Skills and Story Points

I’ve wanted to update the skill system for a while, but that’s part of the challenge with early-access style development – if you update something too early, you might have to update it again, when yet more things change and make that part not-quite-fit once more. With how many parts of the game the skill systems has tendrils into, it wasn’t something I wanted to do more than once.

Now, finally, the game is in a place where I can do that – I’ve got a good overview of what I actually want from the skill system, the number of unknowns is low, and most of the unknowns are probably known.

(Please note – some of the graphics and text in the screenshots to follow are placeholders.)

So, what are the goals of the skill overhaul? First and foremost, the skill system should increase the replay value of the game – that is, depending on what skills are picked, the player should be able to explore new ways to play the game.
Read the rest of this entry »

Fighter Redesign

Let’s begin by taking a look at how fighters started out, to see how they got to the point of needing a redesign.

The first playable release of the game only had combat missions, and the way fighters worked was heavily influenced by that. My understanding of how the campaign would work was at that point quite fuzzy, and so once the campaign did come about, fighters had to be adjusted to fit in. This led to some awkward mechanical interactions and obscure rules.

fighters_mora

For example, if you have any ships with flight decks in your fleet, then you can’t lose fighters permanently. However, you can still have fighters in your fleet if you don’t have any carriers, they just don’t get any replacements in combat, and if you lose all of them, you permanently lose the wing. And if you do have carriers deployed, and lose all the fighters in a wing in combat, they may get replacements or be lost for the duration of the battle, depending on whether any flight decks were available at the exact moment the last fighter was destroyed.

Very much a “good enough for now” state of affairs, and something that’s been gnawing at me for a while. It’s too much of a mess to continue ignoring indefinitely, but why clean it up now, seemingly when there’s exploration, salvage, and everything related to work on?

The answer is, of course, that fighters tie into those things. Can you recover fighters through salvage? Can automated defenders use fighters? What about the eventual/upcoming skill revamp? That certainly needs to include fighters. Despite being a relatively small part of combat, fighters are still a part of that foundation, and it’ll help moving forward to finally have it be solid.
Read the rest of this entry »

Phase Cloaking – a Deep Dive

As usual, after a major release there’s some time to polish up some things that there just hasn’t been time for up to that point. In fact, a lot of the upcoming 0.7.2a is turning out to be about “paying off” technical and design debt – things that are “good enough for now”, but do have to be addressed at some point.

doom_vs_enforcer

One such is phase cloaking. There’s a post from a while back on how the current mechanics came to be if you’re interested in the details, but let’s summarize:

Way, way back, the original idea for phase ships was something submarine-like, being able to hide on the battlefield and deliver surprise attacks. That sounds like fun but didn’t turn out to be practical, so phase cloaking changed to become a way to avoid damage instead – shift to another dimension, let enemy fire pass through/over your ship, uncloak, and fire back. That essential concept remains unchanged in this new iteration; the changes are looking to address some specific issues with the implementation.

What, then, are the issues? Read the rest of this entry »

Expanded Battles

First, a brief summary of what this post is about – a new campaign feature that allows nearby fleets – naturally, including yours – to join ongoing battles.

If you’ve been following the development of this release, you’re probably aware that things are in the “polish things and make it fun to play” phase more so than in the “add more features” phase. Why, then, add a significant new feature at this stage? The answer is that it’s a direct response to playtesting, rather than a specifically planned-for feature on the roadmap – it’s meant to help address several important gameplay issues, some quite long-standing. Now was a good opportunity to do it, and here we are. Looking back, I’m glad I ended up taking this on now rather than later – with how many different pieces of the code this change touches, it would only get more difficult with time.

battle_join

Let’s take a brief look at what the design goals are, and then we’ll dive into the specifics of how it works. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Forum Blog Media FAQ Features Digg it! Del.icio.us! Share this on Facebook Reddit Stumbleupon it! Technorati Tweet it! Download Starsector for Linux Download Starsector for Mac Download Starsector for Windows