Star Zeal 4x is still alive! The reason I have not updated for so long was to help myself focus on some stubborn and heavy coding that remained. Development has had its ups and downs but has luckily gone well enough in the last 6 months for me to able to post this.
A great amount of work has been done since the last time I uploaded anything, so much so that I have forgotten some of it. As such, I cannot fit everything I can talk about into this post, so I will be quickly summarizing what has been done and subsequently making some dev logs.
These are the main areas I have worked on, in preparation for the early access release:
-Game physics, EG: ship movement and combat. All of these now use physics simulation more so than they used to. This made the tactical part of the game feel smoother and more sensible. You will be able to see what I am talking about in action in the upcoming combat/tactical video.
-Weapons have received some more code and refining. There are now 3 main types of weapons, beams, plasma and ballistic. More are planned for a later stage.
-AI: Much more of the AI code has been completed, especially with regards to relations and the character AI which controls leaders independently to their factions. So now the interactions between you and the AI should get a bit more spicy.
-Great deal of bug fixing and troubleshooting, along with the never ending work on the UI.
-Large amount of art including vfx and new ship models like the sloop class seen as the center piece in the header image. The sloop class is the first official “proper” sized ship in the game.
Simply put, I managed to get an important chunk of development in the bag and I will get into the real meaty details in the upcoming logs. It will be a sort of final run before early access and there is a lot to go through. See you soon. __________________________________________________
Finally its time to talk about my progress on the procedural research and tech tree. This is an important part of the game I have mentioned before and wanted to show off a while ago, but I couldn’t get enough done to do a dev log justice until now. I underestimated the amount of coding required to flesh it out. Also the related UI really needed some extra work(as usual). Anyway, the time has come and here it is, so lets get on with it.
The research window does not look like anything special at first glance but it does not work how a typical 4x tech tree does. I guess you could say its more rpg than 4x in that department. Also the simplistic look is so it is both easier for players to use and for me to work on it over time. I doubt a fancy procedural tech tree that can keep going on technically forever is going to end up being good for ones sanity. Also this way you don’t have to scroll around the tech tree window too much to find the techs/research you want.
As of now I have implemented a few different types of main research categories: Basic, Military, Civil and Spacetime (working names). Each of these categories have their own points that you accumulate through doing things like exploring, combat, building labs on ships and colonies etc… There will be many ways to get these points, difficulty increasing for the “higher tech” types. I am also planning to implement at least one more techs/research type as biological science to go with medical related techs. Though it might be best to leave that for updates during early access.
There are two main types of research paths(different to the categories mentioned above), one which is a linear global improvement for some specific technology and the other which provides new components. Linear types have a global effect while the other provides new tech components which can be more varied. On occasion, a newer tech can be bigger, require a harder to find resource and or consume more power than expected than the previous one. Thus the older tech could be more suitable for your current purposes. These paths are where the bulk of the procedural research is and there will be a lot of paths to choose from. You won’t know the exact details of the attainable tech as you progress through these paths up until the particular research is complete. However it won’t be a blind dice roll either as you will be influencing the probabilities of what you will receive with your actions to high degree.
I have also made it so researching requires some logistics and pre-planning, which works in tandem with the resource system mentioned in dev log 7. You will require a place to research, either on a ship or colony and some scientist population including a lead scientist. Labs are required only for ships in order to do research. Colonies on the other hand only needs the player to allocate science capability points. The next achievable technology requirements are also procedural in most cases, thus some techs might need a specific resource to research(thats what that empty square in the branch boxes in the tech tree screenshot above are for). Though I intend these extra requirements only for later tier and rare techs. Another element I plan on implementing is the possibility of mistakes and unintended consequences during research, adding an extra risk. I will leave it until more testing is done though, I don’t want to go too far and end up making research frustrating.
So thats that for dev log 8. There are quite bit more details involved in the technology generation but I don’t want to give too much away, I might spoil it. Overall my real aim with the procedural research and tech is to allow the game to create some interesting situations on its own. Lets just say it could get a bit “fun” in the late game, maybe a solar system or two could be blown to smithereens or a whole civilization wiped out by a disease. Nothing too dramatic.
