IRC Day March 2016: Questions and Answers

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Hello everyone! Here's the transcript of questions and answers from IRC day. We had a bunch of technical issues and other problems with the etherpad not being set up well for questions, but things worked out well in the end. Big thanks to George for turning up, and to Adran for setting things up and soldiering on through.

I've lightly edited things for clarity, but they're basically unchanged. Structure is a little wierd because of how this was done in IRC. :)

Question (shortened from original):

Would you mind telling us a bit about yourself, what you did before you got sucked into fulltime development on Transcendence, and how you eventually came to make the game (or what became the game if we include Frontier) in the first place.

I started programming before there were many computer games at all--show my age--and I had to write my own games because there was nothing else! Since then, I've alternated between periods of full time game work, and periods when I had to earn money as a programmer for various corporations.Thankfully, I'm in a long period right now when I can devote all my time to game development!

Question:Could you tell us about how you go from an early concept for an adventure (eg. Eternity Port or CC) through the various expansions and culls of ideas...and eventually to a final thing?

Answer:Great question, though I don't have a short answer.For Eternity Port for example, I started with the key idea of visiting the Near Star and trying to figure out what Earth and the Sol System were like.Then when trying to think about who the Big Bad was in EP, I came up with [spoiler]Luminous.[/spoiler]. After that, all the pieces fell into place. Basically, once I had a couple of key points, I started designing around that.

Question:Where do you get some of your inspiration for ship/station/designs?
Answer: It varies greatly depending the scenario. Sometimes I get it based on the lore of the particular sovereign. Other times it depends on the game mechanics that I'm trying to do.Most of the time I start with a sketch and then from there proceed to 3D model.

[George then tweeted out some sketches and showed a graphic from Part II of SOTP. Will edit with URL later]

Question:When you're designing a new faction, how do you go about finding a naming scheme for their stuff?
Answer:Great question! Again, it depends on the faction. Sometimes, a faction, like United African States, clearly implies a naming scheme. For others it is harder, and I just try to have consistency between the names.

Question:Did you make all your own planet graphics in Transcendence/Anacreon? And, to what extent was Luminous* used? / What fusion between photoshop and luminous is there and do you use any other toosl? (Double question)
Answer:I made all the graphics; I didn't use Luminous for most of the planets. Most are just textures which I created in photoshop and then wrapped into a sphere.The only connection between photoshop and luminous is really via cut and paste. Luminous generates images from procedural instructions. Later I can take those images and modify them and enhance them in Photoshop.Those really are my primary tools (other than trueSpace, for 3D).

(*Luminous is a graphics program written by George many, many years ago now. He wrote it to make the original explosion graphics, which are just now getting replaced with in-engine effects in 1.7)

Question: You tweeted out an image of some shipyard sketches a while back - - We can clearly see Polynary and Kibo, but how about the other ones?
Answer:Most are just concepts, but I think I might use one or two for one of the Earth Industries shipyards.

Question:Xelerus (old community mod site) is in the process of falling apart to the point that it’s already an iffy proposition to get a mod to upload/update. Are there plans in the works for a Multiverse-side replacement in the works, and hopefully sooner than later?
Answer:Yes, that's a real problem, and it is a priority for me.We have a couple of paths. First, I want to implement the Workshop features on Steam. That should help a lot.That will definitely happen this year. Also, we currently have a basic system for uploading extensions to the Multiverse. This is what the registered developers use (like TSB and TBR). I'd like to eventually open that up to everyone.It will take a bit of time to get it ready, so I can't promise a timeline yet, but that's the ultimate goal.

Question: Along the same lines, there are a lot of people in the community willing to help with these solutions, any thoughts to open up community social tools - such as Steam and Twitter to "trusted" community members?
Answer:Yes, I would love to assign moderators to both Steam and probably Twitch. It would be great for other to Twitch their own playthroughs.

