Sunday, January 29, 2012

Press Kit now Available!

We'd like to draw your attention to the new Press tab at the top of the page.  Contained within is a link to our new press release (PDF), which includes a succinct overview of the project and the studio.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Contributor: Michael Martinez

Before introducing Mike Martinez, I just want to clear up the studio member vs. contributor distinction:  functionally, there isn't really any.

Because we want to keep the team small and work in a roundtable (rather than hierarchical) manner, I originally intended to put a freeze on official affiliates during early stages of development.  In other words, one person assigned to each role (programming, writing, modelling and animation, etc...)

Of course, all that changed when Mike was recommended to me.  To make room without further compromising my weak ethics, I decided to add a section of "contributors".  Contributors are just those who are busier than the rest of us, but whose help we're still thrilled to have.

Anyway, meet Mike!

Mike is finishing up school in Santa Rosa, CA.  This is where the majority of his animation and modeling skills come from, and he's trying (like many of us here) to break into the gaming industry.  Mike will initially work on static models (buildings, scenery).

He is a self-described person that others love to mess with (mwahahahaha) and someone who thoroughly enjoys building something out of nothing.  That's just the kind of person we need here!

With his Steam account of 250+ games, he's probably a qualified beta tester, too.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Member: Joe Chilcott

Joe Chilcott has just joined our studio.  He's a musician whose Soundcloud page speaks volumes of his creative talent.

Apart from music, we'll also exploit the living hell out of Joe's talents for the purpose of making sound effects.  Hell, maybe we can even get him to believe that he needs us, reward him with measly cuts from whatever future profits we turn, sell his music at ridiculous prices on a restricted format, whore him out in various derivative products, and then sue any of his customers who download his music.

Yeah! nobody's ever thought of that before!

So anyway, welcome aboard, Joe!  Coke and groupies are in the back.

Also, SOPA.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Python Design Patterns

While the explicit goal of Project Orbit is to release a fun, stable, high-quality game, it's no secret that the project is also a whetstone for its members.

I am not a professional developer, and while my day job involves a lot of scripting, I don't have a great deal of experience with software architecture.  Design patterns are tough to grasp without context, and the examples provided with many online tutorials esoteric to the point of making things worse.

Not so with this little gem.  I was delighted to discover that I was doing MVC right; idem for the observer pattern.

This page is by no means complete and it's not as detailed as some other tutorials out there, but what it lacks in depth, it more than compensates for with clarity.  For those new to design patterns, this is well-worth the read.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sneak Peak: First Planet Model

If you've been following our tweets and our dev blog, you'll know that Brian and I are working on a 3D scene for our main menu.

This scene will take place in deep space, somewhere around the planet Terminus.  Here is a screenshot of one of the planets Brian is working on.

All it needs is a little atmosphere...

Preliminary model for a gas giant.

The texture was created with a neat little trick.  Brian picked out a picture with appropriate colors, shrunk it to a very small size and then expanded it.  The only thing done beyond that is the greebling.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pre-Christmas Update

I'm getting ready to nosedive into studying for finals, so development is likely to slow down a bit in the coming weeks.  Christmas vacation (if studying for finals counts as "vacation") may impair progress even further.  In the spirit of both Christmas and intellectual reflection, I thought now would be a good time to pause and look at where we are, and where we need to be going.

Where we Are
As of today, we have a very detailed story, which Kacey is transcribing into something more pleasing to read than a bunch of notes and IM logs.  The idea is to publish a history of the Project Orbit universe in periodic updates.  Eventually, this will be compiled into a single volume and published on the game's wiki in time for the first public release.

As much as we appreciate ninjas and robots, it's time
to throw our own models in the mix.
It may seem strange to put this much effort into a background story for an RTS game.  After all, strategy games with good stories are about a frequent as adult films with good plots.

But having an intuitive sense of the universe goes a long way towards understanding what the game is about, and what your units can do.  Labels, unit models, avatars, and voices are descriptive and guiding, but only if they stand on firm ground.  Kacey's work on the plot is to gameplay design as concept art is to 3D modelling.

Brian has shifted gears and is working on a model for a human infantryman.  Right now, all of our testing is being done with stock OGRE models.  As satisfying as it is to see game logic unfold, it all feels a bit pointless when the models and terrain are foreign-- it's like we're not really working on our own game.

We'll soon have our own models, at which point we'll post some screen shots and video clips of our progress.

Where we are Going
If I were to sum up our 6-month plan in a single phrase, it would be "steady as she goes."  Our first milestone is still to have our units on our terrain demonstrating basic movement.  Shortly thereafter, we'd like to see some simple combat animations and logic.  I originally made predicted that this milestone would be reached by the new year, but that's looking increasingly unlikely.  But not to worry!  We'll try to have it by Valentine's day so that you can show your girlfriend how awesome we are.

On a more technical level, this is where we are.  I've set up a very basic game engine which implements the Model View Controller design pattern via message passing.  Of course, I took a couple of shortcuts in order to take advantage of some handy features in the OGRE API.  For example, OGRE implements a buffered input system with callback functions being implemented directly in the game loop.  This is handy because it avoids having to publicly broadcast messages to all listeners when we know that only the player controller listener is interested in those messages.  So instead, we call the relevant member function directly from the game loop.

So as of 12/19/2011, progress continues and things generally seem to work again.

For a ragtag group of amateurs, this ain't bad...

Saturday, December 3, 2011


In my last post I promised to divulge exactly why Terminus is in such a state of trouble and panic. The answer is simple: Commander Brewer and the rest of the Terminus colonists are stranded, without any contact with the rest of humanity, in a distant, uncharted, unknown corner of the Universe with no way of regaining communication or any chance of returning.

How exactly did this happen? That answer, a bit longer.

About 1000 years in the future, mankind has expanded their reach by exploring and settling colonies on other planets in other solar systems within the Milky Way, yet have never come in contact with any other sentient or living extra-terrestrial life, and the idea of their existence has become somewhat of a joke among explorers. Space exploration was going far beyond many thought would be possible, however, this wasn't enough for a pair of scientists. Humanity has always dreamed to explore the far-reaches of space, and with their current technology they weren't able to cover the ridiculously vast distances required to even leave their own galaxy. A gate is designed, known as the Marco-Erickson gate (named after its two inventors) that is able to transmit matter (and data) nearly instantaneously to a far corner of the universe.

The device is a pair of "gates." The first gate is able to shoot off the second gate to a distant point in space; however, there is no real way to aim it, or, once it's there, of knowing where it is. The gate, however, is attracted to mass so the gate has a higher probability of landing near systems. Once the second gate is placed, the first gate is able to transmit matter directly to the second gate, and the second gate to the first gate. In other words, having two gates is like having a portal, having one gate is like having a massive slingshot that you can't aim.

A group of settlers, lead by Commander Brewer, passed through this gate and began to build a colony. There was no way of knowing really where it is as the star orientation was obviously completely different, but that wasn't really their top concern. They found a planet near the gate, a part of a larger solar system. They name the nearby planet, as well as the system as a whole, Terminus.

Though humanity had never before encountered one, there was an alien race living on Terminus that the humans never noticed before they fled: a struggling race known as the Caer (Sah-EER) who were working on recouping their strength after a great conflict. Being fresh off of war, and having an alien race settling on their planet, they became worried and fled, but not before discreetly destroying the gate that brought the human threat to their home. With the gate destroyed, the humans become forever stranded on Terminus with no hope of ever returning. As the Caer rebuild their numbers, they watch the humans cautiously; monitoring the human's communications and gathering all the intel they can.