So... cockpits...

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
So, I finally started playing Saga yesterday. Decided to start with the Prologue - boy, I hope you guys have cut down on the radio chatter in the main release! Also, I hate that final mission - if you die at the last navpoint, you have sooo much to go through again :(.

(of course, it's my own fault... I wouldn't have died if I didn't stay close to that stupid destroyer to watch the pretty explosion)

But anyway, to get to the point. I was wondering, why no cockpits? Obviously, it's not something Freespace supported, but I imagine you could have implemented them if you wanted, what with the source code and all. So - is this like, a design decision to make things more like WC4, or was there something in the Freespace code that made cockpits too difficult to be worth the bother? Or is there some other reason? I mean, I know there must have been a lot of internal discussion about this, I can't imagine a bunch of Wing Commander fans just meekly accepting that the Wing Commander mod they are making will have no cockpits - and I'm curious what arguments won out in the end.
 

GreyViper

Rear Admiral
There was German podcast, that explained that due time constraint cockpits and capship drelicts didn't make in.
 

Tolwyn

Vice Admiral
Without the RTT functionality cockpits are pretty much useless. After a lot of consideration we decided to axe them for the initial release.

Adding cockpits isn't hard and any skilled modder can do that in a matter of hours. You don't even have to modify existing models - all you need to do is to "tell" the game to load a cockpit model for a specific ship. ;)
 

gevatter Lars

Vice Admiral
Tolwyn allready answere it....

Still dosn't the problem remain that the HUD is loaded over the cockpit model?
I allways found it much more irritating then helping to have it that way.
 

Dundradal

Frog Blast the Vent Core!
Still dosn't the problem remain that the HUD is loaded over the cockpit model?
I allways found it much more irritating then helping to have it that way.
The first time I tried Saga and I saw the HUD, I thought "wow this is cool, but where is the cockpit?" :(. Part of the allure of Wing Commander is the immersion factor. Having the cockpit block your field of view is part of the game. You need to pitch and roll your fighter to maintain a lock on a target. You *feel* like your in the fighter and moving along with it. That being said, you guys did a nice job with the HUD and info layout without cockpits. I just wish they were there as well. Especially since...

There was German podcast, that explained that due time constraint cockpits and capship drelicts didn't make in.
There are cockpits already for each of the fighters in Saga. I thought I saw derelicts for confed frigates...
 

Howard Day

Random art guy.
Sylvester: RTT stands for "Render to Texture" - the idea being that you can render dynamic displays to cockpit geometry... so things like the radar, MFDs and the like are actually in the cockpit. It's definitely tricky to set up.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Without the RTT functionality cockpits are pretty much useless. After a lot of consideration we decided to axe them for the initial release.

Adding cockpits isn't hard and any skilled modder can do that in a matter of hours. You don't even have to modify existing models - all you need to do is to "tell" the game to load a cockpit model for a specific ship. ;)
Hmm. Ok, but I don't get it still. We have cockpits in Standoff that also don't have RTT, we have blank screens on the cockpits and everything is still displayed on the HUD. Nobody minded this at all... so, if you guys have done all the work to allow cockpits, why not enable them as an option? Surely, it would be better to let people have an option in the menu, even if you made HUD-only as the default setting?
 

Aginor

Vice Admiral
We have cockpits in Standoff that also don't have RTT, we have blank screens on the cockpits and everything is still displayed on the HUD. Nobody minded this at all...
Actually I did.
I loved Standoff, but I really didn't like the HUD elements hovering over non-functional cockpits. It broke immersion for me, more than HUD-only did.
That's also why I belonged to the part of the Saga team that spoke out against cockpits (back in 2007 or so), because I realized that we couldn't get it working like in the original games any time soon (apart from the fact that we only had one modeler and it would have been a lot of work building cockpits that wouldn't have worked anyway, which is the main reason Tolwyn finally decided to not include cockpits IIRC).
 

