July 24, 2013

Inside Interplanetary: The Music

Sasu, here! The HQ of Team Jolly Roger has been quite busy recently. Closed alpha testing is supposed to start very soon and here we are, still implementing some features! I hope we can keep up with our secret timetable.

It's been very nice to hear people reacting positively to Interplanetary. We were pretty surprised to see it featured on a Japanese entertainment blog, Damonge News! Well, it's not like we mind negative reactions either; they can offer some interesting viewpoints. So comment, praise, criticize, whatever you feel like! We might even draft the most enthusiastic people for the alpha testing.

This time, the main subject of this blog post is something that's still very much a work-in-progress:

The Music of Interplanetary

We've been struggling with the music for some time. Everyone has been very busy in actually making the game playable, so inevitably, things that give the game flavor, such as music, have sometimes ended up taking the back seat.

Music in games is, however, a very important feature. It creates the mood, keeps things dynamic and can even guide the player. In Interplanetary, we need music mainly to give the player some kind of pace: different game states, such as building and action, will have their own kinds of music, showing player their progression and making the whole experience much more powerful. As important as good gameplay is, the feelings a game gives to the player, can be considered equally important.

We managed to grab a musician, Vince Parrish, to help us with the music creation. The problem was, we didn't have a clear consensus among the team on the exact feelings Interplanetary should give to the players. The way we decided to go about with this, was to create a short teaser trailer to get a sense of the atmosphere of Interplanetary. Vince was given only vague instructions, in addition to a mock-up teaser, so he had lots of freedoms with creating the music.

Listen here!

Vince's music hit exactly the right notes, but there was disagreement with the actual feeling of the music. This wasn't surprising, considering the lack of collaboration. At this point, we begun to discuss the music more. We changed things around slightly, and managed to create a somewhat satisfying teaser for Nordic Game.

As we explained in the last blog post, we decided to redo the teaser drastically after the convention. This time, we planned exactly what we wanted the teaser to communicate. We finished the video completely, with final graphics, and then started to draw an exact idea on what we wanted the music to sound like.

Within the team, we collected reference music to send to Vince. While going through Youtube, looking for ideas, we came across the soundtrack of Inglourious Basterds.

This gave us an idea. What if the music was very serious and warlike, but in an old-fashioned way? Interplanetary itself is a bit of a mishmash: traditional gameplay combines to create something new and realism collides with the kind of a ridiculous idea of interplanetary artillery war. The music could be old fashioned, but mixed with modern instruments. It could also be so serious that it can turn a bit humorous.

The new music was soon mixed and it fit the teaser perfectly.

With the teaser to guide us, we've started to produce music for the actual game. It'll be stylistically similar and fit the gameplay situations. We haven't yet decided if the music will change a lot dynamically; it would be really cool if it would fit the actions perfectly when the missiles fly towards the warring planets, but this would be difficult to do properly. Time will tell.

I hope this was an interesting look at our process. See you next time, and meanwhile, enjoy this unfinished concept piece of Planet Building music!

Listen here!

July 19, 2013

Being a tease(r)

Hello, Jukka here. This time I’ll explain a bit about process of creating a teaser and why we even wanted to have a teaser.

We are currently working our way towards alpha. With each step in development, we are also trying to reach more audience. As a young and still pretty much unknown dev team, we need to employ as many means as possible to make Interplanetary and ourselves known out there, unless we want to count everything on people finding us through Steam Greenlight. This is not that reliable strategy because of the sheer amount of other games that go there. Trailers are of course very, very widely used in games and movies, so a we knew we’d be making at least one at some point.

The  Nordic Games Conference was looming in the horizon when we decided on making a teaser, which we could show around. Though some of us aren’t exactly fans of teasers, since the information they give usually isn’t much and doesn't even necessarily include actual gameplay... But, as the name suggest, it’s supposed to tease the viewer to see if we manage to pique their interest or at least when they bump into it in the future, they’d recognize us or the game. Also it’s short, so it’s quite easy to show it around to people in person.

The Idea

So by the time we first wanted to have the teaser we had something of a playable prototype, but its purpose was to test some of the game mechanics and most of all, familiarize the crew with Unity. So it wasn't really something we wanted to feature on a video. Instead we decided to focus on artwork and try to tell something about the setting and the mood of the game.

Romeo & Juliet

So we sat down to think up ideas... And then pretty much jumped the first train which felt interesting: The prologue of Romeo & Juliet:
"Two planets, both alike in potency, In distant cosmos, where we lay our scene, From ancient greed break to a mutiny, Where great arms, shake the grounds apart."
So obviously, we made some modifications to it (here’s the original) and it was only the first few lines we wanted anyways. It kinda fitted and we hoped to get that “I see what you did there”-effect when someone would recognize the source material… We even got someone to record the lines in genuine British accent.