Thanks for reading, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask below or in the website pages/links below. __________________________
Quick bit of info on some changes to the dev log format(excluding this one). Upcoming dev logs will focus on one main aspect at a time. Thus each log will be shorter, more precise and not separated into multiple parts. However there will be more of them.
Now let me explain why dev log 7 took so long, unlike how I planned it out. It was initially meant to be dev log 6 part 2, but things did not go so smooth and it got delayed. Perhaps my explanation will help other devs who read this in regard to potential pitfalls with their own games, especially if they are a one man project.
The main reason it took so much time is due to some underestimation on my part of my own game and what I have already coded in. Due to the procedural nature of Star Zeal, everything important needs to be connected to and accounted for by one another, often in unexpected ways. For example, a mundane issue like a bugged sensor on a colony resulted in me having to fill in many holes in codes related to the procedural tech generators, buildings, and even colony governors. The more I added the more the other scripts already there had to be added onto, to account for the new code and themselves. It is a good thing I preplanned and left open the initial code to accommodate these things, otherwise it would been a real mess.
It was a long slog and I had to complete more of the game than I expected at unexpected times. However, they were overcome eventually, to my relief. Now on to the actual dev log.
Colony resources and production:
What you see in the gameplay video above is one of the main loops of Star Zeal where you craft space ships for your fleets. The player gathers and manufactures required resources then sends them to the constructor(s) which will build what you want over time. Essentially its about setting a production chain in order to get what you want. In this specific case a colony is producing and moving manufactured resources for a ship being built in a station orbiting it. Note that ships can be constructed on planet surfaces too, if a colony has a shipyard. Also, you can have multiple shipyards on a single ship or colony increasing the amount of ships built at a time.
Resources used to construct things in Star Zeal are split into two types, excluding the main “credit income”. First comes raw minerals and second are manufactured resources. Minerals are naturally found resources, usually ores like metals or uranium and natural gases. Manufactured resources are those that are made from these raw minerals. As an example uranium is required for the production of plutonium, which is then required by ships with components that need plutonium to be constructed, such as reactors. Also a quick note that ship components can vary quite wildly in their resource requirements since they are procedurally generated as tech(I will get into the real meat of that in an forthcoming dev log).
Manufacturing in the current build occurs on colonies with enough industrial capacity and available minerals to produce said manufactured resource. Industry on a colony depends on the capability points of the planet used for it, which takes time to be applied/changed. Also, resources required for construction are needed on location, they are not abstracted, which is why the construction process uses the freight system(mentioned in previous logs) to transfer said resources. Colonies also give production bonuses, mostly in the form of decreasing the time it takes build things. Coding this section/loop was what really delayed the log, it was a pain in the neck, especially the freight transferring code, but worth it in the end.
Finally, another important feature is that resources are not only for producing things, but also for supplying your fleets. Each ship will have its own crew(also considered a resource) and resupply requirements IE: resources for fuel. I will cover this in more detail in a forthcoming log. Its functioning well enough, but needs a bit more work before I show it in action.
So, that’s that for dev log 7. It caused some hair pulling and angst, however I achieved most of what I wanted and Star Zeal 4x came out of it unscathed, thank the indie dev gods. Updates and logs should come more frequently now that these core game mechanics are truly functional. I’d also like to thank those who supported the development so far in any way. Much appreciated.
Let us start with the main attraction, actual gameplay footage.
What the video shows off is essentially the completion of basic fleet control and main view levels(full, tactical and map). Much of the functionality seen in the video was implemented earlier on in development, about 1.5 – 2 years ago. However the big difference now is that these core elements are connected/go through the more complicated parts of game like the various procedural generators including the research, design, colonies etc… The whole shebang.
