Author Topic: Making a standalone game using FS2?  (Read 7247 times)

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Making a standalone game using FS2?
Hello FS2 modding community!

Let me offer a few quick background notes about myself first:
- I discovered FS2 (and the FS SCP) only a week ago after someone told me about the excellent BSG BtRL demo
- was blown away when I played the demo and after much online reading of various FS sites, really wanted to try my hand at making a standalone Star Trek game using the engine
- while I've never played FS1 or 2, or modded for it, I did spend enough time the last week so that I understand some of the basics of what is involved (what .vp files are, using PCS2, converting COBs to POFs, what FRED is, etc) and I now have all of the tools installed including TSpace
- I've hunted around for old posts in the hopes of a tutorial that would help FS2 newbie modders get started with making a standalone game, but the best I could find was this thread from 2007:
http://www.hard-light.net/forums/index.php/topic,50050.msg1011938.html#msg1011938

So I do realize that all I have right now is the FS2 open engine exe and Fred2. And that it's up to me to make the rest of the Trek resources for the game (in fact, I should have most of what I need since my assets from my old Invasion of Cardassia mod are on my hard drive).  Where I am totally lost is how exactly to organize everything and get it to a playable state like the BtRL demo.   I did use VPView to take a peek at the BtRL vp files so I am guessing that I have to split up the resources into folders (models, maps, etc) and then use a tool like QuickVP or VPCS to encapsulate it all into a single .vp file.  Is that right?

Then once I have a .vp of the ships, backgrounds, I would load that into FRED to make a mission?   Does that then make a mission vp for me?  Is it playable at that point?  I hope to at least stop seeing that error message "web cursor bitmap not found" when I do eventually run the game engine :D   

Any guidance would be hugely appreciated.  I'd just like to have a small group of Federation and Cardassian ships shooting at one another eventually, nothing complicated at all. 


 

Offline karajorma

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Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
1) Making a standalone game is a huge amount of work so I suggest you start out as a mod for FS2 and slowly work your way towards being a stand alone. BtRL didn't go to standalone until a month or two before the demo release.

2) You don't make a VP file until the end of the modding process. VP files are for when you release the game. If you look in your data folder you will see a set of folders with a similar structure to the inside of a VP file. All you do to create a mod of the game is to create a folder called Star Trek in your Freespace2 folder and then copy the entire data folder into it. Any file in there will override the version in the FS2 VPs. Simply select Star Trek as your mod in the launcher or use -mod Star Trek in a FRED shortcut.

3) There have been attempts to get Trek working on FS2 and FS2_Open in the past. Mostly they seem to have failed due to a lack of interest rather than any huge technical problems. Getter Robo G is someone you absolutely should talk to as he probably knows where you can find the files from those attempts.
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Offline Dragon

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Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
There was working Star Trek TC ,without campaing and a bit buggy ,but it gonna be a good start.
It was on german site ,unfortunately I don't remember what is exactly it's adress.
I have this mod and I will soon upload it to FSMods large file section ,but you will
have to wait for Snail to accept it. You can find this mod yourself on it's main site.
Also you can check FS2 Sector themed models: http://sectorgame.com/f2s/downloads.php?action=category&id=39
Those are only models ,they need lot of work (like adding turret subobjects).

 
Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
Thanks guys, I will probably just try and convert my existing Trek ships from my earlier mod for this project.  That way I'll get some good experience with PCS2 and have a better understanding of what doesn't work. 

I'd still like to understand the process of getting it to standalone state however as I've never found much talk about that online anywhere... the only thing I have as a guide right now is BTRL (which is an excellent guide let me say) but even looking at that I am confused.

Let me try and ask some probably "dumb" questions just based on what I see inside the BTRL vp so that some of the fog will lift away:

- is the HUD for a ship totally customizable or must it adhere to some fixed layout determined by the engine? I think I see in the vp that the HUD is broken up into smaller pcx files but I don't understand how those HUD elements would be arranged on the screen.
- when you run the FS engine, does it always look for/load a specific vp file for the assets and then a specifically named vp file for the missions (and tables) or can this be configured thru some external .ini or text file?
- just where is the "web cursor bitmap" that the engine is looking for?  Does it expect to find that in the vp interface folder?
- how do I generate a DDS file?  Is there a specific advantage over using DDS rather than a PCX?