The pacing made it feel much longer than 30 seconds.

So comes the deadline along with Nordic Games Conference and the teaser is finished. We had planned to have the teaser running at the Kavio Cluster’s booth we shared with our fellow dev teams, but in the end, we didn't have a big display or sound, so Niklas showed it around on a tablet. After he got back we had “post-mortem” about the event and the feedback we got and concluded the teaser didn’t really do what we wanted… Turned out nobody really made the connection to Shakespeare and so it just felt like a poetic narration and the whole shooting-at-planets-thing didn't quite fit, even in any particularly funny way.


So when the first version of the teaser didn't work, we sat down again to come up with a new plan. We wanted to use the existing material as much as we could and still we wanted to tell something about the setting, so we came up with the idea of following a railgun shot as it flies through space, towards its target.


My main tools for the job were Photoshop, Blender, After Effects and Premiere. After Effects I hadn't used before and there’s still much to Blender and 3D-modeling for me to learn. For both versions I made a storyboard of some kind. For the first version, I animated some sketches and transitions in Photoshop. Although it gave a good idea on how things would look in the final product, I should have used more time on the sketches themselves. I ended up using more time on animating their movement than on the actual images. So for the second version I stuck with more traditional storyboard and instead put more thought on what I needed from the material that I would need to create still.
Storyboard for the second version 
It is still very rough so if it’s not you who’s doing the editing/material I suggest you put a bit more effort into making it clearer for outside viewers.


I’m not yet a very fast artist, so I often find having to remind myself not to get stuck in one image for too long. I've been also watching the videos from FZD-school channel on Youtube, and one point that Feng Zhu often makes in his videos, is to keep in mind what is the selling point - the most important part of the image - and make sure that that part is well defined and presented.  So, since I didn't have the time I needed to go through the images and make everything detailed, I tried focused my efforts on just certain parts. This also made sense because a single image wouldn't be shown so long that the viewer could explore every part of it.
All the images used in the teasers. Only half ended up in the final version.
While working on the second version Tarita, our artist, suggested we add a bit more life to the images by adding some animation in them. I hadn't planned for this to start with, so it meant a little extra work, but we figured it was worth it. I went through each image sliced them to layers, adding some extra where I needed. Most of the animations I did in Photoshop, except the final image with the city and explosion. It had so many bits and pieces that After Effects was easier to work with than Photoshop CS4's pretty clunky animation system.

Will it Blend?

3D is not exactly my main proficiency, but thankfully, planets are not the hardest thing ever to model, although, if anyone knows a good way of avoiding texture distortion at the poles of a sphere in Blender, I’m all ears! There isn't much I can say about making the 3D material, except that rendering the it as separate images, and using After Effects to turn them into actual video, was a life saver. It was mostly due to me forgetting to adjust some setting or noticing something in the middle of an animation that I didn't like, but having to render the whole animation again would cost me so much time since my work computer cannot handle Blender rendering and working in Photoshop at the same time.

An added bonus was that I could render just the planet on a transparent background and add the background in premiere and adjust it however I wanted.


Although we can find a way to do pretty much anything we want on our own, sometimes it’s just better and faster to rely on other professionals. And concerning the music, we were fortunate to come across Vince Parrish, who agreed on making the music for the teaser and even the game itself.

And that's it, the story of creating a teaser. After we reach the alpha, we are also planning on finally getting some gameplay footage out there. So, look forward to it!

July 18, 2013

First teaser trailer released!

Well, here it is finally! It turned out quite nice, and while there's no actual gameplay in there ,but the idea of the game is presented in a nice, artistic manner. We'll be rolling with more video updates in the coming weeks, so expect some funky alpha version gameplay stuff soon!

A big hand to our graphics guy Jukka and music maestro Vince for their work on the teaser!

July 12, 2013

Inside Interplanetary: Weapon Types

Game design guy Sasu, here with another post detailing Interplanetary's progress and game mechanics. Alpha is coming along nicely, even though the graphics might not show that big of an advancement. The weapon types have been basically implemented and just need to be fiddled with. A lot. This feels like a nice point to segue into the subject of this blog post:

The Weapons of Interplanetary

This time, we'll expand on our last time's subject of Targeting by taking a look at different weapon types and their targeting features.

There are three main weapon types: railguns, missiles and beams.


Railguns are simple weapons, meant to overwhelm the enemy, but they're not exactly known for being accurate. They don't use a huge amount of Power, so it's usually possible to fire many of them in one turn.

