Starsector 0.65.1a Release

Starsector version 0.65.1a is now out! It’s mostly a bugfix release, and you can get it here:

(Alternate download links: Windows Mac Linux)

The full patch notes are here. In addition to the bug fixes, a new feature did manage to sneak its way in: you can now deploy allied ships from your fleet into simulator battles in the campaign.

What I’d like to do is take some time to focus on gameplay tweaks and improvements and then make a 0.65.2a release in the near future, before moving on to work on the next feature release.

Thank you for your support!

 

Comment thread here.

 

Starsector 0.65a Release

It’s been a long time coming, but Starsector version 0.65a is now out! You can get it here:

(Alternate download links: Windows Mac Linux)

A quick look at what’s new in this release:

  • Trade, smuggling, and a working economy with many commodities to buy and sell
  • Four more star systems
  • More detailed player-faction relationships – gain reputation and get access to better equipment
  • Event system – food shortages, bounties, etc
  • Ship skins for faction-specific flavor
  • More music
  • A slew of miscellaneous improvements and balance changes

The full patch notes are here.

As usual with OS X: if you’ve got Gatekeeper enabled, right-click on Starsector and click “Open” when running it for the first time. Otherwise, you won’t get the option to “run it anyway” when it complains that the app is from an “unidentified developer”.

Also, with this release, the new preorder price is $15. Starsector has come a long way since its initial release – I’d been hesitant to change the price until the set of features had expanded significantly, and we’re finally here.

Thank you for your support, and I hope you enjoy this release!

 

Comment thread here.

 

Trade & Smuggling

(If you’ve read an earlier blog post, “On Trade Design“, some of what follows is going to sound familiar.)

Trade and smuggling are closely related, so it makes sense to tackle both at the same time. Smuggling is simply a more detailed case: trade with complications, if you will.

If you’re going to have a successful trade run of any sort, the first thing you need is information. The main way the player gets information is through news reports and intelligence assessments. Information is important for more than just trade, and these reports have a dedicated tab in the UI.

intel_report_list

For trade, the information the player needs is straightforward: where can they buy or sell something at favorable prices? This kind of information is where things could easily descend into spreadsheet hell, with the player poring over pricing information for every commodity at every market, trying to find the best deals.

It’s important to note that it’s not a binary condition (“too much information” vs “a good amount”); how much information to process is “too much” is subjective. So, the approach to managing the amount of information presented is going to be based largely on my own feelings about what seems right.

Much of the problem is taken care of right off the bat by the economy simulation. When it reaches an equilibrium, prices are such that trade isn’t profitable. For example, if market A produces ore, and market B needs it, the simulation will reach an equilibrium point where the price of ore on both markets is about the same. Throw in tariffs on both ends (set at a brutal 30%), and shipping ore from A to B just isn’t going to bring a profit… unless something happened to disturb the balance.

In some cases, that disruption is directly due to an event. A food shortage will directly increase the price of food. Less obviously, it will also destabilize the local market and decrease the prices of everything else, which may or may not result in other profitable trade runs opening up.

What this means is that you can’t rely on news reports of events being the only way to find out there is a trading opportunity. While the number of these opportunities is much more manageable because they’re mostly driven by events and the simulation actively stamps them out over time, the game still needs to keep track of prices and convey that information to the player.
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Faction Relationships

Sometimes during development, you end up doing things you hadn’t initially planned on doing. Fleshing out player-faction relationships is one of those things. It was something I knew I’d have to look at eventually - the current system having two attitudes towards the player – “meh” and “shoot first and don’t ask questions”, with nothing in between, was definitely not going to hold up. Initially, though, it didn’t seem connected to the economy and events systems, which are the focus of the upcoming release. So, how did faction relationships get dragged into this?

With the introduction of trade and events, player actions carry more meaning than they did before. A successful trade run contributes to the stability of the markets involved; more so if the markets are small. Smuggling can be a hugely destabilizing force. A food shortage has long-term consequences, which depend on how severe it is, which in turn depends on whether the player got involved, and if so, how. Markets declare bounties when hostile fleets are doing damage to the economy, and so collecting on those bounties – by removing said fleets – has a real impact as well.

Not all of these are earth-shaking, and there’s still some work to do on making the consequences more pronounced and more clear. One way to do that that is to make other inhabitants of the world notice, and react to, your actions. It’s a clear way for the game to say “what you just did matters”. Provided that your standing with a faction has a tangible effect, it also increases how much it matters. We get improved clarity and increased impact – a win/win! Factions having more nuanced attitudes and responses to your actions also increases their believability.

This is all a long way of saying that if the player can do things that matter, it’s tough to separate that from NPCs having appropriate reactions, and if those reactions are limited to “attack” and “don’t attack”, that doesn’t provide enough expressiveness.  (Put like that, this seems rather obvious… ahem, moving on.)

faction_screenIf you’re going to have more detailed faction relationships, there has to be some way to see what they are. Darn it, more UI work.

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Fleet Creation

During the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working more and more on content for the next release, as opposed to features. The next release is going to add four new star systems - Arcadia, Eos, Magec, and Valhalla. David has done a lion’s share of work in mapping these out and creating the backstory – and now, it’s time for these to be populated with fleets.

When adding content, a key question that comes up is how much to procedurally generate vs hand-craft. Both approaches have their pros and cons; on a very basic level, hand-crafted content is going to have higher initial quality, while procedurally generated content is going to have more replay value. It’s not a question of which approach to choose, though. Every approach lies somewhere on a continuum between the two, so the question is exactly how to mix hand-crafted and procedural components, and in what proportion – in this case, specifically as it applies to fleet creation.

Before deciding how to do something, it’s not a bad idea to figure out what it is you want to actually do. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what we actually want out of fleet creation. There are two parts to it: what ships make up a fleet, and what kinds of fleets to spawn (and where, and how often).

Fleet Composition
First, the obvious: what ships go into a fleet depends on what type of fleet it is. A trade fleet is going to need freighters, a patrol is going to need fast attack ships, and so on.

hab_glows_sindriaCompletely unrelated screenshot of the habitation glows on Sindria, along with some backstory

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