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The Mechanics of Aesthetic Decoupling

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Huckleberry
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The Mechanics of Aesthetic Decoupling

After parsing through all the information provided by the Avatar Builder and with some feedback from this thread and visuals provided by this update, I've got what I think is how the Aesthetic Decoupling might work.

Before I get into the details, I'd like to set some things up front. First, the devs are going to want to maximize the duplication of efforts so that character animations can be used for as many different powers as possible. Likewise, they will want to be able to re-use power effects for as many powers as possible. This is because with aesthetic decoupling, a player may want to use animation A with power effect B on power C, etc. The more modular this can be, the more efficient the dev visual artists' work will be.

So I figure each power can be broken down into the following parts:

  • The Animation Element (the animations the player character performs when activating the power):
  • The Power Effects Element (the particles, beams, shields, and all the visual elements of the power upon activation):

  • The Hit Effect Element (because not every power will cause an effect or a reaction in the target when it hits):

  • The Lingering Effects Element (temporary effects caused by this specific power):

  • Power-Specific Persistent Effects (could also be classified as Lingering Effects):
  • Generic Buffs and Debuffs (to keep power effects from overwhelming the screen. These could be buffs and debuffs from other players maybe, or buffs and debuffs that warrant no special effects of their own):

For a total power effects package that looks like this:

I've parsed the aesthetic details of the primary power sets for each archetype, but ONLY the details that affect aesthetic decoupling.
The details are:

  1. Target. The animation and power effects for a single target attack might be different than the animations and effects for a cone attack or a point blank area of effect ability, for instance.
  2. Cast Time. Some powers are slow and some are very fast. This dictates the number of frames for the animation and the power effects. Some animations might be able to be slowed down or sped up to fit into other cast times, while others might not be.
  3. Number of Actions.
    • We saw in the update that some powers are not just one hit for one damage number, but consist of several hits for a sum of damage. For example:
      Nerve attack-
    • Toggled Powers, or as Tannim222 calls them switched powers, might need dedicated animations and/or power effects because their duration lasts longer than the initial power activation.
    • Alternate activation. Some powers have an alternate activation (usually associated with knocking a target back instead of down or up) that might require a different animation or power effect
    • Charge. Some powers can be charged up before activating and this affects animations and power effects.
  4. Whether a Hit Effect occurs or not.
  5. Lingering Effects. It doesn't matter on whom the lingering effects occur, the character, the target or something else, the effects are the effects.
  6. Special Effects are denoted by brackets [ and ]. After going around and around with this effort, I've realized it would be best if every power set had its own unique special effects. These would apply above and beyond the aesthetic decoupling modular effects. Anywhere in the following tables that you see [ brackets ], that is where the special effects show. I'll explain more when I describe each Archetype's table below.

Here are the tables:

    But first, some definitions of terms you will find in the tables. These are my terms and probably do not all reflect terms that will be used in the game.:
    • Root = movement debuff
    • Slow = movement debuff + recharge debuff
    • Haste = movement buff + recharge buff
    • Obscure = awareness debuff
    • Barrier = a protective effect that appears as an aura, shell, swarm or force field
    • GTAoE and GTSummon = Ground Targeted, typically the player selects a location using their mouse cursor and a graphical UI target pattern. This probably requires the character to perform a few frames of animation in a repeating loop while its player is selecting the target location
    • TAoE = Targeted AoE, an area effect centered on a selectable target
    • PBAoE = Point Blank, usually reserved for radial effect Fx around the target (usually the caster, but not always)
    • PBSummon = A summon at the caster's location
    • Toggle = A persistent power that is selected once to activate and must be selected again to inactivate
    • All other terms are official MWM terms explained elsewhere in official updates, etc.
  • Guardians. Preservation and Strategy are difficult, since most of their special powers are just buffs or debuffs. So in order to set them apart from generic buffs and debuffs, these power sets might need some dedicated lingering visual FX on the targets to show the player that their character's effects are in place. I set aside a proc effect for Vampiric Emanation for the two-part visuals (one for the attack and one for dispensing the leached benefits of that attack).
  • Operators. Force Control special power effects would be some sort of interposing partial barrier, particle effect or aura.
  • Enforcers. Because of their combo ability, Tactical Combat's special power effects should occur when a combo is proc'd by a different animation and special ComboFx. I think the special power effects for Super Strength powerset should occur in the Hit Effect Element of the Fx. According to Tannim222, all Massive Melee powers start with cast time=slow. So the special Fx for Massive melee might best if they somehow portray the speed increase with Fx in addition to the actual speeding up of the animation..
  • Rangers. Unlike Operator's Force Control, the Ranger's Force Blast might be better served with Hit Effects akin to Enforcer's Super Strength, since it consists mostly of knockbacks.
  • Stalwarts. Solid Form's effects increase while immobile, so I can picture an effect that rises from the ground and/or becomes substantial.

