Gearing up for MagFest

Less than a week and we will be at MagFest!

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2016-02-10 18.13.18

We’ve been working around the clock on code, design and booth preparations and were pretty happy with where things are landing. There is still a ton more to do, but the game is fully playable and will look pretty nice on our Kiosk stands we bought to showcase the game. We’ve also got nice black floor tiling, and new roll up banners that should arrive [fingers crossed] today on Friday to liven up our area visually.

We were hoping to have both Android and iPads on display to go with our Mac and Windows laptops but sadly the Androids didn’t get here in time to demo the game.

That said we should have 7 devices with us, 2 for playing tutorial missions, 4 for playing full games and 1 for showing off an image gallery and collecting visitor email addresses.

Turns out we will also be getting some cool chairs sponsored by Yogibo including a mini and an ipad case to go with it.

Game Progress

There’s been a ton of updates over the last couple of week to the game, so many that I struggle to even remember what is new anymore. Just yesterday we added 4 new UI buttons to the game so that you now have more than one way to colonize a world, send troops, attack and reset your attack choices. Here are some shots of these new UI buttons:

colonize button

The buttons for information were also moved to the sides of the cards and enlarged to make them easier to tap on tablet devices. Below the “I” button you can now see buttons like the blue icon for colonize, or the red cross hair for setting a target in battle.

We still want to improve the UI further by adding similar buttons and contextual highlights for a lot of other aspects of the game like movement, but

Set Target

this will have to wait now until after MagFest since we need at least 5 days now of stability testing to make sure there are zero bugs remaining.

Tutorials (Puzzles)

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We’ve got single player tutorials in the game now! Seven so far, these are set up like puzzles with tips to get you started. Completing all 7 of them should give you a pretty good basic understanding of the game so that you are then ready to play vs. another player. We plan on making at least another dozen puzzles as time goes on that will increase in difficultly while simultaneously showing off the more refined level of thinking you can achieve in the game. Our AI opponent logically fights, invades and brutalizes you on these puzzles but they are all set up to last a maximum of 1 to 2 turns. So they are intentionally short and very focused, think chess puzzles you might find in a news paper.

Interviews, Streams and Pod cast

Since we last spoke we’ve also had an interview on eXplorminate and a live game stream-interview with Space Game Junky. Plus on our own Podcast we also had a quicker recap of last months progress too.

Alpha Test Event

After MaScreen Shot 2016-02-10 at 4.39.15 PMgFest our next big milestone is the big public Alpha test event we want to schedule for mid March. This is going to be your chance to play the game in what hopefully should be an active weekend with a full lobby of players. You’ll be able to play the game as a single-player vs. the computer to learn the basics and then online vs. other players and us on Twitch streaming live if you want to play us or ask us questions. So please sign up to our Alpha event to let us know you are interested and tell your friends! Everyone can join in, we want it to be extra fun.

New Cards

Yes we have new cards we could show you! But I’m out of time for today, so I’ll leave that update till next time. Until then don’t forget to also jump on our twitter and subscribe to our twitch if you want to catch us in the act of playing and jump in for a game.

Space man out, Seb.

Visual wave

Greetings friends, much has happened in the last few weeks!

MagFest

GalaCollider was selected to present at MagFest! We’re very excited to have a new opportunity to show the game to the world. We’re working hard to get a nice humble booth all organized and prepared for the event.

UI Progress

We have made tremendous progress towards getting the UI of the game improved. We still have a lot to go but there is already a world of difference in the game.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 5.11.24 PM

We’ve also been working on various kinds of visual feedback for different game effects, like red spirals to show a planet is being raided or flowering purple-blue rain when an ability reveals a sector at range.

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Sectors now have colors that are more clear to show ownership, the core world glows brighter, sectors that are not selected have various visual indicators disabled.

The half way point

Alpha4 isn’t done yet, but we’ve decided to make a mid-way marker in the development. Our goal in the next two weeks is to make a stable build of Alpha4 in anticipation of MagFest. We will also use this stable way-point as a means to get everyone on the team playing the newest build too.

