User Interface Evolution

So before we delve into creating the tutorial and adding new stuff we thought it prudent to get rid of the prototype UI elements and really look at how we interact with the game to make things a little more involving and intuitive.

sspace 2016-12-14 18-08-46-19
The 3D UI has been decluttered giving the Zones a more open feel and the 2D UI has matured.

As you can no doubt immediately see, a number of things stand to change in Update 6 as we sweep the prototype user interface under the table and replace it with something altogether a little more mature.

Spatial User Interface (Battlegrid)

Some of the feedback coming from you guys mention that the Overhaul doesn’t yet fully capture the majesty of space. After breaking the scene down into its abstract parts and questioning them we found that the grid and border around the game edge made the maps (or Zones) feel a little claustrophic. What’s more, when polled, 70% of you hinted that we should explore an alternative to the grid based reference plane.

Your wish is our command.

Previously the levels were pizza box shaped; now we’ve changed them to a cylinder shape. Not only does this feel more fitting when combined with the radial camera, it gives us an better sense of scale and to us, feels a little more natural. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating and we look forward to feedback on that.

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The overall composition of the UI improves the games general ambiance.

2D User Interface

The fleet panel (top left) has been condensed reducing the full width faction logo icons which looked a little dodgy at resolutions below 2K. Unfortunately we couldn’t keep all the large hologram fleet icons on screen at the same time because it lead to scrolling, but clicking on the smaller tactical icons and Soft Group icons will correctly filter the lists.

We have removed the health bars on the fleet icons and made the hologram image of the ship itself the health bar. Quite a bizarre little tweak but it’s surprising just how much it assists us when looking for damage status and as a bonus it’s more aesthetically appealing.

The situation panel (top right) has also been reworked.

Previously we had square Zone icons with numbers that made the thing look a little like a bingo calling card, now we’ve replaced them with pictorial representations of the contents of a Zone. If a Zone is dark, it’s still listed making it much easier to track changes as you and you allies chart space. It also makes more sense as this is known space – so really as a Commander you would know how to get there just not necessarily what awaits you…

Otherwise we’ve tweaked the fonts, position of the elements and how they react when you use them to give the whole thing a more polished feel.

Zone Map

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Picture additional planets orbiting that Sun, with lines joining the Jump gates between them. We’re not ruling out orbital mechanics either.

Update 6 will see some cosmetic dressing to the Zone map with large amounts of work going on under the hood to prepare for additional planets. Again the Zone icons have been replaced with images, all Zones are now shown and an orbit line added for the example Planet Ares around the systems Sun.

It’s important to note that the Zone map looks cluttered because we’ve added a larger number of Zones to a single planet than we might normally. As we add additional planets we can expect to spread things out a bit visually.

Lessons from the old Alpha

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The old menu screen is back!

We put a lot of work into that old Alpha and in the transition it’s possible that we might have forgotten about some of the advancements it offered us. (Remember you can still access the old Alpha using the BETA tab in the game properties.)

Some more feedback indicates that the dedicated Hangar from the old alpha is quite sorely missed. We’re happy to report once the tutorial has been completed and we’ve switched on a few more key mechanics we’ll be bringing that back.

We’ve also resurrected the original menu screen showcasing the newest ships as we were missing it!

That’s not all

Throughout the duration of Update 6 we’ll really be addressing the user experience (UX). The tutorial is quite a common request now but that actually tells us that things aren’t quite as obvious or intuitive as they need to be.

An example of this will be the inclusion of a small contextual menu when you click on a Ship or Space Object. This will allow you to quickly access actions such as Open Comms or Attack, perhaps hide in a Space Object without having to mess about with context targets or the ability bar.

We’ll also be looking at the Zone and Space Object tooltips – do they really tell us what we need to know?

What’s more, we have 5 new ships about to land including fixed weapon attack Cruisers and pirate ‘aberrate’ variants and we’ll also be adding in some random encounters.

Update 6 is just being polished off and should land in the next few days.

We hope this demonstrates how quickly things are moving now as we continue the process of adding and refining, and we hope you join us in our excitement as we continue cramming this thing full of win! As always, thanks for the continued support and if you have any feedback please hit the forums – you should know by now that we are very good listeners!

