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Starsector 0.95.1a is out! (12/10/21); Blog post: Hyperspace Topography (10/12/22)

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Messages - David

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Ooh, can I do this too?

Master of Orion 1 & 2 are the biggest influences for me. The ship sprites, the weapon loadouts - but maybe a lot of Ascendancy too because that involved actual visuals for the ship loadouts.

Before those, definitely played Asteroids in various iterations, including Maelstrom, the clone on Macintosh.

(And I have to mention Spacewar! 'cause that game turned 60 recently - my dad won a competition playing it in 1972 and made his own clone of the game on his workstation in the garage at some point in the early 90's; I forget why exactly. I thought it was _pretty_ cool, but I had better games to play, so it wasn't _that_ cool. Shows what I knew.)

Suggestions / Re: Beholder Station
« on: March 31, 2022, 05:24:11 AM »

General Discussion / Re: Vapourware?
« on: March 04, 2022, 11:18:50 AM »
(With all due acknowledgement about how passive aggressive it would be to do this w/o lampshading it,)

It was my understanding that Alex also had a full time job, this was a side project, maybe that was the case and has changed now?

Alex works on this game full-time. It is his job.

If you are unsure about some aspect of development, you can ask.

General Discussion / Re: Vapourware?
« on: March 04, 2022, 06:04:35 AM »
As a dev, it's generally a bad idea to respond to threads like this, but... (here we go!)

Disclaimer first: these opinions are my own, not those of Alex or Fractal Softworks, Inc. etc.

I think the guys working on it...

If you are unsure about some aspect of development, you can ask. You can do it on this forum, on Twitter, or via email. If you ask in good faith, it's very likely you'll get a good faith answer. Please, don't just say answers you think feel right. When someone else reads it and repeats it elsewhere like its truth it becomes a big pain to get correct information out.

To address your points directly: Alex works on this game full-time. It is his job. I work on it part-time, alongside a couple other indie game projects. I am a contractor.

The feature milestone list is here by the way, and I concede that it is very abstract. The last remaining point is basically "add a story you can finish". We're doing that. (And much more.)

I've got some general statements and thoughts on indie game dev publicity; please understand that these _my_ perspective rather than Alex's.

This is a job I did at Gaslamp Games. Sometimes it was fun, sometimes it was awful. Depending on the project and release schedule I could spend from 10% to 90% of my work-time doing PR/marketing stuff. In a small company, that adds up fast, and quickly begs the question of "do you want to be marketed to or do you want the game to be worked on?"

Publicly released milestones are marketing, not necessarily indicative of the actual state of affairs or of useful work that is done or will be done. Further, it increases risk to a project to release speculative plans because these are commonly interpreted by customers as a set-in-stone promise to deliver precisely described features. If those features turn out to be unfeasible for some reason the developer has to put PR time (costing development time) into explaining exactly why and doing emotional labour to make sure the news doesn't hurt community support for the project. Or the developer can martyr themselves by pursuing an infeasible features-set that lowers the quality of the product, their working-life, and risks burnout and bankruptcy (I ended up in something vaguely including all of this and it was hell. The high-communication indie dev marketing strategy wasn't the only or even key reason for failure, but it didn't help).

Backing up:
Alex's approach is to announces features after they're finished. There's no risk of failure! It does take a long time, however. And unfortunately this does not work very well with story features and secret content that can be spoiled. Like if we do a blog post detailing the end-game content, that somewhat ruins the fun doesn't it? In short, most of the really exciting stuff we're working on can't be talked about if we want to maximize player enjoyment of the game. There's other stuff happening too, but it'll necessarily entail finished chunks being revealed on a slower schedule from an outside perspective.

So the question I would ask is, do you like what you've gotten out of the process so far? There's proof that it's been - yes, slowly - delivering for, uh, something like 10 years. It's totally fine to take a break and pick up the game later; if you put your email on the email list you'll get a notice when the next update is released.

And if there is something you would like to know about development, all you have to do is ask. Maybe you won't get an answer, but maybe you will.

Suggestions / Re: Vanilla Change Requests:
« on: February 18, 2022, 11:03:57 AM »
1 - alex has tried integrating mods into the game before, it was a legal headache (lots of IP rights stuff iirc) and it's a bad deal for the modders - they get the mod taken out of their hands and alex has to deal w/ their code (or they now have to update on alex's timetable), no matter how simple the mod is that can still be dealbreaking

I'll jump in for this point because I think some stories are getting mixed up: Alex has never integrated mods into Starsector. That's something I did _once_ back at Gaslamp Games with Dredmor's second expansion and would not do again for various reasons, some of which you do identify here.

