|Planets by numbers
||Ghostrider - December 21, 2012
|The key theme to V1.3 development is conforming to The Essential Atlas, which involves moving all the planets to their correct locations. In addition, a new theme has been added to this which has implications throughout the mod, some obvious, some hidden: Populations.|
Planets vary enormously in their planetary populations, from the trillion on Coruscant to the airless uninhabited moon of Folor, and this now becomes the key economic driver for determining planetary income and industrial output. In general, heavily populated Core Worlds outclass anything else in terms of economic and military output (with a few notable exceptions), while some of the Outer Rim planets are so poor, one wonders if they are worth the military effort to take them. More on this later.
The second major change is fleet populations. Every unit now requires galactic population to build it. The more crew in a ship, the greater the Unit Population. Why? An Imperial-class Star Destroyer has 37,000 crew and requires consumables for 2.5 years. That's over 100 million meals stuck somewhere in the hold, and all this food, together with all the other consumables and parts required to cover every possible eventuality of running a Star Destroyer from spare rank cylinders to deflector shield parts has to be supplied from somewhere. Each planet you control will contribute to Galactic Population, and each land or space unit that is built consumes Galactic Population.
From a Campaign design perspective 2 points are immediately obvious. Firstly, while frigates and below have low crew requirements, the Clone Wars-era cruisers such as the Dreadnaught and the Acclamator Assault Ship are ridiculously crew-heavy designs, and it is not surprising that these designs were relegated to crew training and planetary defense roles out during the Imperial Era, especially with the advent of the Imperial-class Star Destroyer. While this certainly has a high Unit Population, a single Imperial is less demanding on Galactic Population than 2 Dreadnaught Heavy Cruisers, and with considerably more firepower. Yet another example of the technical breakthroughs achieved with the Imperial-class. It's not just a raw demonstration of firepower – it's also more efficient in crew requirements. Population is shown in yellow for negative numbers, such as unit population costs, and green for positive values, as per most planets.
So what defines Galactic Population?
Clearly food surplus is a key requirement to building a large fleet/army, but in addition a vibrant trade network is required to allow fleet supply to move goods around the galaxy to support front line military units wherever they are.
The current system of 10 population per planet is too uniform and simply was not going to work. But what do we replace it with? Answer – a full demographic model of each planet giving a picture of its food production, economy, trade network and industrial output that can then be used to determine a realistic figure for its weekly income and Galactic Population.
Actually this isn't quite as bad as it sounds as I had already started on a planetary demographic model during V1.2 development, but the model has grown and grown and is pretty complex. I'll attempt to break it down into manageable chunks.
The first step in creating a picture of a planet and its economic output is food production, the mainstay of most civilisations. Planets are not just lumps in space, terrain is critical to food production, so we listed a set of primary terrain types, all with different features: Grassland, Oceans, Forests, Temperate, Mountains, Volcanic, Desert, Swamp, Urban, Arctic, Barren, Ruined urban and Primordial and Asteroid. To this we add the civilisation factors: Technology Level, ranging from Neolithic/Primitive through to Super-High Tech. I also wanted a measure of Industrialisation and Pollution, which I call Harmony. Planets with high Harmony scores are pretty, grow lots of food and are good for tourism, while planets with negative scores are increasingly polluted.
Both Tech and Harmony have significant impact on food production and industrial output. Low Tech worlds take big penalties for both economy and food production, while the polluting worlds are penalised on food production but have bigger economies and greater industrial output.
Now we apply the Agricultural Level (which is a separate but related concept to the Advantage of the same name) , which acts as a multiplier to the terrain type. While the normal level of Agriculture is set at 1, some harsher worlds (where the planetary description indicates a subsistence level economy) this may drop to 0.5 or 0.25 depending on the local conditions. High levels of urbanisation will also reduce the Agri-level. Planets with good food reserves increase to Agri-level 2 or 3, while 4 or 5 is reserved for the Agriworlds, where the entire planet is turned into a giant farm. The scale of food production varies enormously, with Tatooine's moisture farmers producing 2.3 units of food, up to the giant of Ukio's world farms producing over 200 food units.
We also decided that planetary diameters will have an impact on food production, so large planets have their food output increased, while small colonised moons with lower surface area produce less food. As a bonus, we've taken the planetary diameters and re-scaled the planets visually in Galactic Mode so you can see size differences now, where known.
And finally, we deduct a measure of food that is eaten by the planetary inhabitants, so that big urban worlds are net food importers, with Coruscant's trillion beings eating over 100 food units worth of population.
The other side of the credit chip is galactic trade. This is based on several areas of industry. First, we take the trade generated by industrial output, which includes mineral resources, general industrial output (with positive modifiers for factory worlds), art & tourism, crime, and population-based civilian demand, so urban worlds score well here. Furthermore, this is intrinsically linked to the galactic trade network, and each planet gets a special "Commercial" ranking depending on its galactic position and access to major trade routes. The Comms rank ranges from 1 to 8, with position on the Big 5 Hyperrroutes (Hydian Way, Perlemian etc) rating an automatic 4. Remote Outer Rim worlds may only rate 1-2, while the super-hubs are scoring 6 or more. This makes a massive difference to the trade created by a planet, and has a major impact on both planetary economy and Galactic Population.
