Whilst RAVSim’s bread-and-butter genre, the humble racing sim, appears in many ways to be in pretty rude health right now, there is another “simulation” genre that is also enjoying something of a boom period: space combat and exploration. “Simulation”? Obviously this stuff isn’t going on in the real world (or, rather, real universe) right now, at least not by our species, so can such titles really be called simulators? It’s perhaps up for debate, but physics are physics regardless of the setting, and a number of these titles look to incorporate realism into many areas on a level that matches the most accomplished of traditional simulators.
To my knowledge, nowhere is this more true than for Michael Juliano’s Rogue System title. Following a varied career that currently sees him on ISI’s staff books leading up the environment team on rFactor2, Juliano decided to scratch a long standing itch and start working on the project that he wanted to make and to play: Rogue System. In a nutshell, Rogue System is a space combat, exploration and trade game, and Juliano is hoping to secure funding through a Kickstarter campaign to safeguard the future development of the title.
If words like “space”, “combat”, “trade”, “exploration” and “Kickstarter” are eliciting thoughts of words like “Braben”, “Elite”, “Roberts”, “Star” and “Citizen”, you won’t be alone. But make no mistake: Juliano is no bandwagon jumper, and Rogue System is no simple “me too” title. Initially (and quietly) announced over a year ago, Rogue System has been a quarter of a century in the making within the mind of its creator.
With a focus on intricate systems modeling, realistic physics and detailed avatar health modeling, Rogue System is going for the jugular of the genre and attempting to stamp a “Hardcore Simulation” tattoo across its forehead. In a genre that is quickly beginning to look crowded, it will increasingly take something extra special to standout. Thankfully, Rogue System’s uncompromised focus and approach could see it do just that. In the midst of final Kickstarter preparations, Michael kindly took time to answer some questions about the title.
This man is aiming for the stars.
When combining the concepts of flight-sim realism and a science fiction setting, in regard to flight control systems, how do you envision your approach to the player’s responsibility for system management given that it could be argued that futuristic systems could eliminate the need for micromanagement? How do you see using the fiction aspect to manage the balance between engaging gameplay and ‘hard science fiction’ realism?
In response to a couple of the early WIP videos I released I “heard” a few comments along the lines of ‘not very realistic, you could start a ship in one button press’ and ‘there wouldn’t be nearly that many buttons in a futuristic spacecraft’. Presumably because the systems would take care of themselves. So, since I was still in a prototype phase, I tested a ship with only a start button. That alone was pretty boring. But then I took the ship out and got into a small bit of combat and systems started being damaged—I had no way to shut them down (again, thinking as a pilot would inside the ship), or alter their operation. How could you trust a damaged system to manage itself properly? You could argue that the ship’s computer could manage this; but what if THAT is knocked out? At that point you’d be pretty much dead-stick, which would be silly if the rest of the ship was mostly functional.
I also saw a few comments about not needing hard switches. So, I tried that, too (and you can see this in the teaser videos I recently released), with an EFD-only (Eye’s Front Display—sort of my interactive HUD) controlled ship. First, you’ll notice I STILL had to resort to a few buttons on the “dash”. Second, if the EFD system is knocked out, again, you’re left with no way to control the ship.
So, long story short, as I see it as it applies to Rogue System, as long as there is a pilot in the cockpit, even if you have assistance from the ship’s computer (which I do in RogSys), and you have systems that can aid you in their operation (again, which I do), you HAVE to be able to manage your ship in a real and tangible way. If an engine has a fuel cut-off valve, you must be able to close it manually if all other automatic means have been disabled, for example.
Do you plan to include atmospheric modeling for atmospheric flight and combat at some point? If so, what sort of possibilities do you see for this sort of combat in potentially interesting alien atmospheres (extremes of temperatures, pressure, gravity, wind speed, and so on)?
This is a long term goal, yes. However, I will NOT do it if we can’t do it better than previous attempts. So far, every time someone has tried this it turns out being a mostly barren planet with maybe one or two star ports to visit and that’s all. For something like a dead, inhospitable world this sort of makes sense I suppose. But for a world supposedly inhabited it’s just… Well, it doesn’t “feel” right.
