Wing Commander Prophecy: Secret Ops Model Update Pack

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Finder of things, Doer of stuff
You know what could actually be a neat project for experimenting with FMV? Secret Ops. Now, granted, it would mean replacing all the voice talent with new people, but hey - changing actors for a character is hardly anything new in WC. But it's a perfect test case, because it's already a part of the upgrade project anyway, and because it would only require changes in terms of FMV. The missions could remain entirely unchanged, while the FMV scenes could be planned out based on the original fiction. I mean, Secret Ops was kind of charming in that "1990s high school" feel, where a bunch of teens living in the same town communicate mainly by email (the only thing missing was IRC :) ), but really, it would be so much better if the team actually met instead of just trading emails.
I know you guys figured out how to have a fiction viewer in standoff, but I might not have been paying attention so I'm curious if anyone has done the leg work to integrate the SO fiction into the game itself?
 

FekLeyrTarg

Rear Admiral
Actually doing Green Screen shots is farily cheap these days. Starting from flat nothing, you can put together a moderately decent sized Green screen set for less then $200. Of course I'm not starting from scratch. I actually already have a couple lights and the green back drop so would probably just need some basic mounts to put the screen on and a location to shoot with.

A good example is the C&C3-mod "The Forgotten", which features "Tiberian Dawn"/"Red Alert 1"-style live action cutscenes:

Same with this trailer for "Wing Commander Saga" from 2005:

I know you guys figured out how to have a fiction viewer in standoff, but I might not have been paying attention so I'm curious if anyone has done the leg work to integrate the SO fiction into the game itself?

I think it is a good idea to integrate the fiction viewer within SO (and UE) itself.
I'd also be interested in having the classic simulator mod for SO part of the MUP as well as a new way of changing languages in Prophecy and SO, as the old language switcher doesn't work on 64-bit systems.
 
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Quarto

Unknown Enemy
I know you guys figured out how to have a fiction viewer in standoff, but I might not have been paying attention so I'm curious if anyone has done the leg work to integrate the SO fiction into the game itself?
Not as far as I know, but there isn't any difficulty involved - "leg work" is a good way of putting it, someone would just have to go through the effort to integrate the fiction. It can be a bit of a nuisance at times, however, because the SO fiction was not written with our viewer in mind, so while most pieces are very brief, there's a couple that are quite lengthy… and our viewer does not support scrolling. So then you have to split it into pages and stuff - that's the big nuisance that got in the way of me adding the UE fiction into an internal viewer, back when I still had time to try to work on UE.

Actually doing Green Screen shots is farily cheap these days. Starting from flat nothing, you can put together a moderately decent sized Green screen set for less then $200. Of course I'm not starting from scratch. I actually already have a couple lights and the green back drop so would probably just need some basic mounts to put the screen on and a location to shoot with.

All of that being said, I think Quarto's idea is the better approach. Trying to do shoots with live people would require a level of logistics involved with working with people on location that I would rather not get into.
Well, yeah, to be fair, the possibilities of doing a live action sequence today are actually relatively good. Not only is the equipment significantly better and cheaper than it was ten or twenty years ago (imagine doing this with a tape-based camera!), there's also a lot more of it out there, and a lot more experienced people willing to do things basically for free. The big advantage, of course, is that you're saved from doing human models and animation. But still, easier doesn't mean easy, right? :)

You have done a good job illustrating how deep the rabbit hole goes...Join us....Joooooiiiiiiiinnnnnnn uuuuuuuuussssss! :)
Uh, I can't, I'm washing my hair tonight. Or, well... uh, look behind you! There's a three-headed monkey! :)

Seriously, probably all I could do at this point for you guys is to do the writing. And that would be fun, and I'd be happy to do it, but for the next couple of months, I'm in no position to commit to anything. I'm sure it's not urgent, anyway - the project has many other things to get through before you reach that point.
 

DefianceIndustries

Rear Admiral
The costs for the set up might be doable, but you also have to factor in making costumes & props. Also my access to good acting talent is limited to our local improv troupes and community theater caliber actors. So while WCP may not have been deep into the A list, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it would still be a stretch to make something watchable. :)
 

Adm_maverick

Rear Admiral
Well, yeah, to be fair, the possibilities of doing a live action sequence today are actually relatively good. Not only is the equipment significantly better and cheaper than it was ten or twenty years ago (imagine doing this with a tape-based camera!), there's also a lot more of it out there, and a lot more experienced people willing to do things basically for free. The big advantage, of course, is that you're saved from doing human models and animation. But still, easier doesn't mean easy, right? :)

very true. I mean there is a reason "Green screen" continued to be derided as a cheap cop out used by Hollywood much of the time. It's a technique, and just like any technique it's easy to perform, but demanding to master and thus when it's done well it looks fantastic but when it's done badly it looks cheap.
 