Bug Reports & Support / Re: The Typo Thread
« on: February 07, 2022, 05:39:27 AM »
Oof. Thanks, fixed in-dev!

Stop using google to translate Klingon into English,find google's server and apologize to it(maybe she?XD)

Hey. It's not necessary to give people a hard time for not knowing English. Even if you intended for your comment to be a joke, it is can be read as hostile, especially to someone posting for the first time. Please be mindful of how your tone appears to an outside observer - especially as this is only your _second_ post.

Blog Posts / Re: Writing Starsector 2: Westernesse Boondoggle
« on: February 02, 2022, 05:29:46 AM »
Mh, do you think it might be a good idea to implement a way to skip all the repetitive stuff in the story (e.g. the random missions you have to do to gain the academy's trust) for experienced players, David? Maybe if you did not engage with the story but have a really powerful endgame fleet the academy will hire you directly for the juicy parts of the story? Just a thought.

I guess this comes to a question of where to slice the cake, as it were. It's hard to say what exactly the repetitive part is - the generic Sebestyen missions?

Anyway, making story skip options work completely in-fiction would likely require too much work for what they are. So I imagine this would look more like a "skip to this part in the story" (which I basically hacked together anyway for development testing, though not up to the testing requirements for public use _at all_).

So maybe the way to approach this is we find out what the state of the world is at the maximum sandbox point and give a start option that lets people skip to there? Hmm, probably.

Interesting that you mention Brigador as an example of good writing - it barely has a story, just tons of lore tied into the missions. I would love to see more of that in Starsector, too - just small story arcs unrelated to the main story, that expand on the lore of the various planets and factions. At the moment I feel there's a disconnect between the almost storyless "old" game where you never engage with individuals on a meaningful level and things stay quite abstract, and the story proper where you connect with tons of individuals and learn many tiny details.

(I guess I could expand my thoughts on Brigador: my absolute favourite part is the soundtrack, then the writing, then the gameplay. I actually found the arcade-style not quite to my taste; it's fun enough in the moment, but I like a bit more 'building' in my games. Plus action gameplay destroys my already destroyed wrist, so I can't 360 noscope like I used to.)

I understand the disconnect, for sure, and there are obviously dev reasons why there was no real story before we had the code to implement real story. And a linear story at all is probably some degree of insurmountable contradiction to people who want a sandbox game vs. people who want a story. But ... maybe part of the problem is that there is just one more-or-less linear path right now. I'd like to make it so there are a lot of plot threads in the world that players can find and follow, and others they can miss. This gets really complex, of course, if major Sector-changing events are contingent on other things being done or not done, so it's definitely going to be A Process. And of course it makes the most sense to invest more time into whatever the most players will see.

So, I guess that's a rambly way to say: we talk about such issues a lot and are trying to find the most workable compromise between all playstyles. And we won't take away the sandbox.

Taking the entire post out of context... it seriously looked like you were already writing "Starsector 2" and my initial reaction was, "Oh snap, here we go again."

Haha, yeah uh. I could have titled that better eh?

Bug Reports & Support / Re: The Typo Thread
« on: January 28, 2022, 05:36:02 AM »
Thank you for the reports!

In the conversation with Horus Yaribay during the main quest line, there is probably an extra word in the following sentence:

"... it need not be said that any decent authority would treat with you appropriately."

Intended! Horus uses word structure that's a bit more British/formal/archaic to sound more aristocratic, and in this case it's also an ironic euphemism.

(The other thing you posted is indeed a typo.)

... and every posted above is fixed in-dev!

... Except for the 14th thing, that might be a text formatting/display issue? I'll forward it to Alex.

Bug Reports & Support / Re: The Typo Thread
« on: January 21, 2022, 08:11:28 AM »
This is from part of the conversation with Callisto Ibrahim during the main quest line, when asking about Kelise Astraia and the Hamatsu:

"Because disappearing with my favorite starship a pretty big breach of contract"

Probably needs an "is" in there.

Gah. Thank you, fixed in dev!

Suggestions / Re: A destroyer with a large missile mount.
« on: January 21, 2022, 04:58:19 AM »

Bug Reports & Support / Re: The Typo Thread
« on: January 20, 2022, 11:38:24 AM »
The YaribayFollowup option if you didn't give the cryptokeys to Daud has the wrong option ID: "gaATG_yaribayFollowup1", when it should be just "yaribayFollowup1".

