Fine, you got me Ars, I’ll rank the spaceships myself, properly this time

I’ll admit it: This list from Ars Technica got under my skin. Perhaps it was calculated to do so – I agree that the Enterprise C is one of the coolest Trek ship designs, but I recognize that it’s a dark horse pick. Nonetheless, a discord conversation lead me to this, ranking the Enterprises. I’m not going to include any I haven’t seen, and I’m going to include other federation starships at my discretion because ‘only classes with an enterprise’ is arbitrary.

I don’t usually blog pop culture nerd hot takes, but I do have a passion for fictional scifi starship design, so if you’d like to indulge me, read on.

13. Constitution

There’s no saving this misproportioned relic from the goofy raygun origins of Star Trek. It’s hopeless. It looks like it would have difficulty staying in one piece if it was a model, much less an enormous starship exceeding the speed of light. Somehow the disconnected nacelles of Discovery future ships are more credible than this toothpicky monstrosity.

Many attempts have been made to make it look good, but they have failed. At some point we need to let go of the past and stop rehashing it endlessly for nostalgia money.

Now excuse me while I write the rest of this list heavily biased by nostalgia.

12. Enterprise J

Kinda cool I guess. Or at least cool-adjacent. From that one angle. It’s a one off future that isn’t nearly as clever as the more fleshed out future in Discovery while still trying to communicate the same progression we see from Constitution (big nacelles, small saucer) to Galaxy (small nacelles, big saucer.)

When seen from other angles though, you realize it’s a silly twiggy thing that’s about as sleek as a caltrop.

11. NX-01

It’s trying to be an Akira, but also look like the Phoenix (the little rocket from First Contact) and also like the Constitution. It fails on most of those counts. Everyone inside is dressed like NASA astronauts but the ship looks like a flying saucer. Or a misshapen loaf of bread. In the opening credits we see something that looks like a Lockheed Venture Star with warp nacelles. That would have perfectly matched the vibe the show was going for, but they needed it to look like every other trek ship presumably due to branding. Product of compromise I say.

10. California

The Cali is jank, but of course it’s jank. It’s supposed to be jank. That’s the whole point. It fits the story role and theme of Lower Decks perfectly. It’s the Trek aesthetic taken to a silly extent. It’s unbalanced. It’s got a weird configuration. It looks like it’s about to tip over.

Still gets a low ranking, though, because its jank is somehow more severe than the other jank. Where is your center of mass, Cali?

9. Excelsior

Big long and stately like an ocean liner. Also good looking enough that I don’t hate that it’s the generic federation ship they always use when they need another ship to avoid confusion with the hero ship. Kinda funny that it’s introduced as an unreliable heap dismissed by Scotty and later it becomes the backbone of Starfleet!

It would probably be higher if it’s elbow pylons weren’t so out of place on the otherwise elegant flowing design.

8. Intrepid

Good design overall, but the proportions are very weird and the inline nacelles never looked right. Has some good angles, some weird angles. Don’t get me started on the articulated nacelles!

It definitely sells the premise of a small under-equipped ship far from home though, a muscular design like the Akira wouldn’t have fit the bill.

Would have been pretty sick if they’d visibly patched it with Delta Quadrant tech so that by the end it looks unrecognizable, but the budget certainly wasn’t there for that.

7. Defiant

Federation BOP. It looks and flies more like the Millennium Falcon than any Enterprise. In the grand scale of Trek ships it’s more like a fighter than anything else a Starfleet captain gets to play with. It’s a runabout with all the concentrated high tech rage the Federation can muster bolted on, and wrapped snug in a hull instead of revealing its extremities. How they got around the ‘nacelles need empty space between them’ is anyone’s guess, but this is the only ship on this list that looks like it could take a hard landing and ever fly again.

‘What if Starfleet but no more Mr Nice Guy’ is not only a perfect description of this ship, but also of it’s Captain, Benjamin “For The Uniform” Sisko. That’s right, Benjamin “In the pale Moonlight” Sisko. It has the rare distinction of being the only ship on this list (to my knowledge) employed to ruin a planet’s biosphere on purpose.

6. Sovereign

They blew up the Enterprise D because they thought they could design something that looked better in widescreen.

Let that sink in.

