Brains Eden (2018)

As of 4PM Monday 16th July, I’ve concluded my first game jam! Four team members and I headed down to Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge for 3 nights to take part in the Brains Eden Gaming Festival and game jam. With the set theme of “unreliable”, we set to work on an approximately 30-hour build spread across Friday afternoon, most of Saturday, and Sunday morning to afternoon.

It all started with waking up half 4AM on Friday morning to make the meet up with two of the three other team members needing to go by car at 6AM. It took about 4 hours to get from Treforest to Cambridge. We picked up the fourth on the way, and meet up with the fifth there. Once we got there and checked in, we sat in talks from the COO of Frontier Developments, a successful interned employee of Ubisoft Massive, and a veteran Brains Eden jammer. I took away the aim to innovate with a social game and a no-word story, and that I most of all needed to have fun! When the jam started at 4PM that day, we spent about two or three hours spinning ideas and planning. We were mostly tired from the early start, but we had some good ideas. We first tried a pirate ship idea where players could form a crew on a ship midbattle. The game was to be online multiplayer based with tense action, fulfilling the social aspect of our aims. We had to abandon the idea due to Unity engine networking being blocked by the campus firewall, and we realised the entire idea wasn’t refined enough anyway. After about another hour of planning, we eventually formed the current idea.

“Fistful of ‘Nanas” is a Western-style multiplayer game – you play as a monkey about duke it out over a barrel of bananas. To satisfy the social aim, we tried to innovate by not having any of the players know which monkey they and the rest of the players are, but make it have incentives for the players to try and communicate through a limited medium. The game is played with Nintendo Joy-Cons, so we made it so you can press the +/- button to find out which monkey you are by making the controller vibrate your player number in an interval pattern. Then to communicate with the other players to either propose alliances or confuse them, you can use the analog stick to ‘nudge’ other players.

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Fistful of ‘Nanas opening screen, showing the map you play on, the barrel of bananas you fight over, and the general art style we were able to pull off considering the team was entirely made of programmers.

The monkeys were seen in game in a clockwise circle around the barrel that corresponded to players 1 through 4. The four ‘normal’ buttons on the controller are then used to select your target. Once everyone has selected (you can tell who doesn’t by seeing which player does not have a banana over their head), the game will reveal who shot who, show who died, and who won the round (shown by victory dances that include twerking)! Whilst the game did not win us any prizes on the last day there, it will be a good portfolio piece, and the stress and enjoyment of developing the game in a limited amount of time will be a fond memory and valuable experience for years to come!

Other notable things about our time in Cambridge include the after-party at the Centre for Computing History (sunday), and the final day’s (monday) talks from Frontier Developments, ARM, and HyperX. The Centre for Computing History was amazing! Having a soft-spot for older machines made the place feel like a dream home, and the free pizza and drinks provided by the Brains Eden! Below are some of my favourite picks from the place!

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Other than some misfortunes with my teammate’s car back in Treforest, the entire time there was just about the best experience I have had in a long time! I deffo hope to make a return next year! Thanks to Brains Eden and Anglia Ruskin University for setting up and hosting such a wonderful event, thanks to our lecturer Dr. Mike Reddy for getting the band together and taking us, and thanks to the teammates (Jack Smerdon, Jake Passmore, Nicky Jones, and Steven Sparkes) for the collective effort and the bants we had!

Also, the game will be on my portfolio (http://khalidali.co.uk/fon) soon so you can read more details and see more images of it. I aim to have the page ready by the end of the week.

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Two more stations

Today brings two more space stations, the “Missing Sector” drydock and the “Jumping Spider” starbase.

Missing Sector

Named after the Missing Sector Orb Web spider, the second drydock design of the game takes a ‘rib cage’ approach to illuminating the encased ship. It is designed to be stationary unlike False Widow on my last post, although both are about the same size.

Jumping Spider
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Named after the spider species of the same name, this is a test starbase that will be used for developing the needed scripts for later ones. Its far from a perfect model, but it will make a great placeholder for the time being! Its about 4 kilometres from top to bottle and can fit a fair amount of ships inside.

So, what are starbases?
Starbases are huge support facilities that function as unified command centres, repair and replenishment stations, cold storage, and staging areas. In size, they typically dwarf all starships, carry several thousand personnel, and the largest can even contain multiple starships inside! The game will make extensive use of starbases as major hubs and places for the Player to dock at.

I’m planning six unique types, starting with a further development of Jumping Spider as the largest type. The five others will vary in size and purpose. I’ll be showcasing some of them next week, so stay tuned!