[Adran's needed to reboot at this point, so George tweeted some more sketches. Will, again, add URL later]

Question:Before we go into Transcendence content, there are a few Anacreon topics to cover......About the original release of Anacreon: Reconstruction 4021* - was it released on physical media? If so, do you have a complete-in-box copy?
Answer:Great question. It was sold via mail order, not in a box, but just in a plain envelope. I have the original manual here... (George didn't have his webcam on, so we didn't see it. But he linked it here:

(On the livestream he also mentions it cost something like $50 or so)

*Anacreon is a strategy game, and it's the first game George published, waaaaay back in the day. There's a longrunning alpha/beta currently for the third version of the game, which is an online multiplayer version.

Question:What are your plans for the Anacreon / Transcendence Timelines? (Clarified: Development timelines)
Answer: For Anacreon, unfortunately, since I'm spending most of my time right now on Part II, I don't expect to get to it until after Part II is released. For Transcendence, obviously, my primary goal is Part II. I hope to have at least a good beta of Part II this year. But as always, things are slower than I wish or predict.

[Things move over to Transcendence, George takes a picture of one of the ships that's coming in SOTP Part II. It's a biological/living playership of some sort. Again, again, will link later.]

Most Important Question:Now for an important Lore Question. As NASA discovered when they brought coke and pepsi up on the space shuttle, carbonated drinks really do not work pleasantly in microgravity. Given that A: Beers also have dissolved gas (CO2 or nitrogen) and B: Red Nebula is really popular on stations that are too small to be spun for Red Nebula beer deliberately brewed to be completely and utterly flat?
Answer: No, definitely, Red Nebula is not flat. It doesn't count as beer if it is flat. I think we have to speculate that there is some bottle technology that allows the bubbly brew to be properly consumed.Perhaps some kind of presurization system? Or maybe some special gasses that behave slightly differently? Who knows?

(Shrike Note: Sorry George, but my headcanon is always gonna be that it's flat. :P)

Question: How was the contract board supposed to function? There's bits of code here and there for it, and the graphic for it look great. Are there plans for it to ever be implemented?
Answer: Great question! The Contract Board was supposed to be a corporate station where you could pick up delivery missions to various stations. Unfortunately, the game mechanic never worked very well. That is, I didn't think it was much fun, since there was no real way to figure out your best strategy. I would love to resurrect it, but I would have to change the game mechanics a bit.

Question: Will we ever get some lore details about Incandescent (the planet in St. Katherine's Star)? It's a full earth-like planet, but you don't here much about what it's like, the history, etc?
Answer: Fundamentally, it's hard to do much in-game with Incandescent, because the game engine is really only suited for space. So I haven't had the need to spend much time on it. My sense, just as with Earth, is that people down the gravity well don't really care much about space and consequently don't affect much of what's going on out there. Other than trade good, of which only a few are unique to a planet, spacers are very independent and don't think much about the surface.

Question:Can you tell us a bit about the Daazhen and Majellan aliens, or is that under wraps until part II? (NOTE for peeps who don't sourcedive: These are the names of the two types of stargate in the game right now)
Answer: I can say that they are both extinct. The Majellen came first, they were the first to build a pan-galactic civilization. After their collapse (a billion years ago or so) many other civilizations rose and fell. The Daazhen were another that managed to build a very large stargate network. (Actually, Majellen civ was extinct 2 billion years ago).

Question: One of the (rarely encountered, because rumors are useless) scenes you can get at the tavern at a CW Metropolis has a technician who's installed a radiation room on a Sapiens station. We also see the Curators dealing with the black market. Is having factions that are hostile to the player dealing with factions that are friendly with the player going to be more of a thing in Part II/extensions to Part I?
Answer: (George barely remembers that bit of writing, but knows the bit in question) Yes, I think that adds depth to the world. I would love to do more, plus also have various ways for the player to change allegiance with respect to other sovereigns. I don't have definitive plans yet, but I really like the idea.