Most of this data remains hidden (actually in a massive spreadsheet used for mod development), but the result is a very personalised planetary economy. Having gone this far, we decided to complete the task by calculating all the important game considerations using this data.
Land and Space slots are now calculated using all the information gathered so far. To build a base you need solid terrain and a local technological culture to build and maintain the base. Key factors for Base size are terrain type and planetary population. Harsh worlds reduce the base size, high populations increase base size. The number of space slots is a combination of local shipbuilding – ranging from general technical skill of the population to specialist shipyards as noted in the planetary advantages, with additional slots for high trade requirements and large colony size. The number of Turret mounts for Planetary Turbolaser Defenses are now biased towards urbanised centres, and low population worlds tend to have fewer turbolasers than high tech worlds. The number and frequency of build pads is often also linked to urbanisation, so don't expect too many build pads to help your troops if you invade a barren planet! And finally, when you capture a planet, you get to steal/plunder all the goods awaiting shipment, so trade planets, mining worlds and planets with medical exports will have higher capture values.
Planets by numbers
If this is confusing, let's illustrate with a few examples; Firstly we collect all the data we know about a planet: Diameter, Population, Terrain types, Atmosphere type, Description. From this we can determine a range of 18 data points that describe the planetary demographics and from with we calculate the number of Land and Space Slots, the weekly income, Galactic Population, Capture Value, Destroy value and a rough guide to the number of possible towers for all those planets with unique maps.
Overall, with 300 planets in the database that's over 5000 data points to determine that describe all the planets in the mod, and 2500 critical data points used by the mod data files. This has then been tested (hence the call for Alpha testers) and re-balanced. While both the economic and population systems worked, the initial scale estimates were a bit high and a quick scalar applied to all values. Incomes now range considerable from negative income scores for barren moons to thousands of credits for the key industrial and trade centres.
Changes to the Campaigns
So what does this mean for the campaigns? Firstly, fleets end up a bit smaller, and Capital-class warships just got a bit rarer as all the campaigns are re-balanced for the population cap. This also has the added benefit of improving game performance due to the reduction in fleet size. Unless you have a large number of Core Worlds or agri-worlds under your control to boost your population limits, those early Clone Wars-era cruisers will end up being unpopular and will put pressure on your research planets to develop more modern and more efficient designs. Overall, the dynamics of play should become even more interesting with this extra challenge.
|"Commenor must be some major-league trading planet"
||evilbobthebob - December 10, 2012
|Sited in the Colonies, Commenor is a bustling, arid trade world. Its surface is covered with starports and landing strips for the tonnes of cargo that arrives and leaves, bound for the Core and the Rim. The planet swiftly became independent after the Battle of Endor, but its strategic location means that it's unlikely to stay that way for long.|
From an initially defensible landing zone, attackers must choose if they want to push up a ramp onto the upper landing strip, or move out onto the open ground below the small clusters of mismatched city buildings.
Commenor's varied architecture is the result of its trading heritage; a melting pot of many different races and influences. Of course, both the Empire and New Republic would like to make their mark on the planet...
Whoever takes control of this world, it will certainly assure them dominance across the Trellen Trade Route and easy access to the Slice.
|The Revolution Is Here: Phoenix Rising v1.2!
||Phoenix Rising - March 25, 2012
|The culmination of 39 months of work. Hope you enjoy it! We look forward to your feedback.|
If you've previously installed other mods, make sure they haven't put any files in XML or Scripts folders in EaW\GameData\Data and FoC\Data. PR v1.2 is fully compatible with other mods; it just looks like certain mods are incompatible with us!
If you've previously installed the LucasArts 64-bit OS, 2+ GB RAM patch found here, you must apply this compatibility fix after running the PR v1.2 installer. The LA patch alters the original files for FoC v1.1, creating an instability in mods with custom AI. PR v1.2 allows 2+ GB RAM natively.
|We Would Be Honored If You Would Join Us
||Phoenix Rising - December 28, 2011
|For two years, Nertea has been my Shadow Hand, operating strictly behind the scenes in our effort to transform land combat. While it was great for the suspense of the announcement, admittedly, that was a terrible way to welcome someone to the team. I'd like to use this post, which highlights his remaining vehicles realized under v1.2, to give him a proper show of community appreciation. Without his contributions, the ground revamp would not have been possible.|
Mobquet designed the Overracer Speeder Bike to do one thing: zoom. In terms of raw velocity, it's one of the best bikes on the market that isn't hampered by the control issues shared by swoops. Other than the optional light blaster cannon, there are few amenities of note, which is fine to the racers and scouts that primarily employ the Overracer. It's become a favorite of groups opposed to the New Order, which have been known to strip it even further to maximize stealth potential.
The newfound Empire conscripted Uulshos Manufacturing to build an armored command landspeeder to replace the LAAT in the role of ferrying officers in battle. The result was the QH-7 Chariot Light Assault Vehicle. Despite the bulk associated with tactical computers, encrypted comm units, and active countermeasures, the Chariot boasts impressive speed thanks to five thruster engines. On backwater worlds, the belly laser cannon allows it to double as a combat vehicle.
