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Anatomy of a Starship evilbobthebob - June 22, 2014

Probably the best way to introduce the new space combat mechanics is to take a detailed look at our new (WIP) infobox layout. You may recognise many of the elements from the revamped land combat; many of the elements are also new. I'll go through each in the order they appear using the classic example of the Imperial II-class Star Destroyer. Please note that all values shown are WIP.

 

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Tactical Population Cost

 

This is a new number based on the total volume of the hull (or hulls in the case of a starfighter squadron). It is balanced around the idea that an Executor-class Super Star Destroyer consists of 400 population points, the maximum available space population. For carriers, it also includes the volume of all the starfighter squadrons as in the case of the Imperial II. This means that you can field 5 Imperial II-class and their entire complements at one time. These values are currently in the process of testing and tweaking, and the exact values may be different in the released version.

 

Starship Icon

 

All the starship icons have been brought into lineusing uniform lighting and rendering settings to create a better quality icon set.

 

Starship Name

 

As usual, we retain the full names of all ships, including their upgrade version.

 

Starship Class

 

From Starfighter through to Dreadnaught, a starship's class helps shape its maneuverability and sensor range statistics. It also determines which shipyard type is needed to construct it.

 

Special Abilities

 

With the new version, we have many greatly improved autofire scripts for ship special abilities, so we feel comfortable including more than the two accessible from the GUI. In most cases, the tractor beam will be the hidden, autofired ability, and it will usually target whatever the ship has been told to attack. Note here the Imperial II has a Tractor Beam, Emergency Thrusters (power to engines ability) and Blast. Blast is a new ability we have added to many main-line combat ships. It moves the firepower of the main battery (in this case, the octuple turbolasers and turboions) up a notch, so that has increased range and firepower.

 

Manufacturer

 

We have always included manufacturer bonuses on various appropriate planets such as Kuat. Now you can see exactly which ships will benefit, with the inclusion of the Manufacturer in the infobox.

 

Cost

 

This is the base hull cost, not including complement (which is included in the final cost at a 50% discount). Costs have been modified across the board to provide a more challenging economic planning experience.

 

Time

 

This is the base hull construction time, measured in galactic time. For the Imperial II, this is 15 weeks. Note that building over a world with appropriate shipyard bonuses, or by building more of the same class of shipyard, this time can be dramatically reduced.

 

Dimensions

 

Width x length x height, in meters, the basic size of the hull.

 

Volume

 

The total volume of the hull in cubic meters, often using exponential notation. Here for example, the Imperial II is 121 million cubic meters in volume. This statistic informs hitpoint calculations and has a great effect on the likelihood for a ship to be hit by enemy fire.

 

Acceleration

 

With the change to the new space combat mechanics, we have moved towards a more "realistic" approach. While ships still have a capped top speed, it is directly proportional to their acceleration. This is measured in terms of G-force, the acceleration experienced by a being on the surface of a planet with standard gravity, roughly 10 m/s2.

 

Maneuvrability

 

This statistic is the turning speed of the starship, measured in degrees per second. It is primarily class-based.

 

Hyperdrive

 

The class of the hyperdrive in the starship (if any), which determines its ability to travel across the galaxy in hyperspace. The smaller the better!

 

Shielding

 

Here is one of the new statistics. Shielding is now measured in Shield Points (SP) and has an absorption percentage shown after it. This is the amount of damage the shield can absorb from a single shot before it takes SP damage. So for example, a turbolaser shot hitting the Imperial II shield with a damage of 96 will do around 58 points of shield damage.

 

Hull

 

Hull has also changed a great deal. It is now measured in Hull Points (HP), like that of land combat. This value is primarily volume-based. Following the HP is the armour value and type. The Imperial II has 32 Vehicle armour. This means that it absorbs 32 damage from any incoming shot before the hull itself is damaged. For example, the same 96 damage turbolaser will do 64 points of hull damage on impact.

 

Range

 

This statistic shows the maximum and minimum ranges of the weapon systems on the ship, followed by its line of sight range. All values are in meters. In this case, the longest range weapons are the octuple turbolasers, while the shortest are the individual turbolaser cannons.

