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Norman Barrows

POV for ship to ship combat in pirate RPG

26 posts in this topic

Well, I've been thinking of doing a pirate RPG, something along the lines of Sid Meier's Pirates! - but without the dancing <g>.

 

It would have the same capabilities, sail around, visit ports, send landing parties ashore, etc.

 

The one thing i haven't figured out is how to handle the POV for ship to ship. Pirates! uses a "copter cam" view (look down on the battle area). Age of Sail II use a "chasecam" view (look at target from behind your ship, with cinematic camera motion). Both sort of suck when it comes to targeting your guns.

 

At the moment i'm contemplating one of 3 methods:

 

1. chasecam

2. coptercam

3. first person

 

in first person, you'd walk around the deck during battle, shouting orders, taking the wheel, sighting a gun, etc. this sounds like it might be more realistic and more exciting as well.

 

any ideas or suggestions?

 

which of these sounds best, or does something else sound better?

 

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the problem that might occur with a first person view is everything that needs to be done with naval combat.  who steers the ship when you are on the guns and vice versa, now if this was a multi-player game that wouldn't be so much of an issue.  aside from steering in first person   with the wheel.  most people don't any/much experience steering a ship, which is the reason that most games take you out to an off ship view when steering.  

 

if this is a single player game i would rather have guns firing be automated or per button press, while i was steering the ship.   also how are you presenting the dueling/battles?  if they are not done in first person then you should probably present ship battles the same way.  if you wanted to add a first person view it might be cool, if the AI and orders were done well enough to perform steering or firing guns or other actions in a respectable manner.  it would really give you that feeling of being the captain, if done properly. 

 

now that i think about it, i say go for it and see what you can pull off.  if it works, great. if not try one of the other methods.

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The answer to your question is so simple that it might have been too obvious to realize.

 

 

Your Target Audience Determines the View - always the case with the most successful game developers. For example, if you are marketing your game to 2D and 2.5D teenage fans, then bird's eye view would be the way to go.  The more mature and sophisticated the audience, the more likely they are to prefer first person view, for another example.  

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You should also take a look at the naval battles from the current entry in the Assassins' Creed franchise. Their setup seems to work pretty well.

 

They have a fairly standard 3rd person camera, which free-looks centred on your ship - it's pretty much the same camera used for the rest of the game (i.e. standard 3rd person RPG camera).

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Just an idea:

Have you played SteamBirds? That way you could make the sea battles a little more tactical and it is "easy" if you want to command more ships. And the user can focus on what to do instead of trying to do stuff as quick as possible. You could though add a time limit if you want some pressure (ala Greed Corp)

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if this is a single player game i would rather have guns firing be automated or per button press, while i was steering the ship.   also how are you presenting the dueling/battles?  if they are not done in first person then you should probably present ship battles the same way.  if you wanted to add a first person view it might be cool, if the AI and orders were done well enough to perform steering or firing guns or other actions in a respectable manner.  it would really give you that feeling of being the captain, if done properly. 
 
now that i think about it, i say go for it and see what you can pull off.  if it works, great. if not try one of the other methods.

 

the plan is to build an entire immersive VR world set in the Caribbean during the pirate era. A big sandbox RPG like Skyrim, with a setting like Pirates of the Caribbean.

 

for the first person method In naval combat, the AI would run the ship based on your orders (heading, furl/unfurl sails, fire as ye bear, boarders away, etc). at any time you could walk up to a station (wheel, gun, rigging), select it with the spacebar, and take over manual control of the station. Similar to the style of play in Silent Hunter IV.

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The answer to your question is so simple that it might have been too obvious to realize.

 

 

Your Target Audience Determines the View - always the case with the most successful game developers. For example, if you are marketing your game to 2D and 2.5D teenage fans, then bird's eye view would be the way to go.  The more mature and sophisticated the audience, the more likely they are to prefer first person view, for another example.  

 

 

You know, I think you're right. Too obvious. Then it should be first person. Perhaps with a supplemental bird's eye view to help the player maintain situational awareness.

