Once More, with Feeling

If you’ve been keeping up with development progress, you’re probably aware that I’ve been doing some playtesting in preparation for making the next release. Sometimes, playtesting results in relatively small balance tweaks or content and mechanics adjustments. Other times, one finds themselves redoing the economy system for – if I’ve been keeping track correctly – the 5th time. So, that’s what I want to talk about today – briefly! – before diving back into the depths of my TODO list.

The good news is, this iteration of the economy 1) is simple, 2) keeps most of the elements of the previous one, 3) is based on colony playtesting, so is likely to actually really stick this time, and 4) as of this writing, fully implemented. This ended up being roughly a week-long detour, by the way, so, all things considered, not too bad.


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Salvaging Mechanics Update

This is going to be a shorter blog post – I’d just like to talk about refactoring one mechanic to work a little differently, since I think it’s an interesting one, and thinking it through gave me some trouble.

One of the things you do in the game is go to the fringes of the Sector and “salvage” various derelicts – abandoned stations, Domain-era probes, and so on. It’s a good source of valuable materials and lost technology. With the next release, salvaging will become even more important, since it’ll be the primary way for the player to get ship and weapon blueprints that in turn feed into the manufacturing capabilities of their colonies.


First, a quick look at how it works now:

  • Each derelict has a “salvage difficulty rating”, from 0 to 100%
  • And based on that, also a required amount of heavy machinery and crew to carry out the operation
  • A “Salvaging” skill lets the player salvage higher-difficulty derelicts
  • If the crew of rating requirements aren’t met, the player has the option of blowing up the derelict and scavenging through the resulting debris field
  • Bringing along Salvage Rigs (a type of ship) increases the amount of salvage by up to the difficulty rating of the derelict

This is definitely workable. The main issue is that the amount of salvage without investing points into the skill is too low, but that can be tuned because it’s just a numbers issue. Or… is it?
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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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