Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need advice.

Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need advice.

Postby fr1tz » 01 Jun 2013, 18:36

Thanks in advance to everybody who reads all this :)

Hi everybody. I'm the developer of a tiny, free (but not FOSS) multi-player FPS called Revenge Of The Cats: Ethernet (http://www.desura.com/games/revenge-of-the-cats-ethernet).

ROTC's main differences to other MP shooters are its complex combat mechanics and its unique "Ethernet" game mode, where players can switch between a flying, indestructable "Etherform" and a humanoid unit in order to capture zones for their team. This gameplay video of an older version probably explains the idea a lot better: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1UhaADbWuY

While I had a lot of fun developing and playing the game for the last couple years, there was always the thought in the back of my mind that slower-paced, more tactical gameplay with a focus on tight teamwork (a la Counter-Strike) would be a better fit for the "Ethernet" mode than ROTC's "dueling"-style gameplay. In addition, it could also eliminate (or at least reduce) what I consider CS's most frustrating aspect: Waiting around for the next round, doing nothing, after having been killed.

Then a couple of months ago I saw a chance to create the "Counter-Stike: Ethernet" described above: A couple of swiss organisations sponsored a call for projects, where swiss game devs could submit a prototype of their game in order to get some funding to complete it.

While I wanted (and still want) to make the game FOSS using the Torque3D engine (amongst other reasons because this would also enable me [or anybody] to create a 100% open-source version of ROTC), having only a few weeks of time until the deadline for submissions pretty much forced me to fork ROTC in order to create the prototype.

So I got a somewhat working prototype done in time and submitted it. It wasn't accepted.

So I decided I'd try to shape the prototype into something that can be presented to a slightly larger audience, get some feedback and then decide how (or if) to continue with the project.

Unfortunately I'm totally stuck right now, because I can't seem to be able to organize test matches bigger than 1vs1 (which is about as much fun as you'd expect from a counter-strike style game). It's the classic Bill&Ted dillemma: I need people to play with in order to figure out how to make the game fun, but I need a fun game in order to attract players.

I'm posting this here because I have no clue what to do next. Could really use some advice.

Btw, the prototype can be found at https://github.com/fr1tz/alux-game-prototype if anyone's interested in checking it out.

Thanks for reading :)
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby Julius » 01 Jun 2013, 19:25

Great to see you posting here! I always wondered if there wasn't going to be a FOSS version of ROTC version now that Torque3D is MIT licensed.
How much effort do you think it would be to get it ported to the coming version 1.4 (which will even have a basic Linux client)?

Sadly I can't really join in any matches since I am stuck far away in the internet dark-ages (to Europe I have a ping of about 1 second :( ), but I hope you will get some people to join you.
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby Evropi » 01 Jun 2013, 20:33

Hey there! I played ROTC briefly several years ago and I really liked the concept. I downloaded it just now as well... I sure wish there were some active servers I could play this gem on! Right now, only two are showing up. :(

I personally see ROTC as a development on Unreal Tournament and similar games, with a very, very signicant gimmick. Okay, it isn't a direct comparison as a vertical level doesn't exist in the same way (ROTC is played mostly on flat-ish, which leads it to feel a bit more '2.5D' than intended). However, I'm not sure how well this can be applied to CS-like gameplay. I have over a hundred hours clocked up in Counter-Strike Source, so I know what I'm talking about. :) That said, I have very little experience with ROTC.

Anyway, how can I actually play your prototype? All I see are a bunch of C# files... I thought Torque doesn't even support C Sharp? I have no experience with Torque whatsoever by the way, but it looks very Unity-like, which is an excellent game engine. If you could produce a Linux or Windows binary (preferably the former), I would love to try out the latest magic you have cooked up! I have a few contacts in #redeclipse, Red Eclipse's IRC channel (their forum is hosted here) who wouldn't mind trying it out. The channel is often quite active and brimming with FPS and Open Source fans alike.

Edit: it was resolved in the IRC, I'm an idiot. I'll post about it tomorrow, though I'd prefer an one-on-one in the IRC channel if you want my thoughts on it.
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby fr1tz » 03 Jun 2013, 08:23

Julius {l Wrote}:How much effort do you think it would be to get it ported to the coming version 1.4 (which will even have a basic Linux client)?

From what I've seen so far it will be quite a bit of work. Looks like aside from code that has nothing to do with rendering pretty much everything (code and content) will have to be manually adjusted to get it into the new engine. Maps will probably have to be recreated from scratch.

