Planetary Annihilation

Planetary Annihilation

Discuss the source code and development of Spring Engine in general from a technical point of view. Patches go here too.

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Tim Blokdijk
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Joined: 29 May 2005, 11:18

Planetary Annihilation

Post by Tim Blokdijk »

tl;dr:
  • Had contact with Jon Mavor from Uber.
  • Uber Entertainment will not open source the PA engine.
  • The to be developed PA engine will be more advanced than SupCom's "moho" engine which had about the same design as the Spring engine.
  • So, now what?
  • Had some discussion with Tobi, Licho, Kloot, zerver, jK, hoijui & abma.
Long post:
Uber Entertainment is doing a successful kickstarter to develop a new TA type game.
They essentially plan to take TA interplanetary. Awesome idea. We need to be there. Make this a reality. The only problem, Spring is an open source project and with reason. We know what happens to commercial games (and third-party content) after the developer moves on.
So I wanted to try and convince Uber to open source the engine while in development. We (Spring) would jumpstart and supercharge the community around PA. Together we could really make a stand against EA and Blizzard. And our (Springs) advantage would be a sort of Spring 2.0 engine, without having to actually do all the heavy lifting.
After talking this trough with a few Spring engine developers and getting support for the idea..
I got myself into contact with Jon Mavor and pitched the idea, I tried, I presented a lot of good realistic arguments for this (we know Linux, we know TA, open source attracts smart people, ...), a deal that would be worth looking into.
But after a few mails he decided not to play ball. According to him this would be an "incredible risky change in direction".
And without going into detailed pro/cons, to a degree I do think he has a point, there are -real- risks attached. With few benefits in the sort term (before the release of PA). Still.. doing a 1+ million dollar game, drm-free, with Linux support and crowd funded. Would have been incredibly risky 2-3 years back. And I also think that the arguments against using an open source development method for the engine can be realistically tackled if they choice to do so. Open source is just not the topic they want to push at this time. Ultimately I do expect developers to move to open source game engines as the game industry is getting more and more commoditized.
I want them (people like Jon Mavor and Chris Taylor) to embrace open source because it provides a superior development model. I just don't see them move until we prove that it's viable - that you can still earn money. The challenge here is that open source is near perfect commoditization.

So, that's what happened last week. And although I have this grand vision of open source gaming, the reality is that we are currently going to have to asses our relevance with the TA type gameplay post PA.
Mavor is going interplanetary and can essentially take planet-wars in game. It's not like with SupCom's engine that had more or less the same capability’s.
So what to do?
Can we extend the Spring engine to allow for the same type of interplanetary gameplay?
Should we ignore PA and just let them take TA to a new level without us?
Drop our insistence on this "open source" thing and become a PA modding community?
Take our focus off the TA type gameplay and grow our relevance with more edgy games like for example Kernel Panic?
All of the above?

Personally I insist on the "open source" thingy, we're real men, we build our own games. Modding is fun and all but seeing the TA engine slowly but surely being dragged into the pit of irrelevance.. if I invest in something I want it to have a future.
So to me 'open source' is not some "feature" that may or may not be present. Others can do what they want to do. And sometimes you need to compromise.

Ignoring PA is dangerous, its design is more advanced, allowing for new and exciting gameplay. If properly executed and supported "our" playerbase could be playing PA for years. That would really hurt us.
SupCom's engine design was the same as Spring's design, we could recreate the gameplay and build on it. SupCom remained relatively static with no effective mod support. Our Linux support was quite edgy and the open source development model allowed creative game development. We stayed relevant.
And now Mavor is going to drop PA right at the spot where we have Zero-K and BA. Best case scenario here would be that Uber fails to deliver a finished game. That they deliver a beautiful tech demo. Something "fun" to play, but after crashing a planet or two you would go play a "real" game. This is a realistic scenario, the 1.5 million they hope to collect is enough to create the engine but not a triple-A game. But Uber is capable, small focused games can provide great innovative gameplay. A tech demo would create the perfect development target for Spring without hurting us to much.