Only a few actions remain that can’t be undone with our new Undo button – which has proven to be such an essential feature.

It’s also very easy to load custom decks into the game now, and we’ve got 16 new ships and another half dozen or so other new cards in the current pool to play with.

Progress on the single player mode is currently hampered by a few last features we need to finish. Namely we need to code the game to permit us to set the player’s deck, and the order of the cards in their hand at start. Once we have these things, and a few bugs resolved, we can then work on refinement and testing on our puzzle missions.

Planetary 3D models

The game uses 3d models for many things. Everything on the map is 3D but still linked to a card. There were a number of planets added in Alpha3 but they had some problems, pinched textures at the poles, odd colors, rotation problems, or they just simply glowed too much and didn’t match our concept designs close enough.

I’ve spent the last 3 or 4 days going back to the source files and rebuilding all the planets in our game to be a better representation of what we want to achieve.

Tonight I wanted to see all the planets together and measure which ones are too similar and what some of them should be called / renamed into. Here is what I threw together to help me get oversight:

planets_overview_01

Alpha 5 designs, first look

Starting in Alpha5, your hand will hard-cap at 7 cards. If you have 7 cards you just can’t draw more (or you get fewer cards). You can still discard at will, so it won’t stop you from getting new cards if you clear some space. There are many benefits to this change, first it will mean that turns are faster because we never have to wait for a discard phase. Secondly it will also mean we can show more of each card to the player, gone will be the days of only seeing card edges until roll-over. Ghosts on empty slots and lights that glow to show you your hand-spots filled will also make it quick to count and see if you have space in your hand remaining.

We had always planned on having enemy information displayed on an “Intelligence” tab (bottom left corner) – the problem is, that tab doesn’t exist yet because intelligence mechanics (controlled by playing Spies) is a whole world of mechanics that remains in the future… rather than the present.

It’s important to see information about your opponent, especially their star count, so you know if they are about to win. I wouldn’t say this design I made is done, but it’s starting to go in a good direction.

The idea is to leverage the traditional “street fighter” split, me on the left, enemies on the right. I also really like the idea of seeing avatars – you want to identify as much as possible with your side and your enemy. I have ideas in mind for multi-player games, but this current UI assumes a 1-on-1 arrangement.

Finally the menu, done and undo button will move to be more central – I think that makes more sense? But playing and you – will let us know if this indeed true. So here it is, my first draft for Alpha 5 design changes:

Gala_Mainscreen_space_UI_us_v_them_03

More about our card game’s interface

Today I would like to go a little deeper into our UI and the development process behind it.

If you’ve been following us you will have noticed that we have thus far shared two zoom levels of our UI: really far away (Galactic level) and very close (Battle level). Today we will go a little deeper into the various zoom levels and also share some of our transition-concept videos that should give a sense of how the UI looks and feels:

Galactic Level

Gala_Mainscreen_Blog_exposed
At this zoom level there will only be some basic information shown: Where your systems are and your opponents’ and the connections between various areas (the lines). This is just a concept image of the galaxy and will eventually need to be rebuilt in Unity3D. I should point out that we will be tweaking this in the game to have the lines between the sectors be more clearly visible. This may mean pushing back a bit on the galaxy-image.

Sector level


As we zoom in one “pinch” or “roll” we get a view of some of the sectors and their connections. The yellow and green diamonds represent quantities of ships, the circles beneath the sector represent how many developments that have been built on it. Beneath each is a number, which tells you how much available Command* remain.

* Command: How many ships you can have in a sector, bigger ships take up more command.

On the edge of the big circle are two small green and red circles, these rotate around the circumference like compass points and point towards (known) friendly and enemy home worlds.

For now this image shows the same gray planetoids all over the place, but the actual game will have various celestial bodies shown ranging from nebula clouds, to asteroids and various planet types.

The idea with the flow is that you will be able to pan the camera position by dragging your finger across the iPad screen (or scrolling if with your mouse). As sectors move to the edge they fade away and fade into view.

