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Hosted Projects - FS2 Required => Frontlines => Topic started by: Black Wolf on March 18, 2016, 01:41:32 am

Title: Frontlines 2322
Post by: Black Wolf on March 18, 2016, 01:41:32 am
What feels like a long time ago, when we released Frontlines 2334, we promised a short delay before restarting development on the next chapter of Frontlines. Well, although we've not been public about it until now, that's exactly what we did.

So today, I am officially announcing the worst kept secret in Freespace modding - Frontlines is coming back, and also going back. Way, way back.


2322 was the first setting I originally tried to build Frontlines for, but difficulties with balancing (specifically getting Capships to be both meaningful and not completely devastating to fighters) eventually led to it being abandoned in favour of a setting closer to FS1. Now, I'm much more confident about balancing the modpack, and, in fact, have made some decent progress towards that end.

So, while there'll be lots to announce over the next several weeks, I thought I'd start with a brief overview of what 2322 will be, and what the project goals are, and the best way to do that, I think, is to contrast it with our last release, Frontlines 2334. So, what changes when you go back in time 12 years? Unsurprisingly, a lot of things.

First, the fleets. 2334 was set immediately before FS1, so while we did get to see some new ships, especially on the Vasudan side, the fleets from the first few missions of FS1 were essentially the fleets we were using in our first release. That's all changed now. As far as combat warships go, the only ship you'll recognize from the original games will be the Fenris (although you'll likely recognize a few non combat ships, as well as some of the Vasudan ships from 2334). This represents a pretty big opportunity, in that we can tailor the ships, their weapons and everything about them precisely to our needs, however it's also a big burden, because a lot of stuff just has to be made from scratch. That's more or less what I've been doing since restarting the project in mid 2015.

A lot of those new ships, you've already seen. Others you'll see here, and still more as they're completed. But expect further movement on this issue and, thanks to the open development model we follow, expect releases in the leadup to the campaign.

A Terran and Vasudan gunship locked in combat.

The second big change is the level of technology employed by those fleets. In 2322, the Terrans had no small ship subspace drives - intra or intersystem, and were completely reliant on carriers. The Vasudans have some fighter scale drives, but they're rare and expensive. This changes the process of mission design quite a bit - battles are smaller and shorter, more reliant on capships. Another factor there are the weapons used - the Vasudans have plasma cannons as standard, but the Terrans are still primarily reliant on missiles and ship to ship torpedoes, even on their capital ships - only their newest, largest and most powerful Fenris class cruisers and Goliath cruiser-destroyers have a primarily energy based weapons system, and that also changes mission design for one key reasons - missiles rely on magazines which can (and do) run out. Expect restricted capship strikes, hit and run attacks and defenceless, out-of-ammo gunships to add to the excitement and the tension of many missions.

You might also note another change from that paragraph - while in 2334, like FS1, the Terrans and Vasudans were on a rough technological par, the same is not true in 2322. The Vasudans are clearly the more advanced race technologically, and you feel that in the campaign.

A Terran Claymore fighter engaging the Vasudans.

The third big change is setting. This is a pretty straightforward one - in 2334, we were on the offensive, enagaging the Vasudans in Deneb tryng to push through to Vasuda Prime itself. But twelve years earlier, the shoe was very much on the other foot, with the Terrans scambling to contain the Vasudans in the colony system of Delta Serpentis and out of Sol. Why does this matter? Because it means I can fill the missions with stations, of course! :p Expect appearances from the Endymion, Ceres and others.

Serpens Station, during a quiet moment in Delta Serpentis.

The Final big changes will be technical. One thing we had a few comments about with 2334 was the lack of Fury AI. While I still agree with the decision not to include it, advanced AI will be integrated completely with FL 2322, with each mission designed from the ground up with the changes implemented and in mind. You'll also have some challenges to deal with with your ships, be it limited ammo, heat maangement, or slow subsystem repair times, you'll find that evasion, high quality piloting and precision shooting is even more valuable in 2322 than in 2334. The skills you developed in 2334 will help, but that won't stop you having to relearn elements of how you fly a fighter in Freespace for 2322.

An Assault equipped Leto class fighter, loaded for bear.