Which brings me to the topic of extending the Spring engine.. to be brutally honest. We currently lack the development power. Adding support for the sphere planets would take massive code changes in major sub-systems, the renderer, path finding, physics. It all needs to be abstracted, changed and extended.
It will take many hours to figure out how it should be done (design it) but it will take many hundreds of hours to actually code and debug. To big a project for a hobbyist developer to tackle in his free time. That is unless someone capable pops up that is willing to dedicate 6+ months full-time to code all the major parts. After that other developers can (in there spare time) flesh out and extend the code to make it do more over time.
Six months fte is going to put a dent in it but won't be enough to get ahead. I suspect that the PA engine will be more capable for several years anyhow.

So if we can't get ahead (win) and can't get the PA engine open source (join) should we be in the same place as PA? Is there a niche were we have a real relevance? Maybe we can move in another direction? Support the Oculus Rift? And the university touch interface stuff? Develop the 1st person view into a mechwarrior type game?
Would such a direction be better? Easier to do? Do we have enough people that care? And would work together to go after a "fuzzy" goal? Chasing PA's tail-lights should be more clear. But not that exciting.

After Mavor told me to find something else to do. I decided to write a PM to Tobi, Licho, Kloot, zerver, jK, hoijui & abma more or less the current engine development team. I'm really sorry if I did not include you in this, I looked at the more recent commits @ github and the developer meetings minutes. I can publicly post this PM here if anyone likes me to. I just wanted to get a bit of opinion from them. We had some discussion about the reasons Mavor decided not to open source his engine, the possible design of his engine and fact that it would take "some" work to recreate in Spring.

Last paragraph.. I consider myself to be someone that concerns himself with the long term stuff. How to evade risks like irrelevance and act on an opportunity like a new engine. Mostly I just sit on the spring domains, provide continuation. This community managed to mostly overcome the previous biggest threat, namely the copyrighted content. We're quite capable. I think that if people would just keep this post in the back of their minds and make the right decisions.. We still have a year or more before PA will be released and it will change things, creating risks and opportunities.

Thank you.

Planetary Annihilation can still be backed on kickstarter for a full 8 days (as of writing).
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gajop
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by gajop »

No time to read it all fully right now, but from what I understood, you're suggesting they build a new game and open source it? Not sure there'd be a benefit for them, open source is not a valid way of earning money, at least not for games.

They could've used Spring, I really don't think it'd be so hard to just add multiple 3D maps, instead of creating the entire engine. However, from what I've read they're using a unsynced engine (boasting benefits of server doing the computation to off-load clients), and that's not easy to do in Spring probably - may require too many changes.

I agree on the competition part, but I think we can win if we provide a wider spectrum than just TA-like games.

PS: You're probably aware of the other PA thread?
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Funkencool
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by Funkencool »

Well, granted open-source doesn't make much money :regret: But they do already have a guaranteed $1.2 Million. They could just simply release the source for the engine without losing any (current) funds. I'm guessing they're thinking about the future more and want a proprietary engine to work with for next sequels, etc. That shouldn't stop them thinking about releasing eventually though, plenty of big name companies have, e.g. ids quake/doom engines, or warzone 2100 (still being developed open-source). I do get not wanting to release source for art assets, but this day and age more companies should think be releasing/opening engine sources.
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hoijui
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by hoijui »

Tim Blokdijk wrote:...(we would require) massive code changes in major sub-systems, the renderer, path finding, physics. It all needs to be abstracted, changed and extended.
i agree 100%!
but the problem is not missing man power, but:
first, (this can quite easily be overcome through wise choice in what to do when.) There are some branches of spring, which would likely break when doing massive changes.
second, (and the actual problem,) is that it just does not fit into the main spring devs mindset. or in other words, except Tobi, there is noone among the currently active spring devs that knows the stuff required to do this, and... tobi has way to little time available for spring devving to do it. in other words, jk and kloot would have to lead this, and they can't. they are too much low level oriented and trained. not to say that they never change high-level stuff. and if you would manage to get a paid dev to do it, it is very likely that you would loose jk and kloot in turn, or they work on a separate/independent branch of spring.