Sid Meier's Pirates! is great, but it always had that sort of "G" rated Disney-esque kid's toy feel to it. Perhaps its was just the graphics and the somewhat contrived melee combat system. If it weren't for the kids toy feel, the time limited game, and the somewhat limited scope of the game world, i'd probably just play Pirates! instead of contemplating building my own.

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You should also take a look at the naval battles from the current entry in the Assassins' Creed franchise. Their setup seems to work pretty well.

 

They have a fairly standard 3rd person camera, which free-looks centred on your ship - it's pretty much the same camera used for the rest of the game (i.e. standard 3rd person RPG camera).

 

 

No dramatic camera movements? Just straight up 3rd person view?  Age of Sail II did this slewing camera thing that made for very dramatic camera angles, and great cinematics, but was rather annoying for targeting. You'd be just about to come to bear, and all of a sudden the camera would slew around, and you'd lose the line of sight you were lining up.

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Have you played SteamBirds? That way you could make the sea battles a little more tactical and it is "easy" if you want to command more ships. And the user can focus on what to do instead of trying to do stuff as quick as possible. You could though add a time limit if you want some pressure (ala Greed Corp)

 

naval combat with be real time flight simulator style of some sort, similar to Wooden Ships and Iron Men, Age of sail, Pirates, Silent Hunter, 666 attack sub, Aces of the Deep, etc.

 

pace of game play will actually be somewhat slow but tense, this is the nature of naval combat simulators, well at least until the depth charges start falling, then it gets REAL busy, REAL fast! <g>.

 

Time limits don't make sense from a realism point of view.   Engagements would last until contact is broken.

 

really, this is going to be a pirate simulator, not a game. like an f-16 flight sim, but you control a pirate instead of an f-16.

 

in general, i don't make games, i try to make simulations. 

 

that's one of the appeals of the first person view naval combat.  its more realistic. Nelson didn't fly over the ocean in a chopper at Trafalgar, and he didn't have his men lash him to a boom and swing him out over the side for a better view either! He had his compass, spyglass, sextant, charts, observations of wind and water, and what he could see around him. I'm pretty sure ship's clocks (used to determine longitude) didn't come into use until later.

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sounds like i ought to give first person view a try.

 

one concern:

this method was used in one of the star trek flight sims. next gen, i think it was. but it didn't work well. the command options were limited, and the AI was weak. I think they may have made it so you could only complete a mission one  way, and only gave you the orders to do that. You almost always resorted to manual override and took control of the ship yourself. and the flight model when you did so was very poor. Having written the first star trek flight sim ever (my 15 minutes of fame), i put the game away in disgust after only a few missions. and this was a game that came on something like 6 CD's!

 

Has anyone seen an example of first person capital ship combat that was done well?

 

As mentioned in this post, it goes without saying that the sailing simulation model and AI will have to be up to the job.

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FP view and TP view in the form of Coptercam or what the hell you called it 

 

 

You mean offer both and let the player toggle between them during combat? like different views in a flight or racing sim?

 

Be a bit more work, but it would give you the best of both worlds.

 

But there's still the targeting issue with 3rd person. unless you go for an almost 2D top down view, or have 3rd person "gun cam", "helm cam" and maybe "crow's nest cam" views the player can toggle through, as well as a copter cam or sky cam view. sky cam makes targeting harder. sure you can turn on all the target tracking arcs and stuff that draws an f-22 style HUD on the battle scene in skycam view with Age of Sail II, but it sort of spoils the suspension of disbelief.

 

I'm thinking of a  naval combat sailing simulator where you the player duck in your chair at your desk as your character dives and rolls to avoid a falling mast in battle, and all you need is a black powder scented air freshener to compete the effect - Argh Matey!  <g>.

