This is another of my second year university assignments for a module called “Applied Game Development”. We were grouped into teams of 5 or 6 students, and tasked with producing a space trading and combat game on the PC using Emergent’s Gamebryo engine. Our game was called “Exosphere“, and our team was called “N²O Studios”.
Within our teams, we were expected to assign ourselves specific roles, such as Project Manager, Programmer, Audio Engineer, and so on (although all of us contributed to the code-base). The Project Manager, for example, had the responsibility of scheduling our project using a Gantt Chart. I was the Designer for my team, and produced the design documentation for our game along with the GUI. I also programmed many prototype gameplay features.
We were required to use industry-standard tools like source control, and provide input using an Xbox 360 controller. Besides that, the assignment specification was kept deliberately vague – instead, we were given frequent feature requests, which we had to implement and demonstrate as milestone deliverables on a weekly basis.
The format of this module was intended to provide us with a sample of what to expect when working in the games industry (since we had not yet been on placement at this point). To keep track of which team members were developing what, we organised bi-weekly meetings and produced a wiki where we could document our progress. The team’s attendance and attitude to this assignment was of a very high standard, and we received an “A-” grade for this coursework.
The design documentation that I wrote for Exosphere is available for download from the following link:
Exosphere – Design Documentation (.ZIP, 1.3 MB)
Unfortunately, I do not have an executable of the game available at this time. Continue reading to find out more about the features of this project.
Considering the short time-frame with which we had to familiarise ourselves with Gamebryo, I felt that we accomplished a great deal. Our game consisted of four modes of gameplay: An Active-Time-Battle mode, Trading mode, Exploration mode and Navigation mode.
Battles would be triggered by encountering enemy ships at random while exploring, and the ships were designed with a “hardpoint” system. Hardpoints were basically locations on the hull where you could attach a certain category of component; for example, a weapon hardpoint could be equipped with a laser cannon or a missile launcher, whereas a utility hardpoint might be fitted with a shield generator or energy capacitor. Each type of component had varying behaviours that could interact (for instance, firing a weapon would draw power from a capacitor), to determine the ship’s overall performance.
One such hardpoint of the ship could be equipped with a cargo-bay of a given size. This cargo-bay would contain the ship’s inventory of unequipped components or valuable trading items. The player could dock at trading outposts and compare their own inventory with the outpost’s inventory, and trade items as desired. The game world had a rolling economy of supply and demand, meaning that the player could seek out cheap items in one sector and then sell them for a profit elsewhere. The money acquired from trading could then be used to buy and install better equipment.
The navigation mode simply allowed the player to view the galactic map and travel to an adjacent sector. We had 8 standard sectors and 4 “hidden” sectors (which we intended to implement at a later time). You could fly around an individual sector in Exploration mode, and each sector had a central star with a number of orbiting planets and moons, in addition to at least one trading outpost and a random number of enemy ships in it.
The game also featured a particle system, rudimentary collision detection, audio (both music and sound effects) and a sophisticated “sprung” camera system. The art assets either had to be freely sourced or made by us. It was confirmed at the end of the module that the assignment specification had been inspired by Frontier: Elite 2, and we received positive feedback from several UK games industry professionals.
- Andrew Thorpe – Project Manager
- Matt Pickering – Designer
- Chris Butler – Programmer
- Matthew Brittain – Programmer
- Tich Nyeke – Audio Engineer
- Ross O’Reilly – Art Sourcer