 

False Widow Drydock

The next addition to the game is a bigass space station.

The “False Widow” drydock.

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Drydock in orbit of Tholia III, with a Dew Drop-class explorer docked

A bit about drydocks
In reality, drydocks are huge basins that can be flooded to allow ships to dock, and then drained to expose the ship’s hull for repair work or painting. They can be also used to build ships in ‘dry’ conditions before being set afloat. Drydocks in the Star Trek universe serve the same purpose, but are based in space (no shit, I know). False Widow is the first of about four designs of Tholian drydocks to be created, which will serve as repair and replenishment stations for the player to dock in.

Common characteristics between all four drydock designs will be traditional Tholian principles (three hull ‘arms’), thrusters for orbit adjustment, and a large array of lighting. Each hull arm has one or two large illumination pads at the mid-section used to light up the docked ship, and a single smaller lighting pad at the absolute end used to help ships navigate in without colliding with the station. In Unity, the lighting effects for both types of pads are constructed with emissive material (absolute white, emission value of 1/no HDR because I don’t want it to be too blinding), point lighting to allow the effect to shine on the docked ship’s hull (absolute white, range of 4, intensity of 1), and post-processing bloom (determined by the game’s selected quality settings).

The False Widow
Whilst False Widow will share most of its design elements with future drydock designs, this one is unique in that it will have a fully functional Warp drive that allows it to travel to other solar systems to rebase itself. This means that you might see them pop up in solar systems adjacent to the sites of major ship battles where servicing ships close to the front lines is urgently needed. Current planned number of False Widows to be put into the game are about 10 operational , 20 for scenic purposes (they’ll look the same but are inoperable for the player since they already have an NPC ship in them), and a further 5 as damaged, destroyed or abandoned.

 

 

Some juicy specs:

  • Length: 850 metres to 1.1 kilometres (final scale TBD)
  • Mass: 1.7 to 2.5 million metric tonnes
  • Occupants: 1,200 (normal), 4,500 (wartime)
  • Maximum speed: Warp 6


And finally…

At this point in time, the design is still not fixed. The model has been imported only for lighting testing, collider testing, and so that the interaction scripts can be developed and tested. As with my last post, I’ll leave you with a quick video showcasing the drydock in perspective view.

 

It’s gonna be a big one!

So, “Tholian Simulator” (working title) is gonna be a big and a fairly ambitious project.

For starters, what is a ‘Tholian’?
Tholians are a species from Star Trek. They have only been seen on screen twice but are heavily featured in an episode of the MMORPG Star Trek Online. Despite their (IMO) under utilization in the canon Star Trek universe, I’ve been quite the Tholian fanboy for a while since they are really unique compared to most sci-fi aliens and with this project I hope to give them the creative ‘platform’ that does them justice! 😀

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Tholian pilot from Star Trek: Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly”


The game

It is gonna to be a cultural simulator. It will detail Tholian society in a way faithful to what little is known from their two on-screen appearances and STO, but will greatly expand on that. To that end, it might be different to the expectations others may have of the Tholians and will largely contradict non-canon Star Trek material (like novels and most other games). I consider this a way for me to be creative!

It will feature ground and space action. On the ground, you’ll be focused on doing your part for Tholian society, help explore strange new worlds, and ultimately work your way to the top of the Assembly! In space, you’ll be engaging in galactic politics and diplomacy and of course space combat!

Current stage of progress
Right now, the game still is being planned out before large-scale development – the lore, outline of the game, how things, etc etc. However, I’m already testing game concepts in Unity (my choice of engine for all this) as we speak. Base systems for ship operations, lighting paradigms, and custom shaders for enhanced visuals are all being developed right now.

First three ships
As part of the lore development, a number of ship designs have been lined up from canon/STO and some that were sketched out are modelled and implemented!

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From left to right; Dew Drop explorer, Black Lace freighter, and Funnel Web destroyer

Planned subspecies
In order to further flesh out Tholian society (and especially their homeworld), I’ve decided to plan Tholian subspecies that have unique abilities for ground exploration and ground combat (if I choose to implement it)!

Tholian fly

This “fly Tholian” is based on a design by Norsehound on DeviantART. It’s still very similar right now, but it will be developed down the line.

A parting video!
Here’s a video of the lighting effects and firing FX for your viewing pleasure. Just bear in mind this is still early days! 🙂

Stay tuned for more!

Introduction to Tholian Simulator

Whilst I anticipate working on Path to 2265 will mostly keep me busy over the summer, I want to also work on something else to spice up my break from UNI (from now until September).