From a simulation point of view I’d want to model at least a very good approximation of various gravities, pressures, temperatures, etc. All these things would affect flight performance drastically. Using density as an example, you’d have higher drag and would need more power to “push” through the atmosphere. You’d also have a risk of more easily pushing the ship beyond its structural limits. So, I could envision a situation where the player is chasing a potential bounty who took their ship down planet side. Before continuing the chase the player would have to scan that world and get an idea of what was in store (or even know if their ship could manage planet side to begin with).
To sum up though, if I can’t present terrestrial flight in an appealing way, that also offers a rewarding simulation experience I won’t do it. I don’t do fluff; and I don’t add half-baked ideas just for the sake of the feature list. I’d rather leave it out than weaken the rest of the sim by including it…
Early Intruder fighter concept art.
If atmospheric flight were deemed appropriate to include, this would obviously present not just a new set of challenges from a programming/implementation point of view, but also as you mention different stresses on the craft themselves. On this front, how challenging is it to create a craft that can function across a variety of atmospheric condition? Different air densities, gravitational forces etc. would place different needs on the ships for thrust, lift and so on; whilst things like thrust levels can be set somewhat arbitrarily (this ship uses an X13 3.0 thruster which creates X newtons of thrust), from an aerodynamical point of view that’s something much more difficult to work around within a simulation framework. Designing a craft to fly well within the Earth’s atmosphere is enough of a challenge as it is; how would you approach this from a craft design point of view?
What you’re asking is another one of those, “If we can do it right” items. What I imagine is that any ship that could perform atmospheric flight would need some form of lifting bodies (such as the Space Shuttle), and that these would need to have some sort of shape shifting ability (similar to how flaps and slats and the wing sweep change the lift and drag properties on the B1-b, for example). You’d not only need to change the cord, but also the entire surface area in some cases. Even then, you’d still encounter atmospheric types that your ship wouldn’t be able to deal with, which is where my ‘evaluate the planet’s atmosphere before entering’ statement came from.
Sure, you could just say, “We have this anti-gravity device so you can go anywhere,” but that seems the easy way out. If we try to tackle this later I really want to take a different approach to what’s been done previously. Entering an atmosphere is no small feat, and it should be an endeavour you’d only want to do in the sim if you REALLY had to.
Now, all that said, I want to tackle this issue in steps (just as the entire sim is being built). At first we’ll provide a way to set down on asteroids and small moons with no atmosphere. All you’d have to worry about with these is having enough escape velocity to get away (and you’d want to think about that BEFORE setting down 🙂 ). Then, we’ll try for larger moons with an atmosphere, and finally planets. For bodies with no atmosphere–we’ll be able to do this and I’d like to include it with the “Maverick Module” (exploration and trading) for mining and such. We’ll take the rest in stages and see what we can do…
How do you keep a game world open and devoid of gameplay related barriers? You could obviously just create planets with atmospheres unsuitable for flight, and so burn up on entry negates the need for worrying about planet-side detail, but such an approach would perhaps feel a little artificial. When creating a game where the environment is on such a large scale, how do you aim to limit and condense the experience without killing the atmosphere associated with “go anywhere, do anything” freedom, especially when the trading/exploration side to the game develops?
A bit of RogSys lore here: when the race that the player belongs to first started colonizing space, they sent out these massive colony ships to various locations. Once there, they parked in orbit and over time were added to (much as we added to the ISS over time until it was complete) using resources from the planet below. These “Orbital Stations” are the trading hub for each planet, since it’s more efficient to allow ships to park in orbit, dump and pick up cargo in a zero-g environment, and then leave. The cargo is shuttled to and from the planet by dedicated ships.
So, in the core module the player flies small fighter-like craft from this station that simply cannot handle atmospheric transition. Plus, in every outing the player is on a mission–they need to be where they are SUPPOSED to be in order for the mission to succeed. So that takes care of that..
Once exploration play is added we simply provide ships with no lifting bodies; and, since we don’t have anti-gravity devices, if they enter the atmosphere they just crash and burn since they can’t fly. As we add the ability to land on various objects then we will begin providing ships, systems and equipment that can deal with that.
