If you’ve been keeping track, about 3 months ago, I decided to push back the next release in order to get the initial version of the campaign implemented first. I thought I’d talk a bit about the progress that’s been made, and what to expect in the near future.
First, a minor matter of nomenclature – the next version is going to be called 0.5a (up from 0.35a) to reflect the large chunk of features it contains.
Now, what’s actually done already? I’ll try to keep this on a high level to keep the post from spiraling out of control – there is already a forum thread with the gory details, if you want to dig deeper.
Everything takes place within a single star system for now. You can manage your fleet, cargo, and crew, and engage hostile fleets in battle. You can engage in post-battle boarding actions and salvage what remains of the enemy (and your!) ships. You can refit your ships using available weapons and hull modifications. Ship weapons and engines can get damaged and disabled in combat, adding a whole new layer of tactical considerations. There have been many UI improvements – most notably lots more tooltips, and much-improved existing tooltips. There are also several new ships and weapons. You can create a new character – just a name and portrait for now – and there’s the save/load functionality you’d expect.
When I put it that way, it sounds just about playable, doesn’t it? The trouble is, right now those things are just disjointed features, and what I’ll be doing over the coming weeks is cobbling them together into something that’s actually fun.
The next step is to add factions and faction-specific fleets into the game. There won’t be any higher-level campaign mechanics yet – for now, fleets will spawn somewhere in the star system. There also needs to be a way to hire crew and buy/sell weapons and ship hulls – so we’re probably looking at some basics of interaction with a populated planet. I’d also like to add player skills and character and crew advancement – though that’s separate enough that it could be deferred to a subsequent build if need be.
But none of those are particularly time-consuming as features. The major, major task remaining is intangible – it’s simply going to take a lot of play-testing, balancing, and more play-testing to get all of the above right.
So, what can you expect?
First of all, I’m going to get a just-barely-playable version of the above together and put out a preview release to those interested. It won’t be balanced, it will have bugs, but it will help a whole lot to get some feedback. This should happen in January. After that, I’ll spend some time polishing it up and making it generally more enjoyable, while incorporating any feedback from the preview release.
I’d also like to release a demo. What I’m thinkining is to make the missions playable in the demo, and only make the campaign available after the game is activated – but to release both in the same version. That way there’s still just one download, you can make sure the game runs on your system before buying it, and it’s just all around simple.
All in all, I’m very excited that the initial campaign release is finally drawing close! … I guess I better wrap up this post and get cracking on it. That code isn’t going to write itself, you know.