Even though most of the work went into completing older parts of Star Zeal, there have been some important additions. One of these is fuel, you can see this via the UI in the video when I give the orders for the fleet to warp. I put some warnings in there too, so you don’t unknowingly send your fleets somewhere and they end up getting stuck due to fuel running out.
I will be honest, getting it to this stage was quite a bit more grinding than I thought it would be, but I think it will be worth it. Its finally a game one can play like a game, if you know what I mean.
The player can now explore(and exploit) procedurally generated areas like debris fields, gas clouds and other types of phenomena outside of solar systems. Debris fields for example can contain resources, salvageable ships and other peculiarities. They are also in line with the factions and or history of the sector or cluster. You can see the fleet entering into an area, a debris field in this case, near the end of the video.
Atmospheric scattering has been added which is used to show dust, radiation and other environmental effects. These will also affect sensors and ship integrity, so technically its more than mere eye candy.
Leaders now have procedural history specific to them which will accumulate as each character experiences in an important event like a large battle, special missions, promotion or when he/she is killed/lost. This happens for the AI’s characters too. Also dead leaders still keep their history and “ID” in the factions, so they will have a memorial of sorts.
The leader window as seen above(WIP) will allow easy control of active and available leaders. Also note that leaders who are available to be hired/recruited actually exist on a location accessible to your faction. Usually these leaders will show up on colonies and space stations and sometimes in more odd places. Another important point is they can be killed if the colony or object they are on is destroyed, it doesn’t matter if you recruited them or not. I will get into more detail about the leaders/characters in the next log.
So that ends dev log 6 part 1. Part 2 will continue with more progress on leaders and finishing up even more things in general. There should also be more ingame videos coming. If you have any comments don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section below.
Quick reminder that if you want to support the development of Star Zeal you can check the funding page here: https://starzeal4x.com/funding/ or use the papal widget to the right of the page. Thank you.
Part 2 of dev log 5 will deal with progress on ships and their mechanics, which is probably the biggest attraction for most players. However before I delve into it I want to mention for those that might not know that Star Zeal has full 3d, real time ship movement and engagements. This full 3d view is always active, it is basically the view of whichever fleet you are currently in direct command of via a commander character/leader. It is where most of the ship screenshots come from.
Basic ship combat mechanics:
Ships have multiple attack modes: Currently implemented are boom & zoom and chase & strafe. There will be more options added but they will come when some more of the weapons coding is completed and I test out the combat more. Each ship in a fleet can be given their own stance which controls the style of combat, however each design now comes with a default (recommended) setting which will be used when the stance is on “Fire at will”.
Ships have also received certain interchangeable external parts which add weapon slots, cargo space and other enhancements (this can be seen in the header image). The types of parts you can interchange depends on the faction, ship hull and class, for example corvettes get corvette external parts. These parts can also be destroyed from normal hit detection, unlike internal components. With this in mind I separated the main engines into an external part instead of being an internal component, so it can get hit directly by incoming projectiles instead of using RNG. Furthermore engine components automatically multiply in number and cost depending on the design of the hull. So if the hull has 4 engine slots when you install the engine component it gets multiplied by 4. This corresponds to the amount of engines visible in the 3d model in most cases.
As for the actual ship classes, weapons/components and lore behind them, I will show that off in another log. It needs a little more tlc all around before hand and a whole log part to fit in.
The tactical map existed for quite some time but only now have I had enough progress on related aspects like ships/fleet combat to really begin filling it out. It is essentially the map of the current “full zone”, the place your fleet under direct command is in. Most of the recent work went into the world space UI, to represent where ships are and what they are doing. Note that height is represented positive and negative depending on whether you are under the alignment plain or above. (Alignment plain is the grid).
Another small change is that ship classes are now represented by symbols, eg: Corvettes are triangles. I did this so its easier to see the types of ships easier both in the tactical and other places. It also saves me a ton of time on 2d icon art.
