We have pushed out a small update to build 0.3 to fix a couple of outstanding feature requests.
Removed requirement for server login (offline play available now)
Updated gun particles
Framework for player profile started
Updated camera effects
Updated raycasting system
Update sky system
Cleaned up project files
Mostly this was a stabilization build and a chance to remove the server account system and allow for offline play. We will expand it a bit more in the coming weeks with a new ship class and a different map, as well as putting in a simple scenario as well. Hope you enjoy!
Early November we finally swapped out or old Test Ketches with our test Brigs – Which first of all meant MORE size and MORE firepower! The same model used is the low poly version of the more detailed model that the player will use in the coming entirely new build of ToW – v0.4
We moved to Itch.io for our releases and updates, therefore making patching and updating clients MUCH easier. Be sure to download the demo through the Itch.io client to keep up to date!
What does Build v0.3 consist of so far?
5 Nations to play as; English, Spanish, French, Dutch and Pirate – More nationalities will come at a later point, such as China, Russia and young America.
26 gun Naval Snow, based on the HMS Ontario
Admin panel to set up your test scene
3 swappable ammunitions:
Basic Shot (Hull/Armor damage)
Chain Shot (Sail, Rigging and Mast damage)
Hot Shot (Heated to cause fire – which left unattended makes the gunpowder magazine explode)
Canister (Crew damage) and other munitions will be added later when other mechanics are implemented
Basic AI intelligence for the NPS’s (Non Player Ships)
Functioning flooding and fire system on board that must be fought if occurring.
Test map with islands for tactical play
A fully working day cycle system. You can let it run its course or freeze it at a certain time of day/night
A fully working and customizable weather system with calms, storm, fog, rain, thunder and even snow dynamically being added to your ship
The last week we have also added to v0.3 the beginnings of new incoming systems you meet in v0.4:
A basic dynamic damage texture system showing the damage done by the cannons on both yours, and your allies/enemies ships
More dramatic updated explosions when the powder magazine explodes
Updated explosions sounds
New fire sounds
More visible water splashes (still needs some colour tweaking)
New Cannons particles
In addition to testing it for hours and hours internally, we have also run open servers and tested the current build with many outside testers. And we have also joined privately set up servers. It has been a blast and taught us a lot! Although the build is running smooth and very stable we did encounter a minor Networking issue that sometimes does not allow the player to connect to a server if they have just jumped out of another due to a long running master server timeout. Normally they have only had to wait for about 5 minutes and it was sorted out. Although we have looked into the matter, we are focusing on fixing this bug for the coming .0.4 build.
Should you NOT prefer to play PvP (who doesn’t love a good single player match?), and purely want to test your skills against the computer, – or simply want to train and hone your skills before you meet your nemesis – you are of course fully able to set up your own server and play as single player against as many NPC/AI ships as you choose. Or even just spawn ships of any available nationalities you wish, and just spectate the carnage…
That concludes for v0.3 features. We will not add much more to v0.3 in anticipation of build v0.4
Build v0.4 – Coming soon
The next build is the biggest update so far and features a completely reworked/rebuilt game with increased performance and vastly improved code, furthermore it will also mark a new milestone for further development as we now will start to put in the finer details such as skill systems, upgrading systems and more. Features that will be added to the existing ones to expand the game to new heights.
Here are some of the highlights of what’s to come:
New and even further improved water system
Improving and building on the implemented damage system
Basic skills system allowing to specialize more
More detailed ships for the player (Also adding a different version of the Naval Snow)
New Texture system to the ships – to increase the graphical visual experience for the player and allow players to customize their own paint job (based on historical colour schemes)
High quality cannon models and a few other objects on deck when hit/damaged can reflect that damage (or destruction)
Basics of the coming ship customization and upgrade systems implemented – tailor the ship to your own play style
Basic levelling system with implementation of new ships and ship classes
New WIP Menu System
Ship Modelling work & Progress
Finally, it is exciting to show you some updated screenshots of the ongoing modelling work. All of these models near completion and consequently will lead to more ships making their way into the game when finalized.
Ships based on known ships, and not 100% accurate copies
3rd rate Warship
Other ships in the making are:
Redone Pirate Ketch/Schooner/Brig (A facelifted version of the test Ketch)
Queen Anne’s Revenge (The original Blackbeard’s ship built on plans of La Concorde)
4th Rate Warship
In conclusion, download a copy today and give it a spin. We look forward to see you on our test servers! Who knows, we might hop in and say hello!
