Starsector 0.9.1a Release

Update (05/20/19): a hotfix for an issue causing no salvage to be generated after some fights and a few other issues is out, please re-download using the links below.

Update (05/17/19): a new release fixing a few relatively minor issues is out, please re-download using the links below.

Starsector version 0.9.1a is now out! This is mostly a bugfixing-and-polish release, though there is also some new content and a few new mechanics.

  • Rebalanced colony progression so it’s both not as demanding of constant attention and doesn’t immediately catapult the player into the endgame
  • Improvements to ship AI, in particular escort behavior is much better (see here) and carrier survivability is much greater
  • Two new capital ships, used by the pirate and Pather factions, and a new pirate skin for the Shrike
  • A “randomized start” option
  • Various quality-of-life improvments (can set speed-up time to be a toggle, etc)
  • Reworked high-end fleet spawning – generates more large ships, and fewer ships overall, instead of just a larger number of ships
  • Large fleets can now disengage without being pursued if they can deal enough damage in a pitched battle first, even if they lose it
  • Added ambient sound track when visiting a portside bar
  • Assorted combat balance tweaks
  • Many bugfixes and modding-related improvements

The new version should be save-compatible, although some mods may require a few adjustments to work.

The full patch notes, and the comment thread, are here. You can download the new version here:

(Alternate download links: Windows Mac Linux)

As always, thank you for your support!

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Writing Starsector

The next update will add strong narrative RPG elements to Starsector, among other things.

I feel no small amount of trepidation because this is both a change and it is a particular story about particular characters in a way the pure sandbox certainly isn’t. This necessarily constrains your – the player’s – experience of the game-fantasy and the meta-game fantasy of an “unfinished game” which has the potential to become everyone’s dreams in a free-floating quantum state… until you see it for real and it turns out it isn’t quite what you dreamed.

I suppose this seems like an awfully negative way to start off; this is what I mean about trepidation. And I am legitimately excited about sharing more of the world of Starsector, letting players dive in a bit closer and get a feel for what it’s like for people that live in this world. Find out what they think, find out a bit more about why movers and shakers move like they do. If I may say so, I think we’ve done some pretty good work!

The written wordcount has already exceeded the minimum definition for a novel (50k) a few times over by now. I’ve attempted Nanowrimo a few times in the past and always choked almost instantly. My experience writing Starsector has been a stark contrast – the words just flow! It seems so obvious, most of the time, what comes next, what feels right to be said. I suspect part of it is the constraint of the medium focusing creativity, but it may also perhaps be the very clear connection to an audience (that’s y’all out there!). A novel feels a bit like a bunch of words floating out  in (ha) space. A game, however, has a player. They must actively engage and progress. I know a player is committed in a way a reader isn’t. (Which probably isn’t at all true; people read books, after all. I’ve even read one or two in my day.)

Whatever it is, maybe I can’t rationalize it. But something works here for me in a way that hasn’t elsewhere. I’ll take it.

Let’s get to the nuts and bolts of this.

We’ve had to deal with certain constraints and design problems while adding written content to Starsector. Some of these are faced by all games which use writing, some are particular to the context of Starsector. I am not going to talk about any specific narrative beats or plot details, but I will talk about how the narrative is structured, so from a certain point of view one could derive meta-spoilers from this blog post. I think the most pure and magical way to experience Starsector would be with no foreknowledge of any of this, so I’ll give you fair warning now: if you don’t want to know anything, stop reading.

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Personal Contacts

One of the bigger tasks for this release cycle has been adding new content into the game. Since a lot of it is story content – think the “Red Planet” mission, but on a bigger scale with things tying together and building up – it’s not something that I can really talk about without spoiling it.

But, not all the new missions are “story” missions. A lot of them missions are just new things you can do in the game, without being unique one-offs. Consider, for example, the current missions to scan a derelict, survey a planet, or collect a bounty – these new missions are all roughly along these lines, with of course more variety thrown in.

The question is, how do we make them available to the player?
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GIF Roundup

I’ve been working on a lot of content recently – some hand-crafted missions, new weapons (and ships), some endgame material, and so on. While that’s all terribly exciting, it unfortunately doesn’t leave me with a whole lot I can talk about without spoiling things. There is another feature I’m working up to – somewhere at the intersection of “mechanics” and “content”, a bit more the latter – that I’ll be able to talk about (at least, if it pans out), but that’s still a little ways off.

In the meantime, I thought I’d revisit some of the gifs I posted on twitter while working on a new set of weapons. (There are also ships that go with these weapons, but those are not to be talked about, I’m afraid. Hegemony COMSEC was quite clear on the subject.) I’ll also talk a bit more about the effects, so even if you’ve seen these already, there’ll be something new – and there may be one or two you might have missed, even if you’ve been following along!

First, a picture of the glorious mess these can produce when employed against a hapless Paragon. This is a bit over the top; I wouldn’t imagine things would look quite this extreme very often.

(Lest you think I hate Paragons, since they seem to be commonly used for target practice: it’s only because they’re the only thing sturdy enough, I swear.)

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Painting the Stars

You may have seen this post by Alex come up on your TriPad™ last month – click to visit the lovely original video.

See also a related TriMedia Experience here.

Clearly, something’s up with at least one star or Domain-era tech definitely-safe star-like object. I’m not here to say what’s precisely what or how you players will inevitably try (and succeed) to exploit the mechanics of it, but more to speak about the artistic method to in portraying said star-adjacent objects and/or activities.

Well. I’ll have to spoil a little bit to explain how I’m approaching artistic these problems, so buckle up and be on alert for a COMSEC lockdown. This is the deep-dive digital painting post the Hegemony doesn’t want you to know about!

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Raiding for Fun and Profit

I’d started out trying to add a story point option that would, to quote my TODO list, “make ground raids more of an early-game activity the player can engage in”. Some time later, I ended up with a total revamp of the ground-raid system, and no story point option. I promise, I can explain!

(If you’re unfamiliar with story points, see this blog post. In brief, they’re limited “do cool things” points that you’ll gain as you level up. Both the points and the cool things to spend them on will be in the next release.)

Now then, back to how this happened. Story points are not an end unto themselves – the goal of the TODO item was, after all, entirely about ground raids in the early game; story points were just a possible way to do it. So, the first thing I’d tried was letting the player use a story point to stage a “surprise” raid, with higher effectiveness. This means you don’t need as many marines to accomplish something useful, which in turn means you can do it earlier in the game. Technically correct (the best kind!), but also, doesn’t hold up.
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