What version 1.4 of the engine do you mean? - I'm asking because https://github.com/GarageGames/Torque3D lists 3.0 as the current version.
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby Julius » 03 Jun 2013, 11:30

Sorry I meant 4.0:
http://www.garagegames.com/community/blogs/view/22290

A pity that so much has changed since then engine wise. But it would be great if the new game was to be converted to MIT Torque3d at least.
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby fr1tz » 03 Jun 2013, 13:03

Switching to Torque3D for the new game is just a matter of time. The problem is that switching engines does not solve the problem I'm having about being stuck in the process of designing the actual gameplay.

I forgot to mention that I'd like to work on the new game as part of a team, making the list of things I need in order to make the game:
- Additional Developers
- Funding (or alternatively [if I don't have to pay the other devs] a paying job that leaves me with enough time and energy to work on the game in my spare time)

I figured a prototype that's that's fun to play would be the best way to attract both. But like I wrote, I'm stuck in the process of getting the prototype to be fun to play.

What I can do right now in terms of T3D is port some of the things from the prototype that should be fairly easy to port and build a tiny game around them. That way the T3D version could demo graphics while the prototype could serve to demonstrate gameplay.

Edit: I could also add the source files I wrote from scratch for ROTC/the prototype to the (soon to exists) repo for the new engine/game, allowing somebody else to make them work with Torque3D.
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby fr1tz » 04 Jun 2013, 13:28

I created a repo for the Torque3D version: https://github.com/fr1tz/Alux3D.

Engine/source/Alux3D contains some fairly stand-alone files from the old engine that need to be updated to work with T3D. First thing I'm going to port now is hit-scan weapons with client-side inaccuracy and recoil.

Oh and be warned: The code isn't exactly pretty, there's a reason ROTC still carries "prototype" in its version string ;)

Back to my original problem: Does anyone have any advice where I could get some people to play (and maybe provide some feedback on) the prototype?
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby charlie » 04 Jun 2013, 15:44

I would post, with a screenshot (and if poss a video) in Showcase & Collaboration and perhaps one of us can post to the blog? I'll do it in the next few days. The screenshot/video is key for pulling in interest.
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby charlie » 04 Jun 2013, 15:48

The other thing to do is post to 'high volume' forums (e.g. ubuntuforums.org Gaming & Leisure) which is how I got the blog popular. You'll likely need a binary for take up with that approach though. Also the aforementioned screenshot/video and intro post (i.e. what you need for Showcase & Collaboration) will be critical too.
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby Julius » 04 Jun 2013, 16:30

Posting on (Linux) gaming sub-reddits might do the trick. But yes a nice screenshot/video and a downloadable binary release would be required to get players interested in testing.
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby fr1tz » 04 Jun 2013, 18:18

Thanks for the replies :)

I was kinda hoping that the first footage of the game presented to a larger audience could already feature somewhat refined gameplay, because I don't want it to scare people away ;)

I'll try to put together a little video explaining the game and the purpose of the prototype, make an "official" release of the latest version of the prototype and then hope that the gameplay won't be too broken.
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby charlie » 04 Jun 2013, 23:22

Nooooo development footage attracts interest, not repels it. Case in point; look at how many people are into Overgrowth these days. They were posting videos from very early versions (as early as 4 years ago).
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby fr1tz » 07 Sep 2013, 22:08

Whoops sorry, I totally forgot to reply. :oops:

Anyway, I took your advice and tried to collect some development footage. It took quite some time (even longer than I expected), but here it is.


youtu.be/fzaK8rFyOr4

Not much to show off yet. It's just boring deathmatch with only two boring weapons (one using a stock Torque3D model and the other one still looking pretty crappy), but (although you might not think it from the video) the gameplay/shooting already "feels" a lot smoother than stock Torque3D Deathmatch.

Main additions to stock Torque3D so far:
- Hitscan weapons
- Crude client-side weapon inaccuracy and recoil mechanics

There's still no video of the Ethernet prototype (which uses a different engine), so here's a screenshot instead.

Image
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby Julius » 07 Sep 2013, 23:24

Heh, I recently wondered if there is any update on this. Looks pretty cool already!

One thing though: going for non-realistic graphics in ROTC was a very smart move, as it looks quite nice actually but doesn't take a team of full-time artists to create. Now you seem to have started with a more "realistic" approach, which I think will not work out at all (or look pretty bad)... Why not make it some sort or VR training simulator with graphics not too unlike that of ROTC? You can have the same kind of gameplay, but with a quite unique and quicker to do look.
Alternatively (but more difficult to do) you could make it in a way that everything is heavily overlayed by some augmented reality stuff (think cyberpunk) so that the base textures and models below it don't have to be that good.
But I think the first idea (VR SWAT training) also makes more sense with the "ethernet" mode.
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby fr1tz » 08 Sep 2013, 00:52

Hi Julius,

I have the same reservations about a naturalistic approach to graphics, but I disagree
about a VR or heavily overlayed look allowing the same kind of gameplay. Beside enhancing
player immersion, natural stuff like fog, light/dark, smoke, etc are IMHO very important
to the tactical depth of what aims to become a tactical shooter. For example: In ROTC, the
fact that you can't sneak up on an enemy doesn't matter because sneaking up on an enemy
doesn't give you any real advantage. But in a game like CS, the ability to spot an enemy
before he spots you is part of the core of the gameplay and is vital to the outcome of the
game.