Question: Can we get a timeline for when the various technologies of Transcendence were invented and/or became commonplace?
Answer: Good idea--I haven't worked it all out, and I suspect there are inconsistencies in the various flavor text mentions. Basically, though, I expect the major wars where the big technology drivers. The original Syrtis War, of course, drove a lot of technologies. Lately, the draw-out war with the Ares has spurred research in plasma/anti-matter weapons. Lastly, one of the major concepts in the plot--mostly referrenced in Corporate Command, is that more and more sovereigns are getting access to alien tech. We're in a transition phase where more and more innovations are going to come from alien tech. Plus, there is the ever present mystery of why certain people (like Glavan in Corporate Command) are getting tech "beamed" to into their heads.

Question: Whats going on with the Hierodules? Do they get their fair share in Part II?
Answer: Yes, that's the current plan, but I haven't fully thought it out. The hierodules are basically the only physical manifestations of Domina and Oracus; they are very rare, but will play a role.

[We move on to modding questions. Adran has troubles picking questions out of the etherpad, so people get voiced to ask things while others frantically clarify things behind the scenes. It's jolly good fun and we really should have done it a day beforehand]

Question: Something we've been hoping to get for a long time is the ability to specify custom genomes and the associated language to use with them. Is there any chance of getting this added in the near future? (We're planning to use this in an upcoming mod)
Answer: I think it's a great idea--I believe there is a record in Ministry already. I don't know exactly where I'd put it in the priority list. Maybe we can talk about it on the forums and see where it goes relative to 64-bits and other work.

Question:Will optional libraries be implemented in Transcendence v1.7?
Answer: Good question--I'm not sure yet. It's not on my list for 1.7, but I think it will have to be done before a beta of Part II.

Question:Is there any plan to allow modders to make/implement custom AIs and behaviours?
Answer: What I'd like to do is provide enough options to the AI settings structure so that people can control behavior. I don't think it will be possible to let combat AI be handled by TLisp, because it won't perform.But I want to add as many options as possible.

[I ask if George can take a look at a specific bug that's affecting my own project. He agrees to take a look some time]

Question: Any chance of getting a function to determine what extension/unid a particular system node is in?
Answer: I'm not 100% sure. There might be cases were multiple SystemMap elements could create the same node (but I'm not sure). If not, then I think it would be OK and relatively easy.

Question: Do you have any sort of timetable for updating the rest of your ships to 120 facings? And I’m going to regret asking this, but do you ever plan on more than 120 facings for your ships?
Answer: I don't have a timetable, but I would like to do it. As for more than 120, I think I'll start with decoupling rotation from facings and either interpolate facings or just let the image be slightly off. I may experiment with that when I work on mouse support (which I hope will be this year sometime).

Question: Do you think we can have a 'modding feature requests day' where in the days leading up to it, we fill an etherpad or thread with questions and on that day you can go through and leave typed responses to it so that a lot of these short little modding questions we're asking can get quick yes-nos or 'lets talk further's. Or maybe links to ministry tickets.
Answer: Sure, in principle, that makes sense, but I still think Ministry is a better place. Honestly for most request, the answer is going to be "sure, but write up a ticket."

Question: Looking at the XML, it looks like there were plans to be able to "talk" to the CDM shard - there's responses for typing gibberish or having no information on a subject. Will this ever be implemented? It would be really cool if the player could ask it about lore and stuff.
Answer: Yes, I definitely would like to implement that! My plan is to ship Part II and then I can go back and upgrade both CC and EP.

Question: Regarding unlockable ships, what details can you give us about planned implementation, and will it be possible for the ships’ creators to specify that certain users already have access to them regardless of unlocking criteria?
Answer: Good question--we'll have a lot of flexibility in terms of manually unlocking. Unlocking is really a voluntary/personal decision. I think any player should be able to, if they wish, manually unlock (though I don't want to make it to tempting to do that). That's my initial thought, anyway.

Question: For weapon design, we're limited to whole-numbered angles right now (for projectiles). Could we use trig to get around that, by keeping the facing direction and adding some sideways velocity with script? Or would it still just do a whole angle? (Basically, is the limitation in facings, or in the velocity angle?)
Answer: Yes, in principle, that would work. It's just adding vectors, after all.