(Also there's no check for whether you already had this conversation with Yaribay)

Oh no! Fixed in dev.

Also fixed other stuff reported above.

Blog Posts / Re: Writing Starsector 2: Westernesse Boondoggle
« on: January 19, 2022, 07:14:22 PM »
Woah Hegemony kids are raised in creches? Just a few of them, or a lot, maybe even a majority?

Not sure! But find interesting the idea that the military organization has crept into the rest of society around the Hegemony to an extent, pulling in aspects of family - if a comrade is killed in battle, would not the unit care for their offspring? Whatever the XIVth was before it was the Hegemony, and even after, it had to answer those questions within the social structures it had.

I can see Cavin going on a two-page "the violence inherent in the system" rant in the ingame dialog now

(Don't think I wasn't tempted.)

re. the Finding Coureuse diplomatic/exploration split: TBH I feel like even someone who dislikes the somewhat lengthy dialog in the diplo route (which I don't) will find it much easier to put up with (especially when you can mash '1') than flying to a distant system and combing every location of interest (Active Sensor Burst is easier to work with than Neutrino Detector's false signals).

One thing I found mildly surprising when experimenting with the quest for the wiki walkthrough: if you mess up the questioning and don't get either of the potential leads, Siyavong basically bails you out, rather than, say, the player having to run back to Baird and switch to the exploration route.

... Which maybe speaks more to the system being perhaps a bit distant and those probes being hard to find, huh. But I dunno, at some point you just have to force the player to fly around a bit for the sake of pacing. (Aside, maybe, I'm pretty sure that the smaller Sector size leads to a better game experience even though everyone always wants more more more stars.)

Surprised you like rules.csv! Most modders seem to hate it; I don't mind it since I'm pretty good at working with it (thanks to Nexerelin), but working with it in a spreadsheet does make dialog flows quite clunky. With something written in a 'proper' programming language/editor (like Ren'Py), you can just do a bunch of sequential if checks to flow through a tree chart, whereas with rules.csv each node almost needs to have its full set of requirements specified.

Incidentally, David (and Alex), have you seen SafariJohn's Rules Tool? I find its GUI makes a lot of rules editing tasks a lot easier to do.

Have seen, haven't used. Very cool that it exists, but it isn't for me.

I suppose it's largely that I'm extremely used to the spreadsheet, but also, as per the blog post, I like seeing everything clearly laid out, the data exposed. If I had to navigate viewing single nodes one by one then I couldn't take in 5 or 10 rules at a glance to make sure they're all doing what I want them to do.

(I did request that Alex add a few instances of error-checking in the process of the big mission arcs, and they've helped me tremendously.)

100% to everything you said. I think it's amazing that it's a mod, and you're a madlad (that's good right?) for doing it, and core Starsector shouldn't be a 4x because making a space 4x is a classic gamedev trap unless you're really mindful about what you're setting out to do.

What, the "Baird arc" has just one more quest in it? I'd figured there'd be like 3-5 more missions in it, except it isn't the Baird arc any longer, it's the Coureuse/Zal arc where we work with them on the rest of the gate network reactivation.

Planning anything after those first four missions was outside the scope of the document, so I basically wrote [cool stuff goes here] with arrows pointing at it. Don't take what looks like a singular element in that doc to be any indication of scope.

Will there be more quests to, in the words of the front page feature list, "determine the fate of the Sector by your actions"? Perhaps involving the major factions; among other things, I'm surely not the only one itching to strike a blow against the plutocrats of Kazeron and bring true freedom to the League (in part because the League feels rather underutilized in lore for the second great power of the Sector).

... (thinking) ... to answer your specific question: Yes, we're obligated to complete that list of features on the webpage, so complete it we will.

I agree about the League (and Diktat, and Church) feeling underutilized, but can't speak to the extent that they will uh be utilized.

Blog Posts / Re: Writing Starsector 2: Westernesse Boondoggle
« on: January 19, 2022, 06:47:26 PM »
    So it's not that weird, really - and if you think about it, this is far enough in the future that 'modern English' is probably interpretive (a cool example case) rather than literal as a rendition of what the characters in the setting would actually be saying to each other.

    That linked article is really fascinating. (And I gotta learn that whacky linguist typography one of these days.)

    Like so many aspects of Starsector, trying to project a realistic take on linguistics in the world of the year ????? would result in something too alien to be anything near relatable, so as you observe, Compromises Must Be Made.

