Dev Blog 18 – Narrowing Our Focus

Brad Hill Dev Blog

Welcome back to the Project Orion Dev Blog! Yesterday we announced some major changes to our development and release schedule, as well as changes to the scope and features of the game. In this update we will go into detail on those changes along with the usual progress updates.

Feature Changes

As our last news post said we’ve come to the realization that the scope of Project Orion is a bit too ambitious for the amount of time and resources we have at our disposal. With that reality finally setting in we had to decide how we were going to bring the scope of the game down to a manageable level without compromising its core elements. We decided on two areas where we felt scaling back would work without fundamentally changing what we set out to create.


It’s our belief that story is an essential element to any game, which is why we made sure to have a compelling storyline as a main feature in Project Orion. How we were planning on telling the story was by using Battle Group Delta’s capital ship as a home base of sorts, where between missions you could freely roam and interact with various characters both major and minor. This is huge undertaking, with many complex and time consuming features required to make it work well (detailed character modeling, NPC AI, animation, dialogue trees, etc).

To allow us to spend more time on gameplay we’ve decided to remove the Capital ship hub feature. This allows us to take the time spent on all those tasks we mentioned and use it to improve the combat, customization, and other features of the game. However, we still want to tell the story, and this is how we plan to do it.

Missions will start with a briefing cutscene of sorts. Your screen will display with would be on the briefing room screen, primarily visuals related to your upcoming mission. Your squad, the Commander, and other characters will converse thought the briefing allowing us to tell the story through conversations between the characters. This format suits the existing script very well as much of it was based on the discussions that take place when these characters come together.

Storytelling in the missions remains the same, with your squadmates and other characters communicating over radio. Upon completing the mission there will be a debriefing with you and the other characters discussing the events that just unfolded. While this is a big change from the original plan we’re confident that we can still present an immersive and compelling storyline using this format.

Squad Combat System

This feature has been in contention for some time among the team. Many of us thought it would be a great addition but the issue we we’re struggling with was how to implement it in a way that the player wanted to use it. Looking at other games that have this feature the only ones that have done it well have it deeply integrated into their gameplay, not tacked on as an extra feature. In games that have just tacked it on the game has to either force players to use it or it ends up going completely unused.

Based on these observations and our time constraints we’ve decided to remove this feature from Project Orion. If you we’re looking forward to this feature we apologize, but we promise the additional time spent on the core gameplay will more than make up for it.

And that’s it for major game feature changes. Our driving philosophy going forward is that it’s always better to do a few things well than a lot of things poorly.

Art Update

As usual we have some cool updates from the art team. This time it’s all about ships showing off some of the advantages of Physically Based Rendering.

The Orion

Over the past few weeks we’ve been working on giving the Orion a high-detail makeover. While it’s still a work in progress we thought it was definitely worth showing off. With this latest revision the focus is on realistic mesh detail with smooth chamfered edges, high detail normal mapping, and added texture detail. We’re currently between the normal mapping and texture detail phase.

Arckin Capital

We realized recently that we gave you a preview of the Arckin capital ship in a previous update but forgot to show you the completed model! So here it is with screenshots taken in-game as usual. Carrying hundreds of Arckin fighters and boasting several powerful directed-energy weapons the Arckin capital ship is a deadly opponent to face in battle. Even larger than the TDF’s capital ship it can dominate any battlefield with its presence.

From The Programmers

This is just a brief update on what we’ve been developing these past few weeks. Work continues designing and implementing new missions with a focus on broadening the capabilities of the AI. We’ve been making good progress giving fighters and heavy fighters the capability to engage the larger ships like frigates and capitals, as well as improving their existing behaviors to be more realistic and intelligent.

To support this new AI functionality we’ve spent time extending our damage system to allow a much larger range of targeting data to be provided to units. This extended behavior allows the AI to target a random part of a ship, a random point in a part of a ship, the closest part of a ship, the part of a ship with the lowest health, or any combination of those elements and more. It’s a super flexible system and should allow us to do some very cool things in the future.


That brings us to the end of this update. Just a reminder that we have changed our schedule for Dev Blogs to release monthly instead of bi-weekly so we can include more interesting content and bigger changes. Thanks for reading and we hope you return next update to see what’s new in Project Orion!