Textures and shaders have been adjusted on ships and things like the world reflections were made somewhat better than before. This removed the need to use secondary lights unless there is something actually causing extra lights. Basically, the lighting was made a little more realistic. Also, in case anyone was wondering, the dark lighting is a feature, this is a personal touch I guess. I like the mysterious feeling it gives, its meant to suit the lore I have been developing. Space is a scary and dangerous place after all. I have also added remap colors to ships so you can tell which factions they belong to, even in the full 3d view and it allows for some more eye candy variation.
In the previous log I mentioned that in this one I would talk about progress on the rpg element along with ships, however I realized that would get too long so it will be in the next log. These logs are starting to get a lot bigger than I assume they will be. I will probably have to split some upcoming parts into smaller ones. I guess its a good sign for the depth being gradually built into the game.
So with that I conclude dev log 5 part 2. Let me know what you think or if you have any questions please leave a comment below. Also if you are interested in supporting Star Zeal, check out the funding page here: https://starzeal4x.com/funding/ or simply use paypal here:
Support & Funding
Support the development of Star Zeal. Check the Support & Funding page for more details.
As I mentioned in my previous update/news article, this dev log is quite large compared to previous ones. Its so big that I decided to split it into multiple parts, so as not to drop a massive wall on text on everyone. Doing it this way also helps me organize everything for my own benefit and allows me to finish each part off for early access more smoothly.
The main reason I couldn’t post logs as quickly as before was that it was more useful to work on everything at once instead of completing one smaller thing at a time and updating. I could get away with that earlier in development when the code was simpler and not as connected together.
The first part of this dev log will deal specifically with colonies, resources and the freight/cargo system. All three parts are linked heavily together and depend on one another.
(Do note that I will add more detail into surface views, but first I want to complete more of the game and see how it performs along with everything else. That way I won’t have to down scale.)
First thing to mention about colonies is mostly visual. The surface view has been returned to the semi 3d view I had used earlier from the purely 2d view. It turned out the semi 3d fixed camera for surfaces was the best option. Its much easier and faster to work on than the pure 2d method. Counter intuitive I know, but that’s just how it worked out in this specific case. Also, I already had 3d assets ready for it and they only needed a little sprucing up. Its a good thing I had them backed up, you never know when you might need them.
Other than that the surface view is also linked to the outside of the planet now. For example other planets that you are near can show up in the horizon, if the atmosphere or lack there of allows it.
(Please note the above image is from a slightly older build, hence the different UI text. These UI elements have since been made more clear as visible in the other screen shots below).
As for the colonies themselves, I made outposts possible to be built on planets while differentiating them from normal colonies. These outposts essentially use the colony functionality but are too small to be counted as one. For example, they do not grow in population naturally. Outposts can serve as mining, military or science bases, or simply to store your stuff.
Other smaller changes/additions to colonies:
-Populations are now split per species, each with its own population down to the last person.
-Crew for ships are “made” via the academy. Each academy gives a max of certain amount of crew at a time. This also depends on population.
Resources come in multiple forms, even population IE people, are considered a resource . Even ships are technically the same and can be stored on planets or in the cargo holds of other ships so long as you have space. The other important feature is that certain resources can be combined, aka manufactured into other resources. These are typically minerals found on planets.
Manufacturing on colonies:
Manufacturing is an important aspect of resource management, though its automated and mostly controlled by the ai of the colony. Resources on planets are refined/turned into manufactured products that are then required to build your ships and other important things.
Manufactured resources depend on the minerals available on the colony. Multiple minerals are required for certain manufacture goods. However common manufactured resources like alloys require very easy to come by resources like metals and gases which are found on most planets. Manufactured commodities are automatically transferred gradually with a freight link when you begin construction. At the moment, manufactured resources are only produced based on demand. (Specified storage of certain amount to be produced is planned to be implemented).
The basic functionality that is used for transferring cargo, IE the resources mentioned above to and from ships and colonies has been completed. The same functionality will later be used for trade, aka freight lanes.