That’s really the only “limiting” factor–atmospheric flight. Otherwise, yes, you can fly anywhere within your ship’s range. As far as keeping that interesting and focused? There are (when the Maverick Module is added) events going on all the time around the known colonies. These events occur at random, based on other events, etc. The player will have access to this “news” as often these events will provide work–specific trade items to pick-up/deliver, people to ferry or track down, and so on. So, that will provide a way for the player to find interesting things to do.
I also have a mechanic for what I’ll call “Local Events”. These are things that occur locally around the player, based on certain factors, to give the player other things to do if they choose; and I don’t simply mean dropping in a couple enemy ships every five minutes to provide something to shoot at. If there are no enemies in that area then you won’t see any. Think of these more as… quests. Some of these can include strange signals to investigate, derelict space craft to interact with, and many other things. I have a lot already planned. The cool thing is that I already have an event data structure in place that allows for expansion, so we can add new events all the time.
Again, all this is really important when exploration play is added. The trick is not to limit the player, but to keep the player the focus of attention where appropriate…
Another early fighter craft concept.
To what degree do you see the pilot’s physical limitations affecting the usable performance of in game space craft? Are you planning on limiting this to the human limits of acceleration and environmental conditions, or might there be some technologies to limit or overcome this? A Newtonian model for ship-to-ship ‘space fighter’ combat can often become a series of repeated high-speed jousts, but limiting the g-stresses a pilot can take would significantly alter that equation in a potentially positive way from a gameplay perspective. If you’ve tested this sort of thing, what have your findings been?
While you can fly pure “Newtonian Style” (and in some cases you HAVE to) we do also have limits on both the “pilot” and the ship. I’ll begin with the pilot:
One of the things we’re trying to do is pull you into the cockpit by simulating your pilot “avatar”, as well as the ship they fly. We track their heart rate, we track every inhale and exhale (so we can properly remove oxygen and add CO2), and we track their physical and mental states and how they are reacting to the current situation. You’ll see condensed breath when the cabin temp is too low. If you pull too many negative g’s you’ll hear your heartbeat in your head, etc. For the AI, all this affects their flight performance.
Now, speaking along the lines of flight limitation, while we offer systems to allow higher load tolerances, there IS still a limit, and the pilot will react to this properly. That alone limits the player so that they don’t overstress their pilot. To aid in this we have something called a FIS (Friction Induction System). The theory behind this is that a field is generated around the ship that reacts with the particles outside to form a minimal amount of friction, which causes flight to feel a bit more atmospheric. You can control the strength of it, as well as turn it on and off.
The ship has its limits, too. For example, use of the FIS DOES increase hull temperature, and engaging it while going too fast can have catastrophic results (on this ship as well as the pilot). Also, many weapon systems can only be used within certain flight parameters. Exceeding these parameters can cause “space-frame” failures, jammed weapons, “frozen” moveable controls (such as a vectored thruster).
All this does affect combat obviously. We have several levels of long range engagement—BVR, WBVR (well-beyond) and FBVR (far beyond). But, once those weapon systems are spent, and you have to take it to VR, I have to say the combat feels a lot like “overclocked” WWI flying–maneuvering is deliberate and methodical. Engagement can easily break down into circle fights if you allow it, which makes you an easy target. You’re only saving grace is you can’t stall out. But, what CAN happen is you can become almost “stationary” (relatively speaking in relation to the combat area), making you a very easy target. Scoring a victory in a properly managed dogfight is actually very gratifying, I’ve found, even when the target is not completely destroyed (the AI suffer the same system failures as the player).
How do you anticipate space-dogfighting might unfold? One-to-many, many-to-many? Capital ships involvement?
I’ve tested most of these (one vs. one, one vs. many, many vs. many). Unless you’re employing WBVR or FBVR the merge happens pretty quickly. The pilot who uses his sensors best will have the advantage in pre-engagement maneuvering. To that end, you’ll have proper wingman commands for pincer moves and that sort of thing. Newton can help on the initial merge as you can disengage FIS and, while maneuvering in one direction, aim in another. However, after the initial this advantage is gone. You reengage FIS to help you stay oriented properly with your opponent and the combat area in general. It also helps you stay within the operational limits of your weapons.
