Missing elements of communication in Transcendence

General discussion about anything related to Transcendence.
Teorias
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Well, as far as interaction goes, it bothers me that a 99% damaged station still refuses to let me dock.

As far as interaction with other factions goes, one thing that comes to mind is:
1. a simple Mission Board available at stations with missions for the different Factions;
2. a new neutral Station specialized in said mission offers(similar to the Korolov Shipping for instance).

Just an idea though, but seems to be the simplest way of inserting interaction with other factions and possibly learning more about them in the process.
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I would have never used IRC if I did not need it (to chat with an administrator) to register to Trac. Now that I have been there, I go when necessary, which is not at the moment until I can spare time to update Playership Drones.

As for "humanity" in Transcendence, I have a warped, mostly unfavorable, vision of all factions. I have guns, and they are meant to be used.
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Well, I'd say impersonal enemies are needed here. You can't personally know hundreds or even thousands of Charon pirates, Centauri warlords, Sung Slavers, Ares fighter pilots, and many more factions' soldier. But it'd be great if once in a while you can see someone you know, either in a CW ship or else (they could, for example, decide Charon, or Outlaw miners, or Heliotropes, is their hero, and join them. We could meet him in a mission, or just randomly.) or maybe some of the enemies tries to initiate contact, or WE initiate contact ourselves. The enemy could accept or not, depending on various factors, or just random, or both.
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digdug
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Modders right now are most interested in mods that break new ground functionality-wise; the limits of what you can do with Transcendence aren't clearly established and George is continually tweaking the engine to allow it to do new things. From the viewpoint of new players coming into the game, these mod efforts are mostly opaque; the good work that people like RPC are doing is difficult to appreciate if you aren't already familiar with what the game can and can't do.
I totally agree with this.
Modders make mods to implement new more or less ground-breaking functionalities in the game. Very few modders make/made something that expands the game playing experience.
why ? surprisingly, because inventing a brand-new game mechanics is less difficult than implementing adventures, IMHO. What the game needs is modders that make mods to be played, to keep players interested with new adventures and nice things to discover.

How can we ameliorate this problem ? Honestly, I don't know any simple way to do it.
There were a few ideas I liked: create templates that modders can use to make quick mods, create software tools that automate some of the template generation for missions, topologies, adventures.

I could consider myself as a vet modder. When I started there were no docs whatsoever, no function lists or code examples besides vanilla. Also, I had no programming experience at all (a laughable week of basic programming). Code written at the time was to show that TLISP was incredibly flexible and new things could be implemented in the game for the joy of players. Thanks to the help from veteran programmers on IRC, and here on the forums (and George of course) we now have more and more tools so that new modders don't have to go through the same process, but start modding immediately.

Now I think that there is this new big step to do: Help the modders make mods with good quality playable contents. And this, of course, is also George's goal with official mods.

For example, to continue with the current discussion from George:
MORE MODS & MOD FLEXIBILITY
We all want Transcendence to grow and evolve. Clearly I can't do it all, which is why many of you have stepped up to help by creating mods. But there are certain limitations to mods (both in terms of difficulty and lack of engine support). So what do we do?

This is a hard question and deserves a lot more attention. Some ideas/questions:

1. I have a limited amount of development time devoted to engine changes and we need to allocate that fairly. What is a fair system? Does every developer get a slice of time? Do you coordinate to get the most important fixes first?
2. Is there are way for people to work together on mods to spread the work (and knowledge)?
3. What's the best way to coordinate?

I'd love to hear more ideas. [Though maybe we should split this part to a different thread.]
George has been wonderful and implemented a very large number of features in the engine that we vet modders asked for. Do we really need to devote more time to engine changes at this particular point ? IMHO, vets should stop asking George new engine features and focus on using them. Hell, the knowledge of these new features is held only by a very limited bunch of vets. I, for one, have no idea how to use some of them. We have incredible new tools built into the engine. We have to start making use of them and spread the knowledge.

The first priority, IMHO, is to make the docs and templates.
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IMHO, vets should stop asking George new engine features and focus on using them.
Completely agree digdug. That's why I'm going to update Dynamic Systems with Prophet's Dynamic Sovereigns idea and try to flesh out Star Genesis to be a full, 24+ hour adventure.
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TVR
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digdug wrote:The first priority, IMHO, is to make the docs and templates.
I propose we develop a complete SDK for modding Transcendence. To include the following:

-> Several fully functional sample extensions
-> A copy of the G.O.D.Mod
-> A primer on TLISP
-> A list of functions
-> A list of events
-> A list of all search criteria flags
-> Transcendence's XML source
-> How-tos on basic XML-only mods
-> How-tos on advanced modding with TLISP
-> Reference implementations for each new engine feature.

To be updated with each version of Transcendence.

Seem worthwhile to you?
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RPC
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TVR: Yeah, seconded :D
Problem is getting it up and running and (if possible) to completion.
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I can contrast the Transcendence modding community as it exists now to the Escape Velocity modding community that existed from around 1996 to 2003 or so. For those of you not familiar with Escape Velocity (EV), it was a series of three Macintosh games that can best be described as "Elite in a 2d plane." The game was set in a sort of generic space-opera sci-fi universe. EV had many strong similarities gameplay-wise with Transcendence, but gameplay was not so much progressive/roguelike as mission- and story-based, although there was no single set path that the player had to follow in any of the games and no real "win" condition.

