Ship’s Log of Salvage Dave’s Final Mission

Order received from command: Alex wants campaign testing, especially of new salvage mechanics, missions, and abilities. So I say, why don’t I turn some testing notes into a blog post? Command approved the initiative noting, however, that it was imperative that I – paraphrased – “use discretion when it comes to certain elements you may encounter”. Discretion is my middle name! There isn’t room for it on my Domain Ident Chip however, so you’ll have to take my good word for it.  

Cycle 206, March 03

salvage_dave00

Over the last cycle, I’ve been making my living as a smuggler. The ship under my command is a Wayfarer-class freighter, the Iota-Max II, with good cargo capacity and decent armament.

Recently I’ve filled my cargo holds with contraband – and legitimate goods to disguise it.  All in all, recent life in the Sector has been relatively … Normal.

That’s all about to change.

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Ship Recovery

In the previous post about the skill overhaul, I mentioned a different playstyle enabled by the Industry aptitude. That’s what I’d like to talk about here, but as part of a larger set of changes.

Ideally, you want to solve multiple problems with the same change. This is of course common sense (two birds, one stone) but for game design specifically, it can get tricky. There’s always an option of making a change just to solve a particular problem, and sometimes it’s the right answer.

However, if this is done too often, the danger is you end up with features that are only loosely related to each other – and you end up with a lot of them. A single solution that brings multiple systems together is going to make the design both simpler and deeper.

Let’s look at “industry needs its own playstyle” as a design problem, and see what else can be taken care of as part of the solution.

recovery_fleet

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Skill Overhaul

The current skill system in Starsector was added quite a while ago. That in itself isn’t a reason to redo it, but as with all first-pass systems, some downsides of the implementation became apparent along the way.

But why update it now, rather than sometime down the line? New features in this release need skills to complement them, and adding more skills to the old system would just be adding more stuff to redo later – it’s more efficient to overhaul the system now, and add the new skills in a hopefully-final form. In addition, it’ll be nice to address some long-standing balance issues, but more on that later.

First, let’s take a quick look at the old system. There are 4 aptitudes – Combat, Leadership, Technology, and Industry – and each aptitude has skills under it. The maximum level of a skill is determined by the level of the aptitude it’s under, and the player gets 2 skill points per level and 1 aptitude point every other level.

Skills have 10 levels, a base effect that increases with skill level (e.g. 2% more damage per level), and two perks – each providing significant and sometimes game-changing bonuses – at level 5 and 10 in the skill.

Now, instead of talking about the issues with this system, what I’d like to do is talk about the new system, and mention the issues in the context of how they’re being addressed.

skills_strike

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Cartography

The map UI in Starsector hasn’t changed much since it was first introduced, back when Corvus was the only star system and there was no hyperspace. It’s been tweaked here and there to support new features along the way – terrain, for example – but the core functionality has remained the same.

map_fixed

With the upcoming update drastically increasing the number of star systems the map has to handle, and its focus on exploration, it was finally time for an overhaul.
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Orbital Stations in Combat

Like exploration, orbital stations are a bit awkward to talk about because I’d like to avoid spoiling things, and this rules out talking about all of the content currently using these mechanics. So, the mechanics are what we’ll talk about instead, with a placeholder station for reference.

Before we go on, a disclaimer. Talking about pure mechanics is also tricky, because we’re talking about potential. Potential is very exciting, but often for the wrong reasons – it can mean whatever you want it to mean. Two people can talk about the same ideas, agree that they love them, and mean entirely different realizations of said ideas that the other person would hate.

Finally, the details of the mechanics may point towards specific content that isn’t in the game yet. That doesn’t mean that it will be at some point, though it probably means I’m intending to look at it very closely. Whether that’ll pan out or not, though, is impossible to say until it’s actually done.

All I’m asking for, then, is some brakes for the potential hype train. Really, this applies to any blog post to varying degrees – things can and do change all the time – but it feels more important to mention here, perhaps because the idea of orbital stations in battle really makes my own imagination take off.

With that out of the way, I introduce to you the ISS Placeholder, an orbital station that you will (almost) certainly not see in the game.

station_base

The main thing that makes this otherwise smart-looking (if I do say so myself) station a placeholder is its size, barely battleship-level. That’s not to say it could never see action in a different role, but it’s not big enough to be, say, a hypothetical battlestation defending a planet. If such a thing were a thing, which right now it isn’t.

So, how does this all work?
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