    I'm a little unsure I'd go that far; I thought the MoO2 ground system was fine for what it was. I always yearned for a little more but as a kid I understood there were computer limits (and as an adult, I understand that the team likely didn't have the budget for anything more involved).

    Ah, to clarify: The ground combat was fine - it was adding the civ-style planet management that really made the game drag in later stages. Late game city slog is not something the Civilization series ever really overcame (though maybe Old World has? Haven't played it though.)

    Stellaris now, speaking of ground combat, ... man. (I'll leave it at that.)

    ... Anyway, unless I'm misremembering, I'm pretty sure Alex & I discussed ground combat like a decade ago and decided that it was probably a bad idea for Starsector. I don't know how it couldn't come off as bloat at this point in time, given everything else in the game. It's also slightly out of scope - I mean, it definitely is in terms of project scope, but in terms of the scope of the player's activities in Starsector, managing ground combat just isn't the character's job. (- And I say this with all respect for mods that push this boundary. Mods have different requirements than commercial games and can go off in all kinda of whacky directions.)

    Certainly what Starsector does works well for it (and what Histidine does is pretty legendary). It's just that eternal curse of the genre, of mental desires, saying somewhere deep down that the game should be even bigger. Space is vast, says our unbridled imaginings and desires, and surely the game must expand to fill it, surely...?

    Hah, exactly! It is the siren call that wrecks space-game devs on the shoals of, uh, hubris?

    I love to write stories myself and I know my way around code (a little).
    It would be amazing to have some kind of tutorial/guide in how to navigate the API to do these kind of quests/mission arcs :)

    .. oh uh, uh. There's a mod wiki for this, isn't there? Ah, there is here. But I bet there are some good posts on this in the modding forum.

    (Honestly, what I do is copy the code from existing missions and swap everything around to make a new one. Alex can worry about the implementation details, I just worry about what I need to do to make it work.)

    I would not "reward" a player with skipping an interesting encounter, but rather allow them to influence the initial state of the engagement. For example, a good diplomat can arrange for a supporting army (maybe some room for commissioning benefits?) to join the battle or perhaps weaken the enemies by lowering their CR or DP pool, or even affect the composition of the enemy fleet (will we fight the Hammers of Ludd or the [REDACTED]?).

    Not a bad idea...

    [Offtop] Regarding the "Game of Thrones" section - I keep thinking how one can do something for 6+ years and fail at it so miserably as soon as they are told "ok, now you try it". It's as if showrunners were riding a bicycle for the 1st time without training wheels, fell flat immediately and had the bicycle burst in flames. This is also why I keep scratching my head about "Witcher" on Netflix - the books are done, the world is done, but they choose to go against that. Good luck with that.[/li][/list]

    (I imagine the GoT showrunners being from extremely rich, well-connected families may have had something to do with their ability to get put in charge of major media productions, cough.)
    (Also, admission: Never played the Witcher games or books, but I'm enjoying the show as "hot fantasy garbage". The GoT nosedive vastly lowered my expectations for everything, I think.)

    This was an awesome deep dive into your workflow and some content. And yeah, as the guys on the Reddit thread have said, I would have loved to have those crusty old Anarchists on the bridge of my ship as we completely harass every power structure in the Sector, but alas, the cutting room floor is harsh.

    Hah! Well, thank you. I don't know if that game would be Starsector, but it sounds fun.

    Honestly, really impressed with the quality and overall story that's been given to us in 0.95. It reminds me of the type of writing that propelled games like Sunless Seas/Skies into the limelight - there's a sense to the writing that's almost poetic, and it flows so well that it's genuinely a joy to read. Is this just your own writing style, or are you influenced by other games/media and this is the style that "fits" Starsector? Are you effectively the sole writer at this point, despite the collaboration between you and Alex? I feel like I read these answers before but quite frankly, I've forgotten.

    Overall, I can't wait to see what y'all do with the story and the sector. Every element of the game has been knocked out of the park as it is right now, IMO.

    Ah jeez, thank you again. My imposter syndrome really appreciates your kind words.

    To answer your questions:

    Yeah, I'm pretty much the writer on Starsector. Alex will write text as he implements features and encounters, so there's some of him in there. I will do an edit pass on his stuff, but pretty much always keep the core idea intact because I think he has a good instinct on how to approach it. Also, as noted in the blog post, he's a good sanity check on my weirder impulses and too-obscure jokes. And yeah, I do basically all of the quest and description writing at this point.

