I brought up the point that GSB2 does not yet have its Hull Editor in service
despite the game being in a post-release state.
( NOTE TO NEW PLAYERS: This is not the kind of editor which could actually create 3D hull sprites! )
This topic is more intricate than it may seem at first,
so I'll provide careful details about "what" and "why"...
1) Some people -- especially folks who are totally new to GSB2 and never played the original game -- might make the mistake of thinking that maybe I'm referring to the Ship Customizer that is so prominently featured in this game. Not so, my friends.
I do mean the GSB1 Hull Editor -- the only GUI-based utility for modders to change hulls' module slots and weapon slots. Formerly accessible as part of the game program itself, it is something indispensable when you need to move hull slots to other locations on a ship...as well as accomplish other valuable modding goals, too.
For those newer players that are unfamiliar with it, here is some old (from 2010!) discussion about it when it was new. Instructions on how to use it can be seen here -- it was rather a limited utility.
Again, please note that despite its name, this Hull Editor IS NOT for making an entire hull sprite out of thin air. You still need to know (or be able to learn how to use) 3D modelling programs to make your own new ship graphics for GSB2, in order to have them make full use of the new shaders and other optional graphics features of the sequel game.
2) There are multiple, game-functional things that the existing Ship Customizer simply does not do:
- I) Change the blink interval of ships' hull/running lights;
II) Add/remove/alter damage emitters, sparks and smoke;
III) Deal with explosion graphics and destroyed-ship hulks;
IV) Move any slot to a different location on the hull;
V) Add module slots to hulls;
VI) Remove module slots from hulls;
VII) Add weapon slots to hulls;
VIII) Remove weapon slots from hulls;
IX) Convert a module slot to being a weapon slot;
X) Convert a weapon slot to being a module slot;
XI) Change the arc width of a weapon-slot firing arc;
XII) Rotate a firing arc to face in a different direction.
A very slightly improved version of the GSB1 Hull Editor was present in several of the closed-alpha playtest builds for GSB2.
It is now time to create a fully-overhauled version of that legacy utility,
make certain that (at a bare minimum!) it can do all 12 of the above functions,
and put it into the sequel game.
3) "Fully-overhauled" also includes making it much more reliable than the GSB1 version was. Longest-term veterans like me do remember when Cliff first told us that the original game's Hull Editor was strictly a private, back-end development tool of his that was never created with future release to the playing public in mind. We modders were grateful that Cliff agreed to share it with us, and we tried as best as we could to tolerate its incomplete nature.
But now that GSB2 is starting all over with a clean sheet of paper, that unfortunate buggy & half-implemented state of the old Hull Editor can and should be improved upon for reliability, ease of use and full-featured appeal. Necessary improvements include the following:
- I) Eliminate the legacy causes of Hull Editor's crash-prone behavior;
II) Eliminate having part of the editor interface screen always being (weirdly) pasted onto game's Main Menu screen when exiting editor;
III) Eliminate the Hull Editor's inability to alter more than one hull file per editing session. In the current state of the editor, after saving changes made to A SINGLE HULL, users are still forced to always quit the Editor, then quit the game, and then re-boot back into both before they can work with a second hull. This needless limitation is a maddening waste of the player's time and must be corrected;
IV) Allow the display size of the hull sprite to be zoomable across a wide range of pixel dimensions, as well as having a default size that's much larger than it ever could have been in the GSB1 Hull Editor. Zoom magnification factor should be user-controlled via mouse-scroll wheel, as well as Up/Down Arrows. To make the zoom feature successful, it may be necessary to scale the hull coordinates to several more decimal places in order to avoid introducing inaccuracy into hull slot locations;
V) Replace legacy, "closed-alpha GSB2 playtesting"-era controls for editing firing arc size and orientation with better controls;
VI) Streamline and improve the process of creating and changing specs of "gratuitous" multi-turret weapon slots. It is still too clunky and imprecise for consistently accurate placement on the ship sprite. Mistakes when using this are almost guaranteed at present, and they make ship sprites needlessly unattractive when in-game;
VII) Please add a new "horizontal mirror" button which, when toggled, allows the user to create two identical instances of a ship light or a slot. The mirrored item should appear exactly opposite where the mouse-click event places the first item... but duplicated on the opposite side of the hull sprite;
VIII) As with the GSB1 version of the Hull Editor, set up the GSB2 Hull Editor such that it cannot be accessed from any part of the game except for the Main Menu/startup screen. This will prevent it from being used in the heat of the moment within the Ship Design screen as a crude "I Win!" button. :P The main purpose of the Hull Editor should remain as before: a tool for creation of entirely different slot quantities, slot types & layouts, firing arc angles and hull functionality for entirely new, modder-made races.
