HELP A FIREFLY FAN

Help wanted for Firefly fangame

POSTED BY: CONNOR
UPDATED: Wednesday, December 2, 2009 09:32
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VIEWED: 2072
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Monday, August 17, 2009 4:30 PM

CONNOR


Hey fellow Browncoats. Since I've just got back from a video gaming conference in Edinburgh, abandoned a website project and am generally feeling pretty happy and self-confident, I've decided to embark on a 3D Firefly fangame project using BlitzMAX. Of course, it's silly to try and do that all by my lonesome, so I'd like to recruit a team.

If anybody here is any good at modelling, texturing, composing or programming (in BlitzMAX, a powerful variation of BASIC), please contact me at soapy@zconnect.org.uk or via Fireflyfans personal message.

If anybody has any design or story ideas, I'd gladly hear them too. I haven't set a time period for the game, nor have I fully decided on any gameplay mechanics. I don't even know what genre it will be, all I've done so far is started some basic modelling and engine programming.

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Monday, August 17, 2009 9:38 PM

SIGMANUNKI


I'll start off by plugging the EV Nova Firefly Mod:

http://s4.invisionfree.com/GunRunner/index.php?act=idx

They've been at it for years and are still plugging away. So, if you want to help finish that off (they are apparently pretty damn close), then that's an option.

To comment on using BlitzMAX: That's something people will have to buy to help out with the project (30 day demo only). So, that's a fairly high barrier when considering that this project is probably the only thing that BlitzMAX will be used for for them.

An alternative would be to use Blender:

http://www.blender.org/

As that was used for the Apricot Project (lots of examples/tutorials):

http://www.yofrankie.org/

One could use Blender's built-in game engine or export the models/etc for usage with Crystal Space:

http://www.crystalspace3d.org/main/Main_Page

All of that is OSS and has better cross-platform support than BlitzMAX. You also won't be locked into a proprietary product. Not really a good thing for fan projects.

I'll also caution you on doing "design by community" (you imply that you are or want to). The problem is that everyone has "great ideas" that will obviously *have* to be in the game. What this will do is have people fighting for there particular vision which ends up in a fragmented game attempting to go in all directions at once. It'll also create a fractured community around the game because of said fighting.

I should also point out that many many many people have decided to start a project like this. Not one person/group has completed there's and, in fact, the only one still on-going is the one I mentioned above. I mention this because essentially saying you want to do something but don't have a clue as to what, doesn't exactly say staying power. Especially, when you mention that you just came back from a gaming conference, not to mention already abandoned a project. It's likely that you are excited now, but the umph will be exhausted in a short order. No offense, it's just how things go and I've yet to meet an exception.

At any rate, I mention the above because it's unlikely that you'll get many people interested in your project with nothing to show. At least not anyone with any programming/modeling/etc talent that are so very necessary for such a project to get anywhere. And yes, I've seen that happen time and time again on this very site.

What I'd recommend is to come up with a basic framework of what you want the game to, look like, play like, etc, including a (very) loose story-line. Then put that out and ask people to help out including filling in the details of the story-line. But, ideally you should really have some screens and what not *before* going public. I would imagine that you would know some people locally that you could talk to, to help get the project off the ground.

But, honestly, the only thing you should really expect now is people willing to help with writing and comments like, "Would love to see it!"

I don't say these things to be mean nor to s**t on your project. It's just the reality of the situation. Too much work, too little real help. Sorry.

At any rate, if you're still around and have something to show a couple months down the line, PM me. I'll probably still be bored and if I like what you're doing, would consider joining the project. My current favourite languages are C and Python.

----
I am on The Original List (twice). We are The Forsaken and we aim to burn!
"We don't fear the reaper"

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009 5:05 AM

CONNOR


Cheers for the response. I appreciate that you took the time to respond. Firstly, I've briefly taken a look at the EV Nova mod project. It looks interesting and I wish them the best of luck; however I believe that starting afresh with a custom-programmed engine will result in a game with a much more unique playing style, and one that does not depend on the player already owning another game (in this case, EV Nova.)

As for the issue of needing to buy BlitzMax; this is not a huge issue, really. There's an open source IDE alternative available, and all that's required to run it is bmk, a command-line BMX compiler. I can provide any potential programmers with a ZIP file containing the open source IDE with bmk already set up.