So, there you have it. There's still got a lot to do - finalise the mod pack being the big one - before mission design can start in earnest (although the campaign is basically plotted out, nothing is final as yet). But I'll be posting updates, and hopefully semi regular content releases - over the next several months as we progress towards that point and hopefully beyond it.
Title: Re: Announcing Frontlines 2322
Post by: niffiwan on March 18, 2016, 03:02:01 am
sounds exciting, looking forward to what you & the team can cook up  :yes:
Title: Re: Announcing Frontlines 2322
Post by: Nyctaeus on March 18, 2016, 04:42:52 am
A high-quality FS1-styled mod. That's what I like and look forward :D! I hope it will be as cool as first release.
Title: Re: Announcing Frontlines 2322
Post by: Lykurgos88 on March 18, 2016, 07:12:38 am
I'm super happy that Frontlines saga continues  :pimp:

Keep up the good work!
Title: Re: Announcing Frontlines 2322
Post by: tomimaki on March 18, 2016, 10:55:56 am
Awesome  :yes:
Title: Re: Announcing Frontlines 2322
Post by: Ghost on June 27, 2016, 07:37:50 am
Damn, this looks rad. I just came across 2334, and it's hard as hell IMO(i'm out of practice). Looking forward to this! Hopefully it hasn't gone by the wayside.
Title: Re: Announcing Frontlines 2322
Post by: Black Wolf on June 27, 2016, 05:57:54 pm
Thanks, I hope 2334 keeps delivering for you. :) We worked hard on that campaign and the whole team is proud of it.

2322 has definitely not been left by the wayside, it's just suffering from the fact that it needs a bunch of mods completed before FREDding can really start, and I'm the only one doing them. If I get stuck into other projects, then Frontlines, unfortunately, tends to stall.

But stalls aren't fatal, and I definitely want to see FL continue. There are, if my memory serves, two major ongoing ships, and a few much smaller projects still to be built for the mod. The major ones are the Jupiter frigate (modelling stage) and Blowfish's version of Stratcomm's Naunet (that was at the texture stage, but then I lost a big chunk of the UV, so that's back at UV stage).

Minor ones are things like an interceptor variant of the Leto, it tweaks to the Ceres to make it more like a mining station - relatively small projects that I just need to focus on to complete in a relatively short time.

I'll try to post some more frequent stuff though, make sure we don't get forgotten. :)
Title: Re: Announcing Frontlines 2322
Post by: Black Wolf on March 06, 2017, 03:02:54 am
Been awhile since any new content got added, so here's a couple of WiP shots of the textures for the GTFg Jupiter.



[EDIT]I should point out, to prevent the model being partially covered in black and white spaces where it hasn't been textured, I've put a plain Fenris texture layer under everything else. That's why, in a few places (like the part at the top of the nose) you can see the colour and texture change a bit. They will be much more in line with the rest of the ship before it's finalised.
Title: Frontlines 2322 June 2017 Update
Post by: Black Wolf on June 20, 2017, 06:14:11 am
June 2017 Update.

Looking at this thread made me realise it's been over a year since I announced the second chapter, and work had begun on that chapter a good six months ahead of that, so this project has been ongoing for awhile. Longer than I initially thought, but, to be honest, I'm not hating the progress that's been made. I knew from day 1 that building a fleet would require a lot of model work, and that's happened. When the original mission plan was decided on, thirteen ships were identified that would need new models. Not all of them were entirely new - variants and things meant that a lot of work could be used more than once. But I'm pleased to point out that of those models, only four remain. The ships that have been released since then (and will be used for 2322) are (in no particular order):

The Endymion Station
The Ceres
The Titan, Assault Titan and Recon Titan
The Cleopatra
The Jupiter
The Assault Leto
The Neith

Still to come are a large intersystem ferry transport, two sentry cannons, and another Leto variant*. In other words, we're well and truly over the worst of it when it comes to making this mod pack happen. When those last few pieces are out of the way, it'll be FREDding time.

Of course, I realise that's probably not what anyone is actually interested in hearing. The big question is: What does this mean for release time? Well, there's a bit of good news there: The campaign has a pretty firm plan for eight missions, none of which rely on any particularly complex scripting or anything like that - FREDding takes time, of course, and getting mission balance right is hard (not to mention modpack balance, which is still very much subject to change). I don't want to imply that all that needs to happen is the completion of these last four relatively minor new ships and then a few weeks later we'll have a campaign, but I do think that the >2 years spent (to date)
building the fleet will represent significantly more time than will be taken building the missions.