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FP view and TP view in the form of Coptercam or what the hell you called it 

 

 

But there's still the targeting issue with 3rd person

 

do you abolutely HAVE to be able to shoot in that view too? cant the exteriour view just serve as an observation of your ships condition or just simply be there to make the player feel awesome? why cant you pick an order in the FP screen, lets say "cannons", then the screen switches to the "cnnons screen" where you are served with aiming and everything you need. its more work, but more cinematic and cool, combine that with some epic music and the self-loving emotion in the player

Edited by PosthasteGames
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I think such a game could get interesting, especially if you can walk around on the ship and have different views that are more suited to certain activities.

Though I would imagine you being the captain of a ship with enough people to handle the details while you have better things to do, not the lonely guy on the one hand sailing boat who needs to do everything himself.

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I picture pirate ship battles as being mostly about:

 

- Attempting to aim the side-mounted of cannons at the enemy ship. Cannons have little ability to be aimed individually

- Getting close enough to board the ship

- Perhaps starting a fire to finish off an enemy ship

 

My image of such battles may be way off, but I always remember the overwhelming priority being to get side-on to the enemy and fire the side-mounted cannons, while keeping the enemy's front/back pointed at you to prevent them from doing the same. This is similar to fighter plane dogfights, which I see as being about getting into a desirable position directly behind (and somewhat above) the enemy.

 

As such, I imagine fixed side views being most useful for aiming cannons (perhaps with predicted cannonball path indicators). Some sort of tactical/birds-nest view would also make sense. And probably a forward-facing/adjustable view for cruising around.

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My image of such battles may be way off, but I always remember the overwhelming priority being to get side-on to the enemy and fire the side-mounted cannons, while keeping the enemy's front/back pointed at you to prevent them from doing the same.

The secondary goal of firing at the enemy's bow/stern is to maximise the damage you are dealing. A cannon ball fired at the bow/stern can travel the entire length of the ship, dealing massive damage, and the stern in particular is much less heavily reinforced than the sides of the hull.

 

Also worth noting that most warships had a couple of 'chasers'. These are long cannons in the bows, aimed forward to slow/disable at long range a ship you are chasing.

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do you abolutely HAVE to be able to shoot in that view too? cant the exteriour view just serve as an observation of your ships condition or just simply be there to make the player feel awesome? why cant you pick an order in the FP screen, lets say "cannons", then the screen switches to the "cnnons screen" where you are served with aiming and everything you need. its more work, but more cinematic and cool, combine that with some epic music and the self-loving emotion in the player

 

Good point, you don't have to be able to shoot in skycam view. I just figured that anyone using it as their preferred view due to better situational awareness would want full controls at hand. But you can't shoot torpedoes in skycam view in Silent hunter IV either. They do it more like you describe, your typical submarine sim interface, where you have different screens for different stations and can jump between them. 

 

how to handle the transition from first person "on deck" view to views of other stations is an issue i'm pondering for more than one title. I ran into it yesterday when working on my airship flight sim.  There, the main view is the "bridge", but now i want a way to let the player switch to "observation car" view to drop bombs. its an interface design question.

 

In sub sims they usually have buttons you click on and hotkeys to switch views.   In first person view, I would think it would have to be a hotkey, or something like opening a door or entering a corridor that takes you to another station...    but there aren't many corridors or doors on the deck of a tall ship.  or maybe you select object in the scene with the spacebar. select the wheel to go to the helm station view, select any gun to go to the gunnery station view, select the charts on the captain's table on the quarterdeck to go to the charts and navigation view, etc. Almost like a 3D VR version of those 2D between mission menus they used to do in flight sims. It would be a picture of an office or something , and you'd click on things to load, save, view mission briefing, look at your medals, begin next mission, etc. 

 

sounds like fps view supplemented by station screens and various "whatever" cams, may be the way to go.     and selecting a 3d object in first person view to go to a station screen would probably work well. my caveman fps/rpg/person sim uses this to good effect to trigger action menus for objects in the environment yo can interact with.  once at a station screen, there could be a "leave station" button that returned you to first person view.

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I think such a game could get interesting, especially if you can walk around on the ship and have different views that are more suited to certain activities.

Though I would imagine you being the captain of a ship with enough people to handle the details while you have better things to do, not the lonely guy on the one hand sailing boat who needs to do everything himself.