You start thinking about energy management, trying to avoid circle fights so you can extend or escape if you have to. Getting “slow” is bad—you can only accelerate so quickly from a stand-still (again, in relation to the combat zone and the ships around you). Again, you can get Newton’s help by disengaging FIS—removing the friction so you can accelerate faster. Just be careful not to overstress your ship or your pilot avatar. You also have to think about energy management in relation to certain weapons. Energy-based weapons require both a fuel source and a charge to create a successful shot. You have to monitor these levels. You also can’t just lie on the trigger. Weapons build up heat and too much can cause them to fail (excessive heat also shortens their operational life—important when you’re the one paying the bills later on).
You also start thinking about WHICH weapons to use. Short-range missiles, while effective, can have a large blast radius. You can easily get caught up in it and damage your own ship if your target is too close. Some weapons are affected by shields and reactive armor, others could care less about them. In a typical space shooter you get a lock, fire a missile or two, and lay on the guns until the target is dead. Not here. In Rogue System your head is in the cockpit, thinking about your ship and how best to get the most out of it, at LEAST as much as it is outside the cockpit trying to aim and make the kill.
Space. It’s pretty big.
The information you’ve released so-far indicates a pretty hardcore approach to realism. It’s not difficult to imagine a player might find themselves with damaged systems that prevented long-range travel, or even any sort of maneuvering at all, left endlessly adrift in space. How might these circumstances be handled? Is it game over or might there be game-world systems in place to help?
It’s not “game over” by any means, but yes, it is VERY easy to become “dead-stick” if you’re not careful. It depends on who you are, who you fly for and WHERE you are as to how quickly, and by what means, you get recovered. As well as for long distance flight, this is where SAN (Suspended ANinmation) comes in. Beyond that, I have some cool gameplay mechanics planned here that I really don’t want to divulge just yet.
On the subject of the scale of your universe, are you going for 1:1 across the board, or keeping some distances realistic while scaling others? How do you propose keeping the environment interesting while respecting the fact that space is vast and largely empty?
Our scaling is 1:1 in that a meter is a meter. You can travel anywhere you like—there are no “zones” or regions that you jump to. So, yes, there is a lot of space to fill. Obviously some “space” is more interesting than other “space”. Of course, in the initial sim, unless Kickstarter does exceedingly well, we’re focusing on a military campaign and as such we don’t have as much space to fill at first. Later, when trading/exploration is added there are several things we can do to help focus the player to areas of interest—scanners can pick up ships and objects to investigate, news events will keep you alerted to things to check out, random events will happen from time to time, etc. The great thing is we can add events long after release.
Visually, procedural generation makes filling such large voids possible. We’ll be implementing this once we start making the assets to support it. The base code is already there, so it’s really just a matter of adding all the art and then debugging.
Also, you’ll be able to move around inside larger ships, so during those times when things are a bit slow you can get up from the pilot’s seat and go to another section of the ship. We have some great ideas to help keep you entertained. And, if all else fails, there’s always SAN, which will allow you to sleep until you reach your destination (or until your computer wakes you up for various reasons). While in SAN time is accelerated, so planets and moons still orbit, other ships go about their business, etc.
Have you found the recent resurgence in the genre to be encouraging, or perhaps even in some ways discouraging?
I have mixed feelings here. On the one hand, being a long time flight/space sim fan, it’s absolutely fantastic to see this resurgence. As I suspected for a LONG time, there is still a LOT of interest in this genre. If anything, people are longing for a new space-sim that offers a fresh, intelligent and exciting take on the genre. Although I’m probably locking myself into a very niche audience, I think it’s worth it. Rogue System is going to be a very unique, even if on a global scale it is similar to other recently announced titles.