about PA stealing Springs niche ...
i don't think that is a real problem. due to the client-server model they choose, they will inherently be lmited to muhc less units/projectiles; at least i can not see a way around that.
so compared to spring (or SupCom) games with massive battles of epic proportions, they wil have flash-game style cool stuff (to paint it in b&w). managing the synced state of really big spring games approaches the limit of memory bandwidth (a factor of 10 or 100 away maybe). you can't transfer that same thing over the internet.
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Rumpelstiltskin
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by Rumpelstiltskin »

I have two doubts.
1)PA having an awesome mature gameplay design and having the proper support for fans to improve/modify and fix gameplay and balance after release.
2)PA being similar enough to Spring TA like games.

Spring's Main advantage is the fact that it is open source.
Unless PA really supports and encourages fan based development It will never be in the same category or have a similar atmosphere to the Spring experience.
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Kloot
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by Kloot »

hoijui wrote:jk and kloot would have to lead this, and they can't.
Sure, you're the high-level god presiding over us stupid low-level plebs. If that's what you need to feel good about yourself these days...
Tim wrote:So I wanted to try and convince Uber to open source the engine while in development. ... I just don't see them move until we prove that it's viable - that you can still earn money
So prove it? Start your own studio, set up your business plan around the FOSS philosophy, hire a few good people and Lead The Way™. Until then your case to Mavor (and us) isn't the strongest.
Tim wrote:Can we extend the Spring engine to allow for the same type of interplanetary gameplay?
1) Bring a million dollars so we can quit our jobs and rewrite Spring?
2) Uber has not even figured out all the details of how to make it work and playable, and you already want to start copying their ideas?
Tim wrote:Adding support for the sphere planets...
Everybody and their mother keeps talking about this like the second coming of JC, but nobody ever stops to think if it is actually a good idea for an RTS. Simple questions like "what are we going to do with the minimap and other RTS paradigms?" and "would it be fun to play?" are never asked...
Tim wrote:If properly executed and supported "our" playerbase could be playing PA for years. That would really hurt us.
So clearly then we can only "win" by 1) writing our own open clone of PA (but hoijui who knows everything about us and our skillsets says we aren't capable of that, ohnoes) and 2) making that clone 10 times moar awesome still to keep the Spring players (especially those who have donated to its KS) from abandoning us, since once PA is released no-one will ever want to go back to boring old 2D maps again. Just like after SupCom introduced the concept of strategic zoom nobody would ever want to play fixed-camera games like TA anymore. Right?

gajop wrote:They could've used Spring
lolno
gajop wrote:I really don't think it'd be so hard to just add multiple 3D maps, instead of creating the entire engine
They already had an engine, and no commercial studio in their right mind is _EVER_ going to use a niche obsolete open-source product like Spring for their games.
Last edited by Kloot on 06 Sep 2012, 11:53, edited 1 time in total.
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BaNa
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by BaNa »

Seeing the interest and support for PA, I doubt that our player base would be more than a drop in the bucket for them.
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Forboding Angel
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by Forboding Angel »

I pretty much agree with kloot, although he was overly mean in the way he stated it.

All this fapping of PA is already getting old. Within the space of 3 days I had nearly every idiot I know spamming me with the link to PA. All this fapping and no one stopping to think about the gameplay.

Sure, the cinematic made it look amazing, that's what it was designed to do, but in reality it will not play out like it does in that video.

I tried to tell you all that all that shit in the vid was just a rendering and not an example of an actual engine that exists, but everyone is too busy jerking themselves raw to listen to reason.

