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#1 Ghostrider

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 03:02 PM

With the stunning potential of the Freerunner model in full view, combined with the skeletal structure of the land mod in place, Phoenix Rising approached me the end of 2010 with a challenge: resurrect the Training Manual for the mod.
I had initially tried to write a training manual during 2010, but the idea never had any real structure and the project was put back on the shelf to gather dust.

The need for a manual had been building unseen for months. When we started development of V1.2 all those months ago, the mod was still small enough to be able to play by instinct and a few basic tool tips. As mod development continued, we were able to keep track of the expansion in units through simple documentation. However, as time went on this became more involved, with some fairly complex spreadsheets to keep track of space forces, the expanding number of planets and their advantages.
Then we added heroes. Lots of heroes. The complement system changed and more independent space units were added. Somewhere in the future the sheer scale of the mod would be too great to simply play by instinct alone, and too complex to try and remember everything as a developer.

The decision to redo the land mechanic from scratch became the focus for some form of supporting literature. However, the new land combat system is so totally different in design and depth that it would be hard for even the most experienced players to learn how to fight well on land. Support literature was needed, for players and designers alike.

But what form should this documentation take?
The old concept of the Training Manual came back to life and this time it had real purpose – help explain the nuances of ground and space combat and help players to make the most of all the development work that has created Phoenix Rising. The Technical Manual was born.

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As a graphic designer by trade with access to some high-end design software, I wanted the manual to be both informative and visually exciting. The design software can output to PDF, making it an ideal package to create an easy to read and near universal distribution format, and in shape I wanted the manual to fill the screen nicely and frame the new 3D renders created by Nertea. In addition, the copious library of screenshots could serve to illustrate units in action and key points of gameplay if required.
Once the basic structure of the manual was underway, a framing device was needed for the top and bottom of the page, and what better than an iconic screenshot of an Imperial-class Star Destroyer underbelly taken during initial testing of Operation Skyhook, deliberately taken to mimic the opening frames of “A New Hope”.
Tinted starscapes of Bespin space battles would initially serve as a background colour for the main text, but were since dropped in favour of another Skyhook screenshot featuring all the classic rebellion era units, including the DEATH STAR.
For the land pages, Phoenix Rising’s epic initial battle of Freerunners vs AT-AT’s on dusty Brentaal were unbeatable as background images and we simply had to include Nertea’s efforts in full detail.

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But what of the text itself?
For me, nothing short of a full technical manual would do, as part of the fun of being involved in development is discovering what actually happens if you push the Power to Weapons button mid battle, or wondering exactly how much more firepower you get if you upgrade those Dual Laser cannons to Quads. There have also been a tremendous number of esoteric discussions about almost every aspect of the mod, for example wondering why Dark Empire-era AT-AT’s are so terrifyingly effective. With the manual we can add this information in and fill in all sorts of interesting details and share some of the development buzz.
It also gives us the opportunity to thank in detail the vast number of contributors to the mod, and highlight some of the hidden work that often goes unnoticed by testers and other members of the team.

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Although it would be nice to have a full technical readout of every weapon, starship, upgrade, planet, hero and tank in the mod, clearly this would have to wait and to be built up chapter by chapter. For V1.2 an introductory General Overview and a Military Overview would suffice, hopefully giving players enough information to understand the basics of space and land combat, with the shorter space section covering useful updates while the Land section required a a complete breakdown of the new combat mechanic in its entirety, as trying to make the most of the new combat system would be a serious challenge without literature, and most players would miss out on critical tactical information this would make play harder and much less enjoyable.

Little did we know at the time that these two chapters would develop over the last year to over 100 pages, positively crammed with hints, tips, screenshots and enough technical data to keep an R2 unit happy for weeks. The manual also gives us an opportunity to thanks all the huge number of contributors to the mod over this lengthy development cycle, including the efforts of the various campaign testers and the output of our newest addition to the Phoenix Rising Team, evilbobthebob – our lead mapper.

The Space section of Chapter II includes data on all the space-based weapon systems, a detailed review of unit abilities and a look at the underpinning mechanics of space unit classes, covering armor types accuracy, damage control parties and other useful information. A full section describing all the different defensive and offensive abilities and a review of the compliment system rounds off the technical aspects of
space combat.

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A Recent Addition
In the last month a new major section has been added to the manual. A rather innocuous comment on the forums – on a completely unrelated topic naturally – made me realise that there was a gap in the manual. Many players are not aware of the full potential and fleet roles of the huge variety of units in the Rebel and Imperial fleets.

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This has now been resolved with a full 20 page review of all player fleet units, together with indications of their upgrade potential in the General Overview section. This and should provide commanders with greater insights into how to improve their combat skills, especially when paired with the technical briefings contained in Chapter II.

Discussion with the testers has since added a couple of pages of tactical notes and some great gameplay tips, together to make the General Overview complete.

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The Land Section of the Military Overview provides complete details of the Land combat mechanic, describing the key difference between 5 units classes of Droids, Infantry, Walker, Crawler and Speeder, describing in detail the strengths and weaknesses of each class, how units are produced and full technical readouts of upgrades. Tips and strategy are included, indicating all the facets of gameplay, from bombing runs to infantry garrisons in vehicles.

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You get to see the full weapon load-outs of all independent enemy units, and some stunning images of all the new units that have been introduced or converted for the intensity of planetary invasion as seen from a mud-hugging trooper or armoured assault carrier.

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And if this was not enough, we have full listings of all land weapon systems with damage tables for the multitude of pistols, rifles, carbines, grenade launchers, flamethrowers, mines, and heavy vehicle-based weaponry that are now in regular use!