I’m not sure if “discouraged” is the correct word. When I first announced Rogue System a year ago I received excellent feedback and a lot of support. If I could have gone to Kickstarter in June of last year as I wanted I think it would have done exceedingly well. But, we just weren’t quite ready to show yet. In the meantime Braben and Roberts beat me to the punch. It’s thrilling to see their names again; but it has made it harder for me to get my foot in the door. I currently don’t have a team to work on promotional material. I don’t have a bunch of artists building high detailed game assets yet. I mean I COULD have focused on art for the past two years in my spare time, but I choose to focus on gameplay. I worked on the initial ship systems and core elements on which I can add all the art later and fancy stuff later.
I now have to work very hard to prove that Rogue System is worthy to stand alongside these two big titles; and I only have the game design, current technology, and the few early art assets I’ve created to do it with. I’m up for the challenge though. If Rogue System’s Kickstarter is successful it will be on its own merit and because people feel that what I’m trying to do is worth giving me the means to build a proper team to see it to completion.
Going back before the current Kickstarter trend, there has been a steady stream of space-sims announced as in development; some that looked fairly ambitious and many even had impressive tech demonstration videos, but almost all of these failed to materialise. It seems there is a sizable demand for space-sims (if still firmly niche relative to the AAA titles of the world); what do you think has made the space-sim genre one that seems to invoke so much passion in both players and potential developers? Do you think there is a particular technical or design challenge that makes getting these projects past the core technology development stage to the playable game stage especially difficult?
Space and flight sims really were the genres that gave PC gaming the boot in the pants it needed in the early days. When people look back to the heyday of PC gaming these are the titles that they tend to fondly recall. Certainly, the LACK of space-sims since the late 90’s has been a reason to try and build a new one. If anyone could have made a great space-sim that invoked the same feelings that the early games did they would have been a hero. However, building a tech demo is a lot different to actually taking that and creating a complete product.
To create any game/sim project and actually finish it takes a huge commitment in time and resources. For one or two people, sooner or later life gets in the way, I think. Even I had to pause the development of Rogue System for about 6 months because of my “day job”. You have to have tremendous dedication to your project to come back to it after an extended delay like that. Then, too, you realize that there’s a LOT of work to be done, so much that it can become overwhelming. When you have a job and a family to support and all that other life stuff, eventually most of these just get left by the wayside.
Even if you have people to do the work needed, you have to be able to manage them and their schedules. To get the commitment you need from talented people you HAVE to be able to pay them. They can’t dedicate themselves to a project long term if the project can dedicate itself to them. Let’s not forget that making a game doesn’t auto-magically make it a fun game. Lots of people “feel” they are great designers, but not many of them truly are. If you have all of THAT, then you still need to invest to create your company, to advertise, to get trademarks, to purchase software and licenses. It’s just a huge, HUGE endeavor.
I’ve taken a LOT of time and money away from my family to get to this point. I have the experience to manage people and scheduling. I certainly have the commitment to see this through. Finally, with all the positive feedback I’ve received I know I’m on the right track as to design. All I need now are the funds to build a proper team to support the project.
Does going the Kickstarter route reflect an unwillingness to go down the traditional developer/publisher path on your part, or is it more a reflection of the current market and broader economic climate? Would you like to see Rogue System potentially picked up by a publisher further down the line?
I honestly can’t imagine any publisher would touch Rogue System because it simply wouldn’t return what they’d want it to. Sure, I believe it will turn enough to support itself and generate a modest profit (mainly to keep handy for a “rainy day”), which is GREAT for me–it supports my goal of building up Rogue System over time and giving it a long life. But, it’s my experience that big investors (publishers) want big returns.
Besides, for Rogue System to go under a publisher’s banner I’d have to have very explicate, contractual assurance that I’d have complete creative control, and that’s VERY hard to get. Publishers can be funny in that, they see a project and like it enough to support it. But then, when they do, they start asking (and many times demanding) for changes based on focus groups and other whims, normally turning the project into something completely different. I KNOW exactly what I want Rogue System to be. If a publisher was willing to stand behind that I’d consider it. But again, based on past experience I just don’t see that happening. I’d be pleasantly surprised if it did, honestly.
