For a while now, the core campaign gameplay has been pretty … let’s say straightforward. You click somewhere, your fleet goes there, you may chase or be chased along the way, and that’s pretty much all there is to it. It does the job as the “thing you do between the fun stuff” – battles, interacting with markets, and so on – but it doesn’t stand up as anything you’d want to do for its own sake. To be fair, not a lot of time has been dedicated to making it into that – until now.

It’s going to take multiple mechanics working together to bring campaign-level gameplay up to par with combat, and I’d like to talk about the first one of these that we’ve been working on: sensors, that is to say, a set of rules that determine when one fleet is able to see another.

It’s important to note that how sensors work will both influence and depend on other related mechanics (to be added in the near future), and so the current incarnation of sensors – the one I’m going to discuss now – is very likely to change. In general, the more specific a detail, the less likely it is to remain exactly as-is.

That aside, why sensors? Why can’t all fleets always see each other, the way they do now? There’s a realism argument for it, as spotting fleets across light-years doesn’t make a lot of intuitive sense, but I’m not a fan of the “realism” argument in general. It takes days to travel light-years of distance, so who’s to say where sensor tech is relative to that? Internal consistency of the rules and good gameplay are more important; given those, an in-fiction explanation for how things work shouldn’t be too difficult, if it even proves necessary.

What else, then?

First of all, suspense and a sense of discovery. If you see everything, there aren’t going to be any surprises. Say you’re traveling from Corvus to Asharu, and you’ve opened up the map to see the route – and you see that it’s clear of any enemies. From that point on, you know for a certainty that there’s no risk to the trip, and it stops being engaging and becomes a wait until it’s over.

If you don’t have perfect vision, on the other hand, space gets big and mysterious again. You start the trip – and see a sensor blip.


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Combat Officers

This update is shaping up to be adding a breadth of new features instead of focusing on any one thing in depth. This is a change of pace from previous updates, but it’s nice in that it’ll be easier to flesh out these features when it’s more clear how they should be interrelated. That’s something that would be more difficult to figure out without seeing more basic versions of these features first.

As you’ve no doubt divined from the post title, the new feature is “combat officers” – people you can hire to command other ships in your fleet, improving their performance and letting them keep up with your flagship as your character’s skills improve.


Keep in mind that this is very much a “20% of the effort to get 80% of the way there” implementation. After laying down some related groundwork while implementing campaign missions,  this took a bit less than a week. Which, if I’m being honest, is shockingly fast, although it’s not particularly fast for the “pure” amount of work it was. It’s that game dev usually takes a long time because a lot of it is spent figuring out exactly where you’re going, trying this way and that, finding your way through the design space. That holds true on many levels, from grander things like designing core mechanics to more mundane things like making a button feel satisfying to click. This time, there was a clear path to an initial implementation, and everything came together very naturally.

What I’d like to do is talk about how officers work now, and then talk about possible ways of fleshing them out later, depending on how other parts of the game shape up.
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Campaign Missions

Campaign missions are pretty much quests. (Why not call them quests, then? Because spaaaaaaaace. There are no quests in space. Please do not point me towards Space Quest.)

What I’d like to do first is talk about the first mission that I implemented to figure out how all the different pieces needed to come together.

Mission: Procurement Contract
It made sense to start with something simple, so simple it is. The mission goal can be summed up easily: “acquire a quantity of commodity X and deliver it to market Y for a reward”. Of course, once you dive into the details, it gets a bit more involved. How do you take on a mission? How do you keep track of it? How do you complete it?

None of these are difficult questions, and lots of games have quests, so they’ve all been answered more times than one could count. Mostly, it “just” boils down to UI work. “Just” in quotes because, oh boy, there’s a lot of it, and there’s lots of new underlying data to make it all work, too.

So, then – taking on missions. A mission board will do nicely:


One thing to note here is that the board shows missions from nearby star systems as well. It’s also not the only way to get missions – well, it is *right now*, but there’s nothing preventing missions from being taken on in conversation with an NPC, for example.
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A Starsector Reading List

As you might imagine, I’ve been busy cooking up some new star systems and worlds to visit in Starsector.

Which brings to mind that for some time now I’ve wanted to share a few of the science fiction novels I feel relate to how I approach the world of Starsector creatively. Reviewing my list of novels, I find some common themes: dark settings where terrible things happen (or have happened); they are often about distinct factions with differing philosophies coming into conflict; they’re set in “used” worlds filled with ruins, ancient and often misunderstood technology, scratches and dents and rust and rubble and history. And of course they’re space operas with the battles and pew-pew lasers and that lot. Just like Starsector! Such is what I aspire to, at least. Let’s begin!


(The art, by the way, is just some stuff I’m working on for Starsector, nothing to do with the books.)

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Starsector 0.65.2a Release

Update: a hotfix is now up. It also includes some balance changes; for detailed notes clickhere.

You can use the download links below to get the hotfix.

Starsector version 0.65.2a is now out! You can get it here:

(Alternate download links: Windows Mac Linux)

The full patch notes are here. This is mostly a “housekeeping and bugfixing” release, and it should be save-compatible with the previous version.

Some of the more important features of this release:

  • Save files are ~50% smaller and take much less memory to save/load (mostly an issue for modded games)
  • New music for pirate markets and encounters!
  • Combat balance pass (see full patch notes for details)

Thank you for your support!


Comment thread here.


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