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.

food_producers

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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.

raid_strengths

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.

base_tooltip

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Revisiting the Economy

Part of the design process, it seems, is going back and changing things that seemed like they would work well on paper, but didn’t quite pan out in practice. Putting several systems together can be an especially challenging process, and the one you start with will likely need the most changing as the other pieces settle in around it.

For this release, I started by revamping the economy system. Largely, the redesign has met its goals – it has good performance, and it can represent a flexible set of events in terms of “what’s happening in the game world”. However, working on the UI for colony management has exposed a few areas for improvement. (Pictured below: not one of them.)

survey_yuendumu
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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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