Dev Blog # 8 – Building our own Ship

Objects in Space is down at PAX Australia today, and we’ve spent the last few weeks creating physical hardware to bring down with us.

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That’s right – Objects is going to ship with the ability to talk to physical buttons, switches and LEDs via a virtual serial port, so if you’re the kind of DIY fan who likes to build things themselves, Objects has got you covered.

We’re going to take a quick look at the setup we’ve pulled together for PAX.

IMG_1661The demo we’re running at PAX is a combat demo where we run in a Ceres light freighter. These ships are supposed to be old junkers. They make the Millennium Falcon look finely-tuned and highly-polished. So we had to make a setup which felt rusty – like the sort of thing which could’ve had barnacles attached to the bottom of it. So we needed it to feel clunky, big and grey.

Everything was built by Rohan and our concept artist Jennifer Scheurle. We went to a hardware store and bought a whole bunch of MDF (medium-density fibreboard), but we could just as easily have used something stronger like wood or thinner like balsa ¬†wood if we’d wanted to.
IMG_1656We bought a hot glue gun, power drill and a jigsaw, then went to an electronics store where we bought reams of wires, as many LEDs as we could get our hands on, and a cool selection of different buttons and switch types. I can’t describe how much fun it was to sit there in an electronics store pressing each button available until we found the one which was ‘just right’ for each of the main functions we wanted. We were looking for that satisfying feeling of ‘I’ve just done something big’ for the more important functions like switching the main reactor on or off, or entering or exiting EmCon mode.

We also bought several Arduinos (very small computers-on-a-chip you can program), which we planned to use to interface the LEDs and buttons with the game.

Last stop was an art supplies store where Jennifer bought all kinds of paints and brushes and some stencil lettering. We also grabbed some sponges so we could add a kind of rust finish to each of the panels to make them really look decrepit.

IMG_1696Firstly, there’s the engineering panel. This is the largest of the three consoles we’ve built, and replicates the functionality of the engineering room display. From here, we can see which of the modules is currently active (green), and when we take a hit from an incoming missile, which is damaged (yellow) or completely destroyed (red).

IMG_1712Next up is the weapons panel. Our favourite panel. You select which of the Ceres’ four missile tubes you want to be operating with the numbered buttons on the left. The three lights across the top of the screen tell you whether the missile in question is an EMP, explosive or a probe. You can then press ‘spin up’ to ready the missile for firing, and at any point you can stop the missile from heading towards its current target by pressing ‘unlink’. Then there’s the grand-master button – the fire button. Complete with safety catch. Nothing is more satisfying!

IMG_1694Lastly, we’ve got a small box which has the reactor on/off button and the EmCon button. EmCon (short for Emissions Control) is your stealth mode. You hit that button the second you detect danger and it’ll automatically power off all unnecessary systems so that you’re as close to undetectable as possible. This is a very important button, and one which will be used often.

For the next three days, we’ll be demonstrating this hardware in action at PAX, but we’ve also just released the first video showing the game in action. Expect another video soon which shows people interacting with the physical hardware, but for now, check the video on our YouTube channel to see the game moving.

Be sure to check out our previous blog posts covering the development of the game so far, and join the mailing list if you want updates on when Objects in Space is coming to life.