That, of course, brings up a second point - that's not a very efficient distribution of time for a project like this. If a new FREDder asked me a bout a project like this I'd tell them to use existing assets and focus their time on FREDding. But the modifier to that rule in this case is that Frontlines is more like a banner than a single project, and when 2322 is completed, we'll have examples of the Terran and Vasudan fleets at the beginning and end of the 14 Year War. While I doubt that future projects will be able to be made entirely with the existing mod pack (there's at least one Jupiter variant yet to be built, for example) the amount of work will be far lower as the two species' fleets simply transition from one into the other, rather that ever needing again to be built from scratch. If there's a third Frontlines campaign (and while I'd be happy to simply have bookended the TV War, a thir campaign is not out of the question - the original plan was five minicampaigns after all), it will probably be set in 2333 or 2334, and require almost no new assets at all, which will massively reduce the amount of time required.

Also, without wanting to be arrogant about it, and with no disrespect to the old U War team, one of my aims here was to create something like a "definitive" pre-FS1 shipset that others could use as their basis if they wanted to tell a story set during this period. Even if they didn't want to be linked up in any way with FL, or be constrained by the stories we tell and the limitations we place on the history of the era, having a fully fleshed out, reasonably high quality pair of fleets custom built for the era will bean extremely useful place for future campaign designers to start from if they decide they want to play in the TV-War era sandbox. To me, there's value in that even if it has meant a fairly outrageously long development period for an 8 mission campaign.

*The GTI Acheron hasn't been forgotten, but its role in 2322 is essentially as a piece of furniture - it's in one mission, but the Vasudans don't attack it, so it's just kind of.... there, covering the Sol node. It's fully UVed, and probably would be very easy to complete, and I expect at some point I probably will take a crack at getting it in game, but it's not something that I would let hold up completion of the mod, so I don't consider it part of the core modpack.
Title: Re: Frontlines 2322
Post by: Black Wolf on July 21, 2017, 03:09:16 am
What's this? Another update a month after the last one? Might it be becoming a regular thing? Well, err... probably not. But hey, maybe! I can try! What progress has been made though? Well, see below:



The GTT Monarch was among the first custom built warships of the subspace era. It was designed to carry fighters through interplanetary space with its  then newly developed subspace drive, though it lacked the internal hangar space that allows that function on more modern vessels like the Jupiter class frigate. Instead, it was equipped with four external dockpoints to which fighters could dock, allowing them to leave the orbital facilities where they were primarily based for the first time. This method was relatively inefficient, but was necessary due to the very limited space available on ships of the era. Technological progress saw the development of the Canberra class carrier, and while the two classes briefly coexisted within the fleet, the significantly more flexible Canberra class soon displaced its predecessor.

The spaceframes were given a second life after intersystem subspace nodes were discovered. They were converted from carriers to transports, essentially redesigned to be subspace ferries - small shuttles and transports that lacked intersystem drives could dock on and be carried between systems. The conversion involved adding a number of additional external dockpoints and removing the defensive turrets that had previously been equipped. In 2322, that remains their primary role, though as unarmed transports, their ability to operate outside of secure systems or without escort is limited. As the war has heated up, Command has investigated the possibility of rearming and modernising the vessels to operate as patrol craft, or simply to allow them to expand their footprint as transports into contested areas.

So, the Monarch will hopefully be the next FL ship released. It's designed to work with my Mercury class shuttle, which dock neatly onto those 4 ventral dockpoints, basically solving the problem of medical evacuations and things for a Terran fleet that can't really afford to divert warships to get people between, say, Delta Serpentis and Sol, in a period where warships are among the few classes of ships that actually have intersystem drives. It's also kind of designed to integrate the Canberra better with the rest of the fleet. There's a degree of design consistency (even just with the textures) between the Fenris, Jupiter and Titan, whiole the Goliath (again, at least in texture form) has a clear lineage towards the Orion, as well as the Ceres, Endymion, Arcadia etc., but the Canberra is isolated and doesn't look like anything else. This ship will add a bit of context, I guess - old Terran capships look like this, newer Terran capships look like the Fenris, and really big capships (or stations) look like the Orion.

I'm expecting it'll be finished relatively soon, though it will take a little longer yet as the plan is to build several iterations - the Pre TV War era version (seen here with the big missile turrets),  the 2322 version (basically this, but with the missile turrets stripped and some additional docks added) and a later version, which will probably keep its dockpoints but get its missile turrets back, and a couple of plasma turrets too - basically the rearmed transport version discussed above. There's still some texture work to do as well - it's close, but there's still detail work to do.

