Friday, September 23, 2011

How to show scale and real world proportions in space

In Miner Wars we always had issue with how to show to player the real size of objects around you? How can you "feel" that a tunnel is wide 20 meters and not 2 meters or even 200 meters?

In standard FPS games this is much simpler, because you know that you are a person and how tall an average person is, you also know how large are buildings, doors, windows, cars... all that helps you perceive the dimensions and scale easily.

In Miner Wars and in space in general it's not that simple. You may encounter huge objects, corridors or docks, but since you have no comparison with objects of daily use (ie. grass, people, trees), they may seem much smaller than they really are. Some of the large prefab modules - chambers - may have 300 x 200 x 150 meters (= 9 000 000 m3) or even more. And consider the whole space stations made of several these chambers and hundreds of smaller ones.

Our current approach is to introduce helper markers and objects. We will be putting these markers on walls, next to doors and entrances or as 3D holographic objects in space to show the player how big the objects actually are. Look on these pics, they will show you more than my words.

We really want to hear your suggestions and ideas on this topic. Should we make also another type of marks? What type? What should it show? Or other type of 3D object? Or some virtual grid showed in HUD? Or sphere around your cockpit?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Release Postmortem & Public Build vs. Test Build & New Logo

Release Postmortem

The last release on the 30th/31st August was the first one after 8 months of awkward silence. Now it's the time for some reckoning.

What went right:
  • the in-game editor was finished up to the usable state
  • the new renderer was finished up to the usable state
  • we survived switch from a small team to a medium sized team 
  • we went over 20,000 registrations, sold over 8700 sold copies
  • switched from .NET 3.5 to 4.0, and XNA 3.1 to 4.0 without any major issues

What went wrong:

  • the P2P auto-updater and setup downloader were not finished on time, so we had to remove them from the release just a few hours before the deadline and let the users download a new setup file
  • no multi-player yet
  • standard misunderstanding between the Test and the Public Build led to confused users, hatred and even wars!
  • there were more bugs than what am I used to and what can I personally accept - so this is a big area for an improvement. One of the steps we took was hiring a new part-time tester.
We have chosen a route where we want to keep doing frequent releases. That's very risky thing, because we have no time to stop the development and focus entirely on fixing and stabilizing. There's still an ongoing development. We could easily damage our reputation with having not-so-stable releases. But I am sure we will figure out something and our releases will be stable again!

Public Build vs. Test Build

Since we have such a great community I decided to use your help in deciding whether we should open Test Build for every paying customer.

Let me repeat why not everyone gets into the test build: we want to upset our customers! Yes, that's step one. Step two is ***. And finally step three is profit.

But really - the only reason was that we wanted to limit the number of people who get into the test build and see the unstable and unpolished version of the game. We didn't really realize that many people who can't get into the test build would feel cheated and betrayed this way.

So right now we are considering to open the test build to every paying customer. Probably starting with the next release.

New Logo for Keen Software House

Let me know which logo do you like most. And don't tell me they all look "nazi".

Thursday, September 1, 2011