EDIT: one more question... over at http://www.hard-light.net/wiki/index.php/FS2_data_installation
I noticed there is mention of some SCP upgrade files e.g.
Quote
SCP upgrade files
Download these from the SCP site.

mv_100patch.vp
mv_core.vp
mv_effects.vp
mv_models.vp
mv_music.vp
mv_textures.vp

Were these upgraded assets derived from the retail resources in any way?  If not, would they be then allowable to be used for a standalone game?  Obviously the FS2-specific resources like ships would not be useful but I was thinking about space backgrounds or simple weapon effects, or other periphery items.

EDIT: after some searching around I am going to assume that the upgrade assets refer to "ShivanSPS's SCP Update Pack" which he has stated only installs with the retail FS2 already installed on the machine... so there I go, answered my own question in due time.

« Last Edit: May 09, 2009, 07:28:04 pm by Napseeker »

 

Offline Dragon

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Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
1. Unless you modify the code it has a general layout ,but you can change the bitmaps.
Names are quite self-explantory for me ,just look at the
bitmap and try to find similar looking gauge on hud.
2. The only limitation in the .vp files naming is that they need to have .vp extension.
Loaded are all .vp files from your main folder and all from the mod folder selected in launcher.
3. The web cursor bitmap is  the one named webcursor.ani in
the data/interface folder ,or in interface folder in .vp.
4. You can use this for generating .DDS files: http://eliteforce2.filefront.com/file/DDS_Converter;29412#Download
DDS are smaller than other files (not everytime) and are easier to use.
Bitmaps need to have dimensions that are power of two ,you will suffer very
problematic crashes (no error message even on debug builds).
DDS converter don't convert any files that do not fulfull this requirement ,so you will avoid crashes.
(PCX files will not cause the crash ,but will simply not show up with no apperant reason).
I hope this will help you.

 
Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
Thank you Dragon, yes that was definitely very helpful...

I think I know how I shall figure out how to make a standalone game which doesn't rely on the FS2 retail assets.  The debug exe will report anything I am missing when I run it (like the web cursor) so as I put in temporary files to satisfy each error I can make a list of what I'd need to recreate for the FSO to run.

So far it needed the cursor and fonts, but it seems to also want some kind of game palette file. Does anybody know what this is?   Is this a palette stored inside a PCX file somewhere? <- EDIT: Found it after some searching :)  It was in the effects folder, not interface as I'd thought...
« Last Edit: May 10, 2009, 04:43:15 am by Napseeker »

 

Offline karajorma

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Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
You're going about this all wrong. You really do not want to try to build a TC from ground up as a stand alone. Yes you can replace the cursor, font and game-palette files but what are you going to do when the game starts demanding all 1000+ interface files? Sure you can try a scripted interface, but as far as I know no one else has tried that before so you wouldn't get much help.

Starting off as a mod and then going stand alone is the only sensible way to do things. It allows you to spend the first few months actually working on your game. You can start putting ships and weapons into the game from day one that way and then slowly replace the bits of FS2 that you're using as scaffolding with your own mod. By the time you're ready to release you'd have replaced all of FS2 and would be able to release as a stand alone.

 If you try to build from ground up you're going to spend an enormous amount of time building interface files. AFAIK there isn't a single total conversion for this game that didn't start off as a mod of FS2. I know for certain that BtRL, Diaspora, Inferno, and TBP did. And I'd be very surprised to find out that any of the others didn't.

EDIT : Hmmmmm. Now that I've written all that and re-read your original post it occurs to me that you're doing things this way not to be pig-headed but because you don't actually own FS2. :D

In which case I suggest you follow my advice about using another game as scaffolding but instead of FS2 start this off as a mod of BtRL, TBP or WCS Prologue. All three of those are available for free download and have most of the interface files you need. BtRL lacks the new multiplayer lobby while WCS lacks the multiplayer interface completely IIRC. TBP has all the interface but due to the bugs in TBP final would probably be the most difficult to work with. If I were you I'd pick BtRL and simply replace the lobby files when you need them.
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Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
Template files for the interface are available, but they use the FS2 style (only colour/background is changed). Those are more for mods than TCs.