I want to see PA succeed, but in no way does it threaten spring any more than supcom did. In fact, spring benefited by supcom, because we proceeded to rip off ideas right and left and invent new ones as a result of the vids we saw. Case in point, customformations.

When I read tim's post I actually got quite irritated by it, honestly. It's as if he hasn't even tried ZK or Evo, and seriously, why was BA mentioned in that post at all? Once BAR becomes a living reality, then sure, but BA? Are you kidding?

Moral of the story, the grass is always greener on the other side.

Edit: And for the millionth fucking time... Spring is an Engine, goddamnit! Not a game! Maybe by the billionth time, it will have sunk in at least a little bit.
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SinbadEV
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by SinbadEV »

I look to the day someone tries to Kickstart a game based on the Spring engine with both fear and excitement.
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Forboding Angel
Evolution RTS Developer
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by Forboding Angel »

If I had a team and a plan for a commercial project I would, but I don't and I don't.
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jK
Spring Developer
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by jK »

Kloot wrote:
hoijui wrote:jk and kloot would have to lead this, and they can't.
Sure, you're the high-level god presiding over us stupid low-level plebs. If that's what you need to feel good about yourself these days...
+1
Kloot wrote:
gajop wrote:I really don't think it'd be so hard to just add multiple 3D maps, instead of creating the entire engine
They already had an engine, and no commercial studio in their right mind is _EVER_ going to use a niche obsolete open-source product like Spring for their games.
Still it seems they are copying many of our community's ideas :)
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hoijui
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by hoijui »

@kloot
i kind of agree that... my evidence suggests that jk does not have that skill. i have no evidence that you don't have it. or say, you may have the technical part, but you are unable to communicate acceptably with other devs, which means you are unable to do it anyway.
all i have seen of you two so far gives me the impression that you can't do it. most importantly perhaps, is that practically all other things seem more important to you. only improving modularity without a functional improvement seems to be pointless in your eyes.
abma, tobi and me basically work on this since about two years. though on rather peripheral parts, but you two do not at all. you are adding new features and fixing bugs. i think it would be better if you would be only fixing bugs, with as small changes as possible, and other then that, do the modularization.

as i did practically nothing for spring since a year, i have no right to tell you what to do, but i sure have a right to judge what you are doing, and express that judgement, because i saw what you did.

i am emotional about this topic because i see that you two are so intelligent and capable, but fail at this so much. it is like what is happening in the world at large.
"bad code prevails because good coders don't do the right thing."

side-note: i don't need spring to feel good about myself anymore ;-)
but that does not mean bad stuff happening elsewhere does not touch me.
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Rumpelstiltskin
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by Rumpelstiltskin »

hoijui wrote: side-note: i don't need spring to feel good about myself anymore ;-)
Did you defeat the Illuminati?
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Kloot
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by Kloot »

jK wrote:Still it seems they are copying many of our community's ideas :)
Yeah, though imho mostly because of topics like these which shoved them in Uber's face: http://forums.uberent.com/forums/viewto ... 61&t=34222 (misrepresenting many of Spring's features as ZK's own...)
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SinbadEV
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by SinbadEV »

Kloot wrote:(misrepresenting many of Spring's features as ZK's own...)
It's admittedly hard to express how a engine can have game play features. Spring is wacky... it's not so much an engine as a game that's missing the board, the pieces and the instructions... but as you add those things in you discover that there WAS, in fact, a game there all along.
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luckywaldo7
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by luckywaldo7 »

I get a wierd vibe from the TA/Supcom/PA devs when it comes to Spring. It is inevitable in any related conversation that spring will eventually be brought up. However, I've never seen any of the devs ever directly respond to something about spring, except for that one interview where Chris Taylor was asked directly, and his response was "It's great, I hope these guys will have as much fun modding Supcom" (cba to look up exact source). Zero-K gets plastered pretty well all over the PA forums and I've yet to see any of the devs say something about it themselves there.