“Crowd funding,” asking the potential audience to provide the financial support early, is the only way I can think of to get this thing off and running. Kickstarter, bless them, have offered an incredible way for many creative, independent people to get their foot in the door with all sorts of projects. One just has to prove their project is worthy of others’ support, and get the word out there enough to generate enough support for success. Finally, if they are supported, they have to deliver what they promise. I KNOW I can deliver Rogue System–I just need the support to do it.
There is a clear demand for, and also now a presence of, space combat/exploration/trading titles in the works. Whilst hardcore aficionados of the genre may well buy into all titles, there are a lot of people, like myself, who have yet you step into this world. From my point of view, I found the announcements of Braben and Roberts’ projects both enticing and exciting, and for me personally your focus on the simulation side with Rogue System is highly appealing. A focus on hardcore, simulation based gameplay probably has the double edged effect of appealing to some and drawing them in, but at the same time perhaps discouraging others looking to dip their toes in the water. Have you made a conscious decision to cut your losses with some players to maximise appeal to others, or do you plan to try and keep a balanced, broad (within the context of a niche title) appeal? Racing simulations, for example, can feature aids and other “artificial” features to soften the blow for new comers; will Rogue System have an equivalent suite of features to help players of varying ability, experience, and desire for hardcore?
Yes, I realize that I’m going to cater to a rather specific audience. I accept this. Were I out to make a lot of money I’d provide a more arcade-like experience (and I’m NOT saying Roberts and Braben are–I’m simply speaking for myself here) to try and draw in large numbers. But I don’t want that. What I want is for Rogue System to support itself over the course of its life while providing this unique type of “hardcore” simulation. I believe that even a small, dedicated audience can provide this if we are as willing to provide Rogue System with new content to keep it exciting and entertaining. Besides, each title (Rogue System, Star Citizen and Elite) ALL will have unique features that will appeal to different people. There’s enough personal preference, opinion and “taste” to support multiple titles as long as each one provides something unique.
Now, that said, OBVIOUSLY I want to try to bring in new people to experience Rogue System, as well as simulation in general. While I will NOT alter the simulation in any way as far as how systems work, how the flight model operates, etc., what I will do (and am) is provide things that I call “Accessibility Options”. These include more typical things like invisibility, unlimited ammo, turning off system damage, etc.; but also things more subtle such as having the ship in various states of readiness when you enter it (all off, switches set, already running, etc.). These don’t alter the simulation, just how much of it is presented to the player–they can turn things “on” as they get more comfortable. Plus, there is a “simulator” the player can use to get up to speed without sacrificing their pilot’s life. I also have a small flight training campaign planned, but that will depend on resources if we’ll be able to tackle that the way I’d like to.
Finally, when multiplayer is added, the server will be able to allow or disallow these options…
This brings me onto something you mentioned in your previous SimHQ interview, that you plan for expanding the team and building up assets, but also the progressive implementation of gameplay styles and features (solo scripted missions -> dynamic missions -> multiplayer -> open ended trader play…). Thinking long term, you seem to be taking a very pragmatic, ground up approach: start with the basics and fundamental foundations, and steadily built from there. In terms of the lifespan of the project, potentially how long do you see Rogue System persisting as a developing platform? Will the approach taken allow in the future for the core to be updated with everything else remaining in place around it (a Rogue System 2.0 as it were)?
Indeed, my approach is very progressive. I only want the team focusing on one goal at a time. For a small team this is essential because you can’t afford one minute to wonder aimlessly through a forest of design items. For a large team, it offers the chance to really NAIL the implementation of each goal–making each one a quality effort.
Yes, as long as all the “hooks” and tie-in’s remain the same, the core of Rogue System can be updated. The main thing that would cause this is if we switched engines at some point. The idea is to make sure that nothing that we add later sits apart from the core, but rather rests on it. In a way this can cause a bottleneck as some information could be handled more efficiently on its own. But again, the idea is to be able to add on to the core AND be able to update the core later while still allowing everything to work.
I don’t want to put out a new version every year–adding one or two new features and calling it 2.0–just to generate more income. The main reason being that in doing that all you do is focus on the same thing over and over and over. I don’t want Rogue System to stay the same. I want it to grow. Maybe I’m being naive; but, I believe there’s a better way–that a project can have a long life and not have to get old in the process.