If you click on an actual sector it will move to be in the center of your view and then expand to show you more information, and look something a bit like this:

sector-view-circle_v2_with_HUD

This is very similar to the above image but now the central planet is enlarged into view. The 3D models of your ships hover on the left, and any enemy ships hover around the planet on the right.

You can move ships from this planet to neighboring sectors by dragging the ship over its neighbor. A single tap on your ship will also show you its information and related card; the same can be done with enemy ships. Planets (aka Sector-cards) and developments are also all tied to cards and by tapping on them, you will see their details too.

The 3 white circles in this image beneath the sector planet are place-holders for what our actual Development-symbols will be. Most likely they will become hexagonal in shape and be projected around the planet in a hexagon wire-cage. You may recall from my previous blog post with our first card spoilers that Developments are planetary structures of some kind.

Battle zoom

battle_with_HUD

This is the same image as before for the battle, just with the HUD around it. In battles you will select your targets, as will your opponent and then when all shots have been selected, both (or all players if more than 2) see each shot firing from all the ships involved.

Beneath the ships we will likely have more than 1 number. At the very minimum each ship will show beneath it 3 numbers: Attack, Hull and Retaliation. If you are familiar with other card games, these numbers may already make sense to you. Attack is how much damage the ship will deal, retaliation is how much it returns if fired at and Hull is how much remaining life points the ship has before being destroyed.

We will be experimenting with the use of icons to display special abilities of ships but for now the UI is clean and devoid of such information.

Not shown here is the fact that a tap on any ship will bring up further information and its related card. Like on the Sector zoom you can tap on your or enemy ships to see their full details.

The size of a ship can be important in our game, which currently is reflected in the size of the circle beneath the ship.

Ships have variable heights from the board but this is for visual aesthetics so that it feels like we are playing a miniatures game.

Finally all these 3D models are (probably) temporary, for purposes of concept illustration. The real game will also have a lot more color and not just be in gray tones.

Transition videos

These videos show, very roughly, how the transitions between the zoom levels might feel. This first video shows from the galactic to the sector zoom. This video has WAY too many sectors on it, but the feeling of it is great. So imagine it with half or less:

GalaCollider – 2-stage transition from GalaCollider on Vimeo.

Note that the movement depicted here for the sector level is a bit off because it shows some rotation when in fact all movement will only be pans (if this sentence doesn’t make sense to you, it probably doesn’t mater!)

Finally this video shows the 3 zoom levels. Like the first video though it isn’t entirely accurate in how it moves around, but the transition between the sector and the battle is nice and probably similar to how we will render it in our game. Before someone asks the red and blue lines are just tracing lines to make sure everything is matching up!

GalaCollider – 3-stage transition from GalaCollider on Vimeo.

A first look at our Game UI

Hello GalaWorld. Last week we shared the icons we were working on and got some great feedback on our blog and other forums / reddit pages.

Today we share with you our Game UI that is a “work in progress”. Like our cards that we shared with you a few weeks ago, these are still not final.

Let me run through the layout with you. The center area you may recognize from a few weeks ago when we put up images of our 3D space UI. The center of the screen is where you will be able to navigate around the galaxy, zoom into sectors, see your ships and determine your best strategies.

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Around this center piece we have our HUD with various important pieces of information. The top-left will have the menu button, information about the current phase and a button to press when you are done with your turn. To the right of this, in the middle is our information area. This section of the UI will change contextually depending on what is currently selected or important. Farther on the right we have our rack of icons.

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These Icons are currently undergoing revisions and we shared the Icons with you last week for feedback — they still are not done hence why this block is currently “empty”.

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At the very bottom-left we have some mysterious blue buttons. These will eventually also get proper Icon treatment and then be connected to sub-pages of the game. Right now most of them look the same but this is just “temporary”. When they have proper icons there will be: a tab for information, another for viewing blueprints of built ships, a third for intelligence information on other players and a fourth to review your research options.