    As for style, I kinda write by the seat of my pants. There's just a sense of what feels right in my head, probably hardcoded by reading an absolute ton of scifi and fantasy at an impressionable age. Now that said, my primary conscious style goal is probably Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space series - you'll see a lot of Starsector in those. I'm also really into the likes of Iain M. Banks, China Mieville, Kim Stanley Robinson, etc. Relevant blog post on the Starsector reading list here.

    In terms of games writing, hmm. Disco Elysium was astoundingly good. Not sure about any other game really impressing me by just the writing; as the cheeky line goes, "If you think [any game] has good writing, wait 'til you read a book; It'll blow your mind." (I'll note, I haven't actually played the Sunless Seas/Skies games.)

    Edit: Wait, no: Loved the writing in Brigador. I spent all my merc-bux on unlocking lore instead of useful things.

    Blog Posts / Re: Writing Starsector 2: Westernesse Boondoggle
    « on: January 19, 2022, 01:01:59 PM »
    Sweet mother of Jiminy Christmas, I managed to kick off A Blog Post.

    In the best way! You asked an interesting question that set my brain goin'.

    I figured the art collective had been cut entirely - I hadn't connected it to the spot on Fikenhild, despite my first full clear of the "MSQ" taking the diplomatic route.

    It's pretty lightly implied, I suppose. "Militant consciousness happening" is maybe a joke that requires going to a certain type of art school to really appreciate...

    I will say that I think I'm one of those folks having mild palpitations and vapors at the idea that you just work via the .csv; you don't have any tool to visualize how the entire convo tree unfolds? No way to rapid-prototype how dialogue will work in the client itself without booting the entire client and dev-moding over to the specific place and setting the specific trigger?

    Rules.csv will hot-reload if you change the file with the game running. (... In dev mode at least?) You can't easily send yourself back in a dialog tree, but with a well-timed save and a fake dev-trigger to set memory flags, it's not supremely hard to set up a test situation which isn't too laborious.

    And as for visualization... yeah, I guess I could see situations where that might be nice. But I always find these visualizations so clunky to use.

    I will say that I am definitely one of the folks who enjoys when Starsector is willing to get wordy.

    Excellent, me too! :D

    I've thought, over the course of .95 and .95.1 (which is when I really got "into" SS and thought about it critically) that it's straining the bounds of its current layers to a degree. The game is really almost begging for some form of personal-scale ground layer, both for Fightans™ and just for experiencing the places in the universe in more depth. That isn't what the game's initial design focus was, and in a lot of ways that way lies madness and endless development hell

    Well. The asset requirements for any such a thing are... staggering. To say nothing of the design and playtesting iteration it'd require. I certainly know what a death-march failed project looks like and never want to repeat the experience. So, hopefully I didn't imply anything too "exciting" along those lines.

    What's great about text is text is cheap. It's easy to take risks with it, see if they work, iterate, and/or just make boatloads of it.

    ... most other stellar-focused, "space opera"-type fiction features a rich interplay between what might be called the Space Layer and the Ground Layer, and it's bedeviled game developers for nigh on four decades that this is so much harder to do in a satisfying way in game format. We've even had our own Histidine take up the cause to some degree with the new invasion layer in Nexerelin...

    Yeah, splitting a game into two or more pieces is a very dangerous move. I'd say even what Master of Orion did when it moved from 1 to 2 was a mistake in terms of design. Starsector navigates this well enough by not being a 4x (or, uh, with apologies to Nexerelin: mostly not; I do not envy the challenges Histidine takes on) -- right, but Starsector focuses perspective on the player as a character rather than an abstracted nation/faction, and it makes sure the two game modes - campaign and combat - are complementary.
    Thank you for taking the time to put this together and answer my silly little Twitter question! And I really can't wait to see what the next major patch brings...

    No problem, and I can't wait either! :D

    Especially with all this hinting, both from your Twitter and from some of the new things in the game files, that suggest "part 2" is going to focus more heavily on the Luddics and good Brother Cotton's warnings about the Zig and the Janus Device. Oh, the places we'll go...

     Huh neat, who could say! Not me! :-X

    I don't remember any quests being resolved through combat. Most often combat just happens to be the obstacle, which you can skip start to finish (I know, I did that).

    Bounties, for sure. And you can resolve certain objectives of the story missions via combat rather than dialog, though not literally the entire mission. It tends not to be signposted in the UI but we do try to make sure there is fallback logic for "what if the player just shoots X".

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