Behind the scenes: ezEngine

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posted on September 6th, 2014, 9:00 pm
Follow us as we take a look behind the scenes of the Fleet Operations NX project. Today, the ezEngine crew will introduce themselves.

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posted on September 7th, 2014, 3:34 pm
I quite like that we've finally had word from the ezEngine devs. I'm a little disappointed that NX won't support Linux out of the gate, but it hasn't before so it's not a big loss and there is the possibility that it may in the future. Do you intend to include a mod system like the current FO version or various Bethesda games, Civilization games, etc.? Also, if there is a mod system, would it be possible to use it to override bits of the engine with custom code to add new features or modify existing behavior? I suspect the answer to that last one is 'no' but this isn't my area of expertise.

Anyway, thanks for dropping by and good luck on your project. :thumbsup:
posted on September 8th, 2014, 12:18 am
Very cool. Thanks for all that insider information, even if I dont yet fully understand all of it. I actually think this creates more questions than gives answers. Im sure the NX Dev team will try to address those in upcoming news posts. For now I will abstain from asking the ones that come to mind.
posted on September 8th, 2014, 2:06 am
Just to make sure I understand correctly when you talk about the License and Pricing, does this mean I would be capable of creating a game using the ezEngine and selling said game as a commercial product? I've been desperately searching for a commercial engine capable of supporting the style of RTS that Fleet Ops falls under, this would be amazing news for me.
posted on September 8th, 2014, 2:16 am
Awesome! Glad to know there is still progress.
posted on September 8th, 2014, 11:40 am
>> Do you intend to include a mod system like the current FO version or various Bethesda games, Civilization games, etc.? Also, if there is a mod system, would it be possible to use it to override bits of the engine with custom code to add new features or modify existing behavior?

The way you can mod a game depends on what exactly it exposes. Most games allow to configure internal game objects through text files, thus enabling some degree of mod-ability. This can already go a very long way.

What many games do not support, is to add proper game code via plugins (DLLs). Scripting is sometimes possible, but what you can do with that (especially performance wise) is often limited.

Generally ez is designed to be quite extensible. It does have infrastructure to dynamically load plugins and add new object types. So from our end it should be possible. However, most of what you expect depends on what the NX team does on top of our infrastructure. As far as I know the NX code is quite data-driven, so a lot of stuff will be configurable and thus mod-able. Whether they will also allow plugins to load additional game code, is probably not yet decided, but there should not be anything holding them back from our side.

>> I actually think this creates more questions than gives answers. I'm sure the NX Dev team will try to address those in upcoming news posts. For now I will abstain from asking the ones that come to mind.

Well, just ask them, otherwise we don't really know which questions you might have :-)

>> Just to make sure I understand correctly when you talk about the License and Pricing, does this mean I would be capable of creating a game using the ezEngine and selling said game as a commercial product?

Yes.

>> I've been desperately searching for a commercial engine capable of supporting the style of RTS that Fleet Ops falls under.

Well, this is a bit more complicated. ez itself is not an RTS engine. It provides the functionality that basically any engine would need (e.g. platform abstract file-system access, resource management, rendering abstractions, multi-threading functionality, etc.). This is all of the stuff that gets very hairy to support on multiple operating systems, unless it is done in a clean way. This is where we currently invested most of our time. So for example when the NX team wants to read data from a file, they have ONE way to do this, and it always works for them, because ez takes care of that. However, inside ez we actually have currently two implementations for opening a file, one for Windows, one for Mac and Linux. We could easily add a third way for other platforms, without the NX team even noticing, since it is all abstracted away.

For people not familiar with engines, this might sound a bit weird. If there is interest, I could go into more detail about what kind of infrastructure we provide at some point.

What ez does NOT provide is the high-level stuff that actually turns the NX engine into an RTS engine. So for example we do not have code for space ships, for moving objects on the battlefield, for commands and AI, etc. etc. That is all done by the NX team.

So when you say you want an engine to do an RTS game, that would mean that you need both the ez code (which is free) AND the NX code. I have no idea, whether the NX team considers open-sourcing their code at some point. But maybe the final result would be flexible enough so that you don't even need the code for most things. I don't know, we'll see.
posted on September 8th, 2014, 11:58 am
Jan wrote:>> Do you intend to include a mod system like the current FO version or various Bethesda games, Civilization games, etc.? Also, if there is a mod system, would it be possible to use it to override bits of the engine with custom code to add new features or modify existing behavior?

The way you can mod a game depends on what exactly it exposes. Most games allow to configure internal game objects through text files, thus enabling some degree of mod-ability. This can already go a very long way.

What many games do not support, is to add proper game code via plugins (DLLs). Scripting is sometimes possible, but what you can do with that (especially performance wise) is often limited.