The Sovereign has pretty good proportions but it’s a bit long (widescreen!) and looks less impressive from below. On top and on the side, though, it looks tough. It’s got the benefit of the whole TNG era development of design language plus a special effects budget. It’s sleek and a bit mean, befitting the darker, edgier take on Piccard in it’s debut film, First Contact. After it’s one action sequence, it spends most of the movie getting taken over by aliens, which is the normal occupation for a TNG starship.

5. Crossfield

You have to admire the decision to go with something so different from other Federation ships-unique design elements like the multi ringed saucer and huge delta shaped engineering hull and (eventually) disconnecty nacelles that float around adorably during spore drive jumps. It’s a bold design that signaled that the show wasn’t going to be a rehash in the way that the movie series that preceded it was.

4. Nova

The Nova takes the aggression of the Sovereign, cranks it up, and packages it all into a cute little spaceship smaller than an Intrepid. It’s design wasted on a science vessel; it would have made a better design for the defiant if it had existed a few years earlier.

I will confess some bias here; it’s one of the ships you can fly early on in Flash Trek: Broken Mirror, and it made me feel like I’d made it as a starship captain.

They also gave Harry Kim one as a joke (it’s small and they named it the Rhode Island) which is hilarious.

3. Ambassador

Remember how this started as a response to Ars’s ranking of starships? This is the part where I pretty much agree.

The Ambassador somehow manages to nail the ideal proportions for a standard configuration starfleet vessel. The nacelles aren’t too big, the engineering section isn’t too flat, everything is just right. It’s like if you asked a kid to sketch a new starfleet vessel and didn’t nerd rage when they failed to perfectly match the jank of the Constitution and the Galaxy. It’s design fades into the background like a good soundtrack.

I will confess to bias here too, because I had the micro machines version of this (as well as others) but this is the one that no adult could recall from the show and thus impose some sort of story value on it; I was free to make up my own space adventures for this little guy.

As you can see, Galoob took liberties designing this model, it’s more detailed than the studio model in some places!

2. Akira

Another tough looking federation ship. This looks like starfleet took a nod from the Klingons. The downward angled arms give it a fierce bird-of-prey visage. It has a couple of weird angles, but overall it looks great and has solid proportions. It shows up in the beginning of First Contact to represent a starfleet ready to fight the Borg after the disaster of their last serious showdown, and has some great shots executing Piccard’s plan to blow up a Borg Cube. It looks sleek and mean but still weighty which is a rare mix for a Trek ship.

1. Galaxy

I don’t care if it looks jank or top-heavy. The biggest statement it makes is: this ain’t hard scifi. It’s carrying a whole civilization around in that giant saucer. A world that the audience will love to inhabit episode after episode. So of course it’s got a big silly saucer. It still somehow looks less likely to fall apart than the Constitution.

If the constitution says ‘this is schlocky space western stuff’ the Galaxy says ‘This is high concept science fiction that we are going to take extremely seriously, perhaps too seriously for a few seasons.’

If the Defiant is the Federation’s closed fist, this is the Federation’s welcoming wave. It says “look, we mastered physics completely, but we don’t want to fight about it, we just want to party on the holodeck while we explore the farthest reaches of the universe.” And that’s the kind of optimism that Trek can, on a good day, embody.

Small Stuff

Looking back at this list, it’s interesting what stuck with me. They’re all vehicles! I guess I just find vehicles appealing. Some vehicles toys are well documented, so I won’t bore you with a repetition of the hotwheels wiki. What i want to consider today are what you might call modern “Penny Toys” are the kind of thing you’d find in a gumball machine, or on the table at the end of a party, discarded. They’re of a sort of hard to find now: not tied (legally anyway) to a franchise or character. But there’s something alluring about the mystery of trying to track down who made them, so let’s do it.

Bruder Mini: Space

Bruder is a toy company that still exists, making die cast vehicles. They no longer support their line of “mini” plastic vehicles, though they mention it in their history. There was a space line in silver, white, and blue, and more realistic vehicles in bright colors.

In Unit 01 colors no less. I’ve seen a small number of other palettes online.

I don’t know if the zany colored ones came out before or after the more common blue/white/silver ones.

Saucer in classic colors

Bruder Mini: Trains

Though long lost, I definitely had an an engine and a couple of passenger cars. Managed to find a lot of them on Ebay. They’re still adorable. They’re a neat combination of bright colors, crisp detail, and functionality. Not perfect fit and finish by any means, but at this price point, who’s complaining?

Accoutrements/Archie McPhee

These designs seem familiar

Not everyone was content to use public domain designs like flying saucers.