On the far right and lower-right corner of the screen we have your deck, discard pile and your hand of cards. New cards can be drawn from the top of your deck and will move (in a hopefully very cool way) into your hand on the bottom-right of the screen. Currently we have the cards placed so that you can see the top-half of each card. We plan on making the full card visible on hover/tap or finger-press hold on the iPad. Cards in your hand can be played by dragging them onto the screen or by taping them and then pressing the “activate” button.

Thoughts?

We hope you like our HUD. As always please feel free to share any thoughts you have, we certainly read everything we hear!

Icons: a work in progress

GalaCollider features icons which appear on the HUD and on the cards. They represent resources available to the player and are an important element of the game.

When designing icons there’s a lot to consider. They need to be clear. They need to represent an idea in a way that can be interpreted by a diverse range of users. They need to stand out from other elements of the game, yet still fit with the over all style. They need to work on a variety of devices. But above all, they must enhance your experience of the game.

Sometimes things are quick to create, other times you just can’t quite seem to get it right. Our icons have gone through several revisions and we are still not there yet with something that looks good, fits our design and meets all the necessary requirements.

Here are the different versions we have made over time:

 

Version 1:

This is the clean, zero shading version. Exact shapes would need refinement but this was the original concept:

icons_v2

 

 

Version 2:

Version 1 pushed in a more “primary shape” direction, with some faded edges:

icons_v1

The conclusion from this was that the icons were too symbolic and would get confused with other colors and shapes in the game.

 

 

Version 3:

This version goes in an iconic direction. These are just placeholders and would need to be re-drawn:

icons_v3

These were now potentially too complex and so we then went to:

 

 

Version 4:

Back to more symbolic but now a symbol that hints at an icon. Somewhere between flat and rendered. Note that the lighting is a little different on the left than the right as part of our experimentation.
icons_v6

However version 4 was lacking “punch” and the icons were too dull and lost, especially at smaller sizes.

 

 

Version 5:

So then version 5: This is the same as the previous version except now with lighting effects from the center of the icons. the first 3 on the left were also cleaned up with thicker lines so that they would retain their shapes on smaller devices (phone screens, tablets etc.)

icons_v5

This looks decent but the colors in particular were not entirely fitting with the artwork and the rest of the style. However this was the “most final” of the icons we had produced as part of this process.

 

 

Version 6:

In a flash of inspiration, or folly… A completely different direction was the latest “let’s think this over again” approach. This is incredibly rough, and these images are just quick “place holders”, but the idea would be to have some sort of drawn icon with the numbers on top of them:

icons_v4

Similar to what Duel of Champions does for their three resources:

Meaning that we would draw icons and then render them in such a way that the number can be on-top of it in white. So you have to “imagine” the rock and the gear drawn to actually look like proper icons (similar to how well the above Duel of Champion icons look).

Considerations:

Simple Icons with a glow.

What makes this complicated is that the icons need to look good not only on the screen as part of the GUI but also when viewed on the top-left edge of one of our cards. We also need to show enough of the artwork on the left-edge of the card that you can see which card it is, by its artwork, without having to always click the card to see it.

As you ca see here, version 5 has nice symbols but the values of each of the resources need to go next to the icon instead of over the top of it, and that means it eats up more horizontal space. It also means that we end up with a lot of color on our cards and this break the coherency and mood of the artwork. (which is part of the reason I threw together version 6 quickly with the rendered icon look).

 

 

Next steps?

Oh icons, how you scorn us. At this point we could go back to version 1 and just refine that simple, iconic flat look, similar to what you see in other games like:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 3.11.15 PM
Starships by Sid Meier

Or we could tweak our version 5 further to make it work on the cards without eating up so much room.

Simple Icons with a glow.

Or we could develop icons like Duel of Champions did.

Or some fourth or fifth option we haven’t thought of yet?

Feedback

So we’d like your feedback, not just on our designs (as shown above) but also about games you play where you like (or even dislike) the icons. What appeals to you? What’s important to you? Did we make any versions here that you like more than others?

Thank you!

 

 

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/generated/323388124