 

Armament

 

We have greatly condensed the weapons display into a shorthand that provides much more information. We have done away with "light", "heavy" and so on, instead simply telling you the weapon type, their number, and their damage output. So, here the Imperial II has 6 octuple turbolasers with 240 damage per bolt, 2 octuple turboions with 240 damage per bolt, 2 triple turbolasers with 144 damage per bolt, and so on. Note that ion weapons do 200% damage to shields, but cannot damage anything except Droid armour. The number of tractor beams is also noted, which adjusts the cooldown of the tractor beam ability.

 

 

I hope this little snippet has provided some insight to the changes we've been making over the past 18 months. If you have any questions, I will endeavour to answer below, however note that I did not implement these changes myself.



Comments (129)


News. Now that's a name I haven't heard in a long time... evilbobthebob - June 17, 2014

Hello Phoenix Rising fans.

 

First off, I'd like to apologise for the extremely long time between news posts. If this was the only way you kept up with the mod, I can forgive you for thinking we'd ceased development. Those of you who read more of the forums see the team members making comments from time to time, and we made a call for alpha and beta testers for the latest version over the past year. Still, this doesn't make up for the silence we've sustained up to now.

 

I'd like to change that myself, primarily because I finally have some free time and partly because our team leader and the prime driver of the mod, Phoenix Rising, is without a computer capable of doing modding right now. This isn't particular cause for alarm, because the current build of the mod is very feature-complete. However, there still remain areas that need polish and improvement.

 

So what have we been doing for the past two years? Our initial plan for the next version of the mod was primarily based on integrating the information provided by the release of The Essential Atlas. As software project tend to do, we experienced some rather strong feature creep, and as one thing led to another, we realised we had a version of the mod that is no longer a mere incremental update. In fact, we have:

  • General
    • Made numerous changes to improve performance
    • Remade and rebalanced the hero system
    • Rebalanced tech trees
  • Galactic Mode
    • Brought our galactic maps in line with The Essential Atlas
    • Added new planets
    • Entirely rebalanced and remade our core sandbox campaigns (still a work-in-progress)
    • Created a new planetary bonus system
    • Created a new hyperspace system
    • Rebalanced freighters, including the addition of light transports
    • Improved the display of research
  • Combat
    • Improved land combat
      • Begun the process of adding infantry weapon models
      • New units
      • Improved weather system
    • Added many new maps in land and space
    • Entirely revamped space combat to be in line with land combat:
      • New armour, health and shield system
      • New weapon balancing and types
      • Better display of unit statistics
      • New units
      • Increase in map size to accommodate the changes

Many of these changes, especially those based around planets and maps, have already been mentioned in prior news posts. Check those for more information on those specific topics. As for the rest, I hope I can bring you more news posts in the near future providing examples and details. In the mean time, I'm happy to answer questions you may have here on the forums.

 

evilbob



Comments (71)


"Commenor must be some major-league trading planet" evilbobthebob - December 10, 2012
Sited in the Colonies, Commenor is a bustling, arid trade world. Its surface is covered with starports and landing strips for the tonnes of cargo that arrives and leaves, bound for the Core and the Rim. The planet swiftly became independent after the Battle of Endor, but its strategic location means that it's unlikely to stay that way for long.

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From an initially defensible landing zone, attackers must choose if they want to push up a ramp onto the upper landing strip, or move out onto the open ground below the small clusters of mismatched city buildings.

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Commenor's varied architecture is the result of its trading heritage; a melting pot of many different races and influences. Of course, both the Empire and New Republic would like to make their mark on the planet...

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Whoever takes control of this world, it will certainly assure them dominance across the Trellen Trade Route and easy access to the Slice.

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Comments (20)


Recopia: Base of the New Republic Defense Fleet evilbobthebob - December 7, 2012
Situated between the Corellian Run and the Hydian Way, the planet of Recopia is ideally located to strike the other planets of the Core Worlds. This strategic position, and the relative anonymity it provides, made it the base of operations for the New Republic Defense Fleet in the period immediately after the Battle of Endor.

