Screen NSW will help fund Objects in Space

We have just announced that Screen NSW has come on board a Ceres class light freighter to help Flat Earth Games bring Objects in Space to life! We’re thrilled that Screen NSW are still investing in games, and see the value in them as a medium.

The development community here in Australia only continues to grow, in spite of the federal government axing the Screen Australia Interactive Games Fund without any industry consultation.

Courtney Gibson, CEO of Screen NSW, said:

Screen NSW was impressed by the distinctiveness of the concept and the unique approach to story and narrative design. We are delighted to be supporting a team of mostly local writers to help realise the project’s creative ambitions.

That unique approach Courtney is referring to is this:

The game’s seven writers will each be tasked with writing one short, interactive story for the player to engage in which will be playable at the beginning of the game. Rohan and Leigh Harris, the game’s lead programmer and designer respectively, will then reveal the next key plot points to them for each of the 12 star systems in the game. When the writers reconvene to write their next stories, any plot points which have affected their ongoing characters must be taken into account. In this way, we hope to see the game’s narrative unfold naturally and have the same uncontrollable nature that stories in real life hold.

The writers were chosen to represent a variety of different styles. The team includes writers from games, theatre, screen, copywriting, MUSHes and pen & paper RPG writing. We’re pleased to announce that our writers are:

The idea is that the Apollo cluster will feel very different depending on which star system you’re in. Not only will the news you read be vastly different, slanting your view on other star systems’ politics, but you’ll also be hearing different voices telling you stories within those systems.

While there are many things to do in the game, Objects in Space will not feature a ‘main quest’ line. Instead, it allows the player to focus on exploring, profiting and surviving at their leisure. The story of the Apollo cluster is one which the player can be deeply involved in, or only give a cursory glance to. There are huge advantages to knowing a lot about the game world, but for those who just want to experience the mechanics of the game, there is nothing forcing you into its narrative elements.

Hands-on Preview in PC Authority

SDF Team Photo - HeaderA big write-up on Objects in Space has just graced the pages of PC Authority, courtesy of Jason Imms. It’s based on Jason spending time with the game at PAX Australia, as well as a series of follow-up interviews with Rohan and Leigh. Check it out for some cool nuggets of info about the game mechanics and story!

CNet Interview with Flat Earth Games

CNet, who did an awesome short video on the PAX show floor recently, have also dropped up an interview with Flat Earth founders Rohan and Leigh Harris. Journalist Michelle Starr writes quite rightly that Objects in Space is the big passion project we’ve wanted to make since becoming an indie developer, and goes into the process of making the game, building the hardware, and crafting the experience.

Check out the article here.

Flat Earth Games will sponsor GX Sydney, Objects will be there…

FullSizeRender-3For those who don’t know, GX (formerly GaymerX) is the first expo focused on celebrating LGBTQ+ and diverse gamers. There are several events in the States already, but none down here in Australia. Until now!

We care a great deal about diversity in gaming and in all facets of life, and are only too happy to join GX as an Indie GameDev Sponsor. Having a safe space for a range of people to come together and enjoy games is a crucial part of the future of the medium we all love, and getting behind GX is our way of being a part of that.

Needless to say, Objects in Space will be on show. We’ll have the trademark physical hardware which turned so many heads (that last link includes Deus Ex creator Warren Spector saying Objects was the most intriguing game of the show) at PAX Australia, so you can come and have a chat to us, meet the team and get to fiddle with all kinds of switches, lights and buttons as we walk you through the game.

We wholeheartedly encourage everyone to donate to the GX Kickstarter and to spread the word about the event! It should be loads of fun and hopefully there’ll be plenty of other indie games on show.

Our thanks go to Joshua Meadows and Liam Esler for putting this all together, and look forward to seeing you there!

Objects in Space in Indie Game Magazine

Yet more media around what is fast becoming known as the Great Objects in Space PAX Bonanza: this time in the venerable Indie Game Magazine.

Indie Game Mag Still Objects

Indie Game Magazine has been featuring Objects in Space in its pages for an ongoing series called ‘Engine Room’ every two months throughout the back half of 2015. This round is the last time Objects will be featured as the mag moves other indies into the spotlight, so we say thank you to IGM for helping us document our progress and enlighten its readers as to the development process.

