Saturday, December 31, 2011

This post is a little different than the rest.

As the title says, this weeks update will be a little different than the others. This week I'm going to explain how I did the Scrins ultimate power, the Echo effect.

The Scrin have 3 super powers now (depending on your way of interpreting super power), the Black Hole, the Blanket Storm, and the Echo Effect. Everyone knows about the other 2 powers already, but I want to explain about the Echo Effect and how I designed it in game.

The Scrin player gets to choose 1 level 4 power in the upgrade tree, but each power ties in to the Echo Effect. The First choice is Echo Infantry, the second is Echo Vehicles, and finally the last is Echo Aircraft. The Echo is tied in to the Scrin Phase Out power, when you phase your army out every Scrin Unit and Structure phases out and becomes pretty much invincible. However whatever Echo power you choose will also go into effect during this time. This means that if you choose Infantry Echo all infantry squads after phasing out will spawn 2 or 3 squads of their type onto the field at their location for use. These units do not have access to any of the upgrades that the Scrin Upgrade system uses so they are vanilla units but hey, they are free. They will last until killed or for up to 1 minute so these are not just "free" units. However this is quite useful as you can say "phase out" your entire force and use these new units to help counterattack on an offense or to begin your own attack drawing the enemy away from where your main force's are heading.

How I did this in game is simple. Each unit now has the code to allow it to "spawn" additional units like the Refineries do with the Harvesters when they are built. There is a requirement on the spawn ability though, for example infantry units would have the "TriggeredByUpgrade:SpawnEchoInfantryNow" upgrade.

So this is how it works. You pick whatever echo you want, for this example we're going to go with the Echo Infantry. This Upgrade grants 2 upgrades in the coding, "Power-PhaseOut" and "InfantryEcho". The Phase Out power when used spawns a special effect wherever you use it that fires off a weapon that only effects ally units and structures that phase those things out. After that the effect has the ability to spawn 1 of 3 invisible units that are based on which echo upgrade is given, in this case it's the InfantryEcho. This spawn power creates a new unit that we'll call "TempInfantryEchoOn". When this unit is created we set it up to on creation grant the upgrade "SpawnEchoInfantryNow" and we give it a life span of say 30 seconds. Now for the next 30 seconds infantry units will trigger their spawn power creating new "cloned" versions of themselves.

Finally, at the end of the 30 seconds the unit TempInfantryEchoOn will die and on death we will have it remove the upgrade "SpawnEchoInfantryNow" turning off the echo ability. In this way the infantry units that spawn themselves will only spawn for a short amount of time. A minute afterwords any spawned units that were not killed in battle will self destruct. This gives the Scrin the unique ability to double or triple their fighting force of a specific type while also protecting the main force at the same time, a very powerful and unique power that will defiantly make the Scrin a threat on the battlefield.

So the overall effect works like this.

Activate Phaseout -> Phaseout entire force -> Spawn in temp reinforcements -> End phaseout -> Kill extra reinforcements that are still around.

If you guys like this kind of explanation on how we do some of the powers/effects that we do in the game let me know and I will do more updates like this. Have a happy new years!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

No real update this week, computer is getting work done on it (bad hard drive getting replaced) and it's Christmas so kind of busy anyways. Happy holidays everyone.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Something that apparently needs to be said.

I recently released a story explaining the origins of the Scrin in our game. Ultra apparently took offense to my story (Sorry bro, but thats the way it is) and I have to point some stuff out here.

Listen, the Xenoforce Reborn mod is taking many different races/stories/series and putting them together into a single world. This means a lot of stories are going to be modified as needed to make them fit. This includes the original 3 CnC races from CNC3. GDI is having the least amount of changes done to them as story wise they still fit their original roll (for the most part). NOD and Scrin however are undergoing major changes. The Scrin are even easier to manipulate than NOD as there is even less information on them. Now why this is one could only theorize, it may be that EA wanted to keep as much of an air of mystery around the race as they could or it could be that their creative design team simply could not come up with something (or did not have the time to come up with something). Either way in our story I have done so.

Does this change your opinion on the Scrin? I don't see how it would, the story is what gives the units context in the game. Without this context the units are just there. But give them a story, a reason for why they are and why they work the way they do, and they come to life in a way that makes them truly unique.