Enter Tholian Simulator. At its core, will be an alien cultural simulator centered around the Tholian species from the Star Trek universe and a way for me to practice 3D modelling, physics programming, and lighting/effects design & setup. I’m developing for my own personal entertainment (and for my portfolio as a demonstration of capability). I plan to start blogging about its development alongside Path to 2265 development from this point onwards.

Disclaimers & legal
The game is not intended to be nor will ever be released for the general public’s use. This game is based within the Star Trek universe, but is by no means a Star Trek product – this game is NOT endorsed, sponsored or affiliated with CBS Studios Inc., Paramount Pictures Inc. or Cryptic Studios/Perfect World Entertainment, or any other person or company that has a license to use and/or create with the brand name “Star Trek” and its related and copyrighted content. The development and use of this game is for personal recreational use, and any copyrighted material has been included under the legally acknowledged terms of “fair use”. No copyright infringement is intended. Any opinions expressed on this blog, past to present to future, are strictly my own and do not represent the aforementioned persons or companies that have a license to officially associate and create with Star Trek-related intellectual property.

Chapter 2 nearing completion!

It has been over a month since my last update for Path to 2265. Since then, there have been some big and exciting changes!

SearchEngine upgrades

I’ve once again made large improvements in the search department. Natural ordering, more meaningful weighting, complete and proper tag finding, and basic filtering are now present! Numerous pages benefit from the improvements, but the site search itself gains the most by finally getting a basic filtering mechanism that allows you to view search results of a specific category!

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Dynamic content

In order to promote better reusability of data, I’m starting to offload various parts of the website to the database. Since January, the UESPA/ECS ship registries and the reactor pages now use the database to grab data. Another advantage to this approach is that it allows cross-referencing to happen for certain items in the future – for example to reduce data duplication, I can now stop writing the unit listing for ship classes twice (once in the ship database and again in the registry database) by allowing both sources to reference one place.

New font

A new font is being used for the website’s header (navigation bar) and side menu on mobile devices. It’s called “Airborne” and is the font used on Federation ship hull marking.

Status of Chapter 2

Chapter 2 is about 75% complete as of now. Now under the chapter name “Expansion towards a United Earth”, the report focuses on early freighter development under the Earth Cargo Service, advances in explorers by UESPA, the Earth-Kzin Wars (from Star Trek: The Animated Series), and Warp drive limitations being experienced by Earth in the 2100s. Ships currently added, being added, or due to be added include Y-500-class freighter, Polaris-class diplomatic escort, Emmette-class surveyor, J-class freighter, Patterson-class battleship, Declaration-class demonstrator, DY-732-class multi-mission ship and RT-class explorer.

Y-500-class

The first new ship is Y-500, a conjectural design of a canon freighter class mentioned in Star Trek: Enterprise. I’ve assumed relation with the DY-500s, so I quickly designed the ship as a cargo-only variant. The class’s specifications are currently being drawn up, and thus has not been included in chapter 2 yet.

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Polaris-class

Previously completed personal design. Designed to be fast and reliable diplomatic couriers for Earth that play a role in early diplomatic successes and trade deals. Registry starts at UESPA-20.

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Emmette-class

Emmette is a canon ship seen briefly in the Star Trek: Enterprise intro, but suffers with very little details available about the design and the ship’s history. Specs and missions are completed but are purely conjectural. Registry starts at UESPA-27.

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J-class

A well-known and documented canon freighter from Star Trek: Enterprise. Registry starts at UESPA-47 for UESPA service and a large number of ECS registries have been created. The only true canon ship of the class is the Mayweather family’s ECS Horizon. I’ve placed the canon named but not seen ECS Constellation as a member of the class.

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Patterson-class

This is my latest developed design, based on an old UESPA-9 (SS Voyager) concept I drew up around early September 2017. It is supposed to be Earth’s first battleship and an instrument to help describe the Earth-Kzin Wars. They are heavily armed for the period, power hungry, and unwieldy. Registry starts at UESPA-57.

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Declaration-class

Another canon design with conjectural history. The only thing we know is that XCV-330 (SS Enterprise) is a class member. Given their obvious difference compared to other early Earth designs, I’ve written them to be a series of demonstrators for a new type of Warp field generation that ultimately fails to gain adoption. Registry starts at XCV-300.

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DY-732-class

Exists in canon as a class name only. The original design was made by Kris Trigwell – I redrew the ship with modifications for Path to 2265. Like the preceding DY-500-class, I designated the class as a multi-mission ship. I even included a mention of the [N] variant! Currently the design’s specifications are complete and it is present in chapter 2, but it still lacks a description on its ship article page. Registry starts at UESPA-68.