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Future Chapters
These two chapters are just the beginning. As indicated earlier, the aim is to eventually put together a comprehensive technical manual for the mod, and the plan is to slowly release additional chapters as and when they are written!
The next chapter to be written will be Galactic Mode, used as a guide to help players make the most of all the information available to them, and this will also include details on hyperspace travel, trade routes, spying, information gathering and so on – but that won’t be started until after the release.
Following that will be chapters on Economy and Production at the very least – but this will all take months to complete, and as we progress into the development of V1.3, more time will be required to update existing chapters as well as writing new ones.
The V1.2 Manual will be included as a PDF with the release, and as always, we look forward to the ideas and comments this generates on the forums and I am sure V1.3 development will benefit as a result.

Edited by Ghostrider, 24 January 2012 - 07:32 AM.


#2 Balac

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 06:44 PM

Wow! I've wondered if there'd be a manual. From here it looks great! I enjoy reading and this'll keep me happy for a while, heh.

Btw, congrats on your 1,001st post!

#3 Kitkun

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 07:38 PM

Wait... this isn't a whole new game? :crazed:

Edited by Kitkun, 07 January 2012 - 07:38 PM.

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#4 evilbobthebob

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 09:04 PM

At this point, Kitkun, it is heading towards a total conversion, I think :wink_new:

Phoenix Rising, head of mapping. Thanks to everyone who got us to the position below!
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#5 SpardaSon21

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 01:09 AM

When you compare everything altered in Phoenix Rising to what's kept the same, it really does almost count as a total conversion.

Edited by SpardaSon21, 08 January 2012 - 01:09 AM.


#6 Phoenix Rising

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 02:01 AM

I changed the title text on the website when the land news hit ;).

#7 Decay

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 05:48 AM

0____________0

#8 Hausser0815

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 03:06 PM

argh ... when i saw the picture with "1.2 Manual" on it, i went straight to the download-section ... you guys are such dickheads, teasing us that way ;)
But seriously, this is great, while most mods come only with some readme.txt containing a changelog, you will give us a better documentation than most full-prize-AAA-games.
About the font, dunno if its up for discussion, but if so i would vote for a cleaner one, all those round serifs dont fit in a scifi-setting in my opinion. (And the only fonts we know from Star Wars have none at all)
Last some personal wish, I would love to have a full-page tech tree for each side if its not already in the manual and isnt too much work to ask for.

#9 Kitkun

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 06:20 PM

They do indeed enjoy much teasing.

Anyways, in-game tooltips updated? There's bound to be some who won't read the manual (When's the last time you read a manual for most new games? Or even looked?) and just jump in.

Edited by Kitkun, 08 January 2012 - 06:22 PM.

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#10 Pellean

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 10:15 PM

Fantastic! Good manuals really add depth to a game; I'm not going to lie, I enjoy most of my favorite games (Stardock's Galactic Civilizations, Firefly's Stronghold, and LucasArts' Force Commander) twice as much as I would because of the care their developers took with their manuals and in-game tooltips. I can't wait to read yours.

On that note, is there any chance of an early release of the manual to give us something to do while waiting for 1.2?
Don't think, Fingan, you aren't properly equipped for it.

#11 Phoenix Rising

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 10:35 PM

Anyways, in-game tooltips updated?

Tooltips are probably not quite there yet. I have several dozen that I wrote, mostly concerning the various land weapon types, but they're not exhaustive. Depending on how urgent the community thinks this is, I can at least try to get land done, although it would likely push the release back a few days.

On that note, is there any chance of an early release of the manual to give us something to do while waiting for 1.2?

I think we're going to be tweaking it right up to the last minute.

I hope you can finally retire Force Commander after this release ^_^.

#12 SpardaSon21

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 11:24 PM

A few days for updated tooltips is pretty minor after how long we've already waited for 1.2. I say delay the release for the tooltip updates.

#13 skie9173

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 11:42 PM

I agree with a pushed back release by a few days for better tooltips. I'm going to read the manual front to back multiple times I'm sure but not having to alt-tab out of PR to check something simple will be worth the wait.

As always continue the amazing work PR squadron!
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There is no passion, there is serenity. There is no death, there is the Force.

#14 smashedsaturn

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 11:47 PM

id say just release without the tooltips and do an update with them in a week or two, 1.2.1 or something :xd:

#15 Phoenix Rising

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 04:19 AM

It's not big enough to warrant an update.

#16 Pellean

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 04:27 AM

Do you want any help with the manual or tooltips? As an aspiring English major, that's one of the few modding tasks that I am qualified for.

On that note, is there any chance of an early release of the manual to give us something to do while waiting for 1.2?

I think we're going to be tweaking it right up to the last minute.

I hope you can finally retire Force Commander after this release ^_^.

I already have- it doesn't work on any version of Windows after XP. :sad2: I sincerely hope you duplicate the Imperial artillery from that game- few things are scarier than a proton bomb cannon shooting at you from the other side of a mountain...

Edited by Pellean, 09 January 2012 - 04:27 AM.

Don't think, Fingan, you aren't properly equipped for it.

#17 Ghostrider

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 08:04 AM

Do you want any help with the manual or tooltips? As an aspiring English major, that's one of the few modding tasks that I am qualified for.


Kinda hard to help me with the manual when it's in InDesign on my PC and in my head. I have a publishing background so da Englis no problem. :cool2:

#18 Guest_aradragoon_*

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 01:32 AM

So is there any estimate on when or close to when this update might be published?

#19 Phoenix Rising

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 02:03 AM

We'll let you know a few days in advance of the actual release. Stay tuned to the news.

#20 TopAce

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 05:32 PM

Damn nice work. Feels like i am getting a totally new game here. :D You should really think about starting to make money from manuals. :p



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