Void War

By Scott Parrino 07 Sep 2004 0

Introduction

The Wargamer?s Jim Zabek recently had the opportunity to interview Jay Barnson and George and James McEwan, developers of Rampant Games, who are presently working on their upcoming game, Void War. Jay Barnson is the head of Rampant Games. He has been in the games industry since 1994, when he got his start working on launch titles for the Sony Playstation. He was a programmer on many successful games, such as Twisted Metal, Warhawk, and Jet Moto. He founded Rampant Games in 2003 to produce smaller, innovative titles that break some of the molds found too often in a hobby dominated by clones and sequels. George and James McEwan are modelers who joined the Rampant Games team after seeing an early version of Void War. George had previous experience with CAD design for engineering, and James had experience creating 3D scenes and animations for television commercials. 

Interview

The Wargamer (WG): For those readers unfamiliar with Void War could you please tell us something about the game?

Rampant Games (RAMP): 3D Space Combat action like you?ve never seen it before. 

Void War pits players (single-player or multiplayer) in space fighters in high-speed, high-action battles. The emphasis is completely on dogfighting ? flying and fighting your opponents. I?d hesitate to call it a sim, but we?ve added enough physics and other elements to make outmaneuvering and shooting down your opponent a challenge. Each of the six playable ships is unique, with different flight and combat characteristics, and a unique ?special ability? to give it an edge in combat. For example, the Nighthawk has the old favorite of the classic arcade space shooters, Hyperspace, sort of a limited-use ?get out of jail free card? that teleports the ship to a random location on the battlefield. 

We went out on a limb to experiment with the gameplay in Void War, giving space combat a dose of physics and some high-speed action from deathmatch?style First Person Shooters. We got away from the complexities of managing complex systems, wingmen, communications, and elaborate targeting systems to create something that is simple and fun to pick up and play, but also very deep and challenging. 

WG: Please tell us more about the flight mechanics. Why did you choose to go in this direction?

RAMP: One of the frustrations we?ve experienced with other games in the genre is that the ships can stop on a dime (or nearly so), and ?flying? in space was really nothing more than pointing in the right direction. Dogfights in space were pretty much a point-and-click affair. Lead the other guy and shoot. Or launch missiles at him.

The goal with Void War was to make flying and fighting in an individual ship interesting and challenging. As a fan of World War II-era flight sims, the natural answer to me was to incorporate real-world, Newtonian physics. This has been done in the past ? but it was universally boring and hard to control. Our solution was to split the difference between the two ? provide the flavor of Newtonian physics, but only so far as we could make it fun and exciting to play.

Our model was actually similar to that found in the old arcade game Asteroids. Your ship had a maximum speed, and would eventually slow to a halt if you let off the thrust button. But it was still fun and not too hard to control. Translating this into 3D presented a number of issues. First off, sensing the direction you were traveling was difficult. We added several tools to help the player, including a 3D velocity indicator and little particles of ?space dust? that fly past the cockpit. Another issue was the fact that in the depths of space, speed is all relative? so if you are flying at high speed past a still ship, as far as your gunnery is concerned you may as well be standing still while he flies past at high speed. Except for the flying dust particles, it sure felt like you were sitting in space. For this and many other reasons, we decided to clutter up space. A lot. Space combat in Void War is filled with obstacles like space stations, debris, asteroids, docking platforms, and weird gravitational anomalies that make it a very interesting battleground to fight in.

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