I've, very much, enjoyed the work everyone has done to enhance SO and WCP. My dream would be to have all these updates added to the MED. Eventually I would like to see the WC4 and WCIII ships added to the MED and at that point I would love to see someone recreate WC4 and then WCIII. I know it's a dream but I would SOOOO love to see this happen. :D
 

DefianceIndustries

Rear Admiral
I've, very much, enjoyed the work everyone has done to enhance SO and WCP. My dream would be to have all these updates added to the MED. Eventually I would like to see the WC4 and WCIII ships added to the MED and at that point I would love to see someone recreate WC4 and then WCIII. I know it's a dream but I would SOOOO love to see this happen. :D
As far as I can determine, if the ship exists as a ship.IFF you can add the ships into MED by modifying a text file, it will then appear in the drop down. I haven't done any work in MED beyond that however.

Also it's more than just asset and mission recreation, you'd also have to recreate all the rooms, clickable dialogs, etc.
 
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That is true, rooms and clickable dialogs are in Prophecy as well. Whether that is part of the Prophecy MED I have no idea but it is something I would love to see the community do.
 
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Adm_maverick

Rear Admiral
I've, very much, enjoyed the work everyone has done to enhance SO and WCP. My dream would be to have all these updates added to the MED. Eventually I would like to see the WC4 and WCIII ships added to the MED and at that point I would love to see someone recreate WC4 and then WCIII. I know it's a dream but I would SOOOO love to see this happen. :D

Do we have any sort of documention or explination of how to use MED? I tried to figure it out a while back, but I just don't have the background and it was bit like watching a 5 year old trying to assemble a nuclear reactor.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Oh, pfft. When it comes to complexity, MED is, at best, a plastic model of a nuclear reactor. You want a real nuclear reactor? Try Unreal 4 blueprints. I've been trying to learn UE4* for a month, and this voice keeps going through my head: "old dog, new tricks". Really. It's so complex and alien, I genuinely feel old, like I should retire gamedev or something.


*UE4?! Whatever happened to finishing the original UE? :D
 

Adm_maverick

Rear Admiral
Oh, pfft. When it comes to complexity, MED is, at best, a plastic model of a nuclear reactor. You want a real nuclear reactor? Try Unreal 4 blueprints. I've been trying to learn UE4* for a month, and this voice keeps going through my head: "old dog, new tricks". Really. It's so complex and alien, I genuinely feel old, like I should retire gamedev or something.


*UE4?! Whatever happened to finishing the original UE? :D

Thank you Quarto. That's very helpful.
 

Pedro

Admiral
Oh, pfft. When it comes to complexity, MED is, at best, a plastic model of a nuclear reactor. You want a real nuclear reactor? Try Unreal 4 blueprints. I've been trying to learn UE4* for a month, and this voice keeps going through my head: "old dog, new tricks". Really. It's so complex and alien, I genuinely feel old, like I should retire gamedev or something.


*UE4?! Whatever happened to finishing the original UE? :D

It's odd you should feel that way, as a programmer when I use UE4 I keep being reminded of an engine I used 10 years prior. It too totally misunderstood the ECS paradigm, but it was just too late to go back and fix the design flaw.
Internally most blueprint nodes actually just map to C++ functions, blueprint is really just C++ where spaghetti is enforced rather than a sign of bad design.

I will say the blueprint esque shaders are usually a perfect way of giving artists control, and the custom nodes let me dive in and write some hlsl when I need to, and blueprint, if limited to events for desginers to hook up sounds/ particle triggers etc to is pretty powerful.
It all falls down when developers try putting gameplay code into it.

Since I use a mix of Blueprint and C++ in UE4 it never feels that alien to me, and diving down into the engine is like a trip into memory lane. "This is what game engines looked like before the cell processor taught programmers who to write effective multi-threaded code" I find myself saying about six times a day to my fellow programmers. Mixed in with that are complaints about a lack of code design, explicit separation of code on multiple threads, poor coding standards and why on earth would you bother to put F infont of every class but not think it worth having a naming convention seperating global, local and member variables?!?! Because tracking down bugs due to shadowed variables are so much fun (especially when you can't change the warning settings to flag them as errors)?

