2018 Development Summary
It is the end of 2018 and we are so happy for all of your support! We wanted to take this time to review all of our progress we’ve made in 2018 since the end of our Kickstarter that you have been so awesome in supporting us. The following are some of the highlights of major events and additional features we’ve been putting into the game since the Kickstarter and Demo.
Immediately after Kickstarter, we’ve also launched our storefront on Brightlocker. Currently we haven’t been adding much into the store as we don’t believe we should be promoting anything through it until we have the Alpha game for you all to be able to jump into and play. We believe the game should come first and that is our current focus. With that said though, 2019 is fast approaching and early in 2019 we will be launching the Alpha and will be driving alot of focus toward Brightlocker and allowing you all to help continue funding the project through UNIQUE REWARDS. Including (but not limited to) Pre-Order + Alpha Access, Unique Ships Skins, Special Cosmetics for Ships, etc.)
Since the demo, we’ve integrated FMOD into Solar Warden. As described in a previous update, FMOD is a powerful middleware that allows us to solve a lot of the current Unreal Sound related problems that are inherit to the engine such as clipping and layered music setups (requiring a level to be loaded in to be able to allow for music transitions). Furthermore, FMOD is a much more powerful and intuitive setup which allows us to have better control over the sound levels and layering of different sound banks which can be edited in real time for faster turn over when it comes to sound bug fixes. With far more control over the Sounds and Music, we’ve created far superior systems for things like the Contextual Music (Flying or PDI vs Combat or Boss battles including transitions). As we build out more of our sound library, more sounds like the “Telepresence” in and out of the Ships will be included into the Alpha, along with new music by Christopher Escalante.
Unreal Development Grant
It is with great pride that we were able to receive this amazing award by Epic. Not only has this given us a massive leg up in terms of being able to continue development, but has also opened the doors for us to bring on more staff to aid in more low level Unreal Engine development such as with the Multiplayer network code. We thank not only Epic, but everyone for all your continued support and helping make Solar Warden a reality!
Demo Update : 0.0.10
This last Demo Update is the final update for the Demo we will be producing until we push look to produce 1.0 release. The reason for this is we want to include the latest and greatest features and have them exclusive for the Alpha and Beta/Early Access builds of the game and have our supporters trial those changes to the game before we establish a full blown demo for the full game.
Since the Kickstarter, numerous additions and changes were made to the demo as seen with the change list in this update you can read here. Some noteworthy changes include – Key bindings, Highres Screenshots, Visual Updates for Sun and Magdrive and Meteor Cluster HUD changes.
New Silicoid for the Alpha
With the Alpha, we are currently developing the major features behind flying inside the Mega-Meteors, including new Silicoid Aliens which you will find deep inside these tunnels of the extinction level event meteors.
Clinging to the interior walls of the caverns deep within the Mega-Meteors you will find these Silicoid “Spitters” which also shoot their plasma spit like the Larvae, but are a little bit more durable. Clustered together in specific section of the caverns, you will need to keep your wits about you and not be overrun by these enemies while inside their nesting place.
WIP Crystalline Silicoid
Further to the regular Blackish Silicoid, we are working on the more evolved “Crystalline” versions of the Silicoid. Primarily made of the yellowish crystal structure seen on the Silicoid Worm, these more advanced Silicoid will be more resilient to energy weapons and can even convert absorbed energy blasts into it’s own attack making it much stronger when it returns fire at you.
The model for the Crystalline Grub isn’t quite complete, but expect to see it in 2019.
Ship Construction and Repair
A huge demand from the Demo was the ability to repair your ships. Since then, we’ve been refactoring how the Hangar system worked along with a new Shipyard system allowing you to both construct new ships and repair current ones. These shipyards themselves will also be able to be built in any place around low Earth Orbit to help you manage your fleets in different sections around the planet.
Along with the shipyards come the new builder/utility ship – the SX-78 Hepaestus. The workhorse of the Solar Warden fleet, you’ll be able to utilize these vessels to build new shipyards and space stations as well as repair and asteroid mine. More info can be found in our August Update here.
During development, we speculated how we would be able to create custom paints for players and their ships. As we talked about in a previous update, we quickly discovered a simple method of utilizing an Alpha Overlay which will allow us to quickly make many new ship colorations and even the potential for allowing Players to come up with even their own color pallet on their ships using something akin to the Army Painter in titles like Dawn on War.