In conclusion, when it comes time for a player to select their power effects, I can see a multitude of modular power effects and animations to choose from. But they would only need to choose from those animations and power effects that have been curated by the devs to apply to that particular power.

  1. Depending upon the power, the animations will be curated for them to reflect
    • The target type
    • The cast time
    • The number of attacks
    • and I expect it will be modified to reflect charge, toggle and alternate activations as necessary
  2. Next they pick the Power Emanation Point (not covered by this discussion)
  3. And once the animation and emanation point are set, the player will get to choose what the power FX look like. According To Tannim222's post #3 below, the Hit Fx (if any) and Lingering Fx (if any) will be included in this choice. The available power Fx will also be curated based upon:
    • The target Type
    • Cast Time
  4. The player chooses the hit Fx if there are any
  5. Then the Player gets to select What the lingering Fx get to look like for that power

I expect the UI would look like CoX in which the character animates the attack in a repeating loop while the player picks and chooses various options until satisfied.
In addition, (probably first actually) the player will get to pick what their special powerset Fx will look like. They only need to do this once, as it will apply to all the powerset powers as appropriate.

I fully expect that every power set will come with its own default animations and Fx so a player can just [accept] their way through without having to spend much time at all customizing it. If they do this, there will be a secondary benefit in that many of the animations and Fx created for each set will be eligible as options for the other power sets using aesthetic decoupling. These, then, would be the base animations and Fx delivered on day one. With additional aesthetic options like tentacles, music, hex magic, etc., etc, added as the devs get to them.

This was written over the course of the month of February, 2022. Any changes made to the Avatar Builder since I started may not be accurately reflected herein. Also, a number of assumptions have been made due to incomplete or misleading power descriptions.

I look forward to seeing what others think about how this will be done.


I like to take your ideas and supersize them. This isn't criticism, it is flattery. I come with nothing but good will and a spirit of team-building. If you take what I write any other way, that is probably just because I wasn't very clear.
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The freedom and creativity of

The freedom and creativity of Aesthetic Decoupling is why I am still here. No one else offers such customization to players.

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A couple of things:

A couple of things:
The break down from animation to particle effect to hit effect is quite correct.

To be clear the particle effects will determine your hit effect and any lingering effect (if any). Players won’t be choosing each one individually.

Toggles aren’t just switched. We have 3 different types of “toggles”:

A standard toggle or just “toggle”: you activate the power, it stays on costing you Power over time until you turn it off.

A switch: you turn this power on m, it stays in, but reduced the total amount of Power you have available.

A timer: you activate the power, it costs power over time, but as a set duration it can remain active.


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Tannim222 wrote:
Tannim222 wrote:

Toggles aren’t just switched. We have 3 different types of “toggles”:

A standard toggle or just “toggle”: you activate the power, it stays on costing you Power over time until you turn it off.

A switch: you turn this power on m, it stays in, but reduced the total amount of Power you have available.

A timer: you activate the power, it costs power over time, but as a set duration it can remain active.

Oooh. That's good to know. Some things in the power descriptions make much more sense now as well. Thank you.
The player still retains the ability to cancel a timer before it expires, correct?

Would there be a difference between these three from an animation and power aesthetic perspective? I understand that the Player UI would have to discriminate between them, and obviously the mechanics of power consumption and duration change, but would the character animations and power effects differ? They seem like they would all be aesthetically identical. I'll edit my post to reflect your answer.


I like to take your ideas and supersize them. This isn't criticism, it is flattery. I come with nothing but good will and a spirit of team-building. If you take what I write any other way, that is probably just because I wasn't very clear.
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Huckleberry wrote:
Huckleberry wrote:

The player still retains the ability to cancel a timer before it expires, correct?

That is the intent.

[/quote=Huckleberry] Would there be a difference between these three from an animation and power aesthetic perspective? I understand that the Player UI would have to discriminate between them, and obviously the mechanics of power consumption and duration change, but would the character animations and power effects differ? They seem like they would all be aesthetically identical. I'll edit my post to reflect your answer.

While it is much too soon to get into the AD system, if a suite of animations offers more then one option for lack of a better term - “power up toggle” animations then yes.

We may have limits for how many animations we can use for customizing stuff like this for launch. But I can be wrong. We will know more of what we have to work with and what we can add for launch later on.


