Dev Blog 23

Brad Hill Dev Blog

Hi everyone! It’s been another busy month working on Project Orion. We’ve been focusing on addressing the issues that were discovered in last month’s playtest session, and iterating on some older systems and assets to bring them up to date with the rest of the project.

As for the next Alpha release, we’re working toward a stable and worthwhile build.  We hope it won’t take too much longer, but we really want to release a solid build for our backers to test. So please be patient, we promise it will be worth it!

All in all, another good month, with progress being made in all areas.  Read on for the details!

Playtest Fixes

Project Orion is constantly evolving as we receive feedback from within the development team and the community. In our last update, we talked about our most recent playtest and all the feedback we got from it.  Our top priority since then has been solving all the major issues that our testers encountered. This month we’ve managed to fix every single major issue we pinpointed.  The result is a huge improvement to both the playability and stability of the game.

The first major issue related to how the game’s frame rate affected the ship’s movement, specifically movement was very sudden at low FPS.  Framerate independence is handled in almost every time-sensitive part of the game and the Orion’s flight control system is no different.  In this case we discovered that the issue was caused by a special case that occurs only using mouse input, resulting in huge input values being passed into the flight system.  With a solid fix in place the Orion feels much better, with smooth consistent flight dynamics across all frame rates and input devices.

The second issue, and one that has been plaguing the game for some time, is the AI’s awareness of the player.  Seeing two fighters so engaged in dogfighting that they end up cutting each other off colliding in a huge explosion of fire and debris is cool. What’s not so cool is when you’re the ship that got ran into.  To solve this very annoying situation we had to go beyond our standard collision detection behavior.  The AI are now aware of exactly where the player will be up to a second from the current time, and will actively avoid that area.  They also give the player a much wider berth when flying very close.  The final result has been an almost 100% drop in the incidents of ships colliding with you unexpectedly (really, we don’t think it’s happened once since the new system has been in place).

The third major area we’ve improved on is how we handle collision damage and response.  While realistic, the previous collision damage system very unforgiving, and colliding with even a small piece of debris at high speed would cause major damage.  There were many cases of instantaneous death caused by mid-sized debris as well, which was very frustrating for players.  We went back to the drawing board to design a system that balanced realism with gameplay.  In addition to damage value changes we implemented a new system for physics-based reactions to collisions.  Essentially, if you clip your wing on a large piece of debris not only will your wing take damage, but you will lose control while your ship stabilizes, going into a spin. If you hit a large ship head on (and don’t manage to be destroyed on impact) you will bounce and tumble off of it.

Those are just three of the major issues we’ve tacked this month. We also improved controller support in our menus significantly, setup proper menus for audio and gameplay options, revised existing script and level events for better flow, and fixed a myriad of other minor issues.


The art team has hit more milestones this month, with an updated TDF Frigate and the final major update to the Orion cockpit.

The latest update to the cockpit brings brand new controls and a redesigned seat.  Special care was taken to ensure the positioning of the controls was natural for the pilot, and that the controls themselves were detailed and realistic.  The seat, taking up most of the cockpit space, also had to be detailed and positioned just right.

The TDF frigate has undergone a minor overhaul to support our new damage state system, allowing it to be fully destructible. Along with those changes, we’ve given it another texture pass to improve the visual quality and better match the updated textures on the TDF capital ship.

New Warp System

The warp system for the Orion is one of the features we’ve really wanted to update but just haven’t had the time to do so.  The current system has been in place for over a year now and was only supposed to be a placeholder.

The current warp sequence is as follows:

  1. An objective is given to warp, along with the location to fly to in order to start the jump.
  2. When the Orion reaches this location control is immediately taken from the player.
  3. The ship is suddenly and rather violently brought to a stop and rotated to align with the warp vector.
  4. The warp drive charges and the jump executed.

There are several issues with this, from a gameplay and realism standpoint.  A fixed position is required to jump from, rather than just a direction. Control is suddenly and violently taken from the player. Physics are essentially ignored in order to align the ship correctly.

So in short the old warp system was terrible. And it is the old warp system now, as we’ve finally overhauled it this month!  The new system addresses all of the old systems issues.  You can now warp out from anywhere in the level as long as the path is clear and you’re facing the right direction.  Control remains with the player while the drive is charging so they can abort at any time. It feels significantly nicer to use, but don’t just take our word for it, here it is in action!


That about does it for this dev blog! As always, we appreciate you taking the time to read through all of the team’s hard work. If you want to know more please don’t hesitate to ask! Head over to the forum and we’ll be happy to answer any all your questions. Thank you again for everything and we’ll see you next month.