Not only will you be able to deploy ships to defend the planet, but you will also be able to utilize these automated defense satellites as well to help defend the planet. These unmanned automated devices that can be deployed anywhere in orbit around the planet are now being setup to with modular sections so they may be equipped with Weapon ports, Sensor Suites, Mag Drive Navigation signaling or what ever equipment you see fit to install. Suit up a Satellite to be an automated defense platform, or a forward detection device. And with unlocking new technologies via research, you will even be able to upgrade different components such as the Solar Panels to help recharge the batteries on board.
Read more about Satellites in our update here.
Some massive changes since the Demo include;
– Box Selection of Fleets/Ships
– Right Click Drag for rotation
– Focused View on different ships or Objects
– Individual AI flight control (so AI can split from their fleet and do their own thing easily.
– New 2D circular plane to command ships on a more micro command level when choosing to engage enemies.
– WASD now allows you to rotate the planet as well
– [Tab] Cycles between Time Dilation speeds
– [Spacebar] Pauses Time Dilation
– PDI Focus and Camera Orbit have been unified into one system, which allows for a unified rotation/zoom system.
– The bottom menu has been visibly reduced in size and now sits at the bottom left of the screen. (Population and Public Awareness will go into the top right window)
More info can be found on our previous updates;
Flight Mechanic Improvements
Relative Speed Flight Mode
With the interior of the Mega-Meteors poised for the focus of the Alpha with relation to the Ship level combat, we have now needed to look into an additional flight mode. Along with the Normal (Throttle) and Drift (Newtonian) modes, we felt we needed a new flight model to handle the tight quarters of the Mega-Meteor interiors. We have begun work on a WASD “Descent-like” flight model. This model is setup to match the current environmental speed (since asteroids are moving closer to the planet) and allow you to activate your 6-DOF thrusters at will, otherwise they will bring you to rest relative to your environment.
Weapon Pips, Fixed Weapons, Railguns
From this previous Development Update, we looked at fully setting up the Railgun for the Hyperion. The Hyperion though was designed with a fixed Railgun in the front of the ship. Since the demo though, we never had any fixed weapons on ships, and since we allowed players to aim their crosshair pretty much anywhere in regular fight/turret mode, there was no real way to know where exactly the Fixed Weapons would line up relative to your view. Thus we came up with the Weapon Pips idea. This allows you to see where each weapon was facing relative to your ship/view.
You can watch out development update video about it here;
Since the demo, the Planet shaders have been improved. Toning down on the brightness of the diffuse as well as the atmospheric shader to be presented in a more realistic setting. We’ve also fixed the clouds to also include a slight normal map to give them depth with relation to the sunlight.
We have also improved upon the PDI visual shader as well with removing the transparency as well as giving the globe in PDI view a more holographic fresnel shading. We’ve also added a subtle “circular aperture” in the middle of the HUD that animates when you zoom in/out.
Shadows and Distance Field Shadows
One massive leap in visual quality was the realization that we didn’t have proper shadows on our assets within the game. This was especially apparent when we were creating the tunnels/caverns for the Mega-Meteors and discovered that the interior for the tunnels was never in darkness from the exterior Sunlight. From this we realized that a lot of our shadows weren’t working at the massive distances from the origin of the level!
We fixed this by looking to Distance Field Shadows and creating Shadow Proxies for most of our assets. This change over to utilizing Distance Field Shadows allowed us to vastly improve the visuals of the shading on everything in game, from Aliens, to Ships to the interior of the Mega-Meteors!
You can read more about our Shadows write up in this update here.
Asteroids Visual Updates
Since we’ve been overhauling the destruction of the Asteroids, we’ve also taken the time to perform a visual update on the Asteroids as they needed much love. Say good-bye to those old terrible looking Asteroids from the Demo and say hello to these new and improved quality asteroids.
We’ve felt like the outdated crummy look needed some love to bring it up to the same quality level as the rest of the assets, and since we are currently reworking the model to be setup with our new destruction method, we figured this would be the best time to improve those visual standards.
New Asteroid “Types”
After refactoring the workflow to quickly make these new asteroids, we discovered that we can also take this time to create some of the new types of asteroids we wanted to make. Using the current “Spectral Classification” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteroid_spectral_types), we’ve gone ahead and created the following types of Asteroids….