May the winds always be in your favour and lady luck on your side!
Best regards from the Wolf Pack Games development team
Probably one of the largest changes for this build is an all new settings and performance system. In the previous versions the options were rather limited as we really hadn’t nailed down our effects stack or assets being used, but as we get more solid on those we really needed a new way to manage settings for video, audio, performance, and controls. What has spawned of this is a very robust and flexible system that can be used as framework for any of our other projects in the future. Most individual selections for settings range from ‘low’ (for lower end hardware) to ‘ultra’ (for top end machines).
The system stores these settings in an accessible JSON formatted settings file and will later allow multiple versions to be stored so a player could store a ‘high’, ‘medium’, and ‘low’ type of preset in their machine and not have to reset all of the settings every time.
We have exposed nearly every video setting that won’t change the game to the point of making it unbalanced with some features allowing the player to add/remove contrast from the screen for accessibility to those with color issues in their vision. Each option for effects can have rather different performance impacts on different systems so we wanted to open up the system to be very flexible so that it can apply to the widest variety of systems. Here is a rundown of the current video options.
Resolution – current display resolution and refresh rate
Fullscreen – enable full screen viewing
Field of View – Adjust how much the camera ‘sees’ in degrees of view
View Distance – How far into the distance the camera will render object such as models and terrain
Beautify – This is an addon component that can sharpen the view considerably and can possibly replace antialiasing for lower cost
HDR – Enhanced colors and palette
Bloom – Adds a bloom effect to the camera
Bloom Threshold – Some of us don’t want ‘J.J Abrams’ levels of bloom, so this allows that to be adjusted in game.
Lens Flare – Requires bloom to be enabled and adds a nice flare to the view
Sun Rays – Sun rays (god rays) enabled on the view
Tonemapping – Allows for various types of color tonemapping to help give the game a distinct appearance
Exposure – Allows to brighten up a dark screen or darken a bright one
Color Palette – Can completely change the type of game look and coloring though pre-made palette choice selections
Texture Quality – For lower hardware this can considerably speed up the game
Anisotropic – Another performance option to allow for different levels of Anisotropic filtering
Realtime Reflection – Enables a realtime reflection probe to get more accurate reflection and lighting
Shadow Detail – Change the fidelity of shadows being shown
Shadow Distance – Adjust how far away shadows render. Closer distances means higher quality.
Vertical Sync – Helps on high end hardware to keep it from ‘running away’
Shadow Cascades – Helps with shadow quality over distances
Horizon Based AO – Ambient occlusion rendering post process
Dynamic Global Illumination – This can replace standard lighting, but has a few limitation and is really made for high end hardware. The results are fantastic though.
Antialiasing – Take the AA quality from none to maxed out
This is still in its infancy but is getting some work done soon. Through this panel you can adjust the volume of different ‘channels’ of sound and change the number of channels (stereo, 5.1, 7.1, etc).
The ocean system in the game is a major performance factor for some players. It can range from low detail to photorealistic based on the hardware that the player has. We have allowed as many options as possible to both allow players to get the best performance, but not gain any advantage on others through changes in the settings.
Controls for keyboard and even controllers can be set through this panel. Every input is allowed to be mapped to any controller or interface that we can connect to, with more profiles being added every month, usually.
One of the largest critiques we take is that using cloth objects in Unity is an expensive way to render the sails. Well, we wanted to do some testing to make sure that we weren’t costing our players too much so a new ‘game’ was written to test how many sails could be rendered in full detail on moving ships with dynamic changing wind. Well, it is a LOT before there are performance issues seen.
The Unicorn project is still paying off in terms of textures with a new set of emissive textures we can use for lighting the glass on the ships. New iron and floor textures are also forthcoming. These are constantly being updated based on the lighting of the Unicorn project and will be updated almost every week until we get them just right.
The newest addition(s) to our fleet will be a collection of brigs and snows. Sporting 22 guns (at least) of mostly 6lbs, it is a formidable ship in a fight with plenty of power and quick turns.