The first EV was a commercial shareware game created by a single author, Matt Burch, and was released pretty much complete in 1996 (there was a graphical overhaul in 1997 that replaced all the ship sprites with slightly nicer ones.) The game was modifiable with "plugins", which were created in a Macintosh GUI resource editor called ResEdit (which had also been used to develop the game's scenario) and later with third-party GUI editors that plugin authors created. The two sequels to Escape Velocity, EV:Override (1998) and EV:Nova (2002) both started development as plugins that the developer decided to adopt for commercial release. The game engine itself was barely changed between the original game and EV:Nova, so the "sequels" were more like new scenarios than new games.

AFAIK, the developer really never made any particular effort to communicate with modders other than releasing a "bible" that defined the resource fields. Moreover, the functionality that could be implemented in plugins was much more limited than for transcendence mods; you couldn't change ship or weapon behavior outside a few predefined options and the mission architecture was pretty rigid. However, from a modder's perspective, it was very easy to add new ships, weapons, planets and space stations, and missions- easier in many ways than for Transcendence, because:
  • you were entering data into a template with predefined fields, not into a text document
  • the scenario resources from the game were arranged in a manner that is much more rigidly centralized than the output you get from transdata. in the transcendence XML, pretty much anything go anywhere and be called from elsewhere. in EV, all the data defining every ship was listed in the "ship" directory; all data defining every weapon was listed in the "weap" directory, and nowhere else. this made browsing existing resources easier for modders, at least in some kinds of browsing.
  • debugging mods was very easy. I don't remember exactly why this was (it's been a LONG time), but i think that the resource editor made it impossible to create malformed code; the only things that could go wrong were misdefined variables or references to incorrect or nonexistent resources.
  • the first plugin authors wrote walkthroughs explaining how to quickly make mods. every possible thing that you could achieve with a plugin was fully documented! that probably wouldn't be possible with the t-engine due to its flexibility (fake edit: this seems to be what TVR is proposing.)
  • there were a lot of people making and sharing 3d sprites of ships, weapons and planets that modders could freely use if they so desired. the forums had a list of websites where people would post free graphics for other plug-in authors to use. Some people would pay 3D modelers small commissions to make stuff for their plugin, but my impression is that most of the modelers were kids learning to use Lightwave and Strata who wanted a venue to display their creations. even I made a couple of ship graphics with no specific intention of using them in a plugin, just to release them for general use.
During the period that it existed, the modding community for Escape Velocity was mostly made up of young people, generally middle- and high-schoolers who wanted to tell science fiction stories through the medium of a game. The talent level in the Transcendence mod community is much higher than in the EV mod community, since people with real programming ability would become frustrated by the restrictiveness of what you could do with plugins and move on. However, there are far fewer Transcendence modders, and the range of what they are doing is much narrower in some ways- there are no really dedicated model makers, for example, and as digdug said, only a couple of people are trying to use Transcendence to tell scenario-type, mission-driven stories. Fortunately, in multiverse we have a platform that will allow scenarios to be distributed very easily once there is some sort of zeitgeist supporting scenario creation.

I guess I don't really have a point to any of this, just talking out loud.
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Actually, I have been following the EVN modding scene for quite a while (one of my mods for Transcendence is a port of the Starbridge Mod E, if you want proof of my familiarity of that universe,) And it is my wish that one day we would be able to do something similar with Transcendence.

I personally find dynamic systems+the network an unbeatable (but laggy) combination since I am more interested with a space adventure game with a free-roaming universe than a single-track journey to the galactic core. In my more ambitious times I think of making a EV-style mod for Transcendence (The Prejudiced Galaxy models aren't just meant for show,) yet I lack the coding skills to make it work, so I work on ship graphics instead.

If it is possible to give us a better modding guide that includes examples of mission-making or system-setting, it would surely help out a lot (admittedly the Transcendence engine is a lot more complicated than EV, but Transcendence offers greater flexibility.)
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sun1404
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I'd say having a template for modding would enable many more people to join the modding community. Many people would want to make something, but just doesn't have that much interest to start learning programming just for modding Trans. But inevitably templates will lower the flexibility of mods, so we must not always rely on them. They can be great as the first step for newcomers, but we should also offer lessons, or at least complete documents, of how to mod without templates, or we would never have the best qualities of mods anymore.
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RPC
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It's very possible to make a template. Take a look at Civilian Crafts and Uncharted and their corresponding Settings.xml.

With typCreate we can create whatever kinds of fields we want for the template mod, and make type creation easy as well. In fact, Civilian Crafts and Uncharted are both sortof like templates, since you can add whatever kind of ship you want or change the size of your galaxy.

The only problem is making the thing in the first place.
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Tshark9999
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Okay, slightly off topic question, but would it be possible to have a way to create your own back story upon creating a game? It doesn't have to be complex, just several questions that change what extra equipment you start with and, if George implements communication with factions, give us extra options with those factions. Such as, if there was a question asking what kind of back ground you came from and you answered 'smuggling family', then perhaps you start with a black market ID, or have some favor with the Black Markets? I have no idea how hard this would be to implement, but I'm just tossing ideas out there.
CMircea
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TVR wrote:I propose we develop a complete SDK for modding Transcendence.
This discussion should go in a separate thread, but I think a website built specifically for this would be the best method. Not just a wiki - to include "builders" for extensions, to manage the extensions, to host the docs, to reserve UNIDs, etc. It probably would be a complete overhaul of Xelerus, which ATM is neglected. Quite a lot of work - and not on the website itself, but on writing the docs, the samples, and keep it updated. Do we even have enough people who would be willing to contribute to this and contribute consistently?
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