The Arrow-23 is a utility landspeeder that Aratech markets towards nature enthusiasts on semi-developed planets. It is larger and better armored than the typical family speeder to provide a certain level of comfort in the wild. It's also blazingly fast and highly modifiable, qualities that make it attractive to paramilitary organizations. The Alliance ended up with so many Arrow-23 Landspeeders that it became the default option for tramp shuttle, heavy scout, and battlefield ambulance.
When the Confederacy collapsed, the potential size of the Empire effectively doubled and, despite omnipresent propaganda, its forces were continuously spread thin as it pushed Rimward. Nen-Carvon offered a solution in the form of the PX-10 Compact Assault Vehicle, a self-driving light tank with a singular crew requirement. The tracked chassis is near impervious to pre-industrial technology, although its sensory inputs can be electronically jammed. Still, the PX-10 has been used against unruly Core denizens.
Ubrikkia Transports debuted the Talon I in the interwar period when galactic crime was on the rise. It is a modern example of an older concept: a militarized airspeeder built to engage starfighters in atmosphere. Although lacking the shields and powerplant of a spaceworthy craft, its sleek fuselage allows the Talon I Combat Cloud Car to excel at dogfighting. They are common to metropolitan defense forces and are occasionally fielded by the Empire in favor of noisier TIEs.
|Prepare For Ground Assault
||Phoenix Rising - November 30, 2011
|In December 2009, I received an unexpected message from a fellow mod leader here at Revora that would alter the path of v1.2 development. Nertea, from The Dwarf Holds, offered his expertise on vehicle modeling. This set in motion a course of events that would come to define the release. What v0.1 was for space combat, v1.2 will be for land combat. In effect, this will be our Land Mini-Mod.|
The last version was a false start for ground battles, more raw specs than mechanic. While there is still much work to be done before we can declare a PR v2.0, the essence of Land is here now. We have a robust framework in place that is just waiting to flourish into a complete game mode. Our goal? To bring epicness and accuracy planetside. And to do it even better than we did for space.
There are obvious drawbacks in our decision to delay ground development, but one of the benefits is veterancy: we're all better at this than we were five years ago. Given the opportunity to start again essentially from scratch, I'm certain we can craft a superior experience.
The difference between land and space, however, is more than a matter of gravity. There is a real dichotomy here for a number of reasons, at the root of which is the science fiction axiom of "why bother with land battles when you can fight in space". We know relatively little about ground combat during the Galactic Civil War - it just isn't written about. This leaves us with a fairly open canvas.
While depictions of army battles in our era are few, we fortunately have some phenomenal roleplaying material from which to draw individual units - great concepts that have been perpetually trapped in stat blocks and two dimensions. Given the movie models we had on-hand already from EaW, our most dire need was clear: the Armored Freerunner. That was the unit Nertea first set out to recreate that winter, thus commencing our renewed take on land combat.
The Freerunner is the product that put its manufacturer, Kelliak Arms and Armor Company, out of business. This nefarious distinction had little to do with battlefield performance - the medium repulsortank features great speed and fire coverage. Rather, it was the result of walker bias beginning to take hold on the Imperial Army following the Clone Wars. The Armored Freerunner never entered general deployment with the Empire and KAAC went bankrupt, forcing the units to be sold off to anyone who would pay. Ironically, the versatile Freerunner quickly showed up in the hands of dissidents, where it would become the foundation of the Alliance cavalry.
As the model neared completion in February 2010, I began jotting numbers down on my whiteboard, starting with damage values and recharge rates for blaster archetypes. The roleplaying literals used in v1.1 failed for us because that genre is handicapped for player characters; the new format would be customized and exclusive to PR. Small arms got weaker, while cannons became more powerful. Recharge times, which used to mimic relative cyclic rates, would return to the familiar two-second cooldown of space combat, with two notable exceptions: carbines and repeating blasters fire 50% faster; turbolasers fire 50% slower.
The next step was to come up with armor and shield classes. Normally, this is where EaW applies its rock-paper-scissors logic, but that's not us - our armor works by subtracting from damage received, while shields offer protection in terms of percentage. The mistake I made last time was allowing units to become invincible if armor exceeded damage, so a half-point minimum is now in place for any regular hit. The exception to this is special damage, which is tied to armor type: Organic, Droid, or Vehicle. An Organic attack, such as a poison, ignores armor reduction when used against Organic armor; however, it does no damage to other armor types and generally should not target them, in practice. Non-lethal effects, such as stun, are also largely based around armor type.
Ranges then rapidly fell into place. From v1.1, it was clear that literal distances and speeds would not work in a game that rarely represented more than 200 meters of a planet using its own scale. Authentic values could still be used for small arms, but they would need to be condensed. The range of cannons, which can even exceed the size of our biggest land maps when done exactly, would best be planned around the camera and how much can fit on-screen at a time. Once I decided that blaster accuracy should be inclined towards infantry and laser accuracy should be inclined towards vehicles - similar to the laser/turbolaser dynamic of space - the basis of combat was established.
Before anything could be put in data though, it would be prudent to go back to the source materials and reevaluate mechanized armaments under our new framework. Problematically, different titles use "blaster" and "laser" interchangeably, or seemingly at random. On top of that are RPG damage values, which tell another story of how the gun works, separate from the caliber descriptor. These inconsistencies were largely mediated by role and context, so while our armaments may not match every official claim, we stand behind their legitimacy.