As an example using freight, when colonizing, the fleet fills up with colonists from the source planet before heading off to colonize a target planet. You can pick how many colonists you want before the transfer begins. It also takes a certain amount of time depending on the tech of the freighters or shuttles at the colonies and or fleets disposal.
Essentially you can move around whatever ever you want between ships and planets if they fit in the cargo.
Some minor but related UI updates and the conclusion:
-Reorganized and completed more of the UI related to colonies.
-Split the colony/planet UI window as can be seen in most of the colony screen shots.
-Freight window to go with the freight functionality, mostly complete.
I’ll be honest, the UI is one of the most troublesome and annoying parts to work on. Good thing I left most of it until later when more of the other elements of the game were completed, otherwise a lot of time would have been wasted.
Overall, a lot of progress has been achieved even though it was a bit of struggle as the code became more complicated as I completed more of game. However its more complicated in a good way, more options for the player, more meat for the procedural generators.
Part 2 up next and it will deal with my personal favorite section of the game, ships and the rpg element.
One last thing, if you want to support development please check the funding page here: https://starzeal4x.com/funding/ or you can use the paypal widget on the upper right hand side of this page. Any support will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Its been some time since the last update, so I decided it would be prudent to make a short news article about development progress, and upcoming dev logs.
Since the last dev log a great deal of work has gone into the code. Essentially I have been connecting the main elements of the game together closing out the main gameplay loop, which also turned out to be more complicated than I had assumed. This is not really a bad thing since the higher amount of complexity in the code is due the game having more depth. Most importantly though, Star Zeal development is still hanging in there, important progress has been made.
To show off this work, there will be an upcoming dev log, which is so big that I had to break it up into quite a number of parts. If everything goes accordingly it should be one of the last dev logs before I release into early access.
I will get into more detail for each gameplay element in the upcoming multi part dev log,
Also, in case you are wondering, the header picture is a screen shot from the planet surface view of a colony belonging to a procedural AI faction. Similar to a pirate faction.
Its been some time since last update but that is not because of a lack of progress, quite the contrary. This update is very big so I will split it into 3-4 mini updates/dev logs a few days apart.
The first important news to get out of the way is that Star Zeal is no longer attempting to get funded on indiegogo and will release on early access. I decided to do this rather than spending all that time and effort setting up crowd funding which requires its own art, marketing and so on.
If you still want to support the development of Star Zeal, you can do so via the funding page here on this website. Support & Funding
The other important part/change to gameplay is that the RPG aspect has been made more prominent and the “god” view of typical 4x games has been removed. Essentially the game was split into two parts then joined again. The old 4x style play area now functions as a map only and then in the other is full area as seen bellow is where your character and ships are. This is kind of like an RTS view. However your empire is still controlled through the map including other fleets, colonies etc.
There has also been a lot of other progress on basically all the core features. However as mentioned above I will only make a summary here and dev log them separately with much more details in coming days.
________________________________________ Summary of progress and changes:
Changes to rpg/character and fleet action.
-Your empire/faction is controlled less directly, but your lead fleet more directly.
-Each ship now has a captain including player him/herself and they can be promoted to commanders of fleets.
-Leaders/characters are more directly involved, and affect not only fleets and colonies but their own ships they captain.
-Ships within fleets are unique and not mere clones of a design. They have their own cargo bays for many different kinds of items, salvaged components, crew level etc.
-Empires/Factions is more geared towards tall style than wide. Thus planets have become much more important. Colonizing is rarer and more difficult but produce much more in return if you get it right.
-Inside warp/FTL travel is now visible/playable.
Essentially what has happened is that I kept to the original goal since this is a rpg 4x hybrid, not merely a 4x with rpg elements. This way its more of an even mix of the two genres. Another good aspect is that it works better with the large procedural galaxy, emphasizing exploration/discovery more.
This is the last major change in development, I am now satisfied with the direction. It was a much harder struggle to achieve a good fit for the hybrid rpg and 4x than I had anticipated, however it seems to have worked out in the end.
While inside warp all the normal functions are still there. So you can deal with your empire/civilization business while going to your destination.