The easy part of figuring these out is figuring out where the design comes from-they’re mostly vehicles from thunderbirds (ignore the Star Wars one for now.)

You can see that the mold has been altered-it used to say Hong Kong but that’s been scratched out and China has been added.

The holes made them perfect to mount on Micromachine star trek stands

I initially had a tough time finding any attestation of these neat little plastic ships online. I know that at one point Accouterments sold them in a big tub (probably a gross each) but I can’t find that product photo any longer. I know I discovered this during the google era, because the models on the left are ones I purchased online.

I sent an email to Archie-McPhee, who got back to me with a link to this archived page:

Never seen the aliens before

They were called ‘alien and spaceship invasion.’ No luck on the star wars ship. I do wonder if it came from the same factory, but I have very little to go on for it. It uses a different type of plastic, but I swear the overall sensibility is similar enough. It came in a grocery store blister pack with a cooler looking spaceship with the same ‘moulded top screwed into acrylic bottom’ design, and a short knock off lightsaber type thing.


These plasticard punchouts came in randomized packs. The ink has held up surprisingly well. Influences are sometimes clear-a couple look like they’re from Cowboy Bebop, and I think I see a Droid Fighter. Classic shmups seem to have influenced these heavily as well.

We had a lot of fun building these back in the day. I managed to get my hands on some un-punched ones, remind me to scan them so you can make your own copies out of plasticard. If that’s important to you for some reason.

This product line eventually evolved into much larger more detailed models, and apparently a tabletop game.

Shackman & Co Five Piece Train Set

Five to a pack

It was surprisingly easy to find these considering I had only a single one and no accompanying documentation. I think I just searched for “small plastic train 90s” and the like.

These seemed to have a random assortment of colors. They’re four parts: two sides, top, and chassis. Very neat little pieces. All identical. They shipped in a Christmas ornament which itself looked like a train. Something about the soft shape and tiny size made them super appealing to my kid self. Always wondered if there was a whole line of these, but it’s just the one mold.

Pretty close to N scale though.

I heard you like trains so I put a train in your train

Road Not Taken: Godot’s VehicleBody in Hovertank22

It’s no secret that I’ve been captivated by trying to make vehicle driving feel good for as long as I’ve been programming. Initially Hovertank 22 (formerly OWTD) used Kinematic movement as described here. But it wasn’t quite right. I have a strong memory of how much more fun World Of Tanks was after they introduced proper physics. I decided that if a third person perspective (as oppose to top down) was going to be used, I should probably use some sort of physics.

In Godot you have at least two options: the ‘easy’ one, using VehicleBody and the hard one, using a bunch of 6DOF joints. I elected to use the former, in this barn-burner of a PR. And it… well it sort of works, I guess.

As you can see, though wonky, the Tilter is able to navigate the terrain. It’s using a single visible steering wheel in front and the tracks are represented by two invisible wheels in the back. This movement model is, of course, built for car driving games, so the trike configuration cuts into the stability badly. The requirements of “Eamonn’s Ideal Vehicle Game” and thus Hovertank 22, however, call for tanks. Unfortunately, this has major disagreements with the movement model.

The basic idea, I figured, for implementing tank movement has been to treat each track as a series of wheels. To turn right, you drive the wheels on the left side and brake or reverse the wheels on the right side. In a real tracked vehicle, this causes it to turn. In Godot’s model, however, wheel slip seems to be very all-or-nothing: the vehicle stays in motion nicely but as soon as you cut the wheel and one track slips, the whole vehicle starts to drift uncontrollably. While some amount of drifting was desired, this turns out to be unplayable. And, worse, messing with wheel slip values didn’t really help.

Editor screenshot showing how the Cobra’s wheels are configured

Another problem with this movement style was that when the vehicle was in motion, differential steering worked far more effectively than from a dead stop (I assume that this has something to do with how overcoming friction is coded.) In order to turn from a stop you need to overcome the friction of all of the wheels, so turning while stopped was impractically slow. I implemented a fix which increased power when you weren’t moving but it was unsatisfactory and resulted in a vehicle that jerked around suddenly and violently.

I suspect that customizing the 6dof version might be able to overcome these limitations, but I don’t have the bandwidth to try it. Similarly, it might be very possible to implement this sort of thing as a custom integrator and bunch of rays, but again, that was more of a lift than I had time for.

