Colony Management

I’ve been making steady progress fleshing out the various colony-related mechanics, and though there’s still a lot to do there (in a way, everything for the next release has to do with colonies), there’s also a mostly-completed set of features to talk about.

colonized_systems

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Economy & Outposts

I’m going to break one of my unwritten rules today and talk about stuff that isn’t quite done, because the alternative is taking far too long to talk about it at all. There are a lot of inter-related systems in the works, and it’s not going to be possible to playtest properly until most of them are in place, so please keep in mind that the features I’m going to describe here may change more than usual.

Economy
If I’m counting correctly, this is the third “from the ground up” rewrite of the economy system. Well, maybe the second, since the first one wasn’t a re-write, technically. Still, the economy system has had a more turbulent path through development than just about any other part of the game.

(Let me take a moment here and clarify what I mean when I say “economy” – it’s the behind-the-scenes system that produces and moves around between markets commodities such as food, fuel, and supplies, and determines their base prices at various locations. This is different from a player-centric notion of “the game’s economy”, which focuses on how the player gets and spends credits – a perfectly fine use of the term, but not what I’m talking about here.)

eochu_bres

So, why did it go through a couple of complete re-writes? I think it’s because up until now, the primary reason for its existence – a macro-scale game that the player can participate in, which is to say building outposts and such – didn’t exist, and so the shape the economy needed to take was murky.
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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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Terrain

In the spirit of continuing to liven up the campaign layer of the game (and also knocking out a swath of high-level features in the most-straightforward-possible way), I’ve been working on terrain in the past couple of weeks.

But first, in the name of putting something shiny before the break: fleet contrails!

terrain_trails

In addition to being eye candy, these also serve as visual indicators of ability use. For example, using the “Emergency Burn” ability brightens up and extends the trail, while activating “Go Dark” reduces its length and duration.

With that, onwards to terrain. What does it do? It affects fleets that are in it – their speed, detection range, that sort of thing. Why is it there? As usual, part of the answer is “to give the player an opportunity to make interesting decisions”. Without terrain, if you’re being pursued, running one way or another is pretty much the same.

If you might lose your pursuers in an asteroid belt, or hide inside a nebula, then you’ve got reasons for going one way or another. Beyond that, adding terrain to star systems gives them more personality and makes them more interesting.

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Sensors

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.

sensor_contact

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