More info about the Asteroid Types can be found in our Development Update Here.
Since the Demo, we’ve been looking at the best ways to deal with the massive destruction of Asteroids and the performance impacts many AMD players have reported. This performance hit is not really that surprising as the current “Apex Destruction” plugin for Unreal is purpose built for Nvidia GPUs. This meant that anyone not playing with an Nvidia graphics card will likely encounter performance issues once more and more asteroids get destroyed.
Our goal was to maintain the same level of quality that we had with the Apex Destruction which we achieved (left in above image), but also include additional features that we felt were missed out on, such as the “mini-pieces” to “Fade into dust” (right in the image above). This was a hugely missed feature that didn’t work properly in the Apex Destruction tool and now we’re able to set the up as we can handle the pieces on our own.
This new method has now allowed us to go much further than what we could do with the Apex Destruction and you can read the full write up about it in our Update Here.
“Descent” into the Mega-Meteor
As seen in one of our Previous Updates, we explained how the main method of destroying the Mega-Meteors will be to descend into their tunnels and plant a nuclear bomb at the core. After planting, you’ll have 30 seconds to get your ass outta there otherwise you’ll be caught in the nuclear blast and potentially having your ship be vaporized along with destroying the Mega-Meteor.
We are excited to see how you will be able to manage this gameplay come Alpha in the next year.
New Ship HUD and Weapon Groups
A full new ShipHUD has now been implemented. Instead of that old clunky UI that wasn’t very appealing, we’ve moved the majority of the key needed information you’ll want to see into the center crosshair. Your Health/Shields, Throttle, Ship Energy, and Weapon Groups/Ready status can now all be seen in the center crosshair.
We explain a bit about how this HUD works in this video;
Additionally, since your vessels may need to deal with firing multiple different types of weapons, we felt it was best to also include a “Weapon Groups” list. Very similar to what you may have played in MWLL, this Weapon Group list allows you to edit which weapons should belong in which weapon group, allowing you to further customize how you wish to fire your weapons. This addition makes it really handy for larger vessels with upwards to 10+ weapons.
Full Feature breakdowns can be seen in our previous updates as well;
Dynamic Directional Shields
One question that was asked a lot was “Are there going to be energy shields?” The answer was always Yes. However, during your campaign you will need to get to around Mid-game technology in order to unlock their use, as these are some advanced Tech that not even the Solar Warden space fleet has discovered yet when you first start the game.
Their gameplay use can be as simple as a full coverage in all directions around your ship, or you can dynamically choose any direction around your vessel to focus your shield strength. Using turret mode, you can look into the direction you want and then press a button to focus your shields in that direction. Further functionality we plan to plug into them includes “Focus Aperture” which allows you to change how wide or narrow you want the focus of the shield to be.
A full write up on the shields can be seen in this previous Development Update Here.
Nuclear Missile Silos and Surface Assets
In our final update this year, we covered “Surface Assets” and the use of our first one we’ve created – Nuclear Missile Silos. “Surface Assets” are a new category of assets you will now see on the left side of the PDI. These assets are fixed to the planet surface, but can be used for special actions such as these Nuclear Missile Silos. These assets are meant to be cheap assets for you to build, but due to construction on the planet, it will take quite a long time before these assets are fully operational. Great in a pinch, the Nuclear Missile Silos are able to blast most common Meteor types, but you need to beware about the repercussions about detonating nukes in space!
Read up more about Nuclear Missile Silos and Surface Assets in our previous Development Update Here.
We have end of March in our schedule and hope to deliver on time. Of course as seen from all the additions above, we need to make certain we have all these features plugged in properly with minimal amount of bugs to have a great gameplay experience for everyone.
For those who have pledged on Kickstarter at the Elite Pilot level or higher, we will be sending them keys to the Alpha come early 2019. If you haven’t pledged to that level on Kickstarter, or you haven’t backed the game at all, you can still get a Pre-Order for the game + Alpha Access here from Brightlocker.
If you have any questions for us, please feel free to reach out to us on our Discord.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year, Wardens
We will be taking some time off for the Holidays and we will see you all in the New Year!
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all of you.
God Speed, Wardens.
– Polar Zenith
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