Thursday, February 7, 2013

Beyond Beyaan

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined by Brent Patterson who is here to take us down memory lane with his new project, “Beyond Beyaan.”  Thank you for joining us today Brent.

Hello, and thanks for conducting this interview!  I’m glad to answer your questions!

As a long time Master of Orion 1 & 2 fan (They’re in my top ten of all time list) your campaign nails me in the opening.   I totally keep an eye on every 4X game coming out hoping for Master of Orion 2 with new visuals, but nope, never shows up.  Tell us how your game can help change that?  

I’ve seen different companies/indies announce their new 4X game saying that it’s “similar to Master of Orion except for...” and those differences ended up turning their game into something that’s not similar to Master of Orion, or at least what we’re hoping for.  I think the problem is that different people like different features, so some games put emphasis on certain features and omits others.  With Beyond Beyaan, I want to create a game where it’s easy for people to create their own version of 4X game.  You don’t turn on/off features from inside the game, but rather, you create data files and artwork assets and the game will handle the rest.  If that’s not enough, you can modify the game’s source code directly and add support for features that you want.

How moddable are we talking here?  Will I be able to have different star drives per race like in Sword of the Stars?  Can I make custom races like you did in Master of Orion 2?  How about ground combat with all the little guys fighting it out like 2?  Can I turn off combat and make it more like Endless Space where it’s all more streamlined?  

As moddable as you want it to be!  With the game’s source code being open, you can modify the game itself!  However, some people may rather modify the data files, so from now on I’ll assume that when you say “modding”, you’re referring to the data files.  As for different star drives, the game supports racial technologies, so it’s possible to have a race have only “impulse” drives and requires stargates to be built at different systems, another race to have warp drives, and another race to have engines that works only with starlanes.  You create the technology items that are used in the game, then specify which races have access to which technologies.

With custom races, the answer is yes and no.  You can’t make custom races in-game similar to Master of Orion 2 where you pick a race, then modify its attributes.  But you can create a custom race in the data files.  This way, computer players can have access to those races as well, and it avoids “overpowered” combinations in multiplayer.

Currently ground combat is similar to Master of Orion 1, where you send people to another planet, and have them duke it out.  There’s no special ground units right now (marines, tanks, etc), I’m focused on getting the game playable at this time.  I do hope to add more ground combat features in the future.

As for turning off combat, I was actually kicking around an idea to add an alternative combat system similar to the turn-based series of “Warlords” where your ships would face off another group, and each ship gets eliminated one by one based on their strength and die roll.  Of course, that could be expanded to have every ship involved at once and have a mini-movie play out.  But that’s for after the basic features are done.

You mention being able to put 3D models in instead of the pixel art. Would they be stills or semi-animated like in MOO2?  

Right now, it’s stills.  I plan to re-do how sprites are handled in the game so that they will support animation.  By 3D models I was talking about pre-rendered artwork where 3D models are created then converted to a 2D image (think of Master of Orion’s pre-rendered landscapes and landing ships).  3D support would require a lot of work, the engine supports it, but I’m not very familiar with 3D programming.

How deep can I make the space combat?  Can I do the Master of Orion 2 thing with the individual ships and weapon fire all turned based?  How about the huge stacks of ships from Master of Orion?  What about the pausable real time battles like in Space Empire series?  
My plans for space combat is to allow different approaches.  Right now, it’s similar to Master of Orion 2, with individual ships, but I plan to add weapon grouping so you can select a group and fire it at one destination, or select all groups and fire them together.  In the future, I plan to add stacked ships, I was originally going with stacked ships, but my inexperience with scripting made me change to individual ships.  But now, after working with the scripting system in my game, I can add stacked ships again, but that will require some work, mainly the user interface.

I think one unique thing about Beyond Beyaan is that each technology can have a script.  Let me give an example:

There’s a “InstantBeam” script that are used for laser and other beam weapons that instantly draws a beam across the space combat.  When it is fired, it takes in the ship’s position and the target position, and tells the game that it’s drawing a collision line between the two.  The game then checks each ship in the combat one by one, and checks each of their equipment to see if their collision circle intersects with this “line”.  If there are some, it is processed in order from closest to farthest.  The weapon’s values are then passed into each equipment.  So if a large shield that’s 5 times its ship radius intersects with the beam, it deducts the damage from the beam.  If the beam continues on without hitting the ship, it hits the shield again from the inside on the other side, and damage is again deducted before it continues on.  It’s possible to cause friendly fire, like in X-Com where you accidentally kill your own units.

Here’s some examples of the scripting system in action.  Here's one showing the laser beam going into the shield, but failing to make it out the other side:

Here’s one showing a laser penetrating a ship’s two shields on both sides (Yes, a ship can have more than one shield!):

Here’s one where nearby ships have their shields overlapping (Note that laser penetrates the first two ships’ shields on both sides, but only got as far as fourth ship’s shield):

There are a lot of things that you can do with scripting, such as a particle that ignores shields, a “dodgeball” torpedo that bounces off ships to hit other ships, etc.  I want to avoid “Plasma Cannon is better than Laser Cannon because it does more damage” situations where old technologies instantly become obsolete after new ones are researched.  I want each technology to give an unique twist, maybe Plasma Cannon fades out after a distance, or Tachyon Beam that randomly flickers in and out of existence while traveling and you’re not sure if it will hit its target, but it deals massive damage when it does hit something.  I want the basic Laser cannon to be still useful even in late-game.