Also the story that I started only covers their origins which started 100,000 years ago. The Scrin have undergone many evolutionary changes since then to become what they are now. However they still stick to many of the different stigmas that go all the way back to their origins. The Scrin are a race that take what they want and what they need to survive because thats what they had to do from the beginning, take or die. They also are a race of patience and cruelty, they will wait if what they are doing is working to get their end results even if it prolongs the agony of others just because there is no rush. Finally the Scrin are a race that take the technology of others and adapt it to their own use. They do develop their own technology, don't get me wrong, but if their enemy has something that they could use to further their existence then they will do so.

Within the Scrin structure individuality is a privilege not a right. Lower level Scrin who continue to obey and succeed in following their Formans orders are given the gift of individuality by the Queen Mind. If you want, think of the lower level Scrin as attack dogs who are bread and trained to do a specific task. If your favorite attack dog continues to succeed, continues to perform exceptionally well, it is given the gift of individuality. It is now an equal, able to communicate and think independently of it's original Formans wishs. Once individuality is given it can never be taken away.

What does this have to do with the game? Not much and a lot really. In one way it does not make the units any stronger or weaker, but in another it shows why the Scrin have units that are so weak, that are physically different from one another, and why the Scrins lack of emotions when dealing with many low level units. To me this helps give context to whats going on.

The last thing to talk about is the "Queens". The Queen mind is a very unique thing, it has no physical location but is made up of the subconscious of all of the Scrin scattered across the universes that the Scrin inhabit. The Queens themselves are immortal while in this state and they are able to shape the direction that the Scrin Race take. In effect this single body are the Leaders of the Scrin. A Queen is both an individual and a part of a whole mind at the same time, when melded together it is the latter and when separated it is the former. Queens are rarely seen active in the universe but when they are used it is because the situation demands a level of cunning and far-sightedness that a Forman simply doesn't have. Queens while in this form however can be killed and in doing so the whole of the race is weakened.

So in closing this is my vision of the Scrin. This is how they work. This is how I give context to the units that I am designing for the Scrin and the powers that I have given them.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The story of the Scrin - Origins

Below is my story explaining where the Scrin and the oldest Queen of the Scrin, the Matriarch, came from. This is pure fiction as there is no proof in ANY of EA's information about the history of the Scrin. This history starts 100,000 years before the events in Xenoforce:Reborn.

The Matriarch - The Origin of the Scrin

Like many advanced civilizations the Scrin were not always what they once were. In fact for the majority of their time on their home world they were not even considered the dominant species. They were little more than dumb creatures used to hunt other animals by the dominant species of the planet called the Anoi.

The Anoi were a powerful sentient race who used the fact that they were the only sentient race on their planet to mold the planet to their own needs and purposes. They were tall creatures, standing on average at 9 feet tall, with grey tough skin and small blue eyes. They were bipedal, with 6 fingers on each hand, and had smooth, simple features. Theirs was a race that perfectly melded technology and ideology together forging a society that valued obedience and intelligence over personal choice. The Anoi Civilization had 4 major nations spread across their world, and as with all sentient beings these nations would fight among each other over differences of opinion and beliefs.

The Scrin however were vastly different. The Scrin of this age typically walked on 4 legs like a dog. They were strong, stocky built creatures with hard carapaces that were bread for war and protection. They were hard to domesticate, featuring an instinctive nature to group together and run in packs. Those Scrin who could not be domesticated were hunted for sport.

If it wasn't for a random act of fate the Multi-verse would be a vastly different place. One day a meteor fell onto the planet. This meteor was made of pure Tiberium, a substance that was an unknown at the time. It broke apart as it entered the planets atmosphere and hundereds of shards of Tiberium fell onto the planet signing the planets doom before anyone knew what was going on. Soon the great nations of the Anoi gathered together and started researching the alien substance. They found that it was an amazing source of power but it was also very toxic causing uncontrollable mutations in anything it touched. Because of this the Anoi began searching their planet for all sources of the substance. Left unchecked it would destroy the planet, and this could not be allowed.

However there was more going on here than the Anoi realized. The Scrin, being a violent and territorial creature, were also very curious. In the remote northern reaches of the Western Provence a pack of Scrin came upon the tiberium and started to eat the substance. Where other creatures that came in contact with the substance became violently ill and died soon after exposure the transformation within the Scrin was amazing. They started to mutate, gaining increased intelligence as they consumed the Tiberium.