At this point, I began updating the damage-to-armor matrices, projectile code, and hardpoints - enough to get vehicles running. By March, the new ground mechanic was ready for its first real test. I built Freerunners and headed for Brentaal. The ensuing battle was one of the most rewarding moments I've had as a developer. Land was playable again. And, for the first time ever, we had an exclusive unit that we alone took from paper to game, fighting on a map made for this mod.
With vindication came distress: the number of land models available to us was still terribly limited, perhaps unbalancingly so, and there was no quick way to remedy that. The best option, we decided, was to delay the release and commence work on upgrades, essentially adding the functionality for what we dub a "mini-mod". That meant that Ghostrider would more or less have to scrap the ground portion of the campaigns that were already finished. Nertea moved on to the next model and I went back to the whiteboard.
Just as space upgrades were originally metered by the prolific X-wing series, the AT-AT would serve as our gauge for land. Everything we needed to accomplish with a unit - both historically and for depth of gameplay - could be done in four variants. Breakthroughs for armies seemingly progress at a slower rate than they do for navies, so this represents only half the improvement of a fully upgraded space unit, but also costs half as much.
Once again, I've tried to ensure a niche role for each faction unit; however, in a departure from space, abilities are no longer mostly class-based. Instead, we have some innovative powers that might only be available to a single unit: self-healing armors, repulsorlift jammers, point-blank EMPs. Pure combat abilities in the style of Power to Weapons are less common and have been reserved for true battlefield juggernauts.
Dealing with upgrades gave me a chance to clean up unit tooltips as well. Obviously anything would be an improvement over the non-descriptions in current use, although the space unit block text isn't ideal either. I had naively thought that EaW would parse newlines for popup strings when I first started writing them for space; of course, it doesn't, and the format just stuck. The only way to get text on different lines is to use multiple strings, so I trialled a modular format this time to take advantage of that. The stat blocks are much more clean and readable now and buildable land units have even begun to show prose descriptions, for those that prefer words to numbers. Progress!
Hitpoints took a while to calibrate. We've normally used strict conversions from official figures to determine the amount of punishment a unit can take before it's considered destroyed. Those numbers were in place from the previous release and were immediately quadrupled for all vehicles. That gave them the longevity that was missing, but certain units still felt off during testing. On paper even, some of the canon stats just didn't make sense - speeder bikes were rated tougher than skyhoppers. It became necessary for us to find our own way. So, while I haven't abandoned our sources if they can fit, I will supersede anything that does not with a value that works in the engine. And the game plays better for it.
The vehicle focus up to this point is intentional, as infantry had suffered from longstanding coding complications dating back to retail EaW, when most land units and all infantry had perfect aim by virtue of non-working XML accuracy tags. This is the default implementation and was never acceptable to us. The alternative is to use hardpoints, which were not meant to go with containers, the "circles" that form infantry into squads, since they create a disconnect in targeting, among other issues. The jury-rigged fix for the previous release was to use the simplest container possible, but that meant that individual troops were doing their own pathfinding, were uncohesive, and were getting stuck all over the map. When I sorted out team targeting and locomotion in April and infantry started firing on their own, all the intricacy and nuance of our small arms design from v1.1 became apparent for the first time.
Is Han the same character without his DL-44? We think not: blasters are too varied in terms of damage, range, and capacity to simply call two pistols equal. Although lacking art and tooltips, our soldiers have always used specific weapon models where it counts, in data. And not just a single weapon like vanilla - thanks to hardpoints, combatants can brandish as many arms as they can realistically carry. In fact, we've simulated almost every weapon in existence for this era, down to the esoteric, from power hammers to wrist rockets to shatter guns, with special care taken to preserve connotation and rarity in how they are used.
These were essential in correcting my previous oversight of indigenous units and structures. Due to release expediency, many files were simply left in their original state. These have since either been converted or met the delete key, with the most noticeable changes for players being to indigenous. Houses are still in place on the maps, but nothing spawns from them, there is no associated bounty, and they're not destructable. Essentially, they're just ordinary props now, with mobs being placed exclusively through starting forces. 19 alien species were added under the civilian archetype, which will be the standard way of representing non-Humans to prevent excessive variantation. Civilians are also unique in that they come in double-strength platoons of 80 to showcase their numerical advantage.
Unfortunately, no one was ever missing in a firefight. I'd always thought of in-game accuracy as an angle and thus was sitting around doing trigonometry trying to figure out better values to use, until Ghost mentioned in May that it's actually a measurement of spread between a group of shots at maximum range. The last point is key, since that's what ultimately determines the fire cone. All land hardpoints were redone to account for the mistake. Infantry were divided into accuracy groups - civilian, military, elite, and hero - with each group using a consistent angle, irrespective to range to simulate shooting with the naked eye. In other words, at 100 meters, a pistol and a rifle are equally inaccurate, even though rifle fire likely has triple the effective range. The opposite approach was taken with vehicles: we've assumed that targeting computer quality is proportional to weapon range, so all mounted cannons are just as inaccurate at 50% of their respective maximums.