As for real-time, it’s possible, but will require a lot of work to add support for it.  It’s very different from how turn-based combat are processed.  I hope to add support for it as well.

What programing language is this written in?  Is it for Windows only?  

It’s written in C# language, using XML files for data.  The Gorgon engine that I’m using ( is based on SlimDX, which is DirectX, and therefore Windows only.  It’s possible to port it over to other platforms, but it’d require changing the engine.  It’s low on my priority because switching engines can really kill your motivation, but it’s very doable by experienced people.

How deep is the tech tree?  Are they the same for every race?  Can you have randomizable tech trees like Sword of the Stars?  Race specific ones like Space Empire?  

The tech tree is also moddable, so it can be as deep or shallow as you want, and you can also specify the number and names of fields.  For the default unmodded game, I plan on around 20 or so technologies per field, with 6 fields, and no racial technologies, even though the game supports racial technologies.  The reason for this is balancing and getting the basic game done.  I plan to have those technologies randomized like Master of Orion 1, so some games you may have access to some technologies, but not in other games without stealing or trading for them.

After the basic game is done, I plan on adding “mods” that people can play, which will offer different gameplay from the basic game.

What about espionage?  Is it just an annoyance?  Can you do more than “Steal tech” or “Sabotage?”  

One problem with “Steal Tech” in Master of Orion series is that you assign some spies (or funding as in MoO 1), and cross your fingers hoping that you’ll be able to get that coveted Factories VII tech or Plasma Cannon tech.  Sabotaging is just annoyance, it didn’t really disrupt your economy.

In Beyond Beyaan, I plan on making spying a big part of the game.  You’ll be able to send spies to gather information (systems, planets, what technologies they have, fleets, etc).  Once you have some knowledge, you can do different things that can turn the tide of a war.  For example, your spies report that the enemy have “High Energy Focus”, you now can focus your espionage efforts on obtaining that one particular technology.  Or you could ask another empire to obtain it, and you’ll reward them in return, this way you avoid diplomatic penalties if their spies are caught.
Another thing that spies can do is sabotage, destroy, or capture ships, steal or destroy resources, incite planets to revolt against their empire and join your empire, or assassinate leaders, including the player himself.

As an open source system how will folks licence your engine for their own works?  Do you have a website where we’ll be able to download mods and such?  

For licensing, if they want to create a 4X game using my game’s engine, and distribute it for free, that’s fine.  However, if they want to sell it, they will have to contact me to work out the details for commercial distribution of their game.

I have just the blog and the desura website.  I’m not a website developer, so there’s no official website yet.  Beyond Beyaan haven’t really attracted much attention until now.  Once people start creating mods, I’ll launch a website for it so people can upload their mods for others to download.  I’m also considering the possibility of allowing people to sell their mods.

Your video shows you signing, how long have you been deaf or are you just mute?  Why don’t you have an “about me” section of the campaign?  Do you just take it in stride and see no reason to mention it?   Does it affect sound design at all?  

I’m deaf, and has been since my birth.  As for “About Me”, I didn’t realize that I should have added it, but the information is there in my kickstarter profile, where Kickstarter suggested me to put it.  This is my first time doing a kickstarter :)

As for sound, the 2D engine that I’m using has support for sounds.  However, since I’m unable to discern good music/sounds from bad, I’ll have to rely on others to do it for me.  One of the stretch goals is hiring of a sound programmer to implement sounds/music into my game.  I realize that sound is very important to hearing people (that’s what we call the non-deaf people) and do want to support it even though it’s not important for myself personally.

How did you discover Kickstarter?

Through when it mentioned StarDrive on the kickstarter.  I of course helped kickstart it because I’m a fan of 4X genre.  I regret not kickstarting Predestination as well, but I was short on money at the time :(

A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer.   How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

Some people requested alternate reward tiers, so I’ve added some since starting the project.  I also post updates on events that affects Beyond Beyaan’s development, such as finding another artist to provide a different style of artwork.  I do notice that every time I post an update, more backers come on board.  I try to be accommodating to backers’ requests.  I have some stories that I plan to share over time, such as how Beyond Beyaan started, and other interesting tidbits, to show how devoted I am to this project.

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?  

I’ve contacted and about the kickstarter, and they’ve posted news about it.  This has helped a lot in gathering interest.  I also had a giveaway on where I gave away some Master of Orion 1/2/3 keys that I purchased personally to gather attention which was very successful.  There are some sites that I’ve contacted, but I haven’t heard from them yet.

Yes, I periodically check Kicktraq to see how the kickstarter is progressing.  So far, it’s very promising!

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

Backers are people, not money trees!  They’re backing your project because they think it’s worthy of their hard-earned money to contribute to.  Your project need to appeal to their interests, and make sure that your goal is reasonable.  One other important thing is how trustable you are.  An unknown can’t just raise funds without a lot of work and a portfolio to back him/her up.  So prove to them that you can make your project a success!  Take time to interact with people, focus on them instead of your project until the kickstarter is over.  I’ve had some people ask some questions to me directly, and after I answered them, they backed my project.

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

You’re welcome, thanks for the interview!  I really like the idea of kickstarters.  No longer are we stuck with big-name companies hoping for them to produce games that we want.  Kickstarter enables us to gather together and give support to each other, making things that were impossible now possible!  I’m grateful for all the support that I’ve gotten, and I hope that I can return the favor as often as I can!

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

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