Master Server Rewrite
The master server system (how players find battles) was originally based on another system and was starting to show some weaknesses. After a complete rewrite and a full rebuild of the mechanisms we can now say that we have the most optimized version going. Games will be able to be sorted by their map, game type, and even what DLC or mods they may be running. Private server systems have also been updated so as to keep the game server from having to manage password attempts by letting the master server control their initial attempt to connect to the game.
The fun of testing optimizations is upon us. We built a new project and started to test every type of material, texture, and model optimization method we could. Currently we are looking to support 64 ships in a hosted battle, so the system for the models needs to be very smooth.
Materials and Textures
The fruits of the HMS Unicorn Project are starting to pay off. We have better and more efficient materials for the ships.
A new update to the wake and foam is getting some love. The foam has a much more natural look (since it was taken from a real photo) and has also been optimized and adjusted for distance detail.
Nothing beats getting into a fight and a storm rolling in. Now the effect of the rain and fog compounds the difficulty of the fight, leaving the player to have to navigate by sound and light of an enemy’s guns at times to find the battle.
16 person battles are getting tested and we have successfully had more than 1 go through without a crash! To say that it is a brawl is an understatement. Cannons are going off rapid fire and wood chunks are flying!
Making more progress on weather this month. Added in a more customizable system that allows for a better synchronized cloud and sky state with better horizons that match our ‘cinematic’ style. Evenings and nights are more colorful and the lighting is much improved.
Smoke got a bit of an update as well. It now reacts to ambient lighting conditions to give a more natural look. Smoke is also getting a new shader to help give it a more volumetric appearance and to help occlude the enemy ships better. Draw order of the smoke and water was corrected in the March build so that splashes no longer showed up in front of smoke.
Welcome to the first Tides of War devblog! We are kicking off the month with a new devblog covering the changes taking place.
Tides of War – New Name
Lets hit the largest topic first. The name of Letters of Marque has been changed to Tides of War: Letters of Marque.
There are several factors that led to this. First, after several tests we found that the word “marque” was hard to convey correctly. Most testing showed that people tried to search for ‘mark’, ‘marc’, or even ‘marquee’. Second, we had set the name Letters of Marque as something of a working title and really just never got around to getting a new name since we were rather busy with mechanics and art. Third, we want to grow the game series beyond a single game with a theme that binds several games together, and the current title was not good for that. Fourth, we wanted to do the name change before we reached anything close to an alpha stage where the name would be associated with the product from that point on. After quite a few meetings we voted through many names and finally settled on Tides of War as the major series title and Letters of Marque as the subtitle for the first project that is currently underway. Along with the name change, the domain address, IndieDB link, and other marketing material is being switched over so be sure to update your links to the new versions.
Along with that comes the NEW LOGO! Look forward to seeing this getting pushed to all of our media outlets in the next week. We look forward to feedback on the new design as well!
New Model – 14-22 gun Swan Class Sloop
The newest ship is getting built into the game! It is an 18 gun Sloop based on the HMS Fly (1776), a Swan class sloop. Her crew of 125 were packed tight into the 29.4m long hull. With her drawing 2m of draft she was a light and fast cruiser used for convoy duties. The design was used to build 25 vessels from 1766 to 1780. She initially carried 14 x 6lb cannons and 16 swivel guns. Later refits allowed for 16 x 6lb guns and 2 x 12lb carronades. Some models even were upgraded to 4 more carronades on the quarterdeck for a total of 22 guns. Quite the armament for such a small vessel!
New Battle Scene
The first of our new battle scenes is called ‘The 5 Islands’…. real original, huh? It is a varied set of small islands with cuts and inlets around the map that allow for a more varied tactical approach to the battles. The new terrain includes houses, trees, rocks, beaches, etc. All the basics needed to create a much more immersive environment to sink and capture each other in.
In our quest to be able to get the AI to the point of not being completely useless we have started the process of implementing behavior trees for them. What this means is we can begin to add in many new mechanics that the AI will be able to utilize beyond the current “target, navigate, shoot” they are currently running. As our new levels are created, they are mapped to use navigation meshes that will enable more robust ship movement, including being able to not have them run aground constantly. We look forward to having more engaging battles with the AI ships for those that enjoy single player matches. Combined with new ships and new levels, it will be a great time sinking your enemies!
A subtle, yet powerful clue to a ships speed is the wake it is leaving behind. The faster they are moving, the larger and longer the wake will be. To that end we have added a new wake to the ships to give a more realistic look to their motion. The new wake modifies the water surface height, adds a change to the normal maps behind the vessel, and even makes new foam trails based on the speed it is moving. So far we are very pleased with the effect and look forward to tweaking it some more to make it even better over the next few weeks.