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The reason this planet is ignored by the rest of the Core is its geography: sulphurous seas, poisonous fog and a lack of natural resources meant that a mere 200 million sentients call it home. They live scattered across the kilometre-high plateau islands that are dotted across the oceans, connected by bridges or airspeeder.

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Due to the sizes of the islands, vehicles cannot be deployed to the surface. Instead, airspeeders and infantry are required of any garrison or attacking force that wishes to take the planet. Any structure on the planet must be carefully chosen to make best use of the limited space available.

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The bridges provide choke points and defensible locations, while the small islands end up filled with skirmishing and air-to-air combat amid the lashing rain.

Comments (3)


Traveling Through Hyperspace Ain't Like Dusting Crops Phoenix Rising - November 29, 2012
Research has always been an integral part of our development process. No demand has been more of a challenge in that regard than our need to place each planet at a definite galactic location for strategy mode.

When I began the process in the alpha phase of v1.0, there were maybe four official maps available that held any degree of accuracy; all were clearly related by the reference angle. Beyond that were hundreds of raw sources netting thousands of remarks about regional or relative location. Had that been the end of it, my task would have been nearly impossible.

Fortunately, an adolescent Wookieepedia was available to help cut through much of the clutter. And then I found this fellow called Modi, who had translated the askew maps onto a Cartesian plane, allowing me to derive coordinates that could be fed to the engine. It was the Internet equivalent of striking gold - a starting point. Later, JustinGann expanded on Modi's work to include speculative placements, which afforded me a second opinion. The end result was an independent interpretation of the galaxy unique to Phoenix Rising.

It took the single most important update to the canon to void all that effort - for the better. Midway through v1.2, The Essential Atlas hit bookshelves. Every star system that had ever been mentioned was now bound to a region of space 1/576th the area of the galaxy. A great many were placed with certainty. The unprecedented accuracy of the atlas created a dilemma though, as several campaigns had already been finalized for the release. Rather than scrapping them and starting over, we chose to forge on knowing that v1.2's astrography would be flawed. I am pleased to report that the next version will be anything but.

TEA contains dozens of maps, each with its own scale and set of planets. My first step in replotting the galaxy was to composite them at a scale of 1 pixel = 10 lightyears to create a supermap. The digital Mid Rim sector map served as the foundation, since it had no loss of precision from scanning and little artifacting.

With that done, the actual measuring was trivial. The results were better than I ever could have expected: the first planetary coordinates for Abregado-rae came in identical to those already in use. They were not alone. Although I had corrected our most glaring differences - generally those with no frame of reference or cases where TEA chose to reject Rebellion placements while I did not - when prudent in v1.2, our interpretation really held up to intense scrutiny. Only Spuma, which Children of the Jedi had confused with Protazk, and Orinackra were completely off.

The present and final representation of the galaxy is 20% larger than v1.2 and approximately 92 times the area of vanilla. That should be enough space to prevent planetary overlap in all future cases. Several worlds always have to be manually relocated regardless of scale, but not so much as to be a distraction.

As profound as it is to finally have set astrography, a different facet of TEA had an even greater impact on strategic gameplay. The once-sporadic and eclectic collection of hyperlanes was replaced with a vibrant trade network.

In v1.2, we had two kinds of routes: "the Big Five" and "other". There are now four classifications, the most I could objectively derive from official maps. These can be thought of colloquially as "super", "major", "minor", and "trace" routes. Their benefits are scaled linearly, so while traces provide only meager income, they are much quicker than using a navicomputer to punch though an unstable course, as is the case with non-route connections. Obviously not every system can be linked via hyperlane, so we have tried to balance between using intersections and minimizing campaign planet counts.

These connections are now critical to military operations in the Galaxy Far, Far Away. In the next release, fleets will not be able to travel from a planet unless there is an explicit line - we have eliminated proximity jumps. No longer can an invasion bypass Anaxes on the way to Coruscant, players need not guess where to attack and defend, and the AI has fewer perceptions to crunch when executing plans. This is arguably the single best change that has ever happened to strategy mode.

When FoC was released, I never imagined we would be able to deduce coordinates for every star system. If our trials and errors played even a miniscule part in affecting that change, then it was all worth it.