How to approach the visual aesthetic of the game is a problem I've been struggling with
for a long time. Don't know how to solve it yet.

But on a more general note, I'd really like to experiment with with having the game look
and sound differently depending on what unit you're controlling. For example recently I
had the idea that when you're controlling an alux (etherform), you hear the sounds of the
game world only faintly, but you hear every sound that's being made in the entire map.
Will have to see how that one works out ;)
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby fr1tz » 28 Sep 2013, 15:39

I made a blog post on IndieDB about some of the problems mentioned above and my "solution" to them that I've been working on the past few weeks: http://www.indiedb.com/members/devfr1tz/blogs/alux3d-dev-log-2-from-ethernet-to-frontline.
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby Julius » 28 Sep 2013, 18:34

That "soil" game-play mechanic looks cool, but I wouldn't use a solid "concrete" plate representation for them, but rather some sort of nano-bot or energy look so that the underlaying terrain or level geometry stays visible.
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby Evropi » 29 Sep 2013, 00:13

Julius {l Wrote}:That "soil" game-play mechanic looks cool, but I wouldn't use a solid "concrete" plate representation for them, but rather some sort of nano-bot or energy look so that the underlaying terrain or level geometry stays visible.

I agree, right now it appears too "intrusive" so to speak. it should be a less visible effect (as in doesn't cover the whole ground!), but still obvious. Maybe add a very soft red/blue glow to the ground that is very intense at the "borders"?

As for the soil idea... I'm not sure about how it would progress. What if you don't have many players in the game and want to, well, speed the game up a bit?
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby fr1tz » 29 Sep 2013, 13:23

Thanks for the ideas, I'm going to try out a couple of different looks and post some screenshots.

Evropi {l Wrote}:As for the soil idea... I'm not sure about how it would progress. What if you don't have many players in the game and want to, well, speed the game up a bit?


The mode is meant to be "slow". For a more fast-paced mode it would be perfectly possible to add the "VR training simulator" Ethernet mode that Julius brought up earlier (basically a first-person shooter version of Cat5).
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby fr1tz » 30 Sep 2013, 16:16

Here are some screenshots showing different looks for the soil: http://imgur.com/a/J7ry7#0. Of course non of them are polished/finished.
I have no problem with the "1oo% solid metal" look: http://i.imgur.com/JvI7YWC.png
Otherwise I think the "heavy solid core surrounded by energy shield" approach is the most promising: http://i.imgur.com/Zt30r0X.png
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby Julius » 30 Sep 2013, 17:18

of those shown the "heavy solid core surrounded by energy shield" certainly looks the best, but I think you should continue experimenting with some more options.
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby fr1tz » 30 Sep 2013, 17:56

Thanks, but right now the way things look is not really important. I probably should go ahead and slap some "this is just a placeholder" textures on stuff :)
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby dusted » 10 Oct 2013, 15:20

I played ROTC shortly a long time ago, absolutely loved it, both the look and the feel, very solid, sadly as with so many projects, void of players =(
It's extremely difficult to get players into a game that's even sligthly unknown.
I figure even here at freegamedev.net it'd be difficult to arrange an event..

Actually, it may be worth looking into, having a monthly "let's all play [game]" event.. But again, smallish userbase spread across timezones makes things difficult.
Hackerspaces seem a good place to get people into a game, (being inspired by the interview with smcameron), if you have a local hackerspace and the social-skills to interact with people for long enough to convince them, it may be worth a shot.
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby Julius » 10 Oct 2013, 16:51

Ahh, yes a FreeGamer game streaming event would be cool, but at least I am totally unable to join due to bad ping times here in central Africa :( (besides horribly expensive volume costs that somewhat limit my Internet usage)
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Re: Want to make FOSS "sequel" to ROTC: ETH. Stuck! Need adv

Postby fr1tz » 21 Nov 2013, 06:09

Status update: Alux3D Dev Log #3: Frontline Mode is playable... technically.

On another note: I now feel comfortable enough with the new engine to say that I should be able to create a 100% open-source version of ROTC: Ethernet using a month's time. Do you guys think that crowdfunding such a project could work? (I'd need to raise about 1500 bucks).
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