If you pick up this issue, you’ll read about the last minute calls we had to make when deciding whether or not to get all the physical hardware and Arduino functionality working in time for PAX. It was, I daresay, a photo finish. We got all the boxes you saw up and running on the show floor to finally work at around 5pm the day before PAX.

Check out this issue of Indie Game Magazine and also the September and July issues for the full run-down on the development of Objects in Space so far…

Objects in Space on CNet

Next cab off the rank for video interviews shot at PAX Aus is CNet. Leigh and our concept artist / maker of the physical hardware Jennifer Scheurle were interviewed by Nic Healey on the show floor about the game, the hardware, and the reasons why we chose to emulate submarine warfare.

Nic CNet Video Still

From the article:

“Less like World War II dogfighters, more like Cold War submarines”: That was the mantra for Flat Earth Games when they decided to create a game that got space right.

Combine open-world trading and unforgiving space combat that makes “Hunt for Red October” look like a game of Battleship and you’ve got Objects in Space.

Check the video out, and be sure to sound off in the forums. One ping only, please.

Objects in Space on IGN

Hey there, space-goers!

Here’s a 90 second video interview Leigh did with none other than IGN AU’s Luke Reilly at our stand at this year’s PAX Australia, complete with footage of the physical hardware in action.

IGN Video Still w Play Button

Check out the video and be sure to stick around for plenty more footage, interviews and impressions from press in the coming weeks.

Also, in case you missed it, the first video walkthrough of the game launched while we were at PAX. Check out the full 5 minute video here.

 

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.

IMG_1693

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.

Dev Blog #7: From 2D to 3D – An Artist’s Perspective

Following up from Rohan’s previous post on moving from the 2D prototype through to the 3D game we have now, Matt talks about the challenges of completely retooling the games graphics.

Bridge_old
The original mockup for the bridge of the Ceres class freighter.

While Rohan was facing the imposing task of hand coding every interface in each of the ships, I’d begun to realise that the task of building the graphics for each of the ships was going to be equally monumental.

Each room of each ship required several hand drawn versions, clean, dirty, damaged and a plethora of switches, each with their own set of states. With Photoshop, the task of producing each state wasn’t particularly difficult in and of itself, but it did require a fair amount of patience and organisation to maintain. It was when requests to modify small sections of the rooms came in that the whole thing started to get complicated. It meant reworking all states of the rooms to accommodate any of the little pixel by pixel changes that I’d made.

Bridge_prototype
The bridge after Objects in Space first began production in 2D

A large amount of game development is about iteration, being able to quickly and decisively make changes to features, visual or mechanical. The hard coded, completely hand drawn aesthetic that we’d gone for looked beautiful, but were impossible to iterate on in a timely manner.

Read Full Post…

Dev Blog #6: Interfaces and Data

This development blog is going to focus on the re-design that happened when moving the engine from 2D pixel-art to a 3D view. It’ll be a bit technical, rather than mostly design problems. We suggest a strong espresso before continuing.

Moving Objects from 2D to 3D was a fascinating challenge. Some parts of the rendering code I could keep – some of the ship screen interfaces I could keep, but the major difference would be that I was not rendering them directly to the screen like this:

commanddeck

But instead rendering them to a texture as required and switching the texture of the monitor object in the rooms. Now, the previous way the game worked was that you could switch most screens to fullscreen mode (with the kludgy temp button you can see on the top-right above). This caused an issue in 3D.

Rather than going fullscreen per se, we did the (we felt) natural thing of simply letting you left-click on a screen to take control of it, and then animating the camera in as if you were moving closer to the screen to use it.

It ads a nice fluidity to the controls – left click always takes you into a screen or uses a UI element on said screen, and right-click takes you out. This way, almost the entire ship can be controlled using only the mouse – with keyboard shortcuts or interfaces for text terminals being the only exception.

Back to the point of this blog, though – I began to realise that my 2D prototype, unshockingly, was a terrible bit of code for building UIs. Really bad. See, being a prototype… it was all hard-coded. Each button you see above, each nav element, was a manually constructed bit of code. Read Full Post…