Dyret

Super Carrot!
I loved Standoff, but I really didn't like the HUD elements hovering over non-functional cockpits. It broke immersion for me, more than HUD-only did.
Just pretend Bradshaw prefers to have the important information displayed directly on his helmet's hud... it's not unheard of in real life. ;)
 

Oceankhayne

Commodore
Yeah, without it you would have to model the cockpit around your specific hud setup which wouldn't work with a floating rendered cockpit model (pof file I believe?). It would have to be like all the old wing commander games and be just a static texture overlay in itself. Pre-rendered art if you will like the old snes games. If you do that and wanted to change the placements of your various hud "modules" you'd have to have a different hud layout for every fighter cockpit you make. I don't know whether this is even supported in fso. (The hud position changes that is. I think the pre-rendered cockpit could be done by pre-rendering your art and using it as a texture for a "spherical flat 3d" cockpit model (pof). This would break functions like head tracking (in reference to the hud). Your camera would have to be static and so would the cockpit for everything to show up properly. The hud would then have to disappear for pov changes like looking left or right and maybe camera shakes. (like it does already) This would take a lot more work (lining things up and an extra modeling step) than setting up bound zones in the cockpit model for each hud "module" to be bound to. Correct me if my thinking is wrong but from looking at how things are treated in fso this is the idea I get.

EDIT: Now that I think on it a little more, the pre-render wouldn't be needed necessarily. It would just help when it came to poly count and allow for a much more complex cockpit if done properly. It wouldn't even have to be a sphere, it could be a simple partially modeled box.
 

Oceankhayne

Commodore
Just pretend Bradshaw prefers to have the important information displayed directly on his helmet's hud... it's not unheard of in real life. ;)
I'm just wating for an autostereoscopic tv and a set of AR glasses I can use in conjunction with each other.
You were referring to the helmet BAE Systems is trying to make for the f-35 correct?
 

Dyret

Super Carrot!
Nope, I was talking about the HUD-on-top-of-cockpit issue... I vaguely remembered someone's life being made easier by having some sort of helmet HUD rather than having to constantly eyeball the cockpit instrumentation... I thought it was fighter pilots, but it might have been Apache pilots through their sexy eye straining eyepiece-thingie.
 

Aginor

Vice Admiral
@Dyret: Both.
Although mostly they just display a few things, for example a crosshair/pipper and maybe a distance to the target.
Displaying numbers and stuff on a helmet display is not exactly pleasing for the eye if you do it all the time.

EDIT: Anyway, I like the explanation, I could live with that.
 

Oceankhayne

Commodore
I was just looking at some of the hud code in the main fso svn 3.6.14/code/hud/hud.cpp, unless they went off the wall from some of the variable name assignments it looks like some of the framework has been laid for RTT. I'll look into it some more and see if this is indeed true or not and get back to you guys. Looks like it's coded in C++ judging from the syntax, while I'm only familiar with C it shouldn't be too difficult to use a reference for the extra functions ++ gives. I've read elsewhere and judging from the hud in game that the Saga team has changed some of the hud code with your branch, how much was changed and how will determine how difficult it would be to implement. :rolleyes:

Edit: from the looks of things you can set up gagues for each ship and render them to the cockpit, I'll look and see how the data has to be structured. (again, I haven't really done any coding since the mid 90s when I was quite a bit younger so cuss me if I'm wrong)
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Actually I did.
I loved Standoff, but I really didn't like the HUD elements hovering over non-functional cockpits. It broke immersion for me, more than HUD-only did.
That's also why I belonged to the part of the Saga team that spoke out against cockpits (back in 2007 or so), because I realized that we couldn't get it working like in the original games any time soon (apart from the fact that we only had one modeler and it would have been a lot of work building cockpits that wouldn't have worked anyway, which is the main reason Tolwyn finally decided to not include cockpits IIRC).
Ok, now I'm confused. Tolwyn said here that adding cockpits is a few hours' work - which seems to imply that they are ready and waiting. You say they were never made. Or is it that Tolwyn is talking about 2d cockpits lifted from WC3, while you're talking about actual 3d models? In that case, I agree, better not to use cockpits at all than to use the old 2d cockpits.

By the way - you had the option of disabling the cockpit in Standoff :).
 

Oceankhayne

Commodore
I was just looking at the Hard-light forums to see if anyone there has had some insights before I delved any further into this. Judging by one particular video released by diaspora I'd say they've already done it. (RTT that is) Either that or that was an awesome animation, with the head tracking simulated. I believe it was the Raptor that had it in their 3rd Trailer. We know for a fact that they have the longbow and hellcat cockpit's modeled and textured as we've seen them before in cg sequences.
 