I'm not sure what you mean by "better cross-platform support". Are you referring to cross-compiling? I run a Linux system, and there is a free bmk replacement which can compile for Windows and Linux; I also have a Mac in my bedroom which I can use for Mac OS X compiling. Multi-threading support is limited but growing, so I don't think that's much of a problem either.

I think I should probably clarify something on the conference and project front. The conference I attended was Edinburgh Interactive 2009 - http://www.edinburghinteractive.com/. I had a press pass to the event (not an exhibitor pass) and I had the awesome opportunity to interview a 23-person team behind a new PSN puzzle game called Critter Crunch. I asked him whether he had any advice for game developers just starting out. He said "I think the bottom line is, if you have a good idea, find a way to get it made. There are lots of venues for it, and now’s the best time to be making games."

That's what I'm trying to do. Find a way to get it made. The website project I abandoned was a UK-only social networking site. That's explanation and justification already, don't you think? :P

In any case, I'm working on a basic engine right now. I'll probably have an interesting demo where everything's cube-shaped a couple weeks down the line. I've started developing a third-person engine for something like a 3D adventure game. Again, if anybody wants to help with modelling, texturing, gameplay mechanics or story, please go on and contact me at soapy@zconnect.org.uk. Additionally, I am taking the role of project lead, and so I do have the final say on the content in the game. Gameplay and story ideas are concepts, not final designs. They may be changed or refused altogether.

I'm setting up a forum sometime in the next few weeks to co-ordinate this better. I'll post a link up when it's ready.

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Monday, August 31, 2009 1:08 AM

SIGMANUNKI


Quote:

Originally posted by Connor:

Cheers for the response. I appreciate that you took the time to respond. Firstly, I've briefly taken a look at the EV Nova mod project. It looks interesting and I wish them the best of luck; however I believe that starting afresh with a custom-programmed engine will result in a game with a much more unique playing style, and one that does not depend on the player already owning another game (in this case, EV Nova.)




Just to be anal for a second, a custom engine /could/ result in a much more unique playing style. No offense, but that claim is everywhere is rarely attained. For the record though, I hope what you're doing is unique and wish you the best of luck with it.

Good point about owning EV Nova. I just keep mentioning it because it'd be nice to have at least one completed project in the community. And they are so very close! I really wish I had the cash to buy EV Nova...


Quote:

Originally posted by Connor:

As for the issue of needing to buy BlitzMax; this is not a huge issue, really. There's an open source IDE alternative available, and all that's required to run it is bmk, a command-line BMX compiler. I can provide any potential programmers with a ZIP file containing the open source IDE with bmk already set up.

I'm not sure what you mean by "better cross-platform support". Are you referring to cross-compiling? I run a Linux system, and there is a free bmk replacement which can compile for Windows and Linux; I also have a Mac in my bedroom which I can use for Mac OS X compiling. Multi-threading support is limited but growing, so I don't think that's much of a problem either.




Well, the thing with cross-platform support is that Linux really means, Linux on the x86. So, my PPC Linux wouldn't be supported. I also have OpenBSD installed which isn't supported at all, among other OS's (two more supported officially by Blender are Solaris and Irix). I also wonder if the free bmk compiler is feature complete. It's just that I've run across several pieces of software that aimed to be a replacement, but hadn't reached that point yet.

Could you link the open-source alternatives? Just so people can quickly find the project to test things out before committing.


Quote:

Originally posted by Connor:

I asked him whether he had any advice for game developers just starting out. He said "I think the bottom line is, if you have a good idea, find a way to get it made. There are lots of venues for it, and now’s the best time to be making games."




Well, to be fair, I think he's talking about original or licensed IP. And something to be commercially sold. At least that's how it's coming across to me. Fan stuff is different. Or really, anything developed in ones free time is different.

That said, any finished project is good to have. That is assuming you want to get into the games industry.


Quote:

Originally posted by Connor:

That's what I'm trying to do. Find a way to get it made. The website project I abandoned was a UK-only social networking site. That's explanation and justification already, don't you think? :P




Fair enough.


Quote:

Originally posted by Connor:

In any case, I'm working on a basic engine right now. I'll probably have an interesting demo where everything's cube-shaped a couple weeks down the line. I've started developing a third-person engine for something like a 3D adventure game. Again, if anybody wants to help with modelling, texturing, gameplay mechanics or story, please go on and contact me at soapy@zconnect.org.uk. Additionally, I am taking the role of project lead, and so I do have the final say on the content in the game. Gameplay and story ideas are concepts, not final designs. They may be changed or refused altogether.