Comments (9)


But I've learned so much! Ghostrider - January 7, 2012
With the stunning potential of the Freerunner model in full view, combined with the skeletal structure of the land mod in place, Phoenix Rising approached me the end of 2010 with a challenge: resurrect the Training Manual for the mod.
I had initially tried to write a training manual during 2010, but the idea never had any real structure and the project was put back on the shelf to gather dust.

The need for a manual had been building unseen for months. When we started development of V1.2 all those months ago, the mod was still small enough to be able to play by instinct and a few basic tool tips. As mod development continued, we were able to keep track of the expansion in units through simple documentation. However, as time went on this became more involved, with some fairly complex spreadsheets to keep track of space forces, the expanding number of planets and their advantages.
Then we added heroes. Lots of heroes. The complement system changed and more independent space units were added. Somewhere in the future the sheer scale of the mod would be too great to simply play by instinct alone, and too complex to try and remember everything as a developer.

The decision to redo the land mechanic from scratch became the focus for some form of supporting literature. However, the new land combat system is so totally different in design and depth that it would be hard for even the most experienced players to learn how to fight well on land. Support literature was needed, for players and designers alike.

But what form should this documentation take?
The old concept of the Training Manual came back to life and this time it had real purpose – help explain the nuances of ground and space combat and help players to make the most of all the development work that has created Phoenix Rising. The Technical Manual was born.

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As a graphic designer by trade with access to some high-end design software, I wanted the manual to be both informative and visually exciting. The design software can output to PDF, making it an ideal package to create an easy to read and near universal distribution format, and in shape I wanted the manual to fill the screen nicely and frame the new 3D renders created by Nertea. In addition, the copious library of screenshots could serve to illustrate units in action and key points of gameplay if required.
Once the basic structure of the manual was underway, a framing device was needed for the top and bottom of the page, and what better than an iconic screenshot of an Imperial-class Star Destroyer underbelly taken during initial testing of Operation Skyhook, deliberately taken to mimic the opening frames of “A New Hope”.
Tinted starscapes of Bespin space battles would initially serve as a background colour for the main text, but were since dropped in favour of another Skyhook screenshot featuring all the classic rebellion era units, including the DEATH STAR.
For the land pages, Phoenix Rising’s epic initial battle of Freerunners vs AT-AT’s on dusty Brentaal were unbeatable as background images and we simply had to include Nertea’s efforts in full detail.

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But what of the text itself?
For me, nothing short of a full technical manual would do, as part of the fun of being involved in development is discovering what actually happens if you push the Power to Weapons button mid battle, or wondering exactly how much more firepower you get if you upgrade those Dual Laser cannons to Quads. There have also been a tremendous number of esoteric discussions about almost every aspect of the mod, for example wondering why Dark Empire-era AT-AT’s are so terrifyingly effective. With the manual we can add this information in and fill in all sorts of interesting details and share some of the development buzz.
It also gives us the opportunity to thank in detail the vast number of contributors to the mod, and highlight some of the hidden work that often goes unnoticed by testers and other members of the team.

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Although it would be nice to have a full technical readout of every weapon, starship, upgrade, planet, hero and tank in the mod, clearly this would have to wait and to be built up chapter by chapter. For V1.2 an introductory General Overview and a Military Overview would suffice, hopefully giving players enough information to understand the basics of space and land combat, with the shorter space section covering useful updates while the Land section required a a complete breakdown of the new combat mechanic in its entirety, as trying to make the most of the new combat system would be a serious challenge without literature, and most players would miss out on critical tactical information this would make play harder and much less enjoyable.

Little did we know at the time that these two chapters would develop over the last year to over 100 pages, positively crammed with hints, tips, screenshots and enough technical data to keep an R2 unit happy for weeks. The manual also gives us an opportunity to thanks all the huge number of contributors to the mod over this lengthy development cycle, including the efforts of the various campaign testers and the output of our newest addition to the Phoenix Rising Team, evilbobthebob – our lead mapper.

The Space section of Chapter II includes data on all the space-based weapon systems, a detailed review of unit abilities and a look at the underpinning mechanics of space unit classes, covering armor types accuracy, damage control parties and other useful information. A full section describing all the different defensive and offensive abilities and a review of the compliment system rounds off the technical aspects of
space combat.