“You call that a HUD? This is a HUD!”
With a futuristic genre, not only do crafts and environments provide you with a lot of freedom, but also I imagine the implementation of input devices. Do you envision the best way to get the most out of Rogue System to be to go down the traditional joystick approach that many space shooters have adopted from the world of flight sims and Hollywood, or might a console style controller offer a more appropriate, “futuristic” control mechanism?
The engine Rogue System uses currently supports up to three joystick devices. These can be anything–joysticks, pedals, quadrants or even game controllers–that use this interface. I’ve requested more joystick support in the future. The creator of the engine is always adding and updating, so there’s no reason to think this wouldn’t be a possibility. It’s really personal preference as to what feels better for each player–I’ll let them decide. All I have to do is give them the means. I will say that for pitch, roll and yaw you REALLY want something linear, rather than on/off. You do need a certain level of finesse when performing some manoeuvres.
Could you give some details about the engine behind Rogue System? Is it an “off the shelf” engine like Unity, or a collection of sub parts (graphics, physics etc.) that you have picked for the specific task? Has the engine choice in anyway particularly empowered (beyond giving you an engine!) or limited what you can achieve in reference to what you would ideally like to do?
The engine used is called Nuclear Fusion (NF). It’s been in development since 2005, and still is actively supported. It’s a very robust, efficient multi-core engine that has so far handled everything I’ve thrown at it. Graphically, it’s quite modern in that it will support HLSL shaders up to DX11. It is also platform non-specific so, at least from an engine point-of-view, there’s not a reason we couldn’t try for a port to another OS later.
I did “shop around” for several months looking for an engine that, at the time, I could afford. Although the plan was to “upgrade” to a more well-known engine when funds were available I’ve been so impressed with this so far I don’t see a reason to do that.
While it does support things such as skinned animation and such, this is really more of a backbone engine rather than a complete game engine. For example, I had to code the particle system we use because NF doesn’t come with one built in. In a way, I prefer this–I can add exactly what we need and the engine isn’t bogged down by a bunch of stuff we’ll never use.
About the only thing I had to add is irrKlang for full sound support, as NF’s sound engine doesn’t have the feature set Rogue System required…
Have you thought about the inclusion of touch screen controls (such as using tablets) for some of the systems management, or new technology like the highly anticipated Oculus Rift (a Kickstarter success story of huge proportions)?
Funny you should ask this. I just added a section to the Kickstarter page the other day about future peripheral support. One thing I’d REALLY like to explore is using a touch-screen monitor to interact with the EFD (Eye’s Front Display)–I think this would offer a fantastic sense of immersion. I’ve actually sat at my monitor while testing and reached out to touch the buttons to see how it feels–I think it would work REALLY well, ESPECIALLY if you had a dedicated cockpit for simming.
The OculusVR is also something I REALLY want to support. From everything I’ve heard it’s fantastic. I plan on ordering a dev unit soon so that I can at least evaluate it. If it’s all they say it is I’ll be sure to support it.
The initial concept art for the player’s Orbital Station looks suitably vast and impressive.
With the Kickstarter now live, it’s obviously going to be a case of wait and see for how things pan out. Where do you go from here providing the project exceeds targets, meets them or, gulp, fails to reach the goals? You’ve obviously been working on the title for some time now and put a lot of effort into it; I assume a potentially failed Kickstarter does not signal game over for the project?
On the Kickstarter page I go into some detail as to what can be expected at the base goal, and what happens if we exceed that. They are not glamorous, grand jumps in content; but rather honest, well-thought items that we can achieve based on the amount of people we’ll have (based on salaries and other expenses). For example, the first “stretch goal” talks about adding a “tools” programmer so we can deliver a full complement of mod tools. This isn’t just for the end-user–we NEED these in order to develop the base content more efficiently. The other addition is another content artist. With the accelerated art production we should be able to offer 4 flyable ships rather than two.
If we go WELL above what I have planned then we’ll figure out how best to use it to reward the community for their support. I only planned out up to a certain dollar amount because I feel that’s about what we could expect to achieve at maximum.