With ground combat in excellent shape for testing, my focus shifted to aiding Ghostrider with Operation Shadow Hand, which hadn't been overhauled since v1.0. By June, Nertea had completed his second vehicle, the Heavy Tracker.
The Mekuun Heavy Tracker is a repulsorlift support vehicle designed to house an omniprobe sensor array. This technological breakthrough in the wake of the Clone Wars allows for ground-level detection unimpeded by terrain, a blind spot for existing omnidirectional sensors. Long-range scanning is used to great effect with the topside artillery laser. Trackers typically double as command units for the Rebellion, where they are able to set up rogue reinforcement points with the aid of a landing zone beacon repeater. Although very well armored, the abundance of electronics makes them fat, somewhat fragile targets.
Much of the remaining year was consumed by countless attempts to implement a custom AI, although I continued to expand our projectile roster and convert vanilla units that had been missed. In total, five previously unused troopers, three droids, and eight vehicles were adapted from Petroglyph assets, while the T-16 Skyhopper, Luxury Sail Barge, B1 Battle Droid, B2 Super Battle Droid, Low Altitude Assault Transport, and Mygeeto land map were assimilated from community releases.
One of the last major changes was to reinvent the bombing run for PR. When bombardment was added in FoC, little was done to differentiate it from the carpet-bombing runs of EaW: both were indiscriminate area attacks. Additionally, there was only nominal difference between bomber types. Given our emphasis on statistical transparency, this grew intolerable in the new mechanic, so I devised a way to reliably bridge space and land. All ground bombers were afforded the same characteristics as their orbital counterparts, including weapon systems. There is now a huge difference between supporting an invasion with TIE Targeters and Scimitar Assault Bombers, although in case both are present, the game will automatically pick the better unit. Pilots strafe with energy weapons and actively target enemies with warheads - no more dumping the bomb bay. This is accomplished with conventional land projectiles; the only special case is for reloads: bombers can't launch more warheads on a run than they can carry.
The rest of the time was spent collaborating, documenting, experimenting, implementing, testing, fixing, balancing, and optimizing - the daily grind that often isn't newsworthy. Special thanks must go out to the testing team for a year and a half of silent toil. I put off announcing the land revamp this long to avoid a repeat of the last release, where when it came time to wrap up, land was barely a concept. This time, we ended up with something tremendously polished, yet still very much incomplete. Whether or not we can see this through to the end partially depends on fan and community support, so after you download the upcoming release, tell us what you think about it on the forums, and if you like it, tell a friend! That friend might just be the next member of our team.
||Ghostrider - September 8, 2011
|Mod development is a double edged vibro-blade at times. Adding detail and expanding gameplay can have an effect on performance, and this has always been a challenge with campaign development, where you canít just cram zillions of unarmed freighters around a trade planet to make it look real without making the PC sweat a bit. |
The trick is to add enough units to make planetary defense fleets look and feel real, and to have enough variety that you each fleet is different, and yet balancing this with performance.
Several breakthroughs in the development process have made this a lot easier and add up to making a much better mod.
Firstly, PR looked at how the game engine works from a theoretical aspect. While we are unable to optimise the engine itself, we can optimise the data that the engine uses, and this has been done by eliminating unused XML data objects. So the Zann Consortium has been whittled down to a handful of pirate/independent units, corruption missions are gone and the interventions (the random missions that used to pop up) have been removed from the AI. Redundant GUI model code was also scrapped.
De-bugging also uncovers some unusual problems. During late V1.1 testing we discovered that someone had accidentally left a microscopic sized level 5 Starbase tucked under each planet in galactic mode, and removing this certainly made the graphics card a bit happier.
The other big change to V1.2 is the use of a config.meg file to wrap all the XMLís into a single package, which reduces hard-drive access time, and therefore improves loading times.
We also tried unplugging the AI completely (not just switching it off), but this made very little difference to performance, as some of the performance issues are inherent to EAW modding Ė so we work around as best we can.
For the campaigns themselves, there is a clear correlation between the number of units in play and degrading performance and simply capping the large campaigns to a maximum of 100 planets was a step in the right direction. However, the big breakthrough came in recent testing, when Evilbobthebob discovered that while large campaign files are certainly slower than small files, the really important factor is diversity. Itís better to have fleet of 50 identical frigates than a smaller fleet of 10 frigates, 10 bombers, 10 fighters and 5 freighters.
With this in mind we tested a new approach to fleet composition:
We can keep a huge stock list of available ships, but ensure individual fleets donít have two different ships performing the same role, and keep the upgrade level consistent with the fleet.
For example, a smuggler world would have several YT1300bís instead of a motley assortment of randomly upgraded freighters. This eliminates several unit variants in one go, but players are still attacked by a swarm of hard-hitting light freighters.
The next smuggler world might be poorer, but slightly more criminally minded and would have say HWK Medium Raiders for a slightly more piratical bias.
As a player you are met with a completely different foe, but the game engine is happy to only deal with one variant instead of six.
This approach has been applied across the entire mod, and while no two planets will have the same choices from what is now a large unit database, but the results work. In the last three months, all seven campaigns have been re-optimised (the Beta varsion) with this viewpoint and, if anything having fewer types of units in an individual fleet accentuates the differences between one planet and the next and makes the universe that much more interesting. And the performance benefits speak volumes as the CPU is better able to manage the galaxy.