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A Recent Addition
In the last month a new major section has been added to the manual. A rather innocuous comment on the forums – on a completely unrelated topic naturally – made me realise that there was a gap in the manual. Many players are not aware of the full potential and fleet roles of the huge variety of units in the Rebel and Imperial fleets.

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This has now been resolved with a full 20 page review of all player fleet units, together with indications of their upgrade potential in the General Overview section. This and should provide commanders with greater insights into how to improve their combat skills, especially when paired with the technical briefings contained in Chapter II.

Discussion with the testers has since added a couple of pages of tactical notes and some great gameplay tips, together to make the General Overview complete.

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The Land Section of the Military Overview provides complete details of the Land combat mechanic, describing the key difference between 5 units classes of Droids, Infantry, Walker, Crawler and Speeder, describing in detail the strengths and weaknesses of each class, how units are produced and full technical readouts of upgrades. Tips and strategy are included, indicating all the facets of gameplay, from bombing runs to infantry garrisons in vehicles.

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You get to see the full weapon load-outs of all independent enemy units, and some stunning images of all the new units that have been introduced or converted for the intensity of planetary invasion as seen from a mud-hugging trooper or armoured assault carrier.

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And if this was not enough, we have full listings of all land weapon systems with damage tables for the multitude of pistols, rifles, carbines, grenade launchers, flamethrowers, mines, and heavy vehicle-based weaponry that are now in regular use!

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Future Chapters
These two chapters are just the beginning. As indicated earlier, the aim is to eventually put together a comprehensive technical manual for the mod, and the plan is to slowly release additional chapters as and when they are written!
The next chapter to be written will be Galactic Mode, used as a guide to help players make the most of all the information available to them, and this will also include details on hyperspace travel, trade routes, spying, information gathering and so on – but that won’t be started until after the release.
Following that will be chapters on Economy and Production at the very least – but this will all take months to complete, and as we progress into the development of V1.3, more time will be required to update existing chapters as well as writing new ones.
The V1.2 Manual will be included as a PDF with the release, and as always, we look forward to the ideas and comments this generates on the forums and I am sure V1.3 development will benefit as a result.

Comments (140)


New Maps Part Two evilbobthebob - December 5, 2011
As promised, here is the second news post about the new maps coming to Phoenix Rising with the release of version 1.2. I hope you'll enjoy fighting on them as much as I enjoyed making them!

Denon

We begin with the grey ecumenopolis of Denon. Situated in a strategically important hyperlane intersection, this is an important world to control in many campaigns.

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The landing zone at Denon offers a number of paths to the main base, and provides ample space for heavy equipment to be landed.

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The long, wide streets are excellent for walkers and speeders alike. Infantry can shelter between some buildings to keep them out of the line of fire.


Champala

Altogether a nicer planet than Denon, Champala is an oceanic world, home to the Changrian species. Its rapidly changing tides meant that the native coastal cities are adapted to being partially submerged for extended periods.

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One of the coastal cities of Champala nestles below an eroded cliff face.

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Repulsorlift vehicles are recommended for attacks on Champala and all oceanic worlds, though walkers and wheeled tanks can ford some of the shallow sand banks.

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The base on Champala is set on massive concrete foundations with heavy drainage pipes to keep the worst of the tides away from the main structures.


New Alderaan

Far in the Outer Rim, New Alderaan is, as the name suggests, the homeworld of Alderaanians who escaped their planet's destruction. Much like Alderaan, it is a temperate world, though with strong seasonal variation.

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A landing zone directly outside the main base, this should be held by defenders for as long as possible. It provides an excellent flaking route for attackers.

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Deep in the mountains, this pass can be used to ambush attackers or flank round heavy defences.

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AT-ATs emerge from the mist to assault the New Republic defensive line. The forest can provide cover for ambushing infantry.


Ord Biniir


A relatively unimportant world in the Outer Rim, Ord Biniir was covered in canyons and as a result, favoured by podracers.

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The initial landing zone on Ord Biniir gives attackers a number of different canyons to choose from, some leading to the enemy base, some going to more hidden corners of the map.

