First screenshots, interfaces, thoughts

Work on the planet and  colony interfaces has made great strides over the last several days. This has taken longer than it should have, possibly because I believed it would be more difficult than it really was. I’ve had to rework the economy simulation somewhat to incorporate the spending controls, but the result looks good and will minimize micromanagement. Construction of ships and missile bases now works. With that in place, I’ve decided to post a few early, work-in-progress screenshots. Tomorrow’s project, once I finish writing detailed descriptions of all the planet types, is to work on the fleet panel which will let you issue movement orders.

First, the colony panel. This drops down when you select a star system which you have control and shows you all the vital information about the colony. Spending controls allocate percentages of the remaining production in a cascading fashion from top to bottom – you can see here that “Growth” is taking the bulk of the funds. You can rearrange the sliders to reflect different priorities. On the right you can see that the colony is building Scout ships. Pressing the Shipyard button will open another panel allowing you to select which kind of ship to build. A few finishing touches, like an ETA for ship completion, still need doing. Notice the UI elements match the player’s color choice.

Second, the planet panel. This describes uncolonized planets which you’ve explored. You can also toggle between it and the colony panel once you’ve colonized a planet, although it isn’t necessary (everything you need to know is available on the colony panel). The terrain distribution is unique to each planet, with trends determined by planet type. Presently the terrain amounts determine the planet’s maximum population and  its natural capacity to absorb pollution. Among the various alien races which you can choose to play, some will be better suited to terrains other than solid land, and their preferences for which worlds are most desirable will differ. I’d like to do both an aquatic race and a race modeled loosely on the Mycon from Star Control 2 who will prefer volcanic terrain, provided the experience of playing as them sufficiently distinct from the other races without unbalancing the game.

A vision of how the combat system will work has started to materialize, and I’ve some good ideas about the ship design UI as well. Combat is tricky, because it must be fun but brief, and supports ship design by giving you an opportunity to see your designs in action (which likewise give you an opportunity to apply your researched technology). The danger of putting too much detail into combat is that if battles become very involved, it slows the game down and detracts from the higher level strategic gameplay. Combat should involve huge fleets pounding each other into oblivion and not degenerate into protracted maneuvering and evasion. I’ve also thought about whether it makes sense to build the AI around something resembling a blackboard system, versus what I think is a more conventional design using multiple layers of decision-making and thresholds applied to weighted sums of various evaluators. Writing the AI will be very interesting.

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