Faced with basically a negative result from this experiment, I’ve decided that I’m going to roll back (ha) from the VehicleBody approach. I may switch back to a top-down perspective, and also may try switching out heighmapped terrain for tile terrain.

So what did I learn from this little excursion? You really need to validate your assumptions about how something is going to behave before you stake a project on it. I’m glad I didn’t fully do that (I still have a path forward for Hovertank ’22), though pulling it out is definitely going to be a setback.

The Lost Continent: Australia on Westfield’s old globe

The central feature of Westfield State University’s campus is a large globe sculpture. This has been true for a while, but not always the same globe. In 2015, during the excitement around the Patriots Superbowl win, enthusiastic students cleared the benches, rejoiced on the green, and climbed inside the globe. This wasn’t the first time the campus had hosted an impromptu outdoor party of this nature – I seem to recall a similar reaction to a Redsox championship in 2013 (but it could have been a playoff game – my memory is foggy. But this time, the globe sustained major damage. The overly enthusiastic students shook the globe until it strained against its joints, and ultimately failed in several places. Tectonic plates torn asunder like something out of a disaster film.

You may notice from these pictures that the entire continent of Australia is missing. However, this was a pre-existing condition – I’m pretty sure the absent continent left a hole which allowed the revelers access to the interior. So consider this excerpt press release that the school released about the incident:

The university inherited the Globe from Stanley Home Products and it is missing the continent of Australia because it was not within Stanley’s global business reach.

Contemporary statement from the WSU spokesperson

This is an incredibly weird statement. As you can see from the first image in this article, the globe used to feature Australia. The loss of Australia running joke on campus. Rumors abound about where it ended up (which I won’t relate to protect the innocent… or guilty.) The story was, however, that it up and fell off. To my knowledge, no great effort was made to replace it.

So why make up this absurd lie? It’s so easily verified to be false – campus promotional material (including the desktop background of campus PCs, the file photo above!) contained images of Australia on the globe. Anyone who’d attended the school during or before 2011 (latest possible year it could have fallen off.) It’s just a silly idea: nobody commissions a globe sculpture missing a continent. It’s not a thing people do. Nobody would accept a donation of an incomplete globe like that.

I guess I’d never imagined that level of brazen dishonesty from an institution before. I suppose that was a very naive, 2015 attitude to have.

The author of the statement was contacted for further insight, but there was no response.

The damaged globe was replaced by a much nicer sculpture which does feature Australia.

Name Collisions in EV Nova

EV Nova was a formative game for me. One thing I noticed about it, and wanted to document, was that there are a lot of what I’ll call name collisions: names that are almost the same but refer to different things. Did I miss any? Leave a comment, I’ll add it.

Temmin Shard / Shard (faction)

LPAD station, where Temmin Shard takes you

Temmin Shard is a character in a side quest. However, “Shard” is also used to describe a faction formed when you win the Fed campaign and everyone else comes after you.

Krane / Kane (incl. Port Kane, Kania, and the Kane band)

Port Kane
Earth, with Kane band, but also a place where you might encounter Krane

Omata Kane invented galaxy-spanning hypergates and a bunch of things are named Kane in her honor, including earth’s artificial ring, the Kane Band. There’s also a Port Kane in the Kania system. Krane is the sociopath leader of the secret fed faction that you work for in some campaigns. Very different people.

Glimmer / Gli-Tech / Gli-Tech-Nia

Home of the GLi-Tech corporation (formerly known as GLiMMER until the discovery of the Glimmer system)

Both are companies that make missiles. Huh? Gli Tech also owns an entire planet, called Gli-Tech-Nia. But wait, Glimmer is also the name of a star system. Surely this piece of fluff for Gli-Tech-Nia clears it up:

Associated Guild Of Free Traders / Free Traders

Pirate carrier used by both

Two opposing pirate factions that fly the same ships. One is hostile by default, the other isn’t. No idea which one though; and feds don’t care which one you blow up either. According to Word Of Atmos this is intentional.

Polaris / Polaron Cannon / Polaron Torpedo

Polaris are one of the game’s major factions. Polaron refers to a Federation weapon. But the weapon is pink… the color of Polaris technology. And the Polaris have a Polaron Torpedo which is pink but apparently unrelated. Maybe Polaron refers to some specific scifi gubbin, but then that’s still colliding with the Polaris.

Vella / Vell-os

Vell-os are a race of psychic transhumans and mostly extinct, Vella are a neighboring Arouran subfaction.