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The main base on Ord Biniir, built on one of the plateaus separating the winding canyons. Part of the rear base wall has collapsed, giving attackers an alternate route and providing defenders with a way to reinforce their ramp if necessary.

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The main canyons surrounding the base. If turbolaser defences are present, heavy vehicles or anti-vehicle infantry are a must!

Well, that's all from me for a while. I have plenty more maps in the pipeline. Other big map changes in 1.2 include revamped structure positions in Galactic Conquest: now your ISDs can navigate those station defences! All space skirmish maps have been scaled up too, so starbases can no longer bombard each other as soon as the battle begins and ships can pathfind much more effectively.

Comments (23)


Prepare For Ground Assault Phoenix Rising - November 30, 2011
In December 2009, I received an unexpected message from a fellow mod leader here at Revora that would alter the path of v1.2 development. Nertea, from The Dwarf Holds, offered his expertise on vehicle modeling. This set in motion a course of events that would come to define the release. What v0.1 was for space combat, v1.2 will be for land combat. In effect, this will be our Land Mini-Mod.

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The last version was a false start for ground battles, more raw specs than mechanic. While there is still much work to be done before we can declare a PR v2.0, the essence of Land is here now. We have a robust framework in place that is just waiting to flourish into a complete game mode. Our goal? To bring epicness and accuracy planetside. And to do it even better than we did for space.

There are obvious drawbacks in our decision to delay ground development, but one of the benefits is veterancy: we're all better at this than we were five years ago. Given the opportunity to start again essentially from scratch, I'm certain we can craft a superior experience.

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The difference between land and space, however, is more than a matter of gravity. There is a real dichotomy here for a number of reasons, at the root of which is the science fiction axiom of "why bother with land battles when you can fight in space". We know relatively little about ground combat during the Galactic Civil War - it just isn't written about. This leaves us with a fairly open canvas.

While depictions of army battles in our era are few, we fortunately have some phenomenal roleplaying material from which to draw individual units - great concepts that have been perpetually trapped in stat blocks and two dimensions. Given the movie models we had on-hand already from EaW, our most dire need was clear: the Armored Freerunner. That was the unit Nertea first set out to recreate that winter, thus commencing our renewed take on land combat.

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The Freerunner is the product that put its manufacturer, Kelliak Arms and Armor Company, out of business. This nefarious distinction had little to do with battlefield performance - the medium repulsortank features great speed and fire coverage. Rather, it was the result of walker bias beginning to take hold on the Imperial Army following the Clone Wars. The Armored Freerunner never entered general deployment with the Empire and KAAC went bankrupt, forcing the units to be sold off to anyone who would pay. Ironically, the versatile Freerunner quickly showed up in the hands of dissidents, where it would become the foundation of the Alliance cavalry.

As the model neared completion in February 2010, I began jotting numbers down on my whiteboard, starting with damage values and recharge rates for blaster archetypes. The roleplaying literals used in v1.1 failed for us because that genre is handicapped for player characters; the new format would be customized and exclusive to PR. Small arms got weaker, while cannons became more powerful. Recharge times, which used to mimic relative cyclic rates, would return to the familiar two-second cooldown of space combat, with two notable exceptions: carbines and repeating blasters fire 50% faster; turbolasers fire 50% slower.

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The next step was to come up with armor and shield classes. Normally, this is where EaW applies its rock-paper-scissors logic, but that's not us - our armor works by subtracting from damage received, while shields offer protection in terms of percentage. The mistake I made last time was allowing units to become invincible if armor exceeded damage, so a half-point minimum is now in place for any regular hit. The exception to this is special damage, which is tied to armor type: Organic, Droid, or Vehicle. An Organic attack, such as a poison, ignores armor reduction when used against Organic armor; however, it does no damage to other armor types and generally should not target them, in practice. Non-lethal effects, such as stun, are also largely based around armor type.