4) Item V immediately above is especially important --
Now that GSB2 has limited firing arcs, it is vital that modders be given the maximum possible amount of control and precision over them. With respect, that has still not yet been implemented and I am requesting that access to such moddability be quickened wherever possible.
For unknown reasons, firing arcs during closed-alpha playtesting were only editable in increments of approximately 22.5 degrees. While being able to subdivide a possible 360-degree firing arc by increments of 1/16 may have seemed sufficient to the developer at that time, it is not enough granularity for serious modding.
Instead, we need to be able to cleanly, efficiently, directly input ANY integer value between 1 and 360 that we wish. There is no valid reason why the modder should not have complete freedom of action here. That's also true when considering how modder-designed Spinal-Mounted Guns are going to need something like 15-degree , 9-degree , 5-degree and even only 2-degree firing arcs! Yes, we will need this much fineness of choice with firing arcs, and not just for the sake of Spinal-Mounted Guns.
Likewise during the closed-alpha playtesting period, the control which governed the default direction in which any given weapon turret faced was very frustrating to use. It operated according to a "no helpful label or tooltip", counter-intuitive method which was totally opaque to the user. This frequently wasted up to several minutes per turret of the playtester's time in getting the dodgy thing where the playtester needed it to be. Yes, I know it was not a complete feature, but it was still actively user-hostile to a high level.
Instead, it should have been possible to simply, quickly choose the number of the heading (in degrees) that the gun's default position would be pointing. Calibrate this such that all orientation angles are ABSOLUTE, not relative. Measure them starting from zero degrees at the ship's front, and then proceed clockwise:
- 90 degrees at the right;
180 degrees at the ship's rear;
270 degrees at the left.
No more guesswork needed. :)
For example ---
- I) A turret with a firing arc 107 degrees wide, and a default direction that points 55 degrees to the left of the ship's front, should be described in the Hull Editor's controls as "107,305" -- NOT AS "107,-55"!
II) Another turret with a firing arc 16 degrees wide, and a default direction that points 120 degrees to the right of the ship's front, should be described in the Hull Editor's controls as "16,120". That fits perfectly with the proposed modder-friendly, absolute-angle display.
5) Solving both of the above problems argues strongly in favor of dumping the existing slider controls in favor of text-entry fields.
Firing arc width can then be typed directly into its own field.
Firing arc orientation can also be typed directly into its own field.
With text-entry fields, no mistakes are possible because (unlike with the sliders) no ambiguity is possible.
6) It is my hope that the Mac and Linux users among us will also be able to enjoy access to a GSB2 Hull Editor without suffering a lengthy delay.
Approx. 1 out of every 7 GSB1 players was a Mac user; those folks still deserve consideration, too.
It was ONLY because of the GSB1 Hull Editor being released to the community that the original game's modding community - which also included a friendly bunch of skilled visionaries - were able to create entire race/faction mod races. The sequel game begs to be blessed with at least as much original content-creation. However, we have a massive shortage of active modders because the required official tools have not yet been provided to us. Please, Cliff, release a repaired & improved Hull Editor so that we may provide even more quality modder content than ever before!
Beyond the bugfixing and polishing I've listed above, what other useful changes might have I missed?
Can we think of any additional, truly necessary tweaks which can be made to improve the Hull Editor?