Or: Weapon design & graphics modularity in Starfarer
A game which revolves around combat in space naturally places great importance on the weapons used in said space. In short: They must look really cool. Here’s a picture to show how I’ve been going about this:
Click to view full size. You see here the process of taking a weapon design from concept art to pixel-art sprite to in-game screenshot. The barrels of the Heavy Autocannon — a nice standard warship cannon — recoil individually upon firing.
And how about some background on what influenced this outlook on displaying weapons?
Well, I never had the experience of playing Star Control 2 (which has influenced Alex’s design of Starfarer a good deal) though I was quite enthralled by other games which involved outfitting your own starships like Ascendancy, Master of Orion 1 and 2 in the more strategic vein as well as (relatively) more recent games like Escape Velocity Nova which was more of an RPG. Starfarer is somewhere in-between, though Alex should be the one to expand on that thought.
(Even more, I must admit that I used to make starship-combat RPGs drawn on whiteboards as a kid — I’d draw the ship schematic and galaxy view then run a game for my friends as they went around doing missions, blowing things up, and upgrading their ship. Did I mention that Starfarer is the game I was born to draw?)
Let’s just say that I appreciate the experience of outfitting one’s ship with modular weapons and devices. And while it is nice to see the unique weapon effects as in all the games I previously mentioned, it’s even better to see those weapons mounted on the ship itself. It says “This is my ship”, an effect much like an armor set and glowing sword on your character in an MMORPG: Your ship is your character.
And not only is your ship your character, other ships are their own characters and you can tell a lot about them at a glance because of what you see attached to them – or taken out of them (but damage effects are a topic for another post). Visible weapon mounts are not just decoration but are also a tactical consideration. When you see an echelon of Hephaestus Cannons mounted on that Onslaught-class Battleship, you’ll want to stay well away because they’ll rip apart anything that comes close in distressingly short order.
Enough writing. Let’s see some more pictures! These are somewhat older drawings because like with ships I’ve found that it is most important to draw weapons from the top down perspective as that’s what the player is going to be seeing.
Various small-sized weapons and a couple missiles, launchers not included.
Some large weapons you don’t want to see head-on: the Gauss Cannon and Hellbore Cannon.