii. What's coming soon: Mothership
iii. What else we've been up to and thinking about

So, to start things off auspiciously, we are late. Well, there's been several nice but firm requests for more periodic updates and releases, so we'll see if we can't sort that out and have actual next saturday be Saturday Update Day Update II. Besides, having the need to post something every week should motivate us to be a little more productive, one might hope.

I. First off: We're hoping to release another patch. This should have a few balance fixes, a few more FX, and if our luck holds, a few more songs for wave combat's music rotation. Right now there's many more minutes of ambient music than there is of combat music, so we're hoping to even that out some.

The Czalkir Destroyer has effects by Doci, but basically every other effect in HW@ is made by me. I've always been unhappy with the UNH assault frigate's death animation, and so following a delightful discovery I rebuilt it. Not only is it more efficient by FAR (something like 15 times less particles, for real), its a heck of a lot prettier to my eyes. Here's a bit of a preview: note the forward compartment losing atmosphere kerboom and the aftermath

The effect itself is heavily inspired by World in Conflict, which you should look the heck up because it's awesome and amazing. It in particular features very realistic artillery impacts that shoot out both particle-spawning slow moving jets of smoke and fast moving, billboard beams of smoke. So I've finally lived a personal dream and got something quite like that working in HW@ .

II. Secondly, I'd like to talk a bit about the future of HW@ . Right now we've just rounded off a healthy chunk of gameplay expansion and so we're going to be diving back into expanding the highly skeletal rosters for all factions. Specifically, our next milestone is the completion of a major capital ship: the UNH Mothership.

I've been agonizing over the design for ages, but this latest round has really started shaping up into a ship I can really like. I'm going to be banging out as many concepts as I can possibly manage in the coming weeks, hoping to finalize the shape to as high a detail resolution as possible and from as many POVs as possible to avoid snags in the modeling. Then Siber's going to model it, and we're not going to stop with a placeholder like last time. With the addition of Dark_Sentinel's manic energy to the team, we're going to try and make the next big release include a fully armed and operational battle mothership.

So what's the bloody thing look like? I've had a lot of trouble with the UNH mothership; it's hard to replace the iconic banana simply because of its baroque and unique shape among starships of our beloved science fiction stories. But the UNH is a decidedly military organization, and the form should follow function. We needed something that looked sleek, fast, deadly, enormous, and yet elegant and willowy. Dead sexy is also on the design list, and so I splashed in a few elements from an old favorite of mine. I'm pretty sure nobody will be able to ID it, simply because the series is so reviled, but who knows.

But it's been a tough road. The original concept for the UNH mothership was a pair of the old bananas, back to back, with some greebling and in a horizontal configuration. There were many steps on that road, and each time I've gone forward we've made the ship a little sleeker. Right now, though, the entire team is pretty stoked about it and the ship is coming together in hopefully its final incarnation.

Bear with me for some pretty crappy tablet sketches.

The Goddess-class mothership has three superheavy ion cannon turrets with phenomenal arc. It can fire six beams forward, six beams down, four beams up, and four beams straight back. Depending on how complex I decide to make the underbelly superstructure it may be able to direct all of its beam cannon firepower to the rear as well. Bolstering that are six quad-barrel heavy energy cannon turrets. Completing it is eight turrets on the long nose of the ship; we're still not sure if they're double energy or double frigate-class railgun. The railgun would make better sense; the mothership is meant to be a balanced attacker and should have the ability to fend off corvettes that might be preying on its vulnerable fighters or resource collectors.

I decided against having a banana-ship style construction bay that has the capital ship's belly laid flat out on it; it would require too much hull real estate in the cramped rear area. Instead I opted for the main construction bay exiting straight out the back, leaving the only potentially vulnerable arc of the ship dead aft. The main bay door will extend straight out backwards, allowing the completed capital ship to "drop" into action. Each of the blade/fin structures serves both as a long range sensors array as well as a physical shield for strike craft launch or recovery.

With the bottom of the vessel no longer taken up by a massive construction bay door, we can place the main resource docks between the two lower thruster assemblies. These areas have much better cover from the bulk of the mothership than earlier concepts; from three arcs they're quite protected by the engines and the belly super ion cannon turret.

Getting the angles to flow together nicely and wrapping my mind around the exact proportions is the remaining detail. There's a few more details I need to cover yet (obviously). We've been thinking a bit about putting on details for gimballed point defense cannon or maybe light turrets but honestly I'm not too thrilled about it. It's my opinion that since most of the game is played zoomed out at low LoDs and low texture resolution, important weaponry had better be very easy to discern in action. Hence the utterly massive weaponry and the built up housings that jut out of the ship. Some also expressed concern about the frailty of the cruiser's forward beam mounts and the oddness of the cruiser's PD emplacements - the same philosophy holds there; the guns need to stand the heck out so what's going on is obvious.