Good good.

But, could you post something more concrete about your game. Something like a design document if even it's only a very hand-wavy "it should look like this and play like this." It's just that "3rd person adventure game" is a little vague.

Btw, the 3rd person thing is a little spooky to me as I had a project a little while ago (still have the code lying around) that was to be in the 3rd person.


Quote:

Originally posted by Connor:

I'm setting up a forum sometime in the next few weeks to co-ordinate this better. I'll post a link up when it's ready.




K.

----
I am on The Original List (twice). We are The Forsaken and we aim to burn!
"We don't fear the reaper"

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Monday, August 31, 2009 6:53 AM

BYTEMITE


Hi there! It's neat to hear that you've already started coding an engine of some sort, and even are up to the point of having a demo nearing readiness. By demo, is that to say something showing the physics of your engine, or the utility (meaning what you can program), or actual interaction/gameplay stuff? I wouldn't mind hearing you talk more about this.

Also, by 3-D adventure, is that like puzzle solving, or like fighting, or some combination thereof? Like a, I don't know, a Tomb Raider or a Prince of Persia sort of thing?

I've always thought something between a shooter and a puzzle kind of game would be excellent for Firefly, because that could allow for, say, sneaking into the compound of a local mob boss to steal a painting. How might you get in? Well, one of the guards, your intel says, is a bit careless with his keycard, so if you sneak around and find him, you might be able to get into the backdoor. Or, if you're good with machines (puzzle solving), you could try to hack your way in. Or you know, something like that.

I don't know much about programming, I'm afraid, which is why I haven't posted on this thread until now, but I have had an idea for a while that I thought could simplify story-progression and interface for a single-player game, and later possibly serve as a useful jumping off point to multi-player.

I've always thought that the jobs and character interaction were the most interesting parts of Firefly. I think character interaction could come in later with the multiplayer, so I'll just focus on the jobs right now.

I played a game a while back called Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries. Very old stuff. But the intriguing aspect of the gameplay was that you started out the game in an interface, which would give you updates on the story not covered during in-game missions, where you received messages, where you could purchase needed supplies for your next job, and where you could read about your next job, or even chose between multiple jobs. The interface itself became a useful plot progression tool, but without a whole lot of complex coding necessary.

Then you picked your job, headed out, and you'd jump from the interface right onto a battlefield and the mission you'd accepted.

What I mean is, maybe as part of the story progression, you might have such an interface, and then from the interface you could immediately jump to the 3D Adventure part of the game.

Where this could become really useful is in multiplayer, where the same interface could be useful in putting together a crew and chatting to people on your crew/team and choosing jobs you might take, while competing against opposing crews. Initial maps might be some play off of traditional capture the flag, with maybe some puzzle-solving element twists.

In any case, this might give you a foundation to add more and more content to as time goes on.

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Monday, August 31, 2009 8:24 AM

CONNOR


Definitely some interesting ideas and comments coming out of the crowd now. The comment about PowerPC Linux not being supported: unfortunately, I think you're right. Fortunately, PowerPC Mac OS is still supported, and I can probably investigate what to do about OpenBSD and so on. Are gcc and binutils available on that platform? I'd imagine they were, considering it's a UNIX-based distro? If so, we could probably hack together some form of, uh, solution.

By 3D adventure, I'm meaning something like Dreamfall (gameplay video: http://bit.ly/z5vpg) with a relatively small amount of actual combat. Obviously shooting is often necessary for the narrative, and in that case, I'd suggest a variety of firearms and melee weapons can be used, but firearms can only be fired while stationary. I've seen that system used in a lot of games, and if we pull it off right, I think it would make gameplay just a little bit more exciting. Rather than over-exaggerating things by letting players storm into cities and mow everybody down with a machine gun - something just as unlikely in the Firefly universe as it is in ours - a job is pulled off with stealth, and should the need to engage in combat arise, the aim is to hold off the enemy and potentially kill them with the focus still being on getting out of there, and not terrorising the place. If you have little mobility, limited ammunition and finite health in a battle situation, it's a lot more tense than other games make it.

