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Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Console & Controller UI

Aug 6, 2019     Guides
Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Console & Controller UI

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Console & Controller UI



In this journal we’ll be taking a look at the console versions of Planetfall: Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and their respective high-power variants the PlayStation Pro and Xbox One X. We’ll be discussing the Why, the tech challenges and the controller interface.

For PC gamers there is also something here, as controllers are supported for their platform too. We’ll also provide some tech and business background on this simultaneous multi-platform release

Why bring Age of Wonders: Planetfall to Consoles?

Planetfall comes to console because we want to spread the goodness that is the Age of Wonders series to as many human souls as possible. We spread this message with two core principles:

  1. No concessions on game depth during the design process.
  2. As much Gameplay feature parity within platform limits.

But strategy on console, what sort of unholy alliance is this?

The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 Mappings​

Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Console & Controller UI
Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Console & Controller UI

Strategy on Console

Before we started developing console versions, we examined the overall proposition:

  • Overcoming Misconceptions: I think the main reason why people think "Strategy doesn’t work on console (or controller)” is because they refer to the classic RTS ports of yore. Of course, TBS doesn’t involve the frantic map clicking like classic RTS Games require. Still its a hurdle to overcome.
  • Turn Based Tactics is proven Market on Console. On the upside, Turn-based tactical games have actually turned out to be a good match for console and a controller. Recent tactical tbs games have proven they can be very relaxing to play from the couch, (or using a handheld) and some have been very successful. Time to give a full-blown strategy title a shot – it’s been ages since Civ: Revolution.
  • Screen Size: With the advent of higher resolution (1080p) and especially bigger TVs, one of the last technical hurdles has fallen away. (in the previous console generation, you still had to support fuzzy CRT screens)
  • Overlord: We leverage our experience with Overlord which was a multi-platform release.
  • Support of Paradox: From our experience with Overlord we knew that doing a multi-platform release is no walk in the park. Paradox provided the support we needed on a variety of fronts: Publishing, QA, Marketing, Budgets etc. We wouldn’t do this as an indie. Stellaris’ console version was slightly ahead of us and its progress was inspiring.

When we started integrating Console in development, we launched two initiatives.

  • Console Tech Team: Michel Paulissen and Rick van Miltenburg joined the team and together with Arno van Wingerden and Lascha Lagidse they made the tech foundations to make our engine multi-platform and ensured that game is compliant with certifications.
  • Console Interface Team: The core UI team consisting of Nick Windig and Joren Bolhuis has done a very good job at ensuring all the interfaces work well with controller, in combination with Rick and the gameplay team. Tom Bird was involved heavily in the first combat proof of concepts.

Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Console & Controller UI

Hardware Considerations

Although this generation of gaming console has been around since 2013 the hardware still holds up compared to the PCs we need to support. (A significant part of our PC audience plays on laptops)

So regardless of console power, we need to support a wide range of hardware already; from energy efficient laptop with integrated graphics cards, to top of the line gaming rigs that require their own power plant.

Pro and One X Support

The normal consoles run on a native 1920×1080 pixel resolution. Many console games actually render at a lower resolution and then scale up, but due to the intricate, slower paced nature of the game we favor crispness on the base machines.

The Pro and One X consoles have two options allowing players to spend their extra power according to their preferences:

  • Performance Mode: Makes game run faster: 1080p with a boost in frame rate. It should maintain a higher frame rate even when the going gets tough (mass battles, maps al the way zoomed out). It should be fairly consistent at 30fps (using vsync)
  • Resolution Mode: Makes the game look prettier (esp on 4K displays) The interface is rendered at 4k, with 3D world rendered in 1440p, before being scaled to the required output. Frame rate can be a little less stable, but for the type of game we feel it's acceptable.

Interface Scaling

TV sizes and play distances vary a lot, so we added a proper interface scaling setting to the game. As default, the console interface renders slightly bigger on screen compared to the PC version.

Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Console & Controller UI

Multiplayer

For the avoidance of doubt, the new adaptive multiplayer system works on console. No cross-platform play unfortunately.

Map and Event Selection

The player moves a cursor locked in the center of the screen around to select map entities and choose (movement) targets. This selector snaps to the hex grid. To reduce manual scrolling and selecting, players use the 2DO list and event system to center and select things that require attention.

Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Console & Controller UI

The Radial Menu

Radial menu requires you to quickly open interfaces. From top, clockwise: Overviews, Diplomacy, Quests, Imperial Archives (Help System), Skip Turn, Unit Template Manager, Operations, Research.

Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Console & Controller UI

Target Selection

Using the shoulders, you can quickly swap between valid targets for the selected abilities. The selection defaults to the target with the highest chance to hit. .

Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Console & Controller UI

Info Mode

When pressing this button the interface shows a popup giving more information on the currently selected control, similar to a mouse tooltip. Using the DPAD or sticks, you can move a cursor around to other onscreen controls and information elements - all marked with an (i) symbol - to get more information.

Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Console & Controller UI