Ranges then rapidly fell into place. From v1.1, it was clear that literal distances and speeds would not work in a game that rarely represented more than 200 meters of a planet using its own scale. Authentic values could still be used for small arms, but they would need to be condensed. The range of cannons, which can even exceed the size of our biggest land maps when done exactly, would best be planned around the camera and how much can fit on-screen at a time. Once I decided that blaster accuracy should be inclined towards infantry and laser accuracy should be inclined towards vehicles - similar to the laser/turbolaser dynamic of space - the basis of combat was established.

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Before anything could be put in data though, it would be prudent to go back to the source materials and reevaluate mechanized armaments under our new framework. Problematically, different titles use "blaster" and "laser" interchangeably, or seemingly at random. On top of that are RPG damage values, which tell another story of how the gun works, separate from the caliber descriptor. These inconsistencies were largely mediated by role and context, so while our armaments may not match every official claim, we stand behind their legitimacy.

At this point, I began updating the damage-to-armor matrices, projectile code, and hardpoints - enough to get vehicles running. By March, the new ground mechanic was ready for its first real test. I built Freerunners and headed for Brentaal. The ensuing battle was one of the most rewarding moments I've had as a developer. Land was playable again. And, for the first time ever, we had an exclusive unit that we alone took from paper to game, fighting on a map made for this mod.

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With vindication came distress: the number of land models available to us was still terribly limited, perhaps unbalancingly so, and there was no quick way to remedy that. The best option, we decided, was to delay the release and commence work on upgrades, essentially adding the functionality for what we dub a "mini-mod". That meant that Ghostrider would more or less have to scrap the ground portion of the campaigns that were already finished. Nertea moved on to the next model and I went back to the whiteboard.

Just as space upgrades were originally metered by the prolific X-wing series, the AT-AT would serve as our gauge for land. Everything we needed to accomplish with a unit - both historically and for depth of gameplay - could be done in four variants. Breakthroughs for armies seemingly progress at a slower rate than they do for navies, so this represents only half the improvement of a fully upgraded space unit, but also costs half as much.

Once again, I've tried to ensure a niche role for each faction unit; however, in a departure from space, abilities are no longer mostly class-based. Instead, we have some innovative powers that might only be available to a single unit: self-healing armors, repulsorlift jammers, point-blank EMPs. Pure combat abilities in the style of Power to Weapons are less common and have been reserved for true battlefield juggernauts.

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Dealing with upgrades gave me a chance to clean up unit tooltips as well. Obviously anything would be an improvement over the non-descriptions in current use, although the space unit block text isn't ideal either. I had naively thought that EaW would parse newlines for popup strings when I first started writing them for space; of course, it doesn't, and the format just stuck. The only way to get text on different lines is to use multiple strings, so I trialled a modular format this time to take advantage of that. The stat blocks are much more clean and readable now and buildable land units have even begun to show prose descriptions, for those that prefer words to numbers. Progress!

Hitpoints took a while to calibrate. We've normally used strict conversions from official figures to determine the amount of punishment a unit can take before it's considered destroyed. Those numbers were in place from the previous release and were immediately quadrupled for all vehicles. That gave them the longevity that was missing, but certain units still felt off during testing. On paper even, some of the canon stats just didn't make sense - speeder bikes were rated tougher than skyhoppers. It became necessary for us to find our own way. So, while I haven't abandoned our sources if they can fit, I will supersede anything that does not with a value that works in the engine. And the game plays better for it.

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The vehicle focus up to this point is intentional, as infantry had suffered from longstanding coding complications dating back to retail EaW, when most land units and all infantry had perfect aim by virtue of non-working XML accuracy tags. This is the default implementation and was never acceptable to us. The alternative is to use hardpoints, which were not meant to go with containers, the "circles" that form infantry into squads, since they create a disconnect in targeting, among other issues. The jury-rigged fix for the previous release was to use the simplest container possible, but that meant that individual troops were doing their own pathfinding, were uncohesive, and were getting stuck all over the map. When I sorted out team targeting and locomotion in April and infantry started firing on their own, all the intricacy and nuance of our small arms design from v1.1 became apparent for the first time.

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Is Han the same character without his DL-44? We think not: blasters are too varied in terms of damage, range, and capacity to simply call two pistols equal. Although lacking art and tooltips, our soldiers have always used specific weapon models where it counts, in data. And not just a single weapon like vanilla - thanks to hardpoints, combatants can brandish as many arms as they can realistically carry. In fact, we've simulated almost every weapon in existence for this era, down to the esoteric, from power hammers to wrist rockets to shatter guns, with special care taken to preserve connotation and rarity in how they are used.

