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Star Control: Data mining your character

Published on Friday, September 14, 2018 By Brad Wardell In PC Gaming

Star Control: Origins is a space action/adventure RPG game set in the year 2088.  It's been designed so that your character will continue forward for years to come (you won't have to keep your saved game safe).  So as new adventures and such become available, you can be assured that your decisions and actions of the past mattered in some small way.

So how do we do that?  The answer is, data-mining.

In Star Control: Origins, there are many dialog choices that might seem to to be innocuous, but most of them do increment some variable somewhere for later use.  Don't panic; you don't have to worry about some minor dialog choice resulting in an extra-dimensional alien invasion force arriving later. That's where the data mining comes in.

Understanding data-mining

On its own, if your character finishes the game with, say, a Cagey = 11 value, what does that mean? It means nothing. And for that reason,  we don't show any of this stuff (though no doubt some hacker will figure it all out someday).  What matters is how it compares to the millions of other people who ultimately play the game and where everyone ends up on the distribution curve for the hundreds (literally) of variables that your answers feed.

The closest analogy I can think of is "The Sims" where you see your character gets little +'s and -'s based on what it does. On their own, those choices don't have much effect. It is the accumulation that matters.

This way, five years from now, on your 27th adventure, your character will be well developed in hundreds of different areas and we can use this data to have options that match up to your, by that point unique, character.  There is no "good" or "bad" path here. Rather, we are aiming for a nuanced path. One with many shades of gray that will result in some often subtle but meaningful and enjoyable gameplay consequences.

Example

Below is a screenshot from Adventure Studio.  This is the application Stardock Software (the non-game side of the company) developed to allow writers (instead of techies) to craft dynamic stories.

image

This is a relatively minor conversation with another character in the game.  But as you can see, we implement a couple of variables here based on your answers.  Neither of these choices, on their own, will affect anything at all in the game.  It's just data that the system will be able to use to eventually allow you to have dialog options that match your character's style.

Roots

Creating a character based on your responses is not entirely new.  In the classic RPG Ultima IV, the player was given a series of questions in which their responses would determine what their character class was. 

image

Star Control: Origins starts the player as the captain of Earth's first interstellar ship.  You have a pretty blank canvas to build a character on, but there are certain assumptions that are built in since, after all, you are a Captain in Star Control entrusted with such an important mission.  But as time goes on, your choices gradually result in more and more dialog options which begin to affect the way that not just Origins will play out, but how your future adventures will play out as well.

Star Control: Screenshot Friday 9-14-2018

Published on Friday, September 14, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Star Control

Greetings!

This is the LAST screenshot Friday my friends!

That's because next week at this time, Star Control: Origins will be in your hands.  I'll be obsolete.

 

Here is one shot from the Multiverse feature that will be added in v1.1.  So now I can keep my job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star Control: Screenshot Friday 9-07-2018

Published on Sunday, September 9, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Star Control

Sorry this is a bit late! Here we go!

 

The importance of knowing what type of a planet is without landing on it has made us emphasize more time on improving the visuals on the different planet classes.

 

Why are resources presented as objects on the screen? What is the science behind that? The Codex explains all.

 

Your sector map lets you apply markers and name them.  This way you can keep track of things you may want to return to (or not).

 

If you're landing on every planet, you should ask yourself...why.  It would be like breaking into every house in Skyrim. 

Most planets in the universe are either rocks, gas giants or ice balls.  In time, you'll know what the good planets are just by looking at them and they are understandably uncommon.  You can then see which resources are worth your time or not.

Want to collect resources faster and easier? Thanks to alien tech, we can extend our gravity channeling to grab concentrated resources from further away.

There are, literally, hundreds of ship types we know of so far.  Each civilization has its own set of ship classes and then there are the one-off ships you will find with their own unique weapons and designs to deal with (or capture).

A view of Saturn.

 

You can use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out on the solar system or the surface of planets. Or use 1,2,3,4 to switch cameras (or whatever your game controllers equivalent is).

 

Star Control: Origins map

Published on Saturday, September 1, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Star Control

Don't worry, this isn't a spoiler.  The Star Control map is based on a 2D projection of the real universe going out around 130 light years.  

You might enjoy this as it took some effort to try to create a reasonably accurate depiction of where we are compared to other stars.  One major change from real stars is that we took the liberty of naming some of the stars ourselves because a lot of the ones that have been discovered in recent years have alpha numerical names.

So for example, one group of stars is known as the Trombley constellation in honor of our friend and colleague Sarah Trombley who was the lead developer on Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation.

 

Enjoy!

Star Control: Screenshot Friday 8-31-2018

Published on Friday, August 31, 2018 By Brad Wardell In PC Gaming

With labor day nearly here in the United States, we are putting the finishing touches on what will be the version that goes out for review.  

Here are some highlights from this week:

Better late than never.  Your ship's fuel range is now showed on the map.  Very convenient if you want to avoid Tywom fan fiction (yes, that's a thing).

The in-game codex continues to be enriched with documentation, lore, and other goodies.

 

Visual effects have been iterated on once again. It's come a long way.

 

The Terran Cruiser replaces the "Earthling Cruiser" both in name and design to better match the idea that the Vindicator class is a prototype thus new ships should have some resemblance to it.

Lots of new cut-scenes went in this week.  

 

You can change the game's difficulty at any time from the options menu.  However, you can set the game's default during the game setup.

Not easily visible in a screenshot but thanks to AMD sending us lots of hardware, we have been able to make the game run well on ridiculously low end hardware.  Like, think 10 year old hardware.  How? As long as the system has 4 logical cores (example, the Surface Pro is 2 cores but has 4 logical processors) we can effectively have 4 "graphics threads" going at once. giving >30fps on hardware that people will be shocked even loads t he game.   The magic of the Nitrous job scheduler in action.

 

Well crap, water worlds are common!

Published on Monday, August 27, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Galactic Community

Let me get this right out of the way: Star Control: Origins has no planets in it with free-standing water.  We've taken the very convenient (for us) position that free standing water is extremely rare and that instead,, water tends to be trapped under layers of ice.

But according to a ScienceDaily article I read last week, water worlds might actually be pretty common.  

Now for you gamers out there, how would you like to see water worlds handled in Star Control in the future? For example, would you fly over them? Would your lander act as a submarine? Or something else entirely?

 

Will aliens even understand us?

Published on Monday, August 27, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Galactic Community

Great article on Astronomy.com today.  The question is, would aliens even understand us if we communicated with them?

We take so many things for granted when it comes to communication.  For example, in Star Control: Origins, there tended to be an assumption that aliens would have a mouth.  Why would they have a mouth for communication? That seems to be a pretty big assumption.

It seems fair to ask whether anything that would encounter what we send out would be able to make sense of what we send out.

record_and_cover

This might mean nothing. And the sounds the record produce might not even be in a frequency that something could hear.  The range of frequencies we can detect are pretty limited.

 

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