Cartridge Program: Modules

In this post I’m going to talk about our first datapad program — the module builder.

 


 

But first, a bit more about the datapad. The datapad screen real-estate was adjusted to fit a full 16:9 widescreen, so it has a standard aspect ratio. It’s native resolution is now 624×351. While normally it sits on the shelf, it’s fully draggable around the screen.

 

 

What’s really interesting is that the datapad runs unity packages. And it has hooks to game functions. So for example, the community could write a poker cartridge program where you bet in-game resources. If we don’t do it first! But really, you can write and distribute any cartridge you want. Either things that really help you plan your base (graphs, metrics, management), or just mini-games to compete for high-scores with other base commanders!

Module Builder

Modules are broken up into quadrants. In the first screen of the module builder you select the shell, and the contents of each quad by browsing the category and then dragging the object into it’s spot. The details are listed in the main pane, and the module itself is an aggregate of the attributes of it’s quads. Then you select your build crew (whose skills should match the build skills required of the module), and put them to work!

Design Philosophy

One of the downsides of being an indie company is that you get to do everything, but one great things about being an indie company is that you get to do anything. At a triple-A studio, the GUI team would be about five to ten guys focused on making the GUI look good. But the GUI would be a separate feature which has its own drawbacks. You see this in a lot of modern RPGs that might have an extensive and deep crafting system, a beautiful world, but you craft by manipulating drop down lists. Ultimately you end up staring at very basic 2d menus for a combine-style crafting system. Best case scenario, the menus are well skinned.

But because I’m one person I can put a strong design vision into every aspect of the game. I wanted to game-ify “the looking at GUI” parts of the game. While building modules is essentially a combine crafting system, in fitting with the world aesthetic of Astrobase Command, the Module Cartridge itself is reminiscent of old games. It’s fun to play.

Special Thanks

I am not a pixel artist. I spent about a week trying pixel art to learn how deeply this is true. 🙂 I’m good enough to modify someone else’s pixel art at best, but that’s it. Part of the reason we’re kickstarting is to be able to hire an actual artist.

So I emailed Daniel Cook to get permission to use the art from projects he’s worked on in the past, so we could get the module builder in-game. The Module program is using art from Hard Vacuum and Tyrian. I chopped it up and it looks fantastic. So thank you Daniel!

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