Choose Your Own Armada: New Kickstarter for Predestination 3D Ship Designer
Indie developers Brain & Nerd have been working hard toward fulfilling their Kickstarter ambitions to deliver an epic "4X" space strategy in the vein of genre classics like Masters of Orion and Civilization and now they're looking to expand the toolset available to players by developing a 3D ship designer.
Thanks to the success of the original Kickstarter, Predestination development has already seen the beta release of gameplay elements showcasing the turn-based space combat and planetary colonisation aspects of the planned full game.
Having played both betas, there are certainly early signs that Predestination could have the potential to absorb many gaming hours. I was particularly encouraged by the planetary management aspect which comprises some innovative elements.
A Quick Q&A With the Head Brain
The second Kickstarter campaign, launched yesterday, has a far more modest target of $3,500 and is solely focused on funding a stand-alone 3D Ship Designer.
Beyond the ability to change the look of the ships in Predestination, I was curious what functionality was planned for this new tool and, after reading the Kickstarter page, got in touch with Brain & Nerd's lead developer, Brendan Drain, with some additional queries.
Mat: As the Brain & Nerd 3D ship designer is being funded separately to Predestination, will it be available as a stand-alone product and what functionality will it have without Predestination?
Brendan: Yes, it will be integrated into the game and also available separately as a standalone application (which is the lowest tier on the Kickstarter). It'll have basically the same functionality as it does in Predestination, allowing you to select from a variety of different sized base hulls and then add cosmetic pieces to create whatever design you like. It'll also have a number of the weapons from Predestination unlocked so you can add them to your ship. It'll have the same save and load features as the main Predestination game, and we're hoping also to add the option to upload your designs to our website for display and sharing.
Mat: Will it support 3D printing (which apparently needs closed meshes and no fiddly bits)?
Brendan: 3D printing is something we're VERY interested in, so we'll be looking into the possibility of this in the new year. There are a number of places locally where we can get models 3D printed, and if we can get that to work then we'll be able to offer this as a tier on Kickstarter hopefully before the campaign ends. As you rightly identified, the technical challenge we have to overcome is turning a ship design into a single closed mesh with no seams or other fiddly bits. It's a considerable challenge as the current designs are made from many parts that can all overlap.
Mat: Will it be possible for the modding community to import pre-existing ship models from popular IPs?
Brendan: We obviously can't and don't condone modders violating someone's intellectual property rights, and if such designs were uploaded onto our website or forum then we would of course have to remove them when discovered or reported. I can confirm that the system can use any 3D models with very little additional editing or processing required and that it loads them from a directory that anyone can put their own models into, so it's very modder friendly.
Mat: Conversely, will ship models created in the 3D ship designer be usable outside the Predestination engine or compatible with other software (I note on the Kickstarter page you mention the possibility of supporting other XNA games)?
Brendan: This is a tricky one, both technically and legally. The 3D ship designer doesn't output a single model but instead stores information about how to build that design from its component parts, which makes it difficult to let people use their designs outside our game engine. The holy grail for this feature would be if people could export their ships as a single model and use them elsewhere, which is an additional technical challenge and obviously also comes with some legal issues over who owns the rights to the resulting model. The whole designer system could also be packaged up and licensed to other XNA developers with some work, which is one of the things we're looking into to see if there's any interest in it.
Mat: You mention blinking lights and animations. Is there any chance we'll see this develop into a toolset for staging cinematic battles for machinima purposes?
Brendan: Animated parts and blinking lights are part of one of our planned stretch goals. It's mainly intended for the ship designer itself, so we're thinking of things like rotating sections of the ship, hydraulics, or turning satellite dishes. A cinematic toolset is a bit far outside the scope of the project and would take a lot of additional time and resources, but it's definitely something we could look into as a future project if Predestination is successful enough to support it.
Useful Links and Further Reading
The indie dev train trundles boldly on. If you'd like to find out more about Nerd & Brain's projects or would like to show your support, here are a few links to aid you in your cause.