Starsector 0.97a Release

Update (02/17/24): hotfix for a campaign music volume issue, an infinite credits exploit, and a other few minor issues. Full list of changes here; please re-download the game using the links below.

Update (02/13/24): hotfix for a post-battle crash if you have made a deal with a pirate station king.

Update (02/12/24): another hotfix with some fine-tuning of the colony crises, and a number of bugfixes.

Update (02/08/24): a hotfix with some fine-tuning of the colony crises difficulty (generally reducing it), an improvement to escort AI, and a number of bugfixes.

Update (02/03/24): a hotfix for a few comparatively minor bugs, including an infinite credits exploit and crash related to a specific mission.

Starsector version 0.97a is now out!

  • Use exciting new abilities for getting around the Sector – Reverse Polarity and Generate Slipsurge
  • Engage with new Colony Crisis mechanics with unique in-depth events that flesh out every major faction and have their own rewards (replaces Hostile Activity)
  • Explore the Orion-Perseus Abyss and a new mysterious star system found deep in abyssal hyperspace
  • Add a new low-tech phase cruiser (the Grendel-class) to your fleet
  • Use the new “Escort Package” hullmod to amp up your destroyers and cruisers when used in combination with larger ships
  • Take advantage of more powerful elite skill effects and the revamped Cybernetic Augmentation skill
  • Discover more unique encounters, from castaways on the far fringe of the Sector to brewing trouble in the spacer bars of the Core

It’s worth noting that the Colony Crisis event, despite being just one bullet point, make up the bulk of the content in this update! One might think of each faction-specific event as a new mission, and some of these are very involved, both mechanically and in terms of new writing.

As always, there are also many smaller changes and additions, including balance adjustments, polish, ship AI improvements, bugfixes, and modability improvements! There are also a couple of new music tracks used when interacting with certain entities in the campaign.

Despite being a major version change, this release is actually save-compatible, though I would recommend starting a new game anyway – there would be some oddities with the layout of the new Abyss area.

The full patch notes, and the comment thread, areĀ here.

You can download the new version here:

(Alternate download links, please try the above first: Windows Mac Linux)

As always, thank you so much for your support!

screenshot_release0951a

 

Skill Tweaks

I’ve been doing a bunch of work adjusting skills in the last couple of days. Since it’s so fresh in my mind, and since there were a lot of changes, it seemed like it might be interesting to talk about the reasoning behind each change – nothing huge, just a sentence or two describing the thought process. This is an extremely unplanned/impromptu post, and it (probably?) won’t be a very long one. [Editor’s note: this turned out to be overly optimistic.] I’ll try to organize things roughly in the order that I made the changes, so you get a little more of a real view into how this type of work goes sometimes.

Overview
First, a bit of a step back. While there are 4 different skill categories, or “aptitudes” (combat, leadership, tech, industry), there are two broad types of skills – ones that boost the ship you’re piloting, and ones that boost… everything else. From other ships in your fleet (usually including your flagship, though not boosting it as much as personal skills), to things like colonies , campaign travel and so on.

Coming at it fresh, it might seem “obvious” that skills that boost your fleet are way better than skills that boost your flagship. Boosting more things is clearly better than boosting fewer things! This is perfectly reasonable, but like many obvious things, it turns out to be wrong – or at least, more complicated than that. Read the rest of this entry »

Colony Crises

What I’d like to talk about today is a re-work, and a major expansion, of the Hostile Activity system introduced in the previous release. It was released in a baseline state where the only two factions involved in it were the Luddic Path and the pirates, but it was always intended as a way to put a lot of different content in front of the player.

So, the changes here are two-fold: 1) taking some lessons from how the existing mechanics worked out, and 2) adding a *lot* of content to the system, so that it can be seen in its intended and more-or-less final form. It’s certainly possible that more content will be added to it here and there, but the amount of content it’ll have in the next release will be enough for the system to “work” – it just needs the variety, more on that a bit later.

Read the rest of this entry »

You Merely Adopted Rules.csv, I Was Born Into It

This post is about the process of implementing scripted dialog content into Starsector. It’ll get technical toward the end and I’ll do a tutorial on how to implement a new piece of character interaction.


So! I’ve been given to understand that rules.csv is notorious among modders of the game – how unfortunate!

In response, allow me to present a spirited defense of this data file and its attendant content pipeline. I’ll talk a bit about what it is, why Alex made it the way it is, how I came to use it, and how it can be used in general.

(It’s probably important to explain what the heck a rules.csv is in the first place, isn’t it.)

The rules.csv file is the primary, but not only, means of creating dialog interactions within the game Starsector. This includes almost all situations where the player engages with an entity – a planet, fleet, or character – where a textbox pops up and allows the player to choose from a set of responses. After choosing a response, stuff happens, more text is displayed, and a new set of possible responses is presented. This interaction loop proceeds until the dialog is closed.

This system is the basis for conversations with NPCs, for most interactions with campaign objects (planets, derelicts, sensor arrays, jump-points), and nearly all of the missions and story events.

In short, rules.csv contains the data used by what amounts to a custom scripting language that hooks into the game code to drive almost all content which doesn’t involve the combat map or the campaign map.

It’s a big deal!

Though some may find it hard to believe, I do enjoy using rules.csv because, above all, it’s lightweight. Every step is fast, simple, and responsive. I’ll walk through how this looks in practice in the tutorial section of this post.

Read the rest of this entry »

Salvors in the Ruin, a digital painting story

For the most part – for almost the entire part – I have been working on new game content since the last update. Talking about it in detail is 100% spoilers, and while I do believe there’s an interesting blog series to write about the overall strategy of narrative design in Starsector during a long development cycle, properly contextualizing it… well, that’d be spoilers.

What else to write about, then? Man, I dunno – but then I had a discussion with Alex about creating an illustration to go with the content I was working on and decided to show him all of my sketches leading up to the final composition. “This could be a blog post, couldn’t it,” I said.


So, hello. This is a digital painting blog post. I’ll show you my process and attempt to explain in hindsight why I made certain decisions. And, to come clean, this is only partially motivated by my desire to insert fan art for Alastair Reynold’s Revenger series into Starsector. (More of it, anyway.)

Earlier this week I created a mission which involves having the player fly out into the fringe of the Persean Sector to dig around in some ruins. There is indeed a Galatia Academy mission which does this very activity, but I assure you that this new mission does it slightly differently! And thinking about these two missions, I was struck by a notion: why not draw some Revenger fan art why not do an illustration of a salvage team finding loot in creepy ruins which could be used for both missions? This situation comes up fairly often in Starsector anyway, and I never really did previously create an appropriate illustration for this sort of thing. Great!

My mind immediately goes to the sequence in Alien where the crew of the Nostromo investigates a derelict ship on LV-426. That era of science fiction movie art production is a huge inspiration to my take on the Starsector aesthetic, as I’ve written about before somewhere on here at some point.

Here’s the shot:

Fantastic! Love the suit silhouettes, the texture, the grim lighting. It’s a bit too organic and boney for what I’m going for, but it feels like a good starting place in terms of setting the mood.

Read the rest of this entry »

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