There are a few tricks in this model that the images don't make clear. Those panels at the back slide in when the engines are off, and are only deployed when the ship is moving. The other moving parts are the blue-grey metal bits in the middle. It's not immediately obvious, but those are sliding doors, as opposed to just parts that the armour doesn't cover. When they open, it reveals a spot for the TGas-1 to dock. Essentially, this is meant to be a quick refueling method - these things were, after all, the Terran fleets only way of ferrying fighters (or anything, for that matter) around in the early days, and the ability to refuel this way meant that they wouldn't have to stop for any signfiicant length of time to refuel during an emergency.
Title: Re: Frontlines 2322
Post by: Trivial Psychic on July 21, 2017, 06:39:39 pm
If you filled the empty spaces with tanks and added some kind of collector array on the front, it could be a make-shift gas miner.
Title: Re: Frontlines 2322
Post by: Nyctaeus on July 21, 2017, 09:32:03 pm
Lovely ^^
Title: Re: Frontlines 2322
Post by: starlord on July 23, 2017, 04:08:51 pm
Nice! Would that be a counterpart to the qeb? You could also use the monarch as a tugboat or tender, in the case of a neutralized warship to be towed to safety for instance...
Title: Re: Frontlines 2322
Post by: Black Wolf on July 23, 2017, 11:58:18 pm
Nice! Would that be a counterpart to the qeb? You could also use the monarch as a tugboat or tender, in the case of a neutralized warship to be towed to safety for instance...

To be honest, it doesn't really have a direct equivalent - probably the closest would be the Argo or Qeb though, yeah - though the Qeb won't be part of the FL modpack.

As far as it finding use in various other roles, a battlefield recovery vessel for damaged capships is a good idea, and probably achievable fairly simply, though I'm not quite sure how best to express that function geometrically. The best way would be arms that grab the capship it docks to, but that requires specific animation code for specific classes - a tricky thing to do. I'm also probably going to have the shuttle docks pull double duty as cargo docks, so it could also be a proto-Atlantis without modifying the geometry at all, just the pof data.

As far as making a gas miner variant, well, TBH I hadn't considered that. I have a cradle that could be docked to it that would essentially convert the underslung docks to TGas-1 docks, so it would have capacity for up to six cannisters (depending on whether all 4 can fit lengthwise on the bottom, I've not measured that). Not sure about making any kind of collector though - I really don't know what that would look like. I've got a nearly finished Oasis HTL though, so if it turns out a gas miner is something needed for later FL episodes I think Id be more inclined to revise and upgrade the TG Bromios than to put that functionality into this ship. It just seems a little too far outside of its intended role.
Title: Re: Frontlines 2322
Post by: starlord on July 24, 2017, 02:08:07 am
I thought the qeb was once featured as part of front lines, why the change of mind?
Title: Re: Frontlines 2322
Post by: Black Wolf on July 24, 2017, 10:38:54 am
I thought the qeb was once featured as part of front lines, why the change of mind?

It was part of the origninal modpack, back when Frontlines 2322 was supposed to be the first campaign. That modpack was way, way unbalanced though, making the gameplay less than spectacularly fun.

Partly as a result of that modpack needing so much work, it was basically abandoned, and focus shifted to 2334, so that we'd have a baseline balance (the first few missions of FS1 and the FS1 weapons, ships etc.) The Qeb wasn't migrated over to the new setting, so it didn't really find a place in 2334.

Now that we're back into 2332, the design process is different: The included mods are driven more or less entirely by the missions plans, and there's just no missions that call for a big Vasudan transport in the current outline. FL 2322 takes place in a Terran system being invaded by vasidans, so there's not a hell of a lot of call for Vasudan civilian ships generally. TBH, we're probably skimping a little on the Terran civvy ships, but we're getting around that by not having too many places for civilians to show up in the mission plans. There's one spot where it might kind of fit, but if I used it, I'd want to improve it, and adding models onto my queue like that would just push the release back.

All that said, while I'm not 100% willing to commit to a third Frontlines campaign, if there is one, it will probably be set in Vasudan territory (probably a behind enemy lines type scenario), which would require a lot more Vasudan infrastructure and civilian shipping. If it shows up anywhere, it will probably be there, but likely edited and rebuilt to suit FL's needs specifically.

TL;DR: It was in the modpack, but we don't really have a place for it right now, maybe if there's ever a third FL campaign.
Title: Re: Frontlines 2322
Post by: starlord on July 24, 2017, 10:52:29 am
I see. Many thanks.
Title: Re: Frontlines 2322
Post by: 5thAce on April 27, 2019, 09:16:48 am
Is Frontlines still happening? I quite enjoyed the first one!