**cough**.
Seriously though, UE4 is, underneath its shiny toolset, the most retro engine out there. There is definitely code hanging around in there which must have been carried over from the 90's.
 

DefianceIndustries

Rear Admiral
Hello MUPpets!

Here's "the next big thing" from the mighty technical wizards lurking in the shadows behind the MUP. @Pedro and @PopsiclePete have again been working their dark arcana and have spectro patronumesed us up (say THAT one three times fast) a long asked for feature for the GL patch: Normal mapping!

Behold true believers: The Konfed Kube!

KonfedKubeTest1.jpg
KonfedKubeTest2.jpg


It's still very much in the testing and development stages, but we are looking forward to implementing this on MUP assets in the future. And as a quick tease:

Tbolt1.jpg
 

DefianceIndustries

Rear Admiral
Do we have any sort of documention or explination of how to use MED? I tried to figure it out a while back, but I just don't have the background and it was bit like watching a 5 year old trying to assemble a nuclear reactor.

I'll have to grab the disc again (since I just got a new PC) but if memory serves there was a word doc in it that explained the basics. It didn't have any tutorials or anything with it. The best you can do is open an existing mission and look at how it's all put together.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Thank you Quarto. That's very helpful.
That's ok, I wasn't trying to be helpful, just venting :). But seriously, I think you'll find that a bit of trial-and-error with MED will take you a long way. I genuinely can't help more than that, because I last touched it when it was first released to the public on those backup discs, which was about a decade ago. My initial impression was that it's simple enough to use, and handy in some ways, but I was far too used to WCPPas to see any reason to actually use it.

It's odd you should feel that way, as a programmer when I use UE4 I keep being reminded of an engine I used 10 years prior. It too totally misunderstood the ECS paradigm, but it was just too late to go back and fix the design flaw.

Internally most blueprint nodes actually just map to C++ functions, blueprint is really just C++ where spaghetti is enforced rather than a sign of bad design.

(snip)

Seriously though, UE4 is, underneath its shiny toolset, the most retro engine out there. There is definitely code hanging around in there which must have been carried over from the 90's.
Well, with regards to UE4's approach being outdated, I'm happy to give you the benefit of the doubt. I've never seen the innards of an engine this close (other than Unity, perhaps, but I keep meaning to take a closer look at Unity, and never really getting around to it), and I'm in no position to tell. Indeed, that is one of the things I find so profoundly alienating about UE4: it's an engine in which the programmers shrugged and told the game designers: make the damned game yourself. The engine is designed in such a way that, if you want, you can do the whole game in blueprints, without touching the engine code itself. But in that case, you can just call your programmers designers, and your designers programmers, and no one will be any wiser.

As an old dinosaur of a designer, I found this to be challenging to the extreme at first contact. Now, after a month, I've finally reached a point where I'm actually implementing changes in the mission I've been assigned, and the game is not exploding. That's progress. But it's all just so shamelessly exhibitionist and - dare I say, lazy? I feel like I shouldn't criticise it too much, precisely because I'm still struggling with it - as a rule, when someone is struggling and they say "this is stupid", they're just making excuses for themselves ;). Still, while I appreciate the greater versatility of the engine (really: how many times did we have to DLL-hack WCP, just to introduce a slight variation of an already-existing function? In UE4, you'd just modify the blueprint to add new functionality), it is frustrating, because when you work with a small, almost indie-sized developer, the outcome is inevitable: your one-and-a-half-programmers leave a heck of a lot of gameplay programmer work in the hands of the designers. That's my ultimate complaint, I guess: I keep feeling like I'm having to master the damned engine, instead of mastering a new mission scripting environment.

I should add, I also detest UE4's approach to visual scripting. I'm grudgingly accepting that having a visual script can be convenient at all, as I've always been firmly in the "text-based-is-faster-than-click-based" camp. Yes, it can be helpful (I loooove being able to track the game's visual progress through the blueprint while it's running). But the way it's done, the obsessive nature of it, where it seems like they wanted every possible thing to be a visually distinct element... it's bloody ridiculous. A basic "if" statement, something that normally fits in one short line of code, becomes a bunch of separate blocks connected together, taking up half the screen. You've got to have the variable block, connected to a "get value" block, et cetera. Spaghetti code indeed. Just give me a one-block "if" function, seriously.
 