Stupid gas planet, messing up a great shot.

The targeting of a railgun is very simple: choose the weapon and select the trajectory. It is, however, very difficult to hit an exact spot on the enemy planet, even with the possibility to put markers on the enemy planet in Intelligence View. Sometimes, it can be quite difficult to even hit the enemy planet, due to gravitational pull's strong effect on railgun slugs.


Whereas railguns have a bit of a luck element in them, missiles are designed to be accurate. They are not as much affected by their surroundings and it is much easier to hit specific targets with them. Missiles are a bit of power hogs, though.

The targeting of missiles actually consists of two phases. In the first phase, the camera zooms in to the enemy planet and you can get a proper look of its surface. This is basically the Intelligence View. In this view, you'll be able to click anywhere on the planet to set a target. After choosing your target, you enter the second phase, similar to railgun targeting. Now you can set the trajectory and try to hit as close to the marked spot as possible.

You can even target the opposite side of the enemy planet.

So, you've set the trajectory and also an exact target on the enemy building. As long as you manage to shoot your missile close enough to the enemy planet, it will enter its orbit. While there, the missile will travel towards the target point on the planet's surface. The longer the time spent on the orbit, the greater the chance that it will get shot down by defense guns or other hazards. This means you should try to aim as close to the target as possible.


Beams differ from other weapons in that the gravity doesn't affect them one bit. Their trajectory is always a straight line. Depending on the situation, the enemy planet can be very easy to hit, or simply impossible, because of obstacles in the way or beam weapons placed on the wrong side of the planet.

Beams also have a two phase targeting: once you set the trajectory, you can specify the exact spot the beam hits. The choice of targets is much smaller than with the missile, since you may only target one side of the planet. In optimal conditions, this makes beams the most accurate weapons by far. Unfortunately, their attack power is fairly low.

Everything's in the way!

The weapons in Interplanetary will be based on these three types. Some will have radically different stats and some will have added effects, but the basic concepts are still the same. There will also be slight tweaks to this system in the future, but the idea stays. Hopefully, this has been enlightening. See you next time!

July 5, 2013

Inside Interplanetary: Targeting System

It does look a bit better than last time.

Hello, people! Game Designer Sasu here again, chronicling our progress on Interplanetary. We are still working on the alpha test version, at the moment. The game is getting prettier and the implementation of many core features, such as placement of structures and targeting, is well on its way! It will probably still be a couple of months until we can send the alpha around for testing, but rest assured that progress is happening. Maybe we'll be able to release some interesting new material, our graphics master Jukka has been working on, soon.

Today, I'd like to go into detail about one of the major game mechanics of Interplanetary. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the heart and soul of the game: The Targeting System!

The Secrets of  the Targeting System

As you may have noticed at this point, Interplanetary is all about damaging your enemy and keeping yourself safe, using simple base game mechanics that will, hopefully, allow for a lot of strategic depth. The Targeting System allows you to target the cannons you've assembled during the Build Phase.

The Targeting Phase starts as you first choose which gun to target. Its placement on your planet's surface will determine the angle of targeting; it will be somewhat difficult to hit the enemy planet if your weapon happens to be on the wrong side of your planet. It's not impossible, however, since many things in the planetary system will affect the trajectory of the slug. All the planets, and most notably the sun, have a gravitational pull that you can use to your advantage. They can also completely mess up your targeting, unless you're careful.

This is a pretty good curve...

Now that you've picked a weapon, a curve, representing the final trajectory, will appear. By moving your mouse, you can manipulate the curve to make the trajectory to your liking; a good idea is to try and make the slug follow the enemy planet's orbit. Once you've found a trajectory that pleases you, hit the left mouse button and target your next weapon. When you and your opponent have both chosen your targets and ended your turns, the weapons fire automatically.

One more thing to pay attention to is the movement of the planets: once the weapons fire, time unfreezes and the planetary system comes alive. The planets start to orbit the sun and rotate on their axes. You just need to learn to take that into account and aim accordingly, but you can also use a slider to simulate the passage of time while targeting, and even choose when each individual weapon will fire.

...this is not.

When the weapons fire, the slugs follow their predicted trajectories, taking into account the changes in the planetary system. You can only hope you hit the enemy planet and not the other ones, especially your own, or that your missile won't end up drifting endlessly in outer space.

These are the basics of targeting. There's a lot more to it, of course. With the basic system, it's very difficult to, for example, pick a specific target from the enemy planet or just generally to cause a lot of damage. That's why you will be able to use different weapon types with different targeting features. Details on that will have to wait until another time!