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One thing I thought about

One thing I thought about half way through the effort was the difference between a narrow cone attack and a wide cone attack. I would expect the number of acceptable animations might be different for narrow cones than for wide cones. For example, I could expect a simple hand blast Kamehameha animation could be an acceptable option for a narrow cone, bit might be inappropriate for a wide cone.


I like to take your ideas and supersize them. This isn't criticism, it is flattery. I come with nothing but good will and a spirit of team-building. If you take what I write any other way, that is probably just because I wasn't very clear.
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Or a brass spraying full auto

Or a brass spraying full auto mowing down a cone in front of you.

If you've got a slug thrower (submachine gun, machine gun, etc.) that can "full send" an empty the magazine animation, you would expect there to be brass flying from that gun.

However, if you've got an energy weapon (laser, blaster, disruptor, etc.) you would NOT expect to see spent brass getting sprayed out of the weapon when going full auto. Instead, you might have lights cycling an animation on the weapon or glow lines or something, but it's going to be different from a slug thrower pushing bullets and shedding brass.


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Redlynne wrote:
Redlynne wrote:

Or a brass spraying full auto mowing down a cone in front of you.

If you've got a slug thrower (submachine gun, machine gun, etc.) that can "full send" an empty the magazine animation, you would expect there to be brass flying from that gun.

However, if you've got an energy weapon (laser, blaster, disruptor, etc.) you would NOT expect to see spent brass getting sprayed out of the weapon when going full auto. Instead, you might have lights cycling an animation on the weapon or glow lines or something, but it's going to be different from a slug thrower pushing bullets and shedding brass.

I think prop animations would be prop-specific. Some props like swords might not have any animations at all because they're just a static piece of metal. But props like books, machine guns, disembodied skulls, and all manner of other options would probably have some activation animation and maybe even an idle animation. I would not expect the Power Activation Fx to bother with the differences in props.

Having said that, however, if there is a Power FX option that is specifically designed to look like bullets, then I think it would certainly be reasonable to expect that Fx also includes brass casings being expelled from about where the gun might be. The advantage of this is that the brass expelled would synchronize with the bullets going down range. With the Unreal Engine, I think it might also be likely that the brass casings thus expelled would bounce around and settle in the world in accordance with the physics engine until the graphics decides not to display them anymore. Another advantage is if you have a cyborg or some other costume concept with a built-in gun, the shell casings would be ejecting from their body, which is pretty cool.


I like to take your ideas and supersize them. This isn't criticism, it is flattery. I come with nothing but good will and a spirit of team-building. If you take what I write any other way, that is probably just because I wasn't very clear.
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Another thing I was thinking

Another thing I was thinking about to add to the modularity and maximize the multiple usage of effects. When it comes to draining powers and even healing powers, you could get interesting effects if you not only have some existing powers go the opposite direction from target to caster, but also to actually reverse an existing power as if playing it backwards. I'm not sure if the Unreal Engine would permit that, but it could produce some interesting effects.


I like to take your ideas and supersize them. This isn't criticism, it is flattery. I come with nothing but good will and a spirit of team-building. If you take what I write any other way, that is probably just because I wasn't very clear.
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My 'Zorch-Gun' doesn't need

My 'Zorch-Gun' doesn't need Brass.

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Fireheart wrote:
Fireheart wrote:

My 'Zorch-Gun' doesn't need Brass.

Many slugthrowers would need brass. Some might use steel cartridges, if the ammo makers can't get brass. A few energy guns (the "power pistols" of Drake's Hammer's Slammers, for instance) might need an effect not very different to brass (a flat disk or a solid cylinder rather than an empty cylinder closed at one end). And some slugthrowers might not need brass, for example Arcflash Lab's current (pardon the pun) design (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAHKS0nVlL4) or anything gadgeteered on similar principles.

So if possible, the brass should be optional, and possibly with various shapes and/or colors.

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Foradain wrote:
Foradain wrote:

So if possible, the brass should be optional, and possibly with various shapes and/or colors.

6.8 x 51 mm polymer ammo!


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I can't stress enough how I

I can't stress enough how I think every power set should have its own special power FX. Considering aesthetic decoupling, this might be the only way to tell them apart. For example, any two enforcers could use the same animations and even props. Furthermore, the animations and props could be deceptive. A Massive melee could be barefisted, and a Super Strength could use a huge weapon. So the way to tell the Massive Melee would be by the woosh FX that occur as the animations speed up while the Super Strength would be noted by the flashy impacts when its attacks hit.