The following test results were achieved on a 3.6GHz Quad Core - Alpha version early V1.2 testing, Beta version post optimisation
Loading Times (s)
Core Worlds (Alpha) 31
Core Worlds (Beta) 25
Inner Rim (Alpha) 36
Inner Rim (Beta) 21
Outer Rim (Alpha) 53
Outer Rim (Beta) 38
Operation Skyhook (Alpha) 51
Operation Skyhook (Beta) 40
Thrawn Offensive (Alpha) 50
Thrawn Offensive (Beta) 42
Galaxy Far Far Away (Alpha) 107
Galaxy Far Far Away (Beta) 60
Operation Shadow Hand (Alpha) 67
Operation Shadow Hand (Beta) 59
Max Frame Rate Per Second
Core Worlds (Alpha) 28
Core Worlds (Beta) 32
Inner Rim (Alpha) 24
Inner Rim (Beta) 36
Outer Rim (Alpha) 20
Outer Rim (Beta) 24
Operation Skyhook (Alpha) 18
Operation Skyhook (Beta) 23
Thrawn Offensive (Alpha) 17
Thrawn Offensive (Beta) 19
Galaxy Far Far Away (Alpha) 11
Galaxy Far Far Away (Beta) 18
Operation Shadow Hand (Alpha) 10
Operation Shadow Hand (Beta) 12
Average Frame Rate per Second (1 minute test)
Core Worlds (Alpha) 24
Core Worlds (Beta) 29
Inner Rim (Alpha) 18
Inner Rim (Beta) 28
Outer Rim (Alpha) 16
Outer Rim (Beta) 20
Operation Skyhook (Alpha) 15
Operation Skyhook (Beta) 21
Thrawn Offensive (Alpha) 14
Thrawn Offensive (Beta) 16
Galaxy Far Far Away (Alpha) 9
Galaxy Far Far Away (Beta) 15
Operation Shadow Hand (Alpha) 8.2
Operation Shadow Hand (Beta) 8.5
This translates to a 30% improvement on performance for all but the most complex campaigns, and as an added benefit, the new files proved to be smooth and responsive as one moved around the galaxy on all campaigns.
Overall, this means that medium performance systems should be able to play on Core Worlds, Inner Rim, Outer Rim and Operation Skyhook, while lower end PCís should be able to play Core Worlds and Inner Rim.
And yes - it means that some laptops might be able to play Core Worlds at least, and mine is now used extensively for testing!
|I Think, Therefore I Am
||Phoenix Rising - February 16, 2011
|It never worked.|
No one could tell in the beginning, when we were still like vanilla. We got our first hint of the truth with research. Then the attacks began to quiet, and colonies disappeared. If we continued to change, there would soon be no game.
We changed anyway.
The task ahead was unprecedented: create a fully customized artificial intelligence. Despite a community's best efforts, it had never before been achieved. All attempts to alter the equations, the AI's means of perceiving the state of the game, had failed.
It turns out that FoC actually runs two distinct AIs: its own and EaW's. There is no way to alter the original EaW AI through modding FoC. It can, however, be circumvented.
And we have finally done so. After an arduous process of black box testing with no debug tools and too many distinct exception fixes to remember, Phoenix Rising can think.
My main objective with the AI in this release, besides deciphering a confusing system architecture so that it might work, was to return all the functionality it had out-of-the-box. It would need to be taught to reason in terms of our rules instead of those of the original game. Every line of every script and equation would need to be reviewed and, if necessary, converted.
In previous versions of PR, the base AI became dysfunctional as gameplay gradually changed. Some features went unaffected, while others shut down entirely. This iteration should return everything to its disposal.
A few aspects of the original AI would explicitly not make the transfer. Gone are the cheat scripts that spawned everything from cash to structures to dreadnaughts. The future will be won or lost on our own merits.
Before I began, a unique category type was created for each unit class in the game. It's now possible to easily distinguish between freighters and corvettes in the code, which, despite their very different roles, wasn't previously practical. More than just an AI improvement, this has benefits for anything that deals with units.
The conversion yielded an operational AI adapted to our scope and terminology, but with essentially the same logical processes as vanilla. For the space and land portion of the AI, this was acceptable - reformulating equations from scratch and adding new behaviors are projects for a later date.
Galactic AI was another matter. In EaW, a surprising portion of it simply did not work - rarely would you see an enemy Infiltrator Facility, Officer Academy, Cantina, Hutt Palace, or Mining Facility. Given its reaction to our splitting the Star Base, there was little left to salvage. Infrastructure, as it were, would have to be built from the ground up.
Once again, a subproject was called for and all structures were reevaluated. Why teach the AI how to build when the blueprints might be outdated? Basic stats like cost, time, and integrity were tweaked, but that's just the start.
We had a clean slate for land, so nothing would be held sacred. Starships are naturally organized into classes based on their size, but what about ground vehicles? EaW split them into indiscrete groups of "light", "heavy", and "advanced". I prefer to think of vehicles in terms of their method of locomotion. In that trend, there will be three types of factory: the Crawler Factory, for traction-based units; the Walker Factory, for legged vehicles; and the Speeder Factory, for anything that hovers. All building prerequisites were removed.