Soon there were reports coming in from all over the world of unusually aggressive Scrin attacks on the outskirts of Anoi cities. Some reports claimed that entire Tiberium Hunting parties were wiped out by a single Scrin while others claimed an unusually high level of cunning being deployed by the Scrin, even going as far as to suggest that the Scrin were setting up ambush's against the Anoi. It did not take long for the Anoi to figure it out. The Scrin around the world were protecting the Tiberium deposits that the Anoi were not able to get to fast enough and the Tiberium was spreading.

It was around this time that the Matriarch appeared on the planet. Weither it was born or it was a unique mutation in the Scrin none can say, but the effect of the Matriarch was devistating. The first true Queen of the Scrin, the Matriarch was able to communicate with all other scrin across the globe turning these wild, savage creatures and teaching them how to communicate, how to focus, and how to build a society of their own. The Anoi could not believe what they were seeing happen around them. Their own planet was changing, evolving, and it appeared that they were no longer going to be the dominant race. They fought back with their technology and ideology comming together for the first time as a single people. No longer would they fight amoung themselves. Now there was a common enemy that would devour them if something was not done. The Scrin must be eliminated. Across the four nations the extermination of the Scrin began starting with those that were domesticated as they could no longer be trusted. Military forces began purging the country side killing any Scrin that they came across.

The Matriarch was outraged by such an act. She called to her children and began fighting back. Small battles took place across the globe with the Scrin making the Anoi pay in blood for their lost brothers and sisters. The Matriarch called for the most intellegent of the Scrin to gather to her and began what has become known as the Symphony of the Void. These scrin linked their minds with her and she gave them each the gift of induviduality. This first batch of "Formen" were given control over sertain sections of the world and given leave to do as they felt nessisary to insure the survival of the species.

Still the war raged on. As the days turned to months and the months turned to years the Scrin continually increased in numbers as the Tiberium infected the planet at a steady rate. The Anoi however were having trouble increasing their numbers in this situation and were relying on more and more advanced technology to help them win. 4 years after the beginning of the war the Anoi launched their first Orbital Battleship. This massive weapon allowed the Anoi to travel into space and then assault ground targets from above, a tactic that the Scrin had little hope of countering. In a desprate move one of the formen of the Scrin made a raid on an Anoi Manufacturing plant, crushing the plants defenders and a swarm of Scrin Buzzers and capturing it for the Scrin. This turning point introduced the Scrin to advanced technology which allowed them for the first time to stand on equal footing with the Anoi.

However the massive rush that the Anoi expected from this development never came. The Scrin used this new technology to

keep the Anoi at bay, never using it in an offensive manner. In fact the Matriarch determined that this would not be nessisary for as fas as she was concerned the Scrin had already won. Soon the Anoi came to a sullen realization. The Scrin were not attacking the Anoi they were simply distracting them. With the war raging there was no time or resources avalible to spend combating the incroaching Tiberium. By the time the Anoi realized this it was already too late and the Tiberium was killing of them at a quicker rate the the Scrin.

A short 3 years later the last of the Anoi gathered together in their most advanced and powerful battle ship and launched into space looking to escape the planet and live elseware. The Scrin let them go, their time would come soon enough. They now had unrestricted access to the planet, all of the Anoi's technology, and a vast quantity of Tiberium which they were becoming ever more reliant on. The Matriarch began looking to the stars. The Scrin would always remember how they were treated and the gift that the stars had given them. One day they would head out into space and finish the Anoi but first she wanted the Scrin to regain their strength and build their own new society. It would be more fun to crush the Anoi this way.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Oh, you insulted me. That will teach me, guess I should work harder.

First, I must warn you that this weeks post is more of a rant than anything. It's aimed at one person in perticular, and 99.9% of the people that send me stuff are actually quite enjoyable to talk to and deal with on a daily basis. This kid is the other .1%.

So I received a not-so-nice email the other day from a "fan". I use the term pretty loosley as this person acted more like a 10 year old child crying about it taking too long for the cookies to get done baking.

Now I know that most of you out there understand that we are only a team of 2 people, that both of us work in retail in the US, and that this being the Christmas season it's also the busy time in our work/personal lives. Also, most of you understand that an email that says "Hey, I havn't noticed much work getting posted the last few days" or "I was just wanting to make sure that the mod was still getting worked on" will get a better responce than the following Email that I received.