Wraiths / Wraith Cannon / Wrathii

A wraith
Wrathii fired from a Wraith cannon (no relation)

Wraiths are a race of sentient space-monsters, Wrathii are pink projectiles that the Polaris fire out of a Wraith Cannon. Also the Wraiths are right next to the Polaris.


The Ones Who Came Before are your standard ancient race of aliens trope, TCTLIDS are The Creature That Lives In Deep Space harvested for drugs, an abandoned plot hook that somehow remained in the timeline preamble.

Making a Hovertank level: Godot map editing

(Updated to reflect that this has been released!

Hovertank is an honest attempt to bet big open 3d environments with AI agents running around working in Godot, using HTerrain and Godot Detour. I hope this is helpful for anyone who wants to make something similar in the future.

See also:

Set up terrain nodes

Create a new inherited scene from the “world” scene.

Add an HTerrain element to your level. Make sure it’s collision layers are 1 and 8.

Create a data directory in the levels folder

Apply a tileset to your HTerrain by dragging tileset.tres into the texture set slot, or making a new one from scratch.

Edit the terrain to your heart’s content using the generator and the tools.

Bake navmesh

You’ll need to repeat the next steps each time you edit the terrain mesh

From the “Terrain” menu up top, select “Generate mesh (heavy)” and select an LOD of 4. At least that’s what I’ve been using.

It will create a node called “HTerrain_fullmesh.” This is the node that the pathfinding library uses to actually determine where AIs can go. Hide this mesh; if you need to see the navmesh turn on “visible collision shapes” and you’ll see it (and it may lag real bad!)

Note that the flattened areas have nice clean navigation, but the more sloped areas don’t. You can use the flatten tool to cut paths across the map. Make sure you enable “pick” on it, it’s much nicer that way.

Place Entities

The prefabs folder has enemies with preconfigured weapons you can just drop right into the scene. You’ll want to drag them a bit closer to the ground though.

You can also place buildings this way. Careful not to accidentally parent stuff to random entities you’ve already placed – entities in Hovertank expect to be parented to the world.

You can set up objectives by adding the “ObjectiveMarker” component to an entity.

When all of the entities with objective markers are destroyed, the player has won the level. You can add the objective marker to any enemy or building.

The incursion spawner will spawn the entity you provide in “spawn” whenever there’s an incursion with the selected severity. Put one of the monsters in there by dragging its tscn file in to the spawn field (only monster at time of writing is our friend Kochab) (Incursions were removed, but you can see how it worked in older commits — Ed)

Add your level to the list

Add an entry to the big literal with all of the levels pointing to your level’s TSCN file, give it a name and a description, and it should show up in the dropdown in the main menu.

Cars of Paris

It’s been too long since we went to Paris (in 2021) for me to properly caption these cars. But hey, I did take pictures, so let me at least post them.

The “front is the same as the back” aesthetic
Lean your Citroen
not a jeep
Car disguised as a train
not a car
Cassette Futurism
Very old car, seen inside a castle
classic car
we saw these everywhere, and I love them
Majestic car befitting the obelisk it’s parked looking at
Someone took really good care of this classic vespa
Round Car

Practical Godot Networking: MPEVMVP technical discussion

Godot’s High Level Networking tutorial (and book chapter) do a great job of explaining a peer-to-peer networking setup. However, many games want to be server-authoritative, and to set up a multi-area game, you sort of need to. Luckily, you can use the same primitives to build a server/client game. This is just sort of a brain dump of my notes that may be helpful in navigating the MPEVMVP source. Feel free to post any questions you have about it; I love to talk about this stuff.

The technical requirements that deviate from the basic tutorial they hand out are as follows:

  • Server-authoritative client/server game
  • Multiple levels that players can switch between
  • Players are able to join a match in progress

In case you haven’t tried it, the project is here: The gameplay is similar to Asteroids (and, well, similar to Flythrough.Space): it uses RigidBodies to simulate movement, you can shoot other players to force them to respawn, and you can press “J” to initiate a hyperjump after you’ve pressed “m” to select a star system from the map.

Godot’s Networking Golden Rule

A remote call (rpc, rset) is going to be called on the remote node with the same node path. That includes name of the node, the name of the parent, etc, all the way to the root node. You can set a child node’s name with set_name but if a similarly named child already exists, an @number will be added to your node. This is a major source of bugs for networked projects, so be careful. You cannot set a node to a name with @ in it. So in effect, you cannot use Godot’s auto-incremented names (since they append @increment) to sync between the client and the server. For this reason, I used a uuid library for generating node names.