Adm_maverick

Rear Admiral
That's ok, I wasn't trying to be helpful, just venting :). But seriously, I think you'll find that a bit of trial-and-error with MED will take you a long way. I genuinely can't help more than that, because I last touched it when it was first released to the public on those backup discs, which was about a decade ago. My initial impression was that it's simple enough to use, and handy in some ways, but I was far too used to WCPPas to see any reason to actually use it.

nice to know my 3 months of trial and error trying to learn the program was so well spent then. I even had a Vlog of my efforts in that regard. And did try opening several WCSO missions. But yeah... as I said before... I don't have the background to understand what I'm looking at, so yeah back to my metaphor of a monkey trying to build a nuclear reactor.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
nice to know my 3 months of trial and error trying to learn the program was so well spent then. I even had a Vlog of my efforts in that regard. And did try opening several WCSO missions. But yeah... as I said before... I don't have the background to understand what I'm looking at, so yeah back to my metaphor of a monkey trying to build a nuclear reactor.
Don't be too hard on yourself. Level design may not be rocket science, but the learning curve *is* steep. WCPPas was actually in many ways easier than MED, simply because there was more access to experts and tutorials at the time (today, of course, it would be a different story). Also, it was based on Pascal, which is a more verbose, but more understandable language than C. After my experiences with WCPPas, I can certainly look at a typical SO mission written in WCP C, and I understand it. But that's because I know what to expect. By contrast, had I not had this background, those same missions would have looked like gibberish to me.

Is there anything in particular you're having difficulty with, though? Like, are you struggling with the details, or with broad concepts of how things are done?
 

Adm_maverick

Rear Admiral
Don't be too hard on yourself. Level design may not be rocket science, but the learning curve *is* steep. WCPPas was actually in many ways easier than MED, simply because there was more access to experts and tutorials at the time (today, of course, it would be a different story). Also, it was based on Pascal, which is a more verbose, but more understandable language than C. After my experiences with WCPPas, I can certainly look at a typical SO mission written in WCP C, and I understand it. But that's because I know what to expect. By contrast, had I not had this background, those same missions would have looked like gibberish to me.

Is there anything in particular you're having difficulty with, though? Like, are you struggling with the details, or with broad concepts of how things are done?

Once again I point you to my monkey building a reactor metaphor. I have literally 0 background in game design and have only recently started studying software design. I don't even know what broad concepts MED (or WCPPas whatever that is/was) uses to try and understand. You're basically asking someone who spent the last 30 year in the jungles of South Africa whether they Favor the Libertarian movement as demonstrated after The Florida Shooting or the Left Centrist activist groups as demonstrated by BLM activists.
 

Pedro

Admiral
The engine is designed in such a way that, if you want, you can do the whole game in blueprints, without touching the engine code itself. But in that case, you can just call your programmers designers, and your designers programmers, and no one will be any wiser.

Can doesn't meant should. I know some developers advocate it, but honestly the best way to get an unworkable codebase is to fail to seperate code and script. In Unreal that means gameplay code in C++. Most of what we keep in blueprint is either as I said before, for events that need visual/ audio effects hooking up or level specific code.
I'm glad to hear you don't agree but there are many advocates for doing everything in script. One of the lowest metacriticing games to my name I came on to very late had all of the gameplay code written in the scripting language due to a shortage of programmers - it was an unmaintainable mess. Creating a clean seperation forces better code (and stops designers iterating through every single entity testing the distance, note not squared distance, of each to find the closest, rather than asking the programmers for a GetClosestEnemy function).

We took that power away from the designers for the next game and they did nothing but complain non stop. Development was far smoother, the bug list a tiny fraction in comparison. Sure it wasn't a much better game (it was the bizarre victim of being a completed multiplayer only game hurridly turned into a singleplayer only game in the final months), but atleast development was smooth.

As for the normal mapping - before anyone says "that's not right!" let me say I know, it's in testing. I couldn't even remember the co-ordinate system or if up was down on the UVs it's been so long. It'll be corrected (but probably never perfect as the B&T of the BNT space is being calculated on a per triangle basis. It's also not going to be super cheap, again because polys come through one at a time so I'll be pushing for it to be used sparingly.
 
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