Question: Would it be possible to finagle attributes on your systems and stations to allow filtering them out from showing up in an expansion’s systems, such as TSB’s or TBR’s?*
Answer: Yes, I may need to do that anyway for Part II (and really I probably need it for Eternity Port).

*TSB= The Stars Beyond, TBR= The Backroads. Both registered extensions in development by community members.

Question: Is there any possibility of having a playership offer a choice of starting systems without making what is basically a duplicate copy of the ship (like, for example, having the Manticore be able to start in either Tau Ceti or Eridani)?
Answer: Unfortunately, that would require some new UI, which I'm not currently planning for Part II.

Question: Two in one question: Is it possible to make a shield that ignores the 'noshields' effect on meterosteel and other armors? Likewise, can we reverse the "non-shield in shield slot" feature and have a shield based in another slot. I'm thinking about armors that add shield effects (but block an actual shield), and other exotics like that.
Answer: Good ideas! I think it might be possible to add some kind of item criteria to meteorsteel so that it only disrupts a subset of shields.As for additional shields, yes, that could work in principle. The engine would need some changes, but not too many.

(Meaning: "No, but I like this idea")

Question: Any future plans of a vanilla/EP tie-in? If so then (describing bug that is currently breaking the community-made extension that merges the two)
Answer: Yes, I'd love to do that, but haven't had time to do all the leg work. I'm mostly focused on Part II right now, and I'm not likely to do much work until I get at least a beta out.

Question: There are still a lot of old Ministry tickets languishing in un-fixed-ness. How often do you go back through the whole list and poke at the ancient stuff?
Answer: I go in cycles. I'm currently in an implementation cycle where I'm adding new stuff to handle Part II. At some point I will get closer to release 1.7 Alpha 2. At that point I will go through records and see what I can fix.

[George says he only has 3 minutes left. MAD QUESTION SPAM BEGINS]

Question: If I submit a pull request with an xml patch/fix, would it be easy for you to use in patching issues?
Answer: Yes, if you do a pull request, I would love it! Thank you!

(Transcendence is at least partly open-source)


[Xephyr requests that the freighter 'Zephyr' ingame gets renamed after him.]

Question: Search functionality on Ministry. We desperately need it. (Not a question but a desperate plea for help)
Answer: Agreed, though I though the Google solution worked relatively well.

Question:Are there guidelines or methods you'd recommend for how to set up trade goods/"vendor trash" items for mass and price so they work nicely?
Answer: You know I haven't really thought about it as systematically I as should, so don't take my ideas as gospel (or even good ideas). I originally traded off value vs. frequency. Common stuff was heavy, but rare stuff was light. Also, prices (per kilo) double every level, to match weapon/device prices. But as I said, we really need to re-think it.

Question: Can we make a thread or ministry tickets with things that need more documentation (or documention got lost somewhere, like on a broken link path in the old wiki)? (functions, events, etc)
Answer: Yes--that sounds good. Although this is another area where I think the community can fill in. The wiki has a good framework for doc, but I just think someone need to keep it up to date.


And then it ended, with only one question left hanging! There's stuff that didn't get asked, but that's everything that did, that I'm aware of. :)
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Shrike wrote: [Xephyr requests that the freighter 'Zephyr' ingame gets renamed after him.]
This was asked anonymously on the etherpad, I will neither confirm nor deny this.
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Xephyr wrote:
Shrike wrote: [Xephyr requests that the freighter 'Zephyr' ingame gets renamed after him.]
This was asked anonymously on the etherpad, I will neither confirm nor deny this.
You asked it on the day, it gets your name on it. :P
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Thank you for doing this, Shrike.
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Shrike wrote:
Xephyr wrote:
Shrike wrote: [Xephyr requests that the freighter 'Zephyr' ingame gets renamed after him.]
This was asked anonymously on the etherpad, I will neither confirm nor deny this.
You asked it on the day, it gets your name on it. :P
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