The need for the same structure on client and server despite the fact that the server held a whole universe while the client only cared about one system is a major source of complexity in the codebase.

Server Authoritative

I implemented the Client and Server as singletons that exist on both sides. The reason for this is that it makes it really readable; when the client needs to send something to the server you write Server.rpc and when the server needs to send something to the client, you use Client.rpc. Besides this line of communication, I’ve used rpc and rset within various nodes to update and alter the client versions of themselves. This always happens inside an is_network_master block, to ensure that it’s being called on the server version of the game.

The one thing we do need to gather from clients is input, and for that each client has a PlayerInput node, network_master’d to them. They rset_id input up to the server. The server copy of the player nodes looks at this remote copy of the player_input to determine it’s behavior, then pushes its state back down to all clients.

Multi Level

Suppose you want to have multiple different levels/worlds/rooms in your game. The trick is that you need to mesh the following two constraints:

  • Node paths need to be the same between client and server (see discussion above)
  • The server needs to have different node paths for each level

The trick, then, is to send the client to the new level by loading the appropriate level and making sure it’s named appropriately. There’s one wrinkle though: different 2d physics worlds need to use a Viewport class, but you don’t want to add additional viewports on the client for performance reasons (tried it, it was way too slow.) My solution was to add an extra layer of nodes called “universes” in the comments which are a Node2d on the client but a Viewport in the server. They are managed on the server by ServerMultiverse and on the client by ClientUniverse. Client Universe cares about a single “universe” child whereas ServerMultiverse handles multiple children.

Sending Entities/Switching Levels

In order to join a match in progress or switch to a level that already has stuff in it (or, indeed, switch a player into a level) we need a robust way for the server to move fully-formed nodes to the client. Godot does not provide a generic “send this node” method, so we need to write one for ourselves. The approach I took was:

  • Assume that the ent will be instanced from the same scene that the ent on the server is
  • Write a “serialize” and “deserialize” method that allows it to dump a dictionary with all of its important state and recreate itself from that dictionary.
  • Make sure the node on the client side is assigned the same name as the one on the server side.

So when a client’s level is switched, they dump the current level and recreate the new one by loading in the scene and then, node by node, deserializing the state sent from the server. As it turns out, this means that any state can be synced freely, and it enables us to dispense with the lobby entirely and let players join and leave at will.

Sync In Multiple Levels

Each level owns the process of syncing its state to clients in that level. Scenes within the level can declare a method that serializes their state for a net frame, and the level gathers all of those up and sends them. The client receives the frames from the server, and the individual scenes use the content of those frames to interpolate their position. To save bandwidth, I only do this for ships and guided projectiles, everything else moves deterministically. This whole process is derived from the teaching of (and better described by) this video.

Player Lifecycle

Because we’re using the player’s presence in a level to determine if we should update entities in that level for that player, when a player’s avatar is destroyed the world seems to stop for that player until they respawn. This might be desirable in some games, but I think most games at least want to show the player the immediate seconds after their own demise. So what we do is replace the player with a ghost.

Tooling & Workflow

GDScript is based on Python 3 and the most basic syntax resembles it. ‘func’ in place of ‘def’, no ‘self’ and no list or dict comprehensions or other advanced features. It feels like the python of basic python tutorials. However in exchange for this, you get one thing python 3 does not offer: true static typing. In Python 3 you can offer a type hint for a function argument but it is not truly enforced. GDscript enforces the types at compile time and boy does it ever catch a lot of bugs. You also get the ability to define classes with typed members, similar to what you get in Python with Pydantic. Overall I like gdscript and the things I miss aren’t dealbreakers.

The lack of a vi mode for the editor hurts. I know I could just use the godot plugin for vi, but I actually really like staying inside Godot’s editor. Despite the slightly crowded layout, it’s really very nice. The autocomplete to node paths is a killer feature that makes dealing with complicated trees less of a pain.


Building a multiplayer game in Godot is possible but by no means easy. The high level multiplayer API despite its gotchas works well, but you need to implement the sync logic yourself. This shouldn’t be too surprising as games have very different needs when it comes to net code. I hear that a similar mechanism for frame based sync and lerping is going to be more built-in in godot 4, which would be sweet. The puppet system (which I initially used; you can see a version in the tutorial) seems to be useful only for very low latency situations, so I regret that it’s a first-class feature because it may lead people down a rabbit hole of net code that will not work for most games.

