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Interface Mods

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“If there's three or four of us sitting in a vacuum and we're playing the game and we're designing the UI, that's never going to compete with thousands of people playing the game hundreds of hours a week collaboratively solving problems that they encounter. There's no way we're going to be able to compete with that. It makes sense to take advantage of that community.”[1]
-- Hermann Peterscheck


Introduction

NetDevil has confirmed that they will be working with the modding community to create a better game experience for all Jumpgate players. Perhaps the most exciting part of the opportunity is that, rather than something like LUA, NetDevil has developed their interface using Scaleform, which is 100% Flash based. Because of this, JGE mods will vector-based, scalable, aesthetic, powerful and able to communicate directly with outside sources including web servers, IRC, and database applications. The possibilities are stunning.[2]

  • NetDevil intends to work closely with the community to develop the modding system. This will occur during beta as modders figure out new and interesting ways to do things.[3]
  • At this point, NetDevil/Codemasters reserve the right to review all 3rd party mods before allowing them to be published.[4] This is a departure from the open model employed by Blizzard and other developers.

Scaleform

Scaleform is the back-end used to convert Flash into vectors usable by the game engine. This means that your Flash SWFs are actually translated on the fly and inserted directly into the rendered screen, rather than running on top of it. Scaleform GFx targets next-gen PC and console games and is designed specifically to take advantage of Flash.[5]

Scaleform Flash interfaces have been used in a number of titles including:

  • Crysis
  • Mass Effect
  • Dawn of War – Dark Crusade
  • Sid Meyer's Railroads
  • Sid Meyer's Civilization 4

Technical Details

General

  • Like other titles, the interface and the game engine appear to be separate entities.
  • The stock (alpha test) interface can be very clearly seen in this video clip.

Flash

  • Flash 8 is the highest supported version under Scaleform.[6]
    • This is a restriction on the current version of Scaleform, not NetDevil's design
      • There is no news from Scaleform regarding an upgrade to Flash 10 when version 3.0 is released
      • Nor is NetDevil in a position to comment on upgrading from 2.x to 3.x when it becomes available as the upgrade to ActionScript 3 would require an almost total re-write of the UI code.
  • Standard SWF files can be imported right into the game[2]
  • Flash can only ask the game for information, it cannot manipulate the game engine.[2]
  • Mods will only be limited by what Scaleform supports. No other limitations will be imposed[2]

Scaleform Limitations

  • There are some limitations on what Flash 8 can do within the constraints of Scaleform
    • Playsound() does not work.[7]
    • Embedded movies do not work.[7]
    • Draggable components do not transition over.[7]
    • Converting from vector to raster is much more cpu-efficient.[7]
    • Too many big alpha-blends will crush game performance.[7]
    • "The current version pushes data from the game to flash, so replacing existing windows is, in theory, reasonably easy, but building new ones and getting ad hoc information from the game does not work right now."[7]
  • "Right now we can modify UI in the game to look very different fairly quickly. Functionality is another matter as it requires much tighter integration."[8]
  • NetDevil is currently working to make the system more robust.[7]

Reference Links

  • Need new reference links to AS2 & associated programming tools
  • We are currently trying to get reference materials from Scaleform regarding their engine

Sources

  1. Hermann Peterscheck Interviewed on All Things Jumpgate – September 2, 2008
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Scott “Scorch” Brown, President of Netdevil – IRC Chat Log – October 6, 2008.
  3. Hermann "Draker" Peterscheck - Codemasters Forum - October 11, 2008
  4. Katie "Khatie" Postma - JGE/US Forums - February 7, 2009
  5. Scaleform GFx product information website
  6. Nicole "Awen" Hamlett (Community Manager, NetDevil) - IRC Chat
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 Hermann "Draker" Peterscheck - Codemasters Forum - October 11, 2008
  8. Hermann "Draker" Peterscheck - Codemasters Forum - October 11, 2008

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