What's the difference between SecForce and SpecForce? We felt it was more than just a letter - the need for dichotomous barracks has been apparent for some time. With generic heroes steadily approaching pointlessness in favor of named, the Officer Academy no longer made sense. Its models were cannibalized to create a new concept for Stormtrooper and Special Forces types, the Elite Barracks. The suddenly redundant Infiltrator Facility was discarded.
"Hutt Palace" felt too factional, so it was replaced with a functionally identical Guild House. The HVs-2 Hypervelocity Gun and m-68 Planetary Magnepulse Cannon are no longer buildable by the Empire; in their place is the w-165 Planetary Turbolaser. The term "Star Base" has been retired in favor of "Orbital Shipyard". Finally, space research and upgrades are now conducted from a Research Station, which opens up use of places like The Maw and its Research 3 advantage.
With structures settled, work on the AI could begin in earnest. For every strategic and tactical goal available to the AI, there is an underlying equation that resolves to a number representative of desire to perform said action. Goals are organized into likewise sets; the goal with the highest desire in a set is executed by a plan - provided that the cost of the plan fits into the AI's budget. This process is repeated after a time interval given by the goal for every applicable object or area in the game. In the case of infrastructure, it's always considering friendly planets.
The first step in a new equation is to establish a constant desire to be modified by factors in the game. For production facilities, we use a large number that scales down as the faction reaches an "ideal" galactic ratio of structures to planets. For something like a Mining Facility or Golan SpaceGun, we're more concerned about not exceeding a local ratio. Others require unique considerations.
In all cases, it's prudent to include some basic checks to eliminate choices that break the rules. For example, the AI should not try to build stations if there is no colony, or a Walker Factory if it is Rebel, or two Research Facilities. Decisions should also be weighted by the relative value of a target planet, whether it is connected to an enemy player or not, and possibly by what other structures are present.
The aforementioned logic could work for any FoC mod, but this is our AI. Remember the planetary advantage update I posted about last year? It understands them intrinsically. Clone worlds get Elite Barracks. Research Stations are built at places with Archives. And Mining Facilities become increasingly difficult to pass up the greater the bonus.
It all adds up to an opponent that can do everything a human player can do - including win. Sure, it may throw units at you like it always has in battle, but its bases will be laid out with master precision. And that is the foundation.
|I am the dark side!
||Ghostrider - July 20, 2010
|Caprioril and Kaikielius have fallen. Renegade Imperials troops are under siege on Coruscant. Imperial strike fleets led by Klevís Silencer-7 and Pellaeonís Chimaera are poised over Nyasko and Abregado-Rae respectively. The Dark Side Elite await orders on Vjun and Prakith. Orders have gone out to annihilate all traces of the New Republic throughout the galaxy. But all pales before the vast armada of gunships, assault transports, cruisers, Star Destroyers and giant Battlecruisers in orbit over Byss and even these behemoths are overshadowed by the brooding menace of Palpatineís flagship Ė The Soverign. |
The New Republic has withdrawn from the Core Worlds, with the exception of a few critical strongholds such as Metellos, Anaxes and Brentaal-IV determined to slow the Imperial advance at a heavy price. With the fleet regrouping over Da Soocha 5, the shipyards at Bilbringi and Kuat have been deploying Republic-class Star Destroyers to boost ageing fleets of medium frigates and cruisers, while the secret shipyards of Hast and Krinemonen-III have been producing state-of-the-art Mon-Calamari frigates, cruisers and capital warships to strengthen the new bases in the Outer Rim Territories, with brand new E-Wings from Norval II adding additional punch to the starfighter force.
In these desperate times, weakened by the loss of Luke Skywalker to the Dark Side, the Republic must strike at Byss and destroy the Dark Empire and the Emperor at its source before the galaxy is consumed by the Sith.
Operation Shadow Hand is reborn.
A Devastating Addition
The key to accurately portraying Operation Shadow Hand accurately was simply to go back to the original source material - Dark Empire graphic novels and the Dark Empire Sourcebook. Where possible, the composition of all forces has been taken straight from the art of the Dark Empire and care has been taken to accurately portray every blip, indistinguishable dagger and ship class as closely as possible. We are therefore pleased to announce the addition of several new Imperial units to the campaign, starting with the World Devastator.
These capital-class terror weapons come with exceptional shielding and a good array or turbolaser cannons, and of course the Molecular Furnaces, which produce an almost limitless quantity of automated fighters- TIE Drones- in neverending waves. At point blank range, these furnaces can be turned upon enemy warships, consuming them utterly. And finally, if WDís survive the space conflict and are part of the blockading fleet above an enemy world, those same molecular furnaces are capable of sucking enemy ground bases right off the map!
Titus Klev commands a squadron of these war machines in preparation for the assault on Mon Calamari, while the remainder are stationed above Byss.
Operation Shadow Hand is also the campaign most closely associated with the Dark Side of the Force, and to that end two new starfighters closely associated with the Dark Side Elite have been added. The first is Lukeís personal transport (also flown by Sedriss) Ė the I-7 Howlrunner.