Another example of power FX helping to distinguish power sets is for Operators. For example, Psychic Control's special mechanic is the feedback that occurs when a power is used on a target already under the effects of a control effect. Not only should the player's UI somehow highlight targets under the effect of a control, when the feedback proccs it should be an effect all players should be able to see. A tough one would be trying to come up with power FX for the Illusions power set that sets it apart from the power effects of every other set. Only some of its powers are actual illusions that can be seen on the screen. The rest are mental effects like charm, taunt, fear, hold and sleep. So I'm picturing some sort of spiral aura around the target or maybe a pseudo heads-up display put in front of the target's face so all the players can tell at a glance that the target is "seeing something," even if it is in the target's mind's eye. Remember, these are the special FX associated with the power set, so they should be the same for all characters who have that power set; with the only customization being the colors and maybe some of the shapes in the particle effects. This allows all players to identify the power set in use and allows the possessing player to know which targets are affected by the player's own abilities. The abilities themselves should still be customizable however the player desires.


I like to take your ideas and supersize them. This isn't criticism, it is flattery. I come with nothing but good will and a spirit of team-building. If you take what I write any other way, that is probably just because I wasn't very clear.
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Huckleberry wrote:
Huckleberry wrote:

I can't stress enough how I think every power set should have its own special power FX.

I agree with that sentiment. Since aesthetic decoupling is going to be such a front-and-center thing, intended or not, it's all the more important to make each power set its own entity rather than merely 'aesthetic decoupling with a vague flavour'. The aesthetic decoupling should be a feature, not a raison d'être. Each power set should have a "this is the quintessential 'X'", and if someone wants something different, no problem. But the "quintessential 'X'" should always be an option.

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I wonder if we're going to be

I wonder if we're going to be able to customize sounds? I think it's most probable that sounds will be locked to power effects, but the ability to independently customize sounds could be fun as well.


I like to take your ideas and supersize them. This isn't criticism, it is flattery. I come with nothing but good will and a spirit of team-building. If you take what I write any other way, that is probably just because I wasn't very clear.
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I figure sounds would be more

I figure sounds would be more easily "client side moddable" than visual FX. Unlike custom graphics you wouldn't have to worry about syncing up visual animations. It'd just be a matter of coming up with little snips of sound that could be plugged in to play the same way the built-in sounds would have to work.

I know that people used to mod sounds back in TOG mostly to turn off annoying default power sounds. It'll be a matter whether the Devs decide to give us direct hooks to "plug in" new sound files or not.

CoH player from April 25, 2004 to November 30, 2012

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Huckleberry wrote:
Huckleberry wrote:

I wonder if we're going to be able to customize sounds? I think it's most probable that sounds will be locked to power effects, but the ability to independently customize sounds could be fun as well.

We’ve discussed it. There is a technical feasibility to it but for now, I believe the goal is to hook sfx with particle fx that way, for example, a gun firing bullets sounds like bullet fire, vs a fun firing electricity sounds like crackling / zapping energy.


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Tannim222 wrote:
Tannim222 wrote:

... but for now, I believe the goal is to hook sfx with particle fx that way, for example, a gun firing bullets sounds like bullet fire, vs a fun firing electricity sounds like crackling / zapping energy.

That makes sense to me. Maybe some day there could be a few different sounds to go with some particle Fx, like the crack versus boom of many hollywood gunshots. But being able to put the sound of a clown's squeezy nose on the Fx of a lightning strike seems immersion-breaking.


I like to take your ideas and supersize them. This isn't criticism, it is flattery. I come with nothing but good will and a spirit of team-building. If you take what I write any other way, that is probably just because I wasn't very clear.
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Huckleberry wrote:
Huckleberry wrote:
Tannim222 wrote:

... but for now, I believe the goal is to hook sfx with particle fx that way, for example, a gun firing bullets sounds like bullet fire, vs a fun firing electricity sounds like crackling / zapping energy.

That makes sense to me. Maybe some day there could be a few different sounds to go with some particle Fx, like the crack versus boom of many hollywood gunshots. But being able to put the sound of a clown's squeezy nose on the Fx of a lightning strike seems immersion-breaking.

If client side modding of sound happens it'll be up to you whether a "clown's squeezy nose" noise makes sense for your own powers. The sounds other people hear will still be the defaults regardless.

I doubt they would ever let us load in our own custom sounds that EVERYONE could hear because all that data would have to be transmitted to everyone in real time. But your idea of being able to choose one sound from among several hardwired choices might be possible eventually.

CoH player from April 25, 2004 to November 30, 2012

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