First, a brief summary of what this post is about – a new campaign feature that allows nearby fleets – naturally, including yours – to join ongoing battles.
If you’ve been following the development of this release, you’re probably aware that things are in the “polish things and make it fun to play” phase more so than in the “add more features” phase. Why, then, add a significant new feature at this stage? The answer is that it’s a direct response to playtesting, rather than a specifically planned-for feature on the roadmap – it’s meant to help address several important gameplay issues, some quite long-standing. Now was a good opportunity to do it, and here we are. Looking back, I’m glad I ended up taking this on now rather than later – with how many different pieces of the code this change touches, it would only get more difficult with time.
In an earlier post, I’d talked about terrain. An astute observer might have noticed that the terrain discussed there is all more or less normal stuff – nebluas, asteroids, etc. Nothing that’s a good fit for hyperspace, which has more of a “weird” feel.
The first question is, what’s the goal of adding terrain to hyperspace? Obviously not having any terrain there would be a bit boring; spicing things up with some variety is not a bad goal, but something more specific would help guide the design better. So: “make hyperspace travel something that can be done well or poorly by the player”. This fits with the overarching goal of terrain making travel more interesting. Unlike normal terrain – which generally makes things interesting by impacting your interactions with other fleets, i.e. hiding from someone inside a nebula – the goal for hyperspace terrain is to be interesting by itself. This fits nicely with the primary role of hyperspace as a travel medium. Read the rest of this entry »
The addition of faction music in the upcoming 0.7a is probably my favorite audio feature in Starsector. Here’s a small video breaking down some of the music for the Hegemony faction, along with an explanation on how reputation affects the soundtrack.
I started working on Starsector in the middle of 2010, over five years ago. An artist grows and changes in that kind of time. It’s only natural that I’d refine my technique and artistic opinions regarding the art of Starsector. No, I’m not proposing the redraw everything! – just, perhaps, this and that which was inelegantly handled in light of my current experience. This applies to many aspects of Starsector, but in particular let’s talk about greebles.
The artistic (re)thinking the led to this post is entirely inspired by Niklas Jansson‘s writing On the topic of good spaceship design which I re-read every six months or so. I highly recommend reading it along with basically everything on his webpage, particularly his thoughts on making art generally and pixel art if you’re the artistic type. Let me pull a relevant quote from the spaceship design article from Jansson:
Sometimes when I do a design, I find myself filling the remaining last few areas/surfaces with irrelevant nonsense and greeble, and I may think that I can get away with it because I’m happy with the rest of the design. Unfortunately it brings down the overall quality of the design. What could have been contributing is not.
Guilty as charged.
Now I do like the impression of a flying oil refinery, but it is totally greeble city.
Greebles are little doodads encrusted on spaceships without discernible purpose. At the best they are visual texture which contributes to a sense of scale, or – to borrow from Star Wars – to a sense of a “used universe”, to industrial-grunge aesthetics. I love all of those things. But at worst they are visual noise which muddles artistic intent, or even a crutch upon which to support a design which has a weak overall sense of form and composition. They can be a cheap path to adding visual interest with busy patterns and high contrast. Greebling can be a useful tool, but I’m much more wary now about it than I was five years ago.
I’ve always tended toward greebliness in my sci-fi art. Let me present an example from 2008: I was making a portfolio website totally covered in greebles to show off how cool and greebly I could be. Compare what’s going on here to Starsector ships you can doubtless see a continuity of style:
In the spirit of continuing to liven up the campaign layer of the game (and also knocking out a swath of high-level features in the most-straightforward-possible way), I’ve been working on terrain in the past couple of weeks.
But first, in the name of putting something shiny before the break: fleet contrails!
In addition to being eye candy, these also serve as visual indicators of ability use. For example, using the “Emergency Burn” ability brightens up and extends the trail, while activating “Go Dark” reduces its length and duration.
With that, onwards to terrain. What does it do? It affects fleets that are in it – their speed, detection range, that sort of thing. Why is it there? As usual, part of the answer is “to give the player an opportunity to make interesting decisions”. Without terrain, if you’re being pursued, running one way or another is pretty much the same.
If you might lose your pursuers in an asteroid belt, or hide inside a nebula, then you’ve got reasons for going one way or another. Beyond that, adding terrain to star systems gives them more personality and makes them more interesting.