Monday, February 27, 2017

Building Star Wars Armada for HoloLens

As I continue to learn UnityHoloLens, I wanted to take on something more complex. Fantasy Flight Game's Star Wars Armada seemed a suitable challenge.

Armada is a table top game using miniatures to simulate combat between Star Wars capital ships and squadrons. And, it turns out to translate really well to HoloLens. This post is mostly a series of notes related to what I tried and what I learned along the way.

I started off using using primitives for the ships, cubes and spheres. While this was workable and I could have built the entire game this way it was uninspiring. So I created 3D models using a Matter and Form scanner and the actual Armada miniatures. While, I was eventually able to get to reasonable quality scans, the process of converting those scans into clean, low-poly models that could be used in Unity required more time than I wanted to commit. So I switched to using various open source models and edited them in Blender (which was it's own learning adventure).

While Armada is played on a table, taking the game into 3D seemed obvious though it required changes to the rules that impacted game balance. These include the number of shields a ship has, the number of batteries that can fire, possible targeting surfaces and moving damage from one shield to another. I'm not sure what I did would work if this was a production game but, it was fun to try to put myself in the game designer's shoes for a bit.

The Armada miniature scale turned out to be too small for comfortable gaze targeting. I experimented with various sizes and ended up at 2X the physical model scale. This resulted in a play area that was a 2 meter cube or a 2x2x3 meter rectangle which is what is shown in the videos.

I tried and implemented many different user interface versions as I went, and while many of these remain in the project — some are decent others not so much, by the end I kept coming back to voice. I tried to always have a gaze or gesture option available as well, but voice almost always ended up being simpler and more flexible.

Squadron movement ended up being quite difficult and was re-implemented a half-dozen times. Precise movement of objects in 3D and placing them are in relation to other objects required, in many cases, for physically moving around them to check perspective. I'm still not happy with the result.

Overall, I probably implemented 75% of the rule set. I did everything from ship selection, tracking points, the movement tool, actual movement, combat, and victory scoring.

Some game features — command dials and targeting adjustments, which are core to the game, I automated with an algorithm making the decisions. Others, such as upgrade cards and obstacles, I didn't even attempt. I also started work on sharing so you could play the game with multiple headsets, but didn't manage to get it working using an emulator and a single HoloLens.

And, importantly, the game is actually pretty fun to play as is.  Next up (maybe), D&D mass combat with holographic miniatures.

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