One of the key questions to the gameplay aspect is whether you want this to be an MMO, or a single-player game (with possibilities for modding and expansion). Obviously both sides have pros and cons; an MMO is a huge world with social interaction and so on, but it also means somebody would have to host a server, and I don't have the capacity for one right now. I've actually experimented with the idea of an MMO powered completely by interacting with PHP over HTTP, but it's a concept currently far too slow for deployment of more than even four simultaneous players. A single player game could still be fairly immersive and possibly contain online features (such as chatting and trading without actually meeting in virtual space; in fact, since this can still be executed perfectly with 0-2 second delay, we can use a PHP-powered server for it), but the world and characters would all be constant with no PvP or unscripted space battles.

Oh, and Sigmanuki: the entire quote was "And there’s stuff like if you’re an artist and you don’t want to program, there’s Game Maker, Multimedia Fusion, or you can talk online and find lots of other programmers who are looking to work on projects. Personally, I think the most important thing is to find a way to make a good game. You don’t need to be using the most amazing technology, you don’t need to make it for PlayStation 3, you don’t even need to sell it. It can just be something that you release freeware; look at what happened with N. N was just an amazingly awesome freeware game that two people made, and the next thing you know it’s one of the best selling games on Xbox Live Arcade." While he's still talking about original or licensed IP, he's not strictly talking commercial games, and really, there's nothing to say that if this project gets big enough, we can round up enough money to get a license transfer of some kind.

I've set up a forum at http://zconnect.org.uk/firefly/, and I'd really appreciate it if anyone who is interested in the slightest of helping with the project would register. There'll also be a wiki set up soon, and I'll try to get a Subversion repo set up for code. I'll have something to show you guys very shortly, and while I will post infrequent updates here, you really have to sign up at the forum for the details.

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Monday, August 31, 2009 9:52 AM

BYTEMITE


Quote:

Rather than over-exaggerating things by letting players storm into cities and mow everybody down with a machine gun - something just as unlikely in the Firefly universe as it is in ours - a job is pulled off with stealth, and should the need to engage in combat arise, the aim is to hold off the enemy and potentially kill them with the focus still being on getting out of there, and not terrorising the place. If you have little mobility, limited ammunition and finite health in a battle situation, it's a lot more tense than other games make it.


I'll have to check out your video a bit later, can't watch youtube on this computer. But the way you describe combat kind of reminds me of the scene in the pilot episode, when they have the shoot-out with Patience and her gang. They don't really have any options for cover, so they pretty much stand in place, that and Mal had pretty much gotten the jump on them with Jayne's sniper skills, so there was a little bit there of wanting to get them all before they regrouped from the surprise. Also, I think I've heard those old western guns may not have been very accurate? Anyway.

Something also to think of that sounds very similar to what you're talking about is Bioware's battle system (the Aurora Engine) for Neverwinter Nights and Knights of the Old Republic. When combat begins, you remain in the same map, but switch into a turn based mode, where movement is restricted to yardage per turn. All combatants pick an action at the start of each combat and the actions are carried out in real time (ish) during each turn.

I'm not sure whether you're going to have anything for players to create their own avatars, but if so, a way to move yourself away from RPG elements might be to have every character have the same basic abilities, and able to try the exact same actions, but some players are simply going to be better at some things than others. Like if someone wants to hack a computer, then they might have to quickly answer some math questions/translate binary, or a player who wants to hotwire a machine/vehicle might need to be good at visual/logic puzzles. A skilled conversationalist may be able to talk their way out of a fight or into a secure area, which may take on the role of a puzzle in of itself (picking the right responses based on hints and etc.). First aid could be a similar mechanism, though I'm not sure exactly what could represent it in game.

That suggestion is also sort of an idea I got from BioWare's games, in that hacking robots or using computers had two options, solving math problems, or using whatever skill you had built up by level in computers or mechanics. But I always wondered why they even HAD the skill up by level option, because I never used it, I went for the puzzles because I was good at them. A more robust representation of that idea in this game could be fun.

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Monday, August 31, 2009 9:04 PM

CONNOR


The original Neverwinter Nights is actually the only BioWare game I've played, unfortunately, although I must say is pretty fun. I never really saw much of that battle system you mentioned though; are you sure it was the Aurora engine nd not the NWN2 engine? I actually have a copy of NWN2, I just never got around to playing it. In fact I've had it so long that I lent it to one of my friends, who has already beat the main campaign and given the disc back.