Kenwood 3010 Repair

My old man gave it to me when I was in grade school. Seen a lot of action. Loudness always on.

It’s been at least a decade since I’ve serviced this box. The volume dial developed dead zones and the light won’t turn on. In addition to corroded contacts, I think it may have a dead bulb and/or a blown fuse. I’m going to open it up, clean up the dust, clean the contacts with Deoxit, and see if I can determine what else might need replacing. I found a service manual here (free account required.)

Very dusty

The two fuses are easily located. I don’t see any leaky capacitors, which is a good sign. I tested the two visible fuses in-situ and both read the same as shorting the contacts, so I assume they’re good. Next step was to clean the dust out and apply Deoxit to the pots and switches.

Much cleaner

With some trepidation I powered it up. No light bulbs and there are still some deadzones in the volume knob, but I’m able to pick up FM stations. I’d probably call that a success but I’m not sure where I’m going to put the thing yet so I might as well go the distance and try to fix the bulbs before I screw it back together. I’ve seen enough mixed messages about the dead zones that I’m a little afraid of doing more harm than good by repeatedly cleaning the main pot.

I found replacement lamps from this ebay seller. When trying to replace the bulbs, that’s where my lack of experience really started to show. The bulbs where wired in like this:

I don’t know the name of these connectors, but with two pairs of pliers and two steady hands, you can denature them enough to pull the bulb’s leads out

Two of the bulbs are on fairly long wires which give you enough slack to pry the connectors off and squeeze the connectors onto new bulbs or splice the wires. The middle bulb, however, does not afford you enough slack to pry the connectors off, so I cut the leads from the old bulb and attempted unsuccessfully to splice the old leads to the new leads. As a hail mary, I crammed the bulb into the socket anyway, figuring that the narrow wells that admit the wires should force them into contact. And I was right! All three bulbs lit up.

And with that (and a desk our neighbor didn’t want anymore) the setup is complete. I have a Bluetooth connector so that I don’t need to plug in my phone to use it; it’s now fully integrated into the 2021 music ecosystem. Not bad for a forty year old piece of hardware. And it’s still plenty loud.


What I’ve learned from breaking my own rule.

I remade a game again

EVMVMVP is the awkward initialism for my latest project; a multiplayer EV-like. You can download it here, and look at the source code here. I know I said I shouldn’t do it, but I really wanted to learn Godot and having a multiplayer server with multiple levels seemed like a really interesting problem to tackle. Implementing a bunch of stuff I already know pretty well but in a new engine and language has been a fun ride. I’ve jotted some notes down about the project so far. I’ve saved a deep technical discussion of Godot for another post.

Using an engine is well worth it

After I decided that I wasn’t going to build too much from scratch next time, not was I going to fight against tooling. The options I considered for FTS where Panda3D and BabylonJS. However over the course of that project also tried out Unity and Godot for small side demos and ended up liking Godot (and it’s permissive license and thriving community) enough to go all-in. In retrospect this was the absolute right move and I regret nothing.

Working With Onyx’s Sprites

I’ve been staring at these sprites on and off for something like fifteen years, itching to put them into a game. The original models used to render them are long gone, but Onyx (in a tutorial) explained how to separate out the engine glows. Working with these sprites feels like stepping out of time. They’re from the 90s. There are dithering tricks here I wouldn’t even imagine. They use a tiny palette but they’re so damn weighty. Present. Metallic when they need to be, plastic when they want to be. They tend towards the Star Wars / Used Future look. They invite stories to be written about them. And the planets are just absolutely lush too. Something about that limited palette…

Testing with real people is essential

I’ve been nagging more people to play this one. On the one hand, it’s much easier to convince someone to play your game if you can play it with them. On the other hand, you really need to do that testing or you will (like I did) find out that the sync method you’re using is totally busted and you need to replace it with interpolation. Furthermore, you’ve got no idea if your game is fun to anyone but yourself unless you subject it to ruthless testing by people who will give honest feedback. It becomes very easy to get settled in and work around horrible UI issues you’ve coded because “well, I know how it works.”