I've got some pipedreams about reusing the bulkier, clunkier designs as older model motherships or something, but that's far in the distant future. For now, we hope to get the Goddess class out the door. As the epitome of modern Higaaran strategy, it's extremely fast, hits very hard, has respectable toughness, and is quite reliable and dependable. And yes, we will be texturing the beast. It's been far too long since I had ninety million layers in a 100+ MB psd to mongle.

III. What else we're working on and thinking about and stuff. We've also been talking about long-range planning. I've been thinking about doing a big expansion of Higaaran drones to be more interesting. In particular, it's our opinion that the upgrade from a drone frigate to a drone destroyer should entail more species of drones and more flexibility. Here's the rough breakdown of stuff we've been discussing:
* Attack Drones: Your bog standard annoying fly. As-is ingame, it travels from the mothership, shoots fighters, and doesn't afraid of anything. We might force it to periodically dock ala the Kadeshi swarmers. Possibly a shorter range, more efficient weapon than the Defense drones.
* Defense Drones: We've seen somewhere somebody got a sphere formation working for squadrons. We don't intend to use squadrons for regular fighters in HW@, but we might in this case: a sphere of dedicated drones firing from a defensive position would make drone ships more resilient and more useful escorts. Besides, since drones regenerate anyway and are nonselectable, it's OK for them to use the otherwise odious squadron layout.
* Heavy Drones: Your bog standard annoying fly with an energy cannon. More or less as-is ingame; even with 16 heavy drones, drone destroyers have a real hard time doing more than mildly inconveniencing enemy capital ships. Obviously this won't do.
* Sensor Drones: I got to thinking about ships in sphere formation. These would essentially be proximity sensors from HW1, except tied to the drone mothership just like defense drones. However, they'd be in a much looser formation; perhaps several KM in radius. They'd be few in number too, perhaps six, and unarmed. They would add a critical early warning aspect to the drone destroyer; though I'm most interested in the aesthetic of a nested double-sphere of drones. I miss sphere formation :(.
* Escort Drones: We'd long ago decided that Republic defense fighters would go unmanned due to their high-priority target status; we figured the higaarans might apply the same approach with their coopted antimissile lasers. First we'd have to get antimissile weapons working ingame to our satisfaction. Then, these buggers would get launched intermittently with the drone script providing them with guard orders on friendly fighters nearby to give some cover from ravening missile swarms. This same functionality is intended for the pulse guns on assault frigates and support frigates.
* Repair Drones: Since repair rate is based on number of latched repair units, this is tricky to work out. But it'd be a neat way to have ranged healing from second line support frigate type units, and yet another way along with prox drones and escort drones to make drone destroyers into force multipliers.

Tacking that much functionality inherent into all these drone types on one drone control ship may never happen, but I'd like to at least implement some of these ingame and see how they play out. We'd probably assign a squadron of twelve defense drones and eight attack drones to the drone frigate, and perhaps twenty defense drones, ten attack drones, ten heavy drones, and six sensor drones to the drone destroyer.

UNH Tech Tree, revisited: Check it out! Siber's been working on it here; with working dependencies and currently planned units outlined there. It's not too heavily modified from the last release or from HW1 for that matter, but we've decoupled some of the heavy strike craft from capital ship research. It should be a little bit more natural to play around in the middle tiers, with assault and ion frigates, corvettes and interceptors before reaching the big boy toys like bombers, ion corvettes, and cruisers. Our patch slated for next week probably won't include this, though who knows.

Confederate Ion Frigate: Another thing I was working on a while back is a modern Confederate ion frigate. Those who read the manual we put out might have noticed that the ingame unit is decidedly last generation in design. A more complete concept; the confederate modernized heavy ion cannon frigate is much better equipped to counter Higaaran ion frigates.

This baby is a bullpup; one of the engine nozzles has been removed to make room for the base of the heavy ion cannon that extends throughout the hull of the ship. Sluggish and inflexible, it nevertheless is a testament to the skill of confederate engineers that second hand, outdated, and stolen technology can be mated to their chasses to make a competitive modern heavy beam artillery piece.

Dark_Sentinel's pursuing some other projects; he's made some incremental improvements to the working texture of the Vaygr destroyer. Given the utterly glacial pace I work at, we expect that by the time the Goddess is nearing ready to go, he'll have that texture ready too. We'll post regular updates. He's also working on some of his own things that we'll probably include based around a possible Frerrn faction. A minor faction, the Frerrn would have fewer units to choose from than the Taiidani, Higaarans, or Vaygr but would serve important single player campaign roles.

Lastly, if you've read this massive post from start to finish; thanks a lot. Was it too much information, or too little? How can it be restructured to be more readable or interesting?
Thanks in advance,
HW@ team :)

Sajuuk-Khar333 - - 169 comments

This, dear sir, is...GORGEOUS

Reply Good karma Bad karma+1 vote
Post a comment
Sign in or join with:

Only registered members can share their thoughts. So come on! Join the community today (totally free - or sign in with your social account on the right) and join in the conversation.