The player abilities is definitely something that needs a lot of consideration. Since I'm not going for the stats-heavy RPG approach (although a character creator will definitely be integrated if possible) experience points and levelling in any field are likely to be shunned. An overall "reputation" number could be a possible replacement for level, using your reliability in jobs to measure your skill.

I'm very fond of the hacking minigame in BioShock (I don't know if any of you have played it, great game) in which you move and rotate sections of pipe to divert a flow of water to the exit. It requires care, precision and logic, without falling back to simply asking maths questions, which is much more lengthy. Something similar in that regard might be more pleasant for the user.


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Tuesday, September 1, 2009 4:31 AM

BYTEMITE


Yes, that's very like what I was thinking for mechanical puzzles. Another version might be gears, where you can only move one at a time, but have to change the configuration to get a particular result, or a wire-board, unplugging and replugging wires, or messing around with the hydraulics feeding a piston system.

Some of the puzzles might have trip-ups or be tampered with, like the particularly observant or sharp eyed might spot something to make them think "what is that?" When they investigate, they might receive a message box telling them that they just found an alarm or extra security system, and the puzzle becomes more complicated (instead of activating the alarm and screwing up the entire team).

In Knights of the Old Republic, the math problems actually didn't feel out of place at all, and what little programming I have done in things like matlab and maple, they feel very similar and thematically appropriate. Especially math problems involving matrices. But, it is up to you. Maybe hacking could involve both wire puzzles and programming puzzles somehow, depending on which approach you want to take?

Something else I was thinking about... If your character uses a gun, depending on the gun, accuracy might fall off at increasing distances. But some people may opt to try a special action, where if you can manage to stop a moving slider right on a sliver, you'll hit your target despite the distance, and miss automatically if you don't. There might be a similar skill for trying to hit multiple targets, where each target is a sliver on the slider, and you have to stop the slider on each one in succession to hit the targets, or they're all missed. Melee could be like the old golf swing slider, blocking could be like the multiple shot slider, and a successful block opens up the opponent to a regular attack.

It'd be very funny if the first aid ability was somehow like playing operation, but I'm not sure how that could be implemented. :) Maybe something like a short obstacle course, with a far away view and a close up view of the bullet to be removed, and in the close up view you have to carefully nudge the bullet left, right, or forward to an extraction point without touching any walls, veins, or tendons, or else you automatically fail (though you can try again). And you can't see where you're nudging the bullet to in close up view, you have to figure it out approximately in far away view.

I also have an idea for a way to implement reader-like abilities without unbalancing the game, by keeping the mechanism behind the ability secret or subliminal. I was thinking you could include subtle warnings right before an NPC turns hostile or a machine malfunctions or blows up, so subtle that only a few people might notice or pick up on it. The few people who do notice might start asking themselves, "such and such happens just before something bad... does it mean anything?" They might not notice the next time it happens, because again, it's subtle, and something easily dismissed, like a trick of the lighting, but some people will continue to believe it and use it, not realizing it's actually part of the game. And everyone else will think they're crazy or imagining things.

Will the game use point and click, or keyboard, or both?

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009 6:28 AM

CONNOR


I'm thinking something of both; the W, A, S and D keys could be used to control the player in a non-combat situation, with moving the mouse adjusting the camera position. Left click would also be the default "Interact" button for talking to someone, opening a drawer, picking up an item, etc.

In a combat situation, you'd either press a button to attack with a melee weapon or hold a key to move into an over-the-shoulder perspective (á la Resident Evil 4) allowing players to aim their firearm in a first-person fashion.

As I've already said before, if you're interested in helping out in any way - even just contributing gameplay ideas like you already have been - please register over at http://zconnect.org.uk/firefly

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009 6:52 AM

BYTEMITE


Ah, that's actually probably a better combat system. I wasn't sure how far you wanted to take the "different players have different skills" idea. But hitting a target as the targets move around like a FPS is definitely not a skill most people have. I know I don't.

I'll check it out and register sometime, kind of in the middle of some projects at work right now, so it'll probably have to be later. :)

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009 9:05 AM

CONNOR


Hey guys, miss me? Just here to reiterate that I'm not dead, regardless of what the Vatican wants to believe, and if you want to help out, head over to http://zconnect.org.uk/firefly/ so we can finally start making something.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009 9:32 AM

BYTEMITE


Yeah, I just found you again from the other thread. :) I lost you before I had the chance to get involved on any level, though I did take the opportunity just now to head over to your site and look around. I'm going to see about registering tonight.

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