 

Offline karajorma

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Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
They are? From where?
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Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
Hmmmmm. Now that I've written all that and re-read your original post it occurs to me that you're doing things this way not to be pig-headed but because you don't actually own FS2. :D

In which case I suggest you follow my advice about using another game as scaffolding but instead of FS2 start this off as a mod of BtRL, TBP or WCS Prologue. All three of those are available for free download and have most of the interface files you need. BtRL lacks the new multiplayer lobby while WCS lacks the multiplayer interface completely IIRC. TBP has all the interface but due to the bugs in TBP final would probably be the most difficult to work with. If I were you I'd pick BtRL and simply replace the lobby files when you need them.

Yes, I only discovered FS2 very VERY recently thanks to the awesome BTRL demo so I don't own the game (not that I wouldn't someday like to play it, but my focus is mainly on redoing my old Trek mod under FS2 rather than getting hooked on another space combat game :)  )   I didn't realize there were 1000+ interface files though, that kind of has made me stop and reassess my plans, lol.  I was using the BTRL .ani and font files just to skip past each error until I could build a list of everything required but you're right, it may just be better to mod off an existing standalone game until I really understand how much is involved in recreating all the missing pieces.   I probably don't have to worry about the advanced features of FSO, since my original was a fairly simple (but fun) single-player "arcade" style Trek game not a Bridge Commander-type action-sim and that's all I really want to make - the more complicated it gets, the less likely it will ever get finished and never released (if it even warrants a release).

I did try tonight to see if could take my Galor-class model and just replace the cylon raider in BTRL with it, to prove to myself that I could make my own FS2 ships but alas it crashed the game.  What I think I will just try now is to create a proof-of-concept of my eventual Trek game using the trek.vp from the Unimatrix team's Star Trek TC.  They seemed to have done the best job at converting some Armada and BC models for their FS2 mod and the assets are very complete.  It occurred to me that if I can turn their FS2 mod into a standalone BTRL-style game, I essentially have a rough version of what I would eventually like to make and I can gradually replace all the pieces with my own models, textures, etc.   I'll also try to ask the unimatrix guys if I can reuse some of their converted ships although their website is all in german and I don't recall seeing an email address.  If anybody is in contact with them regularly, please let me know how I can reach them (or if they speak english - because my German is fairly lacking :) )

And if there are any templates or any existing resources that will cut down on the amount of time to rebuild the interfaces, I'd also be quite happy to use them to say the least.


 
Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
They are? From where?
Here (self pimpage :pimp:). I don't know if they're good enough or if anyone else finds them very useful, so I haven't gotten around to sticking it on freespacemods. I also haven't received many bug reports, so I don't know if there's too much wrong with it.

And if there are any templates or any existing resources that will cut down on the amount of time to rebuild the interfaces, I'd also be quite happy to use them to say the least.
I did it once for my mod and was a pain. :(

I made these so I'd never have to tweak all 1000+ files ever again (1024x768 only, 640x480 would've meant double the work for something hardly anyone uses).

Anyway, notes and instructions are included (requires imagemagick, and you have to create/obtain the backgrounds yourself) and the result is everything except the mainhall and the medals screen (yes, it does the loading bar ani, but you'll have to create the ani out of the pcx files it creates).

 
Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
Thanks FS, but unfortunately for some reason when I go to the page there doesn't seem to be a download button to press (and nothing pops up to ask if I want to download).  Not sure why - I'm using IE and I even turned off the security to see if that would work.  Can this be uploaded onto rapidshare or some other host?

Just an update on my progress as I try to merge the standalone BTRL game with the trek VP, the debugger seems to complain about not finding a needed texmap for one of the fighter POFs even though I can see it in the effects folder of the trek.vp.  I'm wondering if I misunderstand how the loading of VPs works.  Right now I have:
a.vp   <- I generate this and it has any files that are needed to fill in the absent FS2 assets. It has an
              effects folder with some explosion anims in it.
startrek.vp  <- this has all the trek ships, weapons, etc.  It also has an effects folder and it has the
                        laserglow04.tga which the POF uses but which right now the debugger says is missing

I assume that the FSO engine loads VPs in alphabetical order (so a.vp then startrek.vp) and it will load the files in the effects folder of each VP into memory.  I assume that loading the Startrek.vp's effect folder doesn't purge the previously loaded a.vp's effects folder or vice-versa.  Is that correct?