It's almost like the concept of open source is beyond their comprehension (to be fair, many gamers also, as I've heard things like "non-commercial doesn't count"). And that they somewhat fear spring because it can follow the open model without worrying about trying to make money. So while spring-built games may have much less polish and media coverage, they are free and tend to play very well. Ultimately I think they see Spring as wierd competitor that is hard to beat because it is hard to understand.
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Rumpelstiltskin
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by Rumpelstiltskin »

PA does not have to be open source to be as mod/change friendly as spring though...

They just need to give the API to the community and allow mods to flash themselves as much as the vanilla version is allowed to, both in the lobby and the website of the game...

With a promise to release the source a year or two after their final installment I think it could potentially destory spring's community.
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smoth
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by smoth »

I don't want their engine and I refuse to support that game because think it's design is rubbish and is NOTHING like ta just using the TA name as a way to name drop and establish popularity.

Please do not draw engine developers to chase it's features or design. We need to get spring working not have yet ANOTHER developer split off (OS RTS ANYONE).
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knorke
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by knorke »

The thread in PA forum mixes features of zero-k and spring but that does not matter.
It is a good example how spring can profit from "competition:"
Many of the posters in that forum are TA/Supcom/rts players or modders so "advertising" to them like that is good.
Until PA is finally released there is plenty of time for impatient people to give spring a try.
Can we extend the Spring engine to allow for the same type of interplanetary gameplay?
Should we ignore PA and just let them take TA to a new level without us?
Has not zero-k already "taken TA to a new level?"

I think that people are quite happy with Springs engine features: new stuff like "interplanetary gameplay" or "Develop the 1st person view into a mechwarrior type game" is not needed, there is enough awesome stuff.
Instead what is brought up again and again is complicated infrastructure (maps, downloads), ingame interface, confusing situation with lobbies. I think that is the "direction" of improvements that needs to be taken?
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smoth
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Re: Planetary Annihilation

Post by smoth »

knorke wrote:Instead what is brought up again and again is complicated infrastructure (maps, downloads), ingame interface, confusing situation with lobbies. I think that is the "direction" of improvements that needs to be taken?
outside of ingame interface yes, this and resolving many issues like features eating fps now etc. IIRC JK is working on the feature issue and the lobbies seem dead as far as development goes, lua lobby was shat on and that is where we are.

In game interface is the responsibility of the content devs and most of them are woefully lazy about it. The engine devs do not need to worry about it beyond chili need jk to fix it for zk as their version apparently has some sort of leak or massive fps drop.

I don't want either post to be lost as they were last on the page and I agree with both so....
knorke wrote:The thread in PA forum mixes features of zero-k and spring but that does not matter.
It is a good example how spring can profit from "competition:"
Many of the posters in that forum are TA/Supcom/rts players or modders so "advertising" to them like that is good.
Until PA is finally released there is plenty of time for impatient people to give spring a try.
Can we extend the Spring engine to allow for the same type of interplanetary gameplay?
Should we ignore PA and just let them take TA to a new level without us?
Has not zero-k already "taken TA to a new level?"

I think that people are quite happy with Springs engine features: new stuff like "interplanetary gameplay" or "Develop the 1st person view into a mechwarrior type game" is not needed, there is enough awesome stuff.
Instead what is brought up again and again is complicated infrastructure (maps, downloads), ingame interface, confusing situation with lobbies. I think that is the "direction" of improvements that needs to be taken?
hoijui wrote:if the engine was more modular, it would improve everything.
mroe easy to test, more easy to isolate problems, more easy to extend, more easy to speed-up, more easy to get new devs, becuase they actually could work in their area of expertise, instead of first learning all of spring, and then give up because it is fucked up, more easy to prevent regression, more easy to branch and merge stuff, more easy for devs to work in parallel, and probably more.
of course, no user or game dev cares abotu this, cause they never actually see the problems related to it directly, as related to it (and not even all engine devs do).
it is THE thing that the spring engine needs! everything else is primary!
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