 

Yes, in combat, the player would mostly give orders and oversee the situation. Similar to playing a conventional sailing or sub sim. So it would probably be mostly hotkeying up the orders menu, and switching views (not stations). but at the critical moment, the player might take the helm, or take command of a gun crew for one shot, or give the order to fire a broadside himself, instead of delegating it to his "gunnery officer". Examples of such abound in film.

 

It would probably not work well to force the player to select crew members to give orders during battle. I can just see the player stuck in a sword fight repelling boarders on the main deck, and needing to run up to the quarter deck to select the helmsman to order him to ram or something. so a hotkey and a menu of orders you shout out to the appropriate crew member seems to be the only way to do it, short of voice recognition. that would be cool - you'd say "Argh matey! Fire as ye bear!" and the AI would do it!

 

When not in combat, it would make perfect sense for the player to go around issuing orders to various crew members by selecting them and talking to them.

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Personally I would like to see a game played mostly from first/directly over the shoulder third person, centered on the player's character
 
yes, these days it almost goes without saying that FPS and 3PS are simply eye cam, and head chase cam views of the same thing, and a game probably should therefore support both.   but targeting missile weapons in head chase cam view can be difficult if you're zoomed out.    especially  if you have to aim up and down as well as left and right. similar to the sky cam and cannon aiming issue, but with a person and a missile weapon.   its easier in a sailing sim, because you don't aim up and down, just time the shot to the roll of the ship. it takes one second from the time you say fire for them to put match to hole and light powder, so you give the order one second before the ship has rolled to desired elevation for the shot. once you get the timing down, you can hit the sweet range every time.
 
 

and then directing your crew through a command interface.
 
ah, but what sort of interface? fps/3ps walk around the deck mode, plus hotkey for orders menu, plus select object (wheel, gun, charts) to go to station view?
 

Set your heading, and the helmsmen makes the most logical turn, and your officers order a suitable setting of the sails during the change.
 
Yes, my Star Trek flight sim worked this way. but it was a "station view" of the bridge. you could click on the station controls with the mouse pointer to set course, speed, raise shields, lock phasers, etc. you could also click on an "orders" button and issue orders from a menu (fly to this target, etc). You could click on the turbo lift, take it to the transporter room, and operate the transporter to send a landing party, or simply issue orders to do so. You could issue orders to launch a shuttle craft, or go down to the hangar deck and take one out for a spin yourself. It included a shuttle craft flight simulator in the starship flight simulator.
 

Order a boarding party ready, and the men line the decks. (If things are obvious, ie, only one ship reasonably close/only the one ship selected as a target, then user shouldn't even have to state boarding from port or starboard) Ideally I would like to see a pirate game simulating realistic boardings, but that would be a tough AI and physics job to pull off reasonable well.
 
This is what i'm shooting for. two huge multi-mesh models of ships right next to each other on a huge mesh ocean, with perhaps 100 animated character models fighting it out in real time, and you're in the thick of it. swinging from ropes might be tricky to implement. I'd need to kick my modeling and animation engine up to 50 mesh limbs per model to do a 50 foot grappling hook with a rope that flexed every foot. fast, good flexing rope physics will be required. taught ropes are no challenge, draw a cylinder or something.
 

Personally I would want to play a game that lets me see and hear only what a real captain would.
 
Yes, i think the fog or war of on the deck ship board real time sailing combat would create a more visceral experience. And it would blend better with the other things you can do in the game like go ashore, put into port, wander around town, etc.
 
You could stand on the deck as your ship pulled up to the dock, and your crew tied her up and laid out the gang plank. Then you could walk over to the gang plank, and walk down it onto the dock, and out into the port and town beyond.
 
or perhaps you step onto the dock, and a Captain of the Royal Navy comes round the corner with a detachment of troops to clap you in irons. You reach for your pistol as you men draw their swords...
 
 
This could be a really cool game.
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Really tough design issue.