Aginor

Vice Admiral
@Quarto:
Yes, I noticed I could deactivate them after a while, which I did, and so the game became even more enjoyable.

Also, I admit, maybe my post was indeed a bit confusing, so I guess I will explain it: :)

As you already said there are quite a few possibilities to include cockpits in the game.
The first one is simply use cockpits in the WCP style, which is... ok I guess since WCP did it, and it is also possible to include those in the FSO engine quite quickly. I assume that's what Tolwyn meant. Personally I don't like those cockpits very much because I'm a huge fan of WC1 cockpits, those made the fighters look more... individual. The WCP style cockpits may be good to add some sense of being in a fighter, but they are too less obstructing the view for me to feel like a real cockpit.
For me they don't add as much "in-cockpit"-feeling as I would like to have. Especially since I know how the fighter cockpits of WC3 "really" looked and when I played WCP after a while I liked to think that in WCP the new fighters actually would have such cockpits (which are a real good new technology because you can see much more through your windows). So it would have felt weird to show such cockpits in a WC3 environment, because, you know... we all know that in the WC3 era cockpits weren't that far developed.

The second option is a static 2D cockpit. I'm not sure whether the FSO engione allows them, but I think they are possible (EDIT: ok, they are possible, see my example). They just would look bad, especially on wide screen resolutions (which most people have now). Also they would be bad if you use a TrackIR head tracker for example (which I do) because if you want to turn your head in an angle escept 90 or 180 degrees the 2D-cockpit isn't made for that. It would look really bad unless you limit the view to 90 degrees angles and build those views as extra 2D files for the side-, back- and up views.
I don't remember if those were an option during the development of Saga or why Tolwyn dropped the idea if it existed, that was a looong time ago.
Here is an example that shows the problems, it's from WCHF: http://www.ciinet.org/kevin/myimages/landreich/MissionDesign01.png
It is a nice try, but... no. Saga couldn't have released something like that with all those problems I just explained.

The last ones are of course the 3D models, of which at least two were done AFAIK, you can see the models in the cutscenes and some artworks that were released a while ago. Here is an example:
http://wcsaga.com/components/com_rsmediagallery/assets/gallery/1024x768/9f3200ecd6d0f66d67b4968a3e1807ed.jpg
They look great, but they have some problems:

1. In order to use them fully in the game they have to be complete, and they aren't.

2. They are a lot of work to look good, and with Scooby being the only modder who was available most of the time there was a significant problem concerning time. Creating those for all fighters in the game (Arrow, Hellcat, Thunderbolt, Longbow, Excalibur and Sabre) would have taken months.

3. There are two ways of creating cockpits for FSO ships:

a) including them into the ship model. Sounds good but isn't, because in order to look good the cockpits would use a huge amount of polies (more than the ships themself do now) and the polycount for the ships is limited. There are some FS ships with cockpits that don't look too bad, but I don't know any that would have the quality Saga aimed for.
Here is an example of a rather good looking one:
!
As you can see they have the same problem as the Standoff ones, they are statically textured and while they do allow shadowing and colored lighting in the cockpit (which is great) you can't show the ship stats or something in the screens, you still have to overlay the HUD WCP style

b) not including them in the ship's model but to have them separate, like Oceankhayne mentioned. So you don't have the problem with the polycount of the ships, but you still don't have real working displays in the cockpit. The whole HUD is still an overlay that may look good from a certain view, but not if you turn your head in the game (since the HUD is still fixed on your view).
Here's one Scooby did for his Demon. Unfortunately without working displays:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v356/Shodan_AI/Demon-1.jpg
And here's a video showing another one:

So none of the possible solutions was quite satisfactory, and Tolwyn decided not to to include cockpits that would have looked bad or mediocre, but to follow the style of WC4 and omit the cockpits. We all were a bit sad but I think it was the right decision.

I hope I did explain it a bit more understandable now. :)
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
I hope I did explain it a bit more understandable now. :)
Yep, it's all clear now. For the record, I still don't agree with your decision, I think the overwhelming majority of WC fans would have preferred 3d cockpits even if they had static displays like in Standoff - but obviously going with WC4-style displays is a fair design choice, and I can understand your logic.
 
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