Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Dev Diary #45: Console & Controller UI

Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Dev Diary #45: Console & Controller UI

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Hi there, and welcome to this week’s development journal. This is the very last one before release August 6th. 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?

Controllers.jpg

The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 mappings

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.

Customize.jpg

Some interface have seen major overhauls, like the commander customizer features tabs for each step.


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. Read more about interface scaling in this development diary.


Interface.jpg


The default interface is slightly scaled up as default on Console


Multiplayer

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

The Controller Interface

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.

PS4_Selector.jpg

The Selector moves as a ghost over the map

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.

XBox_RadialMenu.jpg

The Radial Menu includes larger state changing controls and information breakdowns (Xbox)


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. .

TCTarget.jpg

Quick Target Selection in Tactical Combat


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.

PS4_Infomode.jpg

Activate info mode and snap the cursor to any Info Point you’d like to know more about.

Concluding

With the game still having to prove itself in the marketplace, we can already see big benefits to a same-ship, multi-platform release. Next to the PC version having good controller support at launch, the extra investments in QA and optimization benefit all platforms. Looking at the game, it is the deepest Age of Wonders game so far, its safe to say no concessions have been made here. We are happy with the level of feature parity. Modding support is the biggest omission at this point.

For what it’s worth, personally I love playing Planetfall on the living room 4K TV and big speakers (still on PC as dev kits can’t leave the office!). It can be as relaxing and immersive as using mouse + keyboard.
 

Gyor

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That even the PC version has controller support would make porting it to Stadia easier.
 

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Not strictly related to this dd but is there no full write up of the Amazons faction?
 

Pyoro

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Japanese companies discover the joy of PC releases. Western companies discover the possibility of strategy games on console. Oh, truly, we live in wondrous times ...
 

Quark02

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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. .
Does this include destructible terrain, the explosive things etc.?
 

LennartGS

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Does this include destructible terrain, the explosive things etc.?
To target obstacles, you need to select free targeting mode. (press right stick), as maps are cluttered with destructible stuff

Not strictly related to this dd but is there no full write up of the Amazons faction?
Good point, I think it's because we did so many videos on them.
 

nvc for the soul

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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?
Great and funny introduction to the topic.
An interesting read but less applicable for me personal than the previous journals on the NPC-factions.
As this was the last journal: thanks for all of them - it made the wait less and more difficult at the same time.
 

Memory

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I'm glad this is coming to consoles, my introduction to strategy games on PC was via console, Syndicate on my Medgadrive and X-Com on my playstation send me down a strategy rabbit hole that i've never emerged from lol.

I have the PC version pre-ordered for myself and the X1 version for when me and my brother want to MP via gameshare, happy to see the performance options also.

I hope this does well and you find a new audience. making these types of games more accessible is great and more dev's should do it instead of turning their nose up at console gamers.
 

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Not strictly related to this dd but is there no full write up of the Amazons faction?
Even without a DD that is the faction we know more about. The Syndicate and Assembly are, at least for me, more interesting factions :)

Good point, I think it's because we did so many videos on them.
Still even then, you can make one next week to commemorate the release and complete the set :)
 

Alblaka

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And see, this is why I love Paradox.

Not because of supporting consoles, because I don't even own any beyond my PC,

but because of the clear stream of information and public reasoning behind large-scale decisions.

In the hellish landscape of AAA-garbage that is plaguing Gaming as a whole, please never change, Paradox.
 

Lord of Riva

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Good luck on the consoles.

When it comes to TBS the Japanese were always already there and it is high time that games like AoW join them.
 

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Already preordered and preloaded on ps4. No matter what, I was going to play and enjoy planetfall, but the option to play on console (much better performance and more reliable than my laptop) really ups the game's value for me. Not to mention all the other console gamers I can now evangelise!
As this is our last. DD, I want thank you guys again for your commitment to engaging with us. Following the development these many months has been exciting and educational.
 

D3adgods

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Excuse me, you just can't name drop Overlord and not make me think there's still a chance to see a new game for the series.
 

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So...
Controller is fully supported on PC?
And my Pc Is already connected to my TV.

This means I can switch between mouse/keyboard/multimonitor/chair and controller/TV/couch at my will (or the will of my wife ;-P)?
 

Riekopo

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Performance Mode only does 30FPS? I'd hate to see what the normal mode does then...why no crossplay? Also, I think the Xbox One has the option to support mouse and keyboard if a developer wants to enable it.
 

Atomixtazy

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Hello,

Small question perhaps silly but on the pc version using a controller will we have the same interface as on console for example with access to the radial menu?
 

LennartGS

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Small question perhaps silly but on the pc version using a controller will we have the same interface as on console for example with access to the radial menu?
Yes, the interface basically looks the same as on console, along with radial menus.

So...
Controller is fully supported on PC?
And my Pc Is already connected to my TV.

This means I can switch between mouse/keyboard/multimonitor/chair and controller/TV/couch at my will (or the will of my wife ;-P)?
Yes, it can switch mode without exiting the game.

Any chance of a Switch version in the future ?
Can't say yet; the game has to do well enough AND we have overcome all sorts of technical hurdles. The CPU load for this game is massive with the AIs and complex auto combat calculations.
 

Voidlord

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  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Sword of the Stars
  • Supreme Ruler 2020
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
I remember a while back I said that Paradox would bring Strategy Games to the console and they will make it work. Got “respectively disagree” quite a bit from that. Well looks like I was right. Cities Skylines, Stellaris and now AoW Planetfall. Must not be smug. Console gaming is so relaxing and easy to do, just sit back and relax and turn it on.

Yea can’t wait for this though. It releases on my day off from work so I will be able to play it in peace.

I like the fact you aren’t skimping on anything for the console release, that was my biggest gripe for Stellaris Console, even though it was needed I would say.
 

Truewhit

Colonel
74 Badges
Dec 30, 2012
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  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis IV: Mare Nostrum
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Divine Wind
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Tyranny - Bastards Wound
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Cities: Skylines - Natural Disasters
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
  • Cities: Skylines - Parklife Pre-Order
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
  • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Tyranny - Tales from the Tiers
  • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cradle of Civilization
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Shadowrun: Hong Kong
  • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • Victoria 2
  • 500k Club
  • Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Revelations
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Tyranny: Archon Edition
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
I hope that age of wonders does well due to it being the only games of its kind on two consoles.