 

Personally I think that the best way to tackle this will be to step back and really hammer away at exactly what the player's role is, and what choices they should be making. (Also just how detailed of a model do you want for this? Solid modelling of naval combat is a massive physics problem due to just how ships of that era were constructed and how the weapons 'interacted' with men and timber.)

 

But my first instinct is to go with something fairly simple of "You are the captain, you are making decisions and setting the goals for your crew. Crew and officers under you are doing the 'real' work when it comes to the ship itself". To that end I'm thinking that the user should never be expected to fire the cannon himself, he is busy with other things, watching the wind, the enemy, his sails, etc.

 

How about a quick key menu based system based on a two or three row structure. qwerty+ could be your various command/post quick points. asdfg+ (and maybe zxcvb+) become your root commands for them.

 

-qfx becomes "Order to helmsmen: Hard Larboard turn!" (And don't forget, "Port" is relatively new, so don't leave poor larboard out in the cold.) and the men manning the wheel turn hard over. (Design choice then comes as your tacking as to whether or not sail orders are automatically given, or if additional commands are needed.)

-wa becomes "Beat to quarters/battle stations", and the crew takes their positions.

 

etc. Different commands for things like ordering your gun crews around would depend on your combat model and how detailed you want it. Do you want to give the player the choice between various cannons and configurations? 'little' 18 pounder long guns, 32 pounder long guns, 32 pounder cannonade, etc, and what orders you would want to be able to give different ones priority. Or possibly just gun crews to one side or the other.

 

Boarding parties, odds are you would be pulling men from your cannons for boarding or repelling parties, so likely want some quick keys for the number being pulled off.

 

I am debating if expecting to use a keypad or digit row for numbers on things like heading, ranges, men count, etc would be good, or just have the 10 most likely/suitable values bound to keys.

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Personally I think that the best way to tackle this will be to step back and really hammer away at exactly what the player's role is, and what choices they should be making.

 

Definitely more of a hands off than a hand on role.  The captain is the brains of the ship, not the brawn.

 

 

Also just how detailed of a model do you want for this? Solid modelling of naval combat is a massive physics problem due to just how ships of that era were constructed and how the weapons 'interacted' with men and timber.)

 

The modeling doesn't have to be overly detailed, but it should be realistic / believable. In general i've found that relatively realistic modeling of stuff is not that difficult, then again i was always a straight A student in physics.

 

How about a quick key menu based system based on a two or three row structure. qwerty+ could be your various command/post quick points. asdfg+ (and maybe zxcvb+) become your root commands for them.

 

sounds like too much memorization, unless you have corresponding buttons along the bottom of the screen or something, or some sort of popup hud listing hotkeys for the activated station or something like that.

 

the user should be required to remember only one hotkey to get out of first person view. from there, some sort of visual menus should be used, so further hotkey memorization is not required. note that this doesn't mean there can't be optional hotkeys like "f" for fire all loaded guns immediately, etc.

 

Paramount did a hot key based star trek game once. You could never remember the hotkey for a station when you needed it.

 

-qfx becomes "Order to helmsmen: Hard Larboard turn!" (And don't forget, "Port" is relatively new, so don't leave poor larboard out in the cold.) and the men manning the wheel turn hard over. (Design choice then comes as your tacking as to whether or not sail orders are automatically given, or if additional commands are needed.)
-wa becomes "Beat to quarters/battle stations", and the crew takes their positions.

 

yeah, this is the basic idea, but it would have to have visual menus as well as hotkeys. that way you could pick your way through the menus while you're learning the hotkey combos. and the game could be either mouse or keyboard driven at the player's option.

 

Do you want to give the player the choice between various cannons and configurations? 'little' 18 pounder long guns, 32 pounder long guns, 32 pounder cannonade, etc,

 

of course! a good cannon was amongst the best booty at the time!

 

the game would have to model a variety of guns. what the player had on board would vary depending on what was aboard at time of acquisition, guns purchased, captured, etc. firing orders might be split across 3 broad categories: long guns, short guns, and anti-personnel guns.

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