Raids, Bombardments, and Planetary Defenses

Ever since reading Space Viking, I’ve wanted to add planet-raiding to Starsector. Of course, one simply doesn’t add a feature because one has read about something cool; we need to have good reasons for adding raiding to the game, and in particular for adding it for this release, which already has quite a lot of stuff in it.

What makes it necessary at this stage? The new economy system allows the player to generate a constant income stream by becoming the best supplier of, say, fuel or transplutonics. One way to do that is for them to build up their own operation and improve its accessibility. The flip side is knocking the competition down a peg or two, and raiding is a natural fit here.


So, that’s the main reason – but adding a new feature also presents an opportunity to make other improvements to the overall design.

After establishing the main goals, it’s natural to move on to the question of choices. After all, a game is more or less just a series of interesting choices. “What interesting choices does raiding offer to the player?”, then, seems like a reasonable starting point. Unfortunately, it’s a lazily phrased question, and that could get us in trouble.
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Pirate Bases, Raids, and Objectives

A primary gameplay roleĀ  of player-built colonies is getting the player into trouble. Generally speaking, this trouble should be resolved through combat, since combat with context and real stakes is fun. And, after all, what would be the point of building a battlestation if your colonies never got attacked?

One natural source for this kind of trouble is, of course, pirates.


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Revisiting the Intel UI

How the player finds out about what’s going on in the Sector – and specifically, what opportunities there are for them to take advantage of – is really important. Some examples of this kind of information, or “intel”, are a bounty posted by a faction, a mission to analyze a probe on the outskirts of the Sector, ongoing hostilities between major factions, the player’s recent discoveries, and so on.


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Space-mines are too cool a concept not to get into Starsector at some point. We’ve talked about them internally many times in the past, and while the idea is very neat indeed, there are several design pitfalls to watch out for. What I’d like to do in this post is talk about the design process for minefields – what the impetus for adding them was, how I approached their initial design, and how it evolved during the implementation.

First off, why add mines now? The answer is for orbital station battles – those present several design challenges, one of which is that they both need to start off strong at the lowest “orbital station” tier, and grow in power as they progress to “battlestation” (tier 2) and “star fortress” (tier 3).

A battlestation is notably bigger and stronger than an orbital station, and that’s nice upgrade. A star fortress, however… one can’t just glom on more modules and make it bigger. Having too many modules makes a station fight less interesting – the station becomes just a mass of stuff to shoot at rather than individual modules with strengths and weaknesses.


What we want is for the star fortress upgrade to make the battlestation more powerful while not compromising what makes the original design interesting. There are several components to this, and one of them is a minefield maintained around the star fortress.

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Orbital Fleet Behavior

This blog post is a bit different than usual – instead of talking about a major new game mechanic, I’d like to instead take a quick – but in-depth – look at something relatively minor, but that I thought was interesting. I will, of course, continue to write regular-style blog posts as well.

In Starsector, fleets will often orbit a planet for some time – trade fleets offloading cargo, patrols preparing for duty, and so on. The orbits of some well-to-do colonies can get quite crowded, with fleets overlapping each other and being difficult to pick out. This isn’t a huge problem in terms of game mechanics, but it’s still occasionally inconvenient and just messy to look at.


The other day, encountering a particularly egregious case, I wrote a quick algorithm for the fleet AI to use to avoid overlapping other orbiting fleetsĀ  as much as possible.
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