These were essential in correcting my previous oversight of indigenous units and structures. Due to release expediency, many files were simply left in their original state. These have since either been converted or met the delete key, with the most noticeable changes for players being to indigenous. Houses are still in place on the maps, but nothing spawns from them, there is no associated bounty, and they're not destructable. Essentially, they're just ordinary props now, with mobs being placed exclusively through starting forces. 19 alien species were added under the civilian archetype, which will be the standard way of representing non-Humans to prevent excessive variantation. Civilians are also unique in that they come in double-strength platoons of 80 to showcase their numerical advantage.

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Unfortunately, no one was ever missing in a firefight. I'd always thought of in-game accuracy as an angle and thus was sitting around doing trigonometry trying to figure out better values to use, until Ghost mentioned in May that it's actually a measurement of spread between a group of shots at maximum range. The last point is key, since that's what ultimately determines the fire cone. All land hardpoints were redone to account for the mistake. Infantry were divided into accuracy groups - civilian, military, elite, and hero - with each group using a consistent angle, irrespective to range to simulate shooting with the naked eye. In other words, at 100 meters, a pistol and a rifle are equally inaccurate, even though rifle fire likely has triple the effective range. The opposite approach was taken with vehicles: we've assumed that targeting computer quality is proportional to weapon range, so all mounted cannons are just as inaccurate at 50% of their respective maximums.

With ground combat in excellent shape for testing, my focus shifted to aiding Ghostrider with Operation Shadow Hand, which hadn't been overhauled since v1.0. By June, Nertea had completed his second vehicle, the Heavy Tracker.

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The Mekuun Heavy Tracker is a repulsorlift support vehicle designed to house an omniprobe sensor array. This technological breakthrough in the wake of the Clone Wars allows for ground-level detection unimpeded by terrain, a blind spot for existing omnidirectional sensors. Long-range scanning is used to great effect with the topside artillery laser. Trackers typically double as command units for the Rebellion, where they are able to set up rogue reinforcement points with the aid of a landing zone beacon repeater. Although very well armored, the abundance of electronics makes them fat, somewhat fragile targets.

Much of the remaining year was consumed by countless attempts to implement a custom AI, although I continued to expand our projectile roster and convert vanilla units that had been missed. In total, five previously unused troopers, three droids, and eight vehicles were adapted from Petroglyph assets, while the T-16 Skyhopper, Luxury Sail Barge, B1 Battle Droid, B2 Super Battle Droid, Low Altitude Assault Transport, and Mygeeto land map were assimilated from community releases.

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One of the last major changes was to reinvent the bombing run for PR. When bombardment was added in FoC, little was done to differentiate it from the carpet-bombing runs of EaW: both were indiscriminate area attacks. Additionally, there was only nominal difference between bomber types. Given our emphasis on statistical transparency, this grew intolerable in the new mechanic, so I devised a way to reliably bridge space and land. All ground bombers were afforded the same characteristics as their orbital counterparts, including weapon systems. There is now a huge difference between supporting an invasion with TIE Targeters and Scimitar Assault Bombers, although in case both are present, the game will automatically pick the better unit. Pilots strafe with energy weapons and actively target enemies with warheads - no more dumping the bomb bay. This is accomplished with conventional land projectiles; the only special case is for reloads: bombers can't launch more warheads on a run than they can carry.

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The rest of the time was spent collaborating, documenting, experimenting, implementing, testing, fixing, balancing, and optimizing - the daily grind that often isn't newsworthy. Special thanks must go out to the testing team for a year and a half of silent toil. I put off announcing the land revamp this long to avoid a repeat of the last release, where when it came time to wrap up, land was barely a concept. This time, we ended up with something tremendously polished, yet still very much incomplete. Whether or not we can see this through to the end partially depends on fan and community support, so after you download the upcoming release, tell us what you think about it on the forums, and if you like it, tell a friend! That friend might just be the next member of our team.

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