The ability to test solo is essential

Wrangling people for a test is hard. You need to be able to fire up an instance of your server and client with minimal effort or you’re going to wait too long and leave a bunch of bugs that you’ll be scrambling to fix when you finally get people around to test with. And absolutely nothing is more frustrating than the stars aligning for a test only to have a showstopper rear its head at the worst possible moment.

Procedural Generation

I had a conversation with a coworker about EV games and roguelikes. They made a claim that I’m not sure is true but definitely opened my eyes-they thought that the star maps in EV games probably had been procedurally generated-once.

Actually hand-crafting a full EV map is a bit of a process. One thing I never finished doing in FTS was populating all of the systems.

Meanwhile, Mag Steel glass has developed a really cool universe generator spreadsheet. I figured I could leverage it to make a map. Traditional EV games require you to specify exactly who spawns in what star system and FTS carried on that painful tradition. For this one I had simpler rules; factions had starting locations and then grew “influence” where planets (or stations) would belong to them and their ships would spawn. If two areas of influence overlapped, they’d fight.

Document enough for people to get up and running locally

Port forwarding is a lost art. There was much grumbling when my friends and I went to go start a game of Valheim; luckily I’d learned to properly port forward as part of this project! If you need a server for people to play your game, you can’t rely on your master server; you’ve got to give people an option to join localhost and put it in your manual/readme. Having images in the readme also helps show people what your project is about; this is especially important for games.

You don’t get cross platform for free

Using cross platform technology does not absolve you from cross platform testing. All of your target platforms might have the same features but they may all have different bugs for you to work around. I’m developing on linux out of what is probably just bloody mindedness at this point, so when I did my live demos on windows I often learned exciting new things like ‘your sound exports are busted’ or ‘only one computer can be assigned to a given port by a given router’ or ‘you need to version bump the editor for correct mac exports.’ Guess which one of those lead to an incredibly embarrassing platform bug report!

Video Tutorials are worth it

Part of my commitment to overcoming my stubborn hangups was relenting and watching video tutorials. I still strongly prefer written tutorials as a medium but the content is moving to video. For example:

This (and the followup on extrapolation) gave me enough to totally re implement my networked movement.

Working In Public

I post progress updates on discord channels full of fans from the old days, and regularly demo the game with friends. This has been a source of motivation and helped me stick to a more iteration focused (and less “well, I’ll go off for a month and make all of the models/textures/features”) work habit. I’m not sure I’m going to do this for every project; part of why I did it for this one was I wanted to spur participation and that didn’t really happen. Very few people who I didn’t know personally went to the trouble of getting the game running. Part of that is because it wasn’t immediately approachable (you need to host or find a server then run another client to join it) and wasn’t immediately grippy (ok, I can buy a ship, now what?) Any amount of friction is going to turn away potential players, and if you’re used to playing rough unfinished demos this can become a blind spot. But beyond even that, getting someone to try something new is just plain hard.

People respond to Video

At the end of the day, pictures and text don’t cut it for sharing a game. Games are animation. People are used to watching streamers. You need a video of your thing and it needs to show off what the thing is about, including how you interact with it and why it’s compelling. This was my attempt:

Have features and fixes gone in since that video was made? Sure. But it’s still the best tool to show off what the project is about.

Parting Shots

Has the project met its goals so far?

  • Learn the Godot engine: ✔️

I’m comfortable with the technology now; expect future prototypes to be more rapid.

  • Use Onyx’s Sprites in a game: ✔️

I used most of the ship sprites themselves and lovingly separated out the engine glows for even the ones I didn’t use, in case someone in the future wants to use them again. Cosmic Frontier mod anyone?

  • Build a reusable platform for multiplayer EV-clones: ✔️

Maybe this is a partial check. If someone has an idea and that idea is based on multiplayer EV gameplay, I’m confident that if they’re willing to learn Godot they could at the very least copypasta big chunks of the MPEVMVP codebase and get something running. Or they could fork it, replace everything, add missions, remove multiplayer, and make an EV clone real fast.

  • Discover if EV gameplay works in multiplayer: ✔️

Learned important lessons about how much bullet hell spam a networked game can handle, and as a straight dogfighting sim it let me figure out what is and isn’t fun in PVP EV.

  • Build a game people want/like/play: ❌

As far as I can tell, nobody enjoyed playing this besides on demo night. The service I think people want this game to be is beyond the scope of what it can be with a team this size.

4/5 ain’t bad. Thanks a bunch to everyone who tested it, gave feedback, and flew too far to find the center of the map again.