GIF Roundup

I’ve been working on a lot of content recently – some hand-crafted missions, new weapons (and ships), some endgame material, and so on. While that’s all terribly exciting, it unfortunately doesn’t leave me with a whole lot I can talk about without spoiling things. There is another feature I’m working up to – somewhere at the intersection of “mechanics” and “content”, a bit more the latter – that I’ll be able to talk about (at least, if it pans out), but that’s still a little ways off.

In the meantime, I thought I’d revisit some of the gifs I posted on twitter while working on a new set of weapons. (There are also ships that go with these weapons, but those are not to be talked about, I’m afraid. Hegemony COMSEC was quite clear on the subject.) I’ll also talk a bit more about the effects, so even if you’ve seen these already, there’ll be something new – and there may be one or two you might have missed, even if you’ve been following along!

First, a picture of the glorious mess these can produce when employed against a hapless Paragon. This is a bit over the top; I wouldn’t imagine things would look quite this extreme very often.

(Lest you think I hate Paragons, since they seem to be commonly used for target practice: it’s only because they’re the only thing sturdy enough, I swear.)

Without spoiling things too much, these weapons are not something the player would have easy or unlimited access to – as reflected in their visual effects, they’re extremely powerful, and often do things that are “special” in some way.

On the other hand, it wouldn’t do to add cool stuff to the game and then never let the player use it. So: the player will be able to get access to limited quantities of these. That way, deciding what ships to use them on is an actual choice, even if they’re somewhat overpowered – otherwise, you’d just put them on everything. That said, they shouldn’t be *too* out of line compared to normal weapons, especially since they cost more ordnance points to mount.

With this out of the way, here are the visual effects for some of these weapons, along with a few notes!

This is kind of a cold “flamethrower”. The “hose” is actually made up out of individual projectiles. A problem with this was that turning the weapon while firing made it really obvious – you’d see the individual shots going in different directions, like so:

So, there’s code that makes projectiles kind of stick together – each projectile is dragged along a bit by the one right behind it. That way, as the weapon turns, the entire hose ends up being pulled along, just enough to – in most cases – make it retain cohesion.

What’s most interesting to me, though, is that I was this close to giving up on the entire approach before it finally clicked! I don’t have any screenshots handy, but – after a several days of work – the flamethrower effect was… well, it wasn’t good. Not “kind of ok, just not quite there”, but rather “this isn’t at all usable”. To make matters worse, it didn’t seem likely to get better; a number of adjustments I’d tried were not promising and it wasn’t going anywhere.

Then, literally in about 15 minutes, it went from that to pretty much what you see in the gif! The only thing that kept me going, if we’re being honest, was a liberal application of the sunken cost fallacy.

(… in fact – this was a while ago, but it’s starting to come back – what actually made it work was a bug – accidentally trying something I didn’t mean to try. Wish I remembered what exactly it was, but, alas, that detail is lost in time.)


What I’m particularly happy with here is the trail effect – this was one of the very few times when a visual effect turned out exactly as I was imagining it, didn’t take long, and actually looked good. Too often, something will turn out as I was imagining it, and then it turns out that doesn’t actually work so well… visual effects work seriously eats time like nothing else! I think it’s a combination of having a huge possibility space to explore, and it being some sort of time warp where 15 minutes later, 3 hours have passed.


This is an effect that strips away armor over time. The interesting thing here is taking care to be minimally disruptive to ship AI. If this effect did actual damage over time, the AI would need to be acutely aware of it – to back off when the damage is enough to eventually ensure a kill, for example, or to charge in recklessly when it’s on borrowed time. Trying to handle this intelligently gets complicated very quickly.

To avoid these complications, the effect only affects armor – it’s not doing any damage to the hull, so it’s not capable of destroying a ship. It might still make sense to have the AI be aware of it in some situations, but the mistakes it might make as a result of not being aware would be very minor and, in the grand scheme of things, not noticeable.


Another cold-feeling weapon. I wanted to have an effect where the shot came out of and outpaced a cloud of particles (very vaguely inspired by this scene, actually), so: there it is!


This took a while to nail down, mainly due to wanting it to not be too similar to the torpedo trail in one of the previous gifs.

(The glowy stuff flying around is not part of the weapon, it’s Something Else.)


This one could almost be a blog post in itself. The original concept was to have explosions with a dark center, in contrast to “normal” explosions that have a bright center. Here’s what a very early attempt at this effect looked like:

It’s just promising enough to keep going, really. David suggested these leaving some kind of “burns” (inspired by Brigador’s Black Hand weapon), as well as looking at subtractive blending. I didn’t realize that was a possibility (!), but after a bit of checking, it turned out that was pretty easy to set up.

After much iteration, the end result is what you saw in the above gif. The new techniques were also useful for other effects – for example, the torpedo trail, the “less restrained” gif, and a number of other uses that are not shown here.

I’m not sure if my experience with visual effects is representative of what other people go through – but it sure seems to be consistent, whenever I end up spending time on this sort of thing.

It takes a long time, and it’s not clear exactly where it’ll go. Rarely, an idea does work out as expected! More often than not, though, the initial idea is just something to get started with, and what actually ends up working is surprising – and, sometimes, a happy accident.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, April 11th, 2020 at 1:29 pm and is filed under Development, Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.