Although the latest in the Incom Line, it was designed by those Imperial scientists that did not defect to the Rebel alliance along with the X-Wing schematics, and the old stigma has resulted in limited acceptance with the Imperial Fleet. The ship is sleek and fast, able to outpace X-wings, and with superior performance to the Tie Interceptor and although it has heavy shielding, the twin laser cannons are rather light by Imperial standards and this fighter performs less well in an extended space battle. Its high speed makes for an excellent reconnaissance craft, especially when piloted by the Dark Side Elite.
Following experimentation into Ssi-Ruuk type entrenchment processes, Umath Lek has extracted the brains of mortally wounded Tie Fighter pilots and implanted them in nutrient solutions into heavy droid fighters, creating exceptional war droids that use the Dark Side of the Force Ė Shadow Droids. These are easily the nastiest starfighters in the galaxy. With the speed and manoeuvrability to outpace the best Republic fighters and firepower to rival an B-wing/E bomber, these are dogfighters par-excellence, made from warhead-duping stealth material. A squadron can probably outgun an Acclamator Assault Ship! Their only limitation is the lack of a hyperdrive. A full wing of Shadow Droids is stationed on Byss to protect the Emperor.
Focus on Byss
The other major challenge for this campaign was the sheer scale of the conflict. The art of the Dark Empire graphic novels depicts hundreds of ships in orbit over Byss or assembling from the Deep Core. While we cannot hope to have every unique ship in the mod, they translate fairly well into upgraded Mark II and III Star Destroyer variants.
Our interpretation of the Byss fleet is as follows, most are at least Mark II variants, unless otherwise stated:
6 Shadow Droid Squadrons; Gamma-class Assault Transports; Lambda T4d Shuttles, Skiprays and Guardian-class Light Cruisers in patrol / defense roles.
9 Armed Action IV gunships; 6 Bayonet Patrol ships; 12 DP20 Gunships; Carrack & Dreadnaught Cruisers; Escort Carriers; 8 Acclamator II Star Frigates; 4 Acclamator III Star Frigates;
2 Immobiliser 418Bís; 2 Taskforce Cruisers; 2 Victory Iís; 3 Victory IIís; 2 Victory IIIís; 14 Imperial I; 2 Imperial II; 2 Imperial III SDís; 4 Tector I; 4 Tector II; 1 Tector III; 4 WDís; 3 Praetor I-Class Star Battlecruisers a massive Praetor II Star Battlecruiser, Dark Luke, Singularity & Soverign!
Even if we ignore the Soverign entirely, there is more firepower in orbit over Byss alone than Grand Admiral Thrawn had under his entire command.
Republic and Independent forces
We aim to replicate this level of accuracy throughout the campaign, using existing variants where new or currently unobtainable starship designs are shown.
However, I can say that Rebel A9ís are in place on Kuat alongside the latest E-Wings, and the occasional Bulwark Battlecruiser is in evidence as a New Republic Command Ship. The MC90 Defiance class - which debuted in this conflict - is currently represented ably by the MC80b variant, and is present at Hast, Kuat and Mon Calamari.
We are, however, able to bring you the MC80 Evacuation Cruiser, which Mon Calamari technicians converted from Reef Home Star Cruisers in record time to evacuate civilians during the Battle of Mon Calamari, and the terror of the World Devastators.
Darkness has shrouded the galaxy, and many independent worlds have joined the arms race to survive, with Palpatineís influence spreading fear and aggression, and for the first time ever, this is without the stabilising influence of the Republic/Empire. Many worlds such as Aargau are now fortresses, especially since the Invincible-class Heavy Cruiser has been further modernised following the original CSA retrofit in 18BBY and is seen in the Mark II format over many worlds, but this is not the real danger.
These violent upheavals have devastated many worlds and as a result, pirates, outlaws and organised crime syndicates have made the most of the situation, rapidly expanding their activities, especially since the recent development of the StarViper-class Attack Platform.
This is a murderous pirate craft, heavily armed and shielded. Worse still, many criminal organisations have made increasing numbers of illegal craft, both large and small, from salvaged battle debris leftover from the recent conflict with Thrawn, and shadowports such as Columex and Nar Shaddaa are not to be entered lightly.
One desperate thrust
Given the scale of the Imperial Fleet, it is only a matter of time before the Core falls. Once the last bastions of defence crumble under the onslaught the last few Republic worlds will be rapidly overwhelmed. The last remaining hope is to collect every last ship in the Outer Rim and plunge towards Byss in an attempt to destroy the Dark Empire at its very heart.
This is an explosive campaign with titanic fleets and conflict on an unimaginable scale, together with a new, more detailed vision of the Deep Core and the Dark Empire.
Ö.We of the New Republic are pledged to end this long night of misery. We are pledged to defeat and destroy the Empire and restore the Republic to the Galaxy in fact and name. Those who are currently under the threat of despotism and anarchy know this: the New Republic is committed to justice and peace and will fight to free you. Join us if you can.
DO NOT ALLOW THE DARKNESS TO RISE AGAIN
Mon Mothmaís holomedia broadcast following the Imperial siege of Caprioril.
||This level is not made, distributed, or supported by LucasArts, a division of Lucasfilm Entertainment Company Ltd. LucasArts, the LucasArts logo, STAR WARS and related properties are trademarks in the United States and/or in other countries of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or its affiliates. All other content copyright Phoenix Rising Team 2006-2012.