More procedural galaxy progress:
-Procedural galaxy code is now mostly complete, sectors, clusters of stars, solar systems and planets are now procedural along with that being plugged into a procedural planet texture generator. You can view all the objects from galaxy level to planets on the map and get up close and personal with your leaders fleet.
There many different kinds of planets now, from water worlds to lava planets like below. They are also generated with realistic positions from the main star. For example lava/volcanic planets can only appear near the star and more commonly in young systems in the process of forming.
-The stars and planets are now generated based on more realistic probabilities(not entirely) . You can even encounter neutron stars and black holes which will be a big deal for your civilization when you do find them.
Each cluster of stars now has the possibility of generating many different kinds of stars, some very full of planets and moons and others can be near empty. Some don’t even have planets.
Other major progress on all aspects of the game.
-The UI got a major update and change. The “god” view map is gone and replaced by more abstracted like UI map.
-Research functions on a capacity basis, so you have to build more capacity in order to hold more research points at a time.
-There are multiple types of research eg: Military, Engineering or Space Time(fancy stuff FTL related stuff), along with a generalized main research.
-Planets and Solar Systems require charting to see whats there. This also provides research points.
-Sensors tech for seeing hidden objects are part of the exploration and military aspect of the game. An entire faction can be hidden to you by this mechanic.
In conclusion for this dev log: There has been a lot of progress so stay tuned for more as early access looms in the horizon.
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask right here in the comments.
Star Zeal development has been quiet for over a month but for a good reason.
There was a lot of coding done on more core features and a few changes.
1: Major change in colony management and resources.
Colony management is now dealt with by points allocation between four priorities, Civil, Industry, Science and Military. You no longer have to worry about constructing specific buildings to mine specific minerals and other similarly mundane tasks. However, the player can still construct special buildings like wonders and other unique objects.
With this change the player essentially sets the direction of the colony depending on what is wanted/needed. You can create different types of colonies based on priority points set and the capability of the planet, after which the colony will gradually develop accordingly. For example, you could create a pure military, or a mining colony that provides resources and production or military support to linked colonies via trade lanes.
Different planets have different capacities or capability that determine the maximum amount of priority points you can set. Many planets are desolate and have little going on but it might be useful to create a small colony on them to get a bit more access to resources. You could even set lower priority points than the max of a planet so it won’t grow larger than you need.
These changes to colony management are meant to allow for more automation and less micromanagment and to make room for manufacturing of certain resources. Previously there was too much the player had to worry about on the colony level which took away from other parts of the game.
Another change are to resources, as they now function on the basis of availability instead of raw counts, IE the number in mega tonnes. You don’t have to worry about specific amounts of resources, only that they are available to whatever needs it. Trade lanes can provide resources for places that don’t produced or have them on the planet on their own. The player still has control over what resources are available, particularly those which are manufactured as they require certain levels of the colony like production to be reached. Other resources that are special and very rare will have limited counts like void crystals.
The resources themselves have also changed somewhat. Basic minerals are now condensed into metals and gases making way for more important resources like Zorium and Tritanium.
Finally the colony governor dialogue system was added, the governor basically tells you whats going on in the colony and gives you some suggestions or opinions with a bit of personality added to it. Do note the current dialogue in the screenshot above is very early. Proper dialogue will come after more of the lore per faction is fleshed out.
2: Progress AI factions, particularly procedural pirate and criminal factions.
Procedural factions and random fleets that are based off main factions now show up depending on some global situations, like political upheaval, rebellions and particularly factions vulnerable to crime, aka pirates. Also they can be discovered randomly while exploring. These factions are generally not as powerful as main factions and don’t expand much but they can still grow and colonize new systems and given enough time, can become a serious threat… or good ally.
3: Small graphical improvements.
This dev cycle had little art but there were some improvements in the UI and some general progress on other art like planet surfaces and so on.
Remember, if you want to support development check the funding page or use the direct paypal widget on the right hand side of the website.