Now if both VPs had a tables folder and inside there each one had their own ships.tbl,  I am guessing that the last-loaded ships.tbl (so in this case, startrek.vp's ships.tbl) completely flushes the ships.tbl from "a.vp".  Or am I wrong here and instead it actually appends the contents of the two tables into one in memory?


 

Offline Jeff Vader

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Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
unfortunately for some reason when I go to the page there doesn't seem to be a download button to press
There is. On the left side should be a box saying "Processing download request" first and "Click here to start download" shortly. Tested with Firefox.
23:40 < achillion > EveningTea: ass
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14:08 < achillion > the level of discourse has really plummeted
14:08 < achillion > Let's talk about politics instead
14:08 <@The_E > butts and dongs are part of #hard-light's brand now
14:08 <@The_E > well
14:08 <@The_E > EvilBagel's brand, at least

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Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
Ah, yes it does work with Firefox.  For whatever reason IE seems to obscure the download area.

 

Offline karajorma

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Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
Here (self pimpage :pimp:). I don't know if they're good enough or if anyone else finds them very useful, so I haven't gotten around to sticking it on freespacemods. I also haven't received many bug reports, so I don't know if there's too much wrong with it.

That's actually pretty helpful but it's not a complete solution. I found it was missing quite a few files which I would then have to supply.

That said it is a huge help to anyone trying to replace the entire interface.
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Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
Here (self pimpage :pimp:). I don't know if they're good enough or if anyone else finds them very useful, so I haven't gotten around to sticking it on freespacemods. I also haven't received many bug reports, so I don't know if there's too much wrong with it.

That's actually pretty helpful but it's not a complete solution. I found it was missing quite a few files which I would then have to supply.

That said it is a huge help to anyone trying to replace the entire interface.
I'm open to suggestions on improvements. :)

 

Offline karajorma

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Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
Well like I said, it's missing a few files so it's not a complete replacement yet. Add the techroom ones for instance, the PXO lobby (if you haven't already).

If you turn on show ship and show weapons you should probably be able to get rid of sparky_hi and run the game in debug builds once you've got all the interface files it needs.

What you have so far is great. But it's not quite a replacement for the VP files yet.
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Offline starlord

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Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
Hello napseeker, starlord here.

Welcome to the HLP.

From what I remember, only one true space sim on the trek universe was created: that would be star trek invasion for the PS1.

Perhaps you might want to take a look at it? Also, it's quite interesting as the kam'jatae and hur'q are not common species in the trek universe, yet their ships are awesome...

Anyhow, I truly commend your efforts: I always wondered what starfleet command might look like as a space sim. Hopefully we'll find out...

 
Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
Well like I said, it's missing a few files so it's not a complete replacement yet. Add the techroom ones for instance, the PXO lobby (if you haven't already).

If you turn on show ship and show weapons you should probably be able to get rid of sparky_hi and run the game in debug builds once you've got all the interface files it needs.

What you have so far is great. But it's not quite a replacement for the VP files yet.
Which ones are missing exactly? The techroom (3 of them, iirc) and lobby ones should be in there, I think. I originally grabbed files from sparky_hi and sparky.

Currently it's meant to be for mods in addition to the existing vps, so not a complete replacement (it requires the existing <screen name>-m files, after all). I already mentioned the mainhall and medals.

I see scope creep. :D

 

Offline Whitelight

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Re: Making a standalone game using FS2?
I think this is the german startrek site discussed eariler in the thread.   :D

http://www.unimatrix01-fs2.de/13906/home.html

(edit) I noticed that it doesen`t contain any cardassian ships, awh well.
But does have extensive weapons, torpedoes are primaries tho, that may cause problems if mixed with other conversions..  :nervous:
« Last Edit: May 10, 2009, 09:22:51 pm by Whitelight »
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