Generally ez is designed to be quite extensible. It does have infrastructure to dynamically load plugins and add new object types. So from our end it should be possible. However, most of what you expect depends on what the NX team does on top of our infrastructure. As far as I know the NX code is quite data-driven, so a lot of stuff will be configurable and thus mod-able. Whether they will also allow plugins to load additional game code, is probably not yet decided, but there should not be anything holding them back from our side.


I wasn't really wondering if it would be moddable; it sounds like it will be open source so I imagine it would technically be infinitely moddable. I was wondering about mod modules, such as the system currently used by FO, in which you can load the game with a mod and the mod overrides certain parts of the game without needing a whole other installation. For instance, if you want to run multiple mods on a Command & Conquer game, you need to copy the installation directory a few times and then add the mods to those. On the other hand, if you want to run different mods in Morrowind you just add them to the game directory, then run the launcher and check or uncheck mods to enable or disable them. The C&C method winds up eating drive space much faster than the Morrowind method.
posted on September 8th, 2014, 12:27 pm
As our origins are within the modding community, modding support is a very hard requirement for Fleet Operations NX. We are planning for at least as much modding capability as you had in the Armada Fleet Operations, with a mod system allowing you to chain mod modules, similar to the modding system we already introduced in a past FO-A2 patch.

Regarding future news posts: Yep, we plan to bring you more behind-the-scenes posts as development continues, particularly talking about writing an RTS engine. The ezEngine is the underlying foundation on which we build NX, as Jan already described. This allows us to focus on the higher level RTS specific implementations, like "Whats a map" "Whats a spaceship" "Hmm.. and how do I command them?" etc. Those are all good topics for future behind-the-scenes post, like talking about the AI-Command-Queue, a small agent within each of your commendable units executing your orders. The next month might become a bit more techy, but as development continues we will also make sure to let you know on the exciting new gameplay options that those implementations offer.
posted on September 9th, 2014, 7:37 pm
Thanks for the update. Looking forward to further details!
posted on September 9th, 2014, 9:17 pm
Hmm. ok. I will ask my questions.

So the EZ team is building a game engine, based on what Ive read, it seems like the NX team is going to just port over all their content from Fleet ops, is this accurate? It would seem a bit of a stretch that everything youve made already would need an overhaul?

That being said, How much room will their be for improvement to visuals. Like lighting; both environmental and on units? Id love for mp objects to generate light - like suns, rather than just an ambient lighting object thats constant and 1 directional. Adding flicker effects to nacelles and deflector dishes when vessels take hits to their hulls.

How about physics? The ways ships move and turn, and their collision pathing? I think their is room for improvement, a new engine opens up a lot of doors for features like these, would this kind of stuff be on the to do, or are we looking at more game mechanic type features like "having warpin cost supply up front when you call in a ships"?
posted on September 10th, 2014, 12:55 am
Last edited by redmanmark86 on September 10th, 2014, 7:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
Njm1983 wrote:Hmm. ok. I will ask my questions.

So the EZ team is building a game engine, based on what Ive read, it seems like the NX team is going to just port over all their content from Fleet ops, is this accurate? It would seem a bit of a stretch that everything youve made already would need an overhaul?

That being said, How much room will their be for improvement to visuals. Like lighting; both environmental and on units? Id love for mp objects to generate light - like suns, rather than just an ambient lighting object thats constant and 1 directional. Adding flicker effects to nacelles and deflector dishes when vessels take hits to their hulls.

How about physics? The ways ships move and turn, and their collision pathing? I think their is room for improvement, a new engine opens up a lot of doors for features like these, would this kind of stuff be on the to do, or are we looking at more game mechanic type features like "having warpin cost supply up front when you call in a ships"?


I think it was explained pretty well to be honest and these questions were answered.

They aren't just porting over their work from fleetops, they are building from scratch and the code will be completely different as they won't be hacking in anymore.

visuals will be improved greatly by the fact the ez engine will use its own graphic engine which will be updated from the directx 8 days. Also it will have its own physics engine that NX can design and the same goes for the AI, it will finally be much more configurable to how NX want it as NX will design this side so it wont be a simple follow a build list system and guessing what changing values actually does. Basically ez make the core engine and NX make all high functions themselves such as AI, Pathing, classlabels and so on.
posted on September 10th, 2014, 2:51 am
Thanks for summing things up for me.
posted on September 15th, 2014, 3:41 pm
Good to hear from the ezEngine devs all i hope is that this ezEngine makes it so we do not have to wait 2years for NX to come out and thanks to the ezEngine when it dose come out it should be one hell of a game if that day ever comes!!!
posted on September 16th, 2014, 1:54 pm
Patience is a virtue that you need if you like games mods, remember they are free and take a lot of work. :)
posted on September 16th, 2014, 3:59 pm
They may take time so been 2 years so far i think we be looking at 3 more yet it would be nice if they could give us some info on how long they think it may take or when they hope it may come out just so we know every game/mod can tell you that but FO or how much in % they think they do so far like anything really like come ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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