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RTclass

Another conjectural design of an unseen canon ship, this time the RT-2203-class from Star Trek: The Next Generation! I designed the ship to be on the same lineage as the Polaris and Patterson-class, with design inspirations coming from Masao Okazaki’s Bison-class. Registry starts at UESPA-82.

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Addition of organisations

This is a new database section for various organisations and companies in the Star Trek universe. At the time of writing this, four organisations are currently available for reading about; Cochrane Institute of Alpha Centauri (non-canon), Earth Cargo Authority (canon), United Starship Agency (fanon by me), and Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems (canon).

Large ship renders

Due to the rising prominence of higher resolution displays, I am making it a priority to offer large renders of ships to cope with the larger and better displays becoming more and more available. Catering for up to 1080p might not be enough anymore, so I have started to redraw some of ships that are not original from to match the 2500px+ width of my personal design renders. Four examples exist at the moment; above with Declaration and DY-732, and below with DY-500 and DY-950:

DY-500-class render (canon design):
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DY-950-class render (original design by Kris Trigwell – modified by me):
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Upcoming additions

Before chapter 2 can be deemed complete, a few supporting database articles need to be completed to support the narrative – namely Yoyodyne II and Cochrane III reactors and the beginnings of the People database section (Zefram Cochrane and Henry Archer).

Once chapter 2 concludes, work towards chapter 3 will begin immediately. The chapter will focus on the early years of the United Earth government, the founding of Starfleet (as a division of the UESPA), the struggles of the Warp 5 program, and the beginnings of the NX program that leads to the development of first Warp 5-capable starship. Approximate timespan will be 2115 to 2150.

Currently planned ships are (in no particular order):

  • “Archer’s Model” demonstrator
    • Early Warp 5 program testship
    • Will be the same design as the remote-controlled model ship built by Henry and young Jonathan Archer in 2121 as seen in the pilot episode of Star Trek: Enterprise
    • Ship name to be decided
  • “BBI-993”-class explorer
    • Follow up explorer to the RT-class
    • Mentioned only on an ‘okudagram’ in Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Up  The Long Ladder”
    • Class name to be decided
  • DY-950-class multi-mission ship
    • Second-to-last member of the DY-family of starships
    • Conjectural design already completed based off Kris Trigwell’s vision and interpretation
    • Mentioned only on an ‘okudagram’ in Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Up  The Long Ladder”
  • Y-class freighter
    • Canon and well known freighter design
    • Seen in multiple Star Trek: Enterprise episodes
    • Written as a ship to use up previously discarded reactors
    • ECS-2801 (ECS Horizon) is a canon member of the class
    • Canon mentioned but unseen ECS North Star is written as a member of the class
  • Neptune-class surveyor
    • Canon mentioned but unseen surveyor
    • Earliest class of ship to be explicitly stated as belonging to Starfleet
    • Purportedly has the same captain’s chair as the later NX-class explorer of 2151
    • Mentioned in dialogue in Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Singularity”
  • “Warp Delta”-class destroyer
    • Well known and fan favourite early Starfleet ship
    • Frequently deployed on defence missions
    • Starfleet’s workhorse and single most numerous ship of the 2140s and 2150s
    • At least 50 ships in the class
    • Seen in multiple Star Trek: Enterprise episodes
    • Despite numerous on screen appearances, ship names and even class name remain unknown
    • “Warp Delta” is the behind the scenes nickname given by the design staff
    • Class name to be decided
  • “Sarajevo”-class transport
    • Well known Starfleet ship
    • Seen serving as a personnel transport
    • Seen in multiple Star Trek: Enterprise episodes
    • Sarajevo is a canon member of the class
    • Class name to be decided –  Sarajevo is currently the placeholder lead ship
  • NX demonstrator
    • Late Starfleet-Warp 5 program testships
    • Three known ships; NX-Alpha, NX-Beta, and NX-Delta
    • Only Alpha and Beta were seen on screen
    • Delta was only mentioned in dialogue
    • Both appearances and dialogue mentions from Star Trek: Enterprise episode “First Flight”
  • “Arctic One”-class research ship
    • Well known Earth ship
    • Seen serving as an arctic explorer and a moon-based transport
    • Seen in multiple Star Trek: Enterprise episodes
    • Arctic One is a canon member of the class
    • Class name to be decided –  Arctic One is currently the placeholder lead ship