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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.