Fleet Commander

Timeframe: Fall 2009 - August 2013

Tools:
Processing
Photoshop

Overview

What would a real-time strategy game look like on a multi-touch table? How would the interface look and behave? What kind of gestures would make sense? How does the gameplay and user interface change when running on a 52" multi-touch table compared to a 20-foot wide touch wall? Fleet Commander is a research project designed to explore these questions.

I started Fleet Commander as my second generation game for TacTile after taking CS 426: Video Game Design. I wanted to take a real time strategy game and design a multi-touch touch interface that would provide the core commands that one would expect to see in a real time strategy game such as deploying units, issuing movement and attack commands, and activating special abilities. Just for fun, the game features a Star Wars theme complete with iconic ships, sounds, and music - see acknowledgements for more details.

Fleet Commander on TacTile


The original concept was called Planetary Defender and has base building elements like command centers, hangers, subspace radios to call capital ships, and planetary defenses. As development when on, I focused on just the fleet battle aspects. I may go back to the planetary features in the future.



Summer - Fall 2009

During the summer I began building the base ‘ActiveObject’ class that would drive the major game elements. This class encapsulated all the touch input and movement functions shared by all objects. Fighters were the first unit added. These had basic movement, targeting, and combat functionality. Capital ships were added next and included hard points fixed to the ship that functioned as turrets that had limited firing arcs and could be destroyed. Also “drag spawners’ were added to deploy capital ships and each capital ship could be pressed to open a radial menu which could launch fighters, self-repair, or stop moving.


Spring 2010

During the spring I updated all the graphical assets and added sound and music. Capital ship collisions and break points were added. Additional units like corvettes were added as anti-starfighter support and bombers were also added to the game. Space stations now provide income to purchase units as well a base to defend. The radial menu now allows capital ships to prioritize target: base, ships, or fighters. Special fighter squad leaders have similar menus. By May, I added two superweapons to the game: the Rebel Ion Cannon to disable ships and shields, and the Death Star. The Death Star can fire its superlaser to destroy ships, but is also vulnerable to Rebel starfighter attack (via the radial menu).

All sound and music was taken from Lucasfilm/Lucasarts sources, video games, etc. The larger art assets such as the Mon Calamari Cruisers, Star Destroyers, space stations, and the ion cannon were also from Lucasarts sources - mostly Star Wars: Empire at War.

The remaining art assets like the fighters and bombers I drew in Paint (yes you read that right) and are artifacts from my older Kilk & Play games. The Death Star was done in Blender with the surface and light textures done in Photoshop.


Summer 2010

Starting in June of 2010, I started adapting Fleet Commander to run on a 16 Megapixel LCD multi-touch wall measuring at 20-feet wide. The game easily scaled from TacTile's 1920 by 1080 resolution to the wall's 8160 by 2304. While most of the interface remains the same, some elements were changed to better suit a large wall environment. The most notable change was a radial menu containing ship spawning controls that could be opened anywhere on the wall by placing a palm on the touch surface.

Fleet Commander on a 20-foot LCD Multi-touch Wall


Acknowledgements

Star Wars films (1977-2005)

  • Music by John Williams

Star Trek: The Next Generation

  • Computer beep sound effects

Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (PC - 1997)

  • Sound effects

 Star Wars: Rebellion (1998)

  • Core inspiration
  • Gameplay elements
    • Rebel red, Empire green color scheme
    • Auto-fire attack priorities (Attack ship/fighters/space station)
    • Death Star trench run

Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance (1999)

  • Mon Calamari Cruiser and Imperial Star Destroyer images
  • Sound effects

Star Wars: Force Commander (2000)

  • Command point system (For better or for worse for those who remember this game)

Star Wars: Empire at War (2006)

  • Space station images
  • Death Star voice over and firing sound effects

In the News

Kotaku.com: This is the Best Star Wars Game We've Seen In a Long Time

http://kotaku.com/5820231/this-is-the-best-star-wars-game-weve-seen-in-a-long-time

Wired.com: Wall of Touchscreens Makes Fleet Commander a Hutt-Size Star Wars Game

http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2011/07/fleet-commander-star-wars/

EVL website


Swarmknowledge.com: Interview with Arthur Nishimoto Creator of Fleet Commander

http://swarmknowledge.com/Interview-with-Arthur-Nishimoto.pdf


UIC News: Big-screen Star Wars games a big hit on YouTube (July 27, 2011)


UIC News: Profile: For Arthur Nishimoto, work is all fun and games (October 19, 2011)

http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/uicnews/articledetail.cgi?id=15762

UIC Alumni Magazine: Future World: EVL...where the clock is always 15 years fast (Winter 2011)

http://www.evl.uic.edu/core.php?mod=4&type=4&indi=786

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