Wheres my demo build?!?!?!
It is coming, we promise! The ship addition process is getting refined and we expect the newest build to take another week or 2 before it is fully ready. We have a few new systems to get put in (which will be explained in the next devblog) and we want them to be more stable before pushing them out. Until that time you are still welcome to play the current release from our website. Yes, we know it doesn’t have the new name, but the new version will! Hope you enjoy the latest info and we hop to see you out on the seas soon!
It has been an amazing year so far full of a lot of progress on our latest naval battle game Letters of Marque. It went from merely a concept in June to something that can be played, in less than 6 months. We want to thank all of our fans that have been keeping us motivated. Your feedback is greatly appreciated, keep it up! Your follows, likes, and comments are great for getting us moving on the development to make you a great age of sail ship action game!
Then and Now
Our first brig placeholder vs the latest Ketch
At the start we laid out our goals (to make a fun naval battle game) and began the work using placeholders and quick script segments to approximate the game. A quick Finite State Logic helmed the AI ships and a placeholder brig took the place of a more detailed model. Gun a blazing we got into games and had a lot of fun, cementing our decision to continue the project and develop the gameplay in the same style as planned. When work first started on LoM we had no real naval assets and we asked to borrow a brig model from another game to use temporarily. We were granted the use of the placeholder model from the generous folks over atPiratesAhoy! and the real work could begin. With just Jehremie (aka Captain Murphy) and Justin (aka Trunks) on the team at the time it was a daunting task for sure; but soon after work began, Christian (aka Flannery) contacted us and offered his skills as a composer! He was taken on immediately and started on the intro and battle music. As some time passed we went through many changes and iterations of assets, which will be explained in the following sections, our first real model was created by Christian a few months later, (Gole Ketch) which is the ship you see in our screen shots.
In the past 6 months that Wolf Pack Games has worked on the naval battle game Letters of Marque and Reprisal (LoM), the company has faced a few obstacles to development. Our composer/modeler/artist Christian recently had a newborn baby (CONGRATS!) and with that some assets had to be delayed and pushed back, such as new ship models, sounds, and various art assets for the website. Christian also helmed the music for the popular game Life is Feudal, which will have the soundtrack available to purchase before long. We also had another team member go through a career change and is still trying to get back on his feet after the switch. We have had a lot happen over the past year but progress has not stopped. Through thick and thin we managed to knock out around 30% of the game, mostly mechanics and core components that were hammered out after hours from our regular jobs and other obligations.
Mechanics and Components (also known as, “what we broke many, many times”)
Near photo quality graphics
With any project, there will always be trials and tribulations when trying to find what does and (mostly) does not work. It was no less an effort with this naval battle game over the past few months as we tested multiple water shaders, sail/material shaders, and also core networking components. When the dust finally settled after weeks of testing and breaking components and assets, we finally settled on some great systems. The Sails/PBR shaders are UBER, the water is Ceto, and the networking is actually a homebrew solution created by the team over at Black Wake called WakeNet. We will get more in depth on that later as we are planning to actually open source that system for everyone to make use of. Although it set us back a couple weeks on our development plan, the near photo realistic quality results speak for themselves.
Where are we now?
Spanish Ketch sailing into the sunset
As we rounded out the new year, we are in a great path for this naval battle game to continue on. We passed our 30% roadmap mark just before the new year and as our crew’s lives are slowly getting back in order we are building up momentum and the project is now a fully functional game that can be played for free! We recommend that you get into playing it now as we don’t know how long we will keep it free for download and play. Eventually it will go back to closed source where only the testers get the latest version. We won’t deprecate the existing copies, they are out there forever for everyone to try out.
How can you get involved?
We have our naval battle game on social media at pretty much all of the major locations, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Reddit, and IndieDB and we always love it when fans take time to follow/like/upvote us on those pages. It means a lot that people are excited to see the naval battle game of their dreams get built! We also love to see random players hop into our testing games in the evenings. We mostly work on the game from 5-11pm CST so if you happen to see a game running then, it is probably us. Stop in and say hi and lob a few cannonballs at us!
That wraps it for this summary report, look out for a devblog coming soon!