I’ve thought long and hard about what happens if the Kickstarter fails. It’s really going to come down to how much it fails, if it does. If we only miss by a few thousand dollars then what I’ll do is open a store over at our site and ask everyone to donate there, offering the same rewards. Missing by such a small amount would STILL allow us to get started and then hopefully the rest will come in over time. But, we’d have to run the store ourselves. Kickstarter is all or nothing–missing the base goal by even one dollar means the entire campaign fails.
If it fails horribly–well what can I do? I’ve invested far too much time and money to simply let it all go. If nothing else it would be a huge insult to my wife and daughters who have honestly sacrificed a lot so that I could do this. I owe it to them to finish it SOMEHOW if for no other reason than to say, “thank you for believing in me”. So, I’ll press on as I have been–a little here, a little there. Perhaps in time something will present itself to give Rogue System the proper support that I really feel it deserves.
As you say, we’ll just have to wait and see and then go from there…
You are still working at ISI along with working on Rogue System; what has the reaction been from the guys at ISI, and will you be leaving subject to the success of the Kickstarter campaign? Has Gjon had to warn you off from poaching staff? 🙂
Yes, I am still employed with ISI happily. This HAS made the last few months a bit trying because I didn’t have all the prep time I could have to get Rogue System ready for Kickstarter. But, I still have a family to support and, until I know what the future holds, I have a responsibility to ISI to do my assign duties to the best of my abilities.
If the Kickstarter is successful I will have a big obligation to fulfil that will require all my attention. So yes, I don’t think I’d have any other recourse than to resign my position. Gjon and I have already discussed this and we’ve prepared for both outcomes. I am eternally grateful to him for allowing me the opportunity to give this a shot AND retain my position at the same time.
As far as the reaction to the guys at ISI, they’ve all been incredibly supportive. I never hid the fact that my ultimate goal has ALWAYS been to have my own studio. They seem to truly want me to succeed at this, and I’m very grateful for this.
You’ve obviously had (and no doubt will continue) to weather the comparisons to similarly themed titles out there, so either in relation to those titles or just on Rogue System’s own merits, in a hundred words or less tell our readers why they should get on over to Kickstarter and lay down some money to support Rogue System?
I can’t really compare Rogue System to the others on a detail-for-detail basis because I only know what info they’ve provided. All I can say is that Rogue System is the space combat sim that I, as a “hardcore” flight-simmer, have always wanted to play. If you want control of your ship at a system by system level–to be able to use your knowledge of it to complete your objective, survive and succeed in combat, and bring it and the pilot inside back home alive–I believe Rogue System is where you want to look. I am dedicated to it heart and soul, 100%–it WILL succeed given the chance. I’ve given it everything because I believe that.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, and good luck with the Rogue System Kickstarter campaign and beyond!
I’d like to thank everyone at RAVSim for taking such an interest in Rogue System, and allowing me the opportunity to present it to your readers. It is always my pleasure to talk about Rogue System, and any chance to do so (and to help get the word “out there”) is a most appreciated opportunity. So, again, thank you so much!
It could be seen as unfortunate that Michael Juliano has got his project onto the Kickstarter table after the Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen banquettes have taken place, but in many respects I’m really not sure it matters. Whilst some might adopt the stance that backing one space combat title at a time is enough for them, there are others who will probably be willing to put their money down to support anyone ambitious enough to attempt such an undertaking.
But in some ways being late to the table could even be beneficial. Juliano has enough faith and belief in himself and his project to not be perturbed by the success of his competitors. Rogue System as it stands is not the result of a few months hurriedly scraping together some concept art and an idea for a game; in terms of code it is a basis, a platform, on which to build, to flesh out and to develop. But Rogue System is clearly much more than that: it is a vision, a belief and a philosophy.
Roberts and Braben might have got in there first by securing their crowd-sourced funding, but just as Braben successfully followed Roberts by offering something different to entice potential consumers into becoming paying customers, Juliano is proposing something quite different once again. Just as I found Roberts and Braben’s visions and scope for their respective titles alluring and exciting, I can now easily add Juliano to that list.
You can find more detail on Rogue System at the following sources:
YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/fingerscrossedint