"Yo, I juzt wanted to find out whaz takin so damn long to get SEED back in. No 1 care about GDI NOD and Scrin, they

suckz!!!! Stop wastin time with that crap and get back to work on SEED! This is stupiz! U had it once, my friend sayz you

guys are lazy and ur mod will not get donz. I think he might be rit."

Um... yea. I'm just going to say a few things about this.

1. This mod is NOT being done for the Community. It's being done so that I can kick Doug's ass in a game that we both will agree on. We were never able to find out who was better in the old Xenoforce Mod simply because the game crashed EVERY time we played.

2. We are giving this MOD to the Community AS we are working on it because we feel that unlike other mods that keep posting pics up but never let you actually get a chance to play it at least this way people can experience what we are experiencing and we can get good feedback about what needs to be done.

3. For me at least, this MOD is an experiment for me to see just how much support a fanbase will give to a project that is working towards actually giving them something that they want to see. All you have to do is look at how much support we've gotten for the Gundam Models that we've received to see that this is working out amazingly well.

Is our project ambitious? You bet it is, we're taking the original 3 armies and totally reinventing them while adding 6 additional factions WITH AI's and new sound effects into the game. Considering that this is our first project that we've ever made public (we have done other mod tweaks over the years for personal use only) this is a lot to deal with. However this MOD has only been around (on MOD DB anyways) for a year and a half. We've already rebalanced the O3 (now on our second revision of this) and added 2 factions in. The factions are not completed yet (missing damaged states and new sounds on a lot of it) but they work and the players can see exactly what we're trying to do.

So in short little kid, I don't care if it takes 4 years to put Gundam SEED into the game. I don't care if it never gets put in. I do care about making a good mod that not only shows creativity and different playstyles but also works for all parties involved. I am not getting payed for this, I'm on my own schedual, and it'll get done when it gets done.

Oh, and you and your friend are ass's. I couldn't care less if you don't play our MOD. And remember, I'm the nice one. Your lucky you sent this to me and not Doug.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

With new designs come new headaches.

I have almost completed my final rebalancing/modifications of the Scrin forces and I am at the moment pretty happy with how things are coming along.

But of course there are always bugs. For example my latest changes to the powers and their requirements now cause the game to crash when I build the stasis chamber. This of course means that I need to go back through each power removing them all and then putting them back in one at a time to figure out which power is making the game go "blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa".

And of course Electronic Arts and Microsoft do nothing to help. The generic "the program has encountered and has to close" message tells me nothing. The only good thing is I know it was working before messing with the powers so I at least have a place to start at.

Another issue that I had to change were the PAC's Dimensional Cannon Orbs that attacked the ground and air by causing a pillar of light to cover both areas when they died. This attack worked great when it was only dealing with the air, but for some reason the moment I told it to also hit ground targets the game would work for a bit then crash. Oh well.... I do have another design for the unit that I can go with. Now the unit only attacks air units with these orbs but uses a Zeus cannon to attack ground targets. You remember the Zeus Cannon right? It's the weapon that the original Devastator Warship used to use to attack ground targets. While it's not the exact same as what I originally hoped for it does do the same job admirably.

Which brings me to todays post. One of the more common problems that I personally have when I work on this mod comes down to trying to get what I want from my head into the game. Sometimes it's a modeling issue, but more often than not it's an issue of "I got it in but it doesn't work the way I wanted." So my process to this has changed over the last few years from just doing it and seeing what happens to writing everything down in a notebook (I have like 5 of the things lying around each based on a different faction or design), coming up with an alternative to the more 'complicated ones' in case the original idea doesn't work (also known as plan B), and then taking baby steps to get it working in game. This results in my compiling the mod about 15 to 20 times an hour while working on it just testing every little bit one piece at a time. This allows me to find where the issues are or will be so that if something pops up and causes an error I'm not stuck looking at 12 different changes and going "great... which one of you is giving me a headache now?".

And so the mod moves forward. The PAC now fires long range artillery at ground targets and swarms air targets with D-Bombs that home in on their target. The Devastator Warship is now equipped with a D-Cannon and Assault Lances that can be converted into Prism Lances. And the Stormrider is pretty much unchanged, still a powerful early to mid game quick assault unit equipped with plasma weapons.

So the moral of the story is always have a plan B, always make changes in small steps, and always make backups so that if there is an issue your not left holding a pile of crap that you can't work with. Now if you excuse me, I've got some power codes to go back and look at.