Update 6 now released featuring even more than listed above.
Update 6.1 now released featuring a fully interactive tutorial

BETA Update 5

Good news, Update 5 has arrived!

This update focuses on adding the more intricate mechanics that will compliment both the singleplayer and multiplayer experiences.

In particular this update adds Shield Rebalancing, Subsystem Attack Mode, Engine Attack Mode and the Subsystem Targeting Ability. We’ve also added 20+ audio clips of that sexy AI voice re imagined and better than ever before!

Combat is due to become far more gritty and intense during Update 5.
Combat is due to become far more gritty and intense during Update 5.

1. Subsystem Attack Mode
2. Engine Attack Mode
3. Subsystem Targeting Ability
4. Subsystem Targeting Window
5. Shield Widget

Shield Rebalancing

As we hinted before, Update 5 now gives you the ability to ‘rebalance’ any of the ships shields. You can do this by selecting your ship and clicking on any of the four shield segments of the shield widget (5) to the bottom right of the abilities panel.

This opens up a host of new tactical considerations as simply right-clicking on the enemy to attack them might not be the best option.

Normally, the enemy will come to you if they spot you and let them. Try and position your forces to absorb the assault from a single direction and the power of shield rebalancing will become immediately pronounced. You can then pincer the enemy forces more effectively causing further disruption to their offensive using engine and subsystem attack modes.

Note that you cannot rebalance the shields past their initial maximum.

Engine Targeting

In three dimensional warfare, denying the enemy the ability to move is absolutely critical. You can now target the assailants engines using ‘Engine Attack Mode’ causing them to vent plasma slowing them down to a crawl.

Use the function with care Commander, if you kill the engines of a Battleship while it is in the midst of your forces it might not have the desired effect!

Engine Attack Mode is only possible when it’s shields are down. If the shields are up while this targeting function is active, it will count as a normal attack. If the shields are down, there will be a chance to disable the targets engines and reduced damage will be applied (damage counter shown in yellow.)

Toggle the Engine Attack Mode button to return to Free Attack Mode.

Subsystem Targeting

Any ship can opt to target an assailants external subsystems which presently includes turrets using ‘Subsystem Attack Mode.’

If you wish to specify the targeting parameters, that is, the order in which the turrets should be disabled; you should select a Capital ship and use the ‘Subsystem Targeting’ ability.

Using the ability will bring up a window similar to the Inventory window in which you can click on the turrets to queue them for destruction. In doing so a number will appear indicating their position in the queue. As the turrets are disabled they will automatically be removed from the queue.

Subsystem Attack Mode is only possible when a ships shields are down. It is however possible to assign targeting parameters for your fleet using the Subsystem Targeting Ability when the targets shield are up.

As with all Abilities, the Capital vessel does not need to be in the same Zone (or even orbiting the same planet) to call out target subsystems for the fleet. You must select a context target to use the Subsystem Targeting Ability (click on a AI unit with Capital ship selected.)

If the shields are up while Subsystem Attack Mode is active, it will count as a normal attack. If the shields are down reduced damage (shown as a yellow damage counter) will be done to the targets subsystems unless using Precise weapons, in which full damage is done.

Toggle the Subsystem Attack Mode button to return to Free Attack Mode.

BETA Update 5.0 Change log

– Added shield rebalancing via shield widget (bottom right of ability bar)
– Added attack mode: Free
– Added attack mode: Subsystems
– Added attack mode: Engines
– Added subsystem target window
– Added additional UI and tooltips to support attack types
– Added 20 AI voices
– Added voices to Abilities
– Added engine fire FX
– Added turret fire FX

– Fixed Status’ given via Ability don’t time out
– Fixes further to stats adjustment calculations
– Fixes to context windows closing on ship destruction
– Fixes to hang if using next/previous buttons in ship config if only one ship present in Zone
– Fixes to position and scale of Turrets on PLC Sadalbari Carrier
– Fixes to petty trade only giving first traded item
– Fixes to rare crash generating Battlecruiser

– Update – removed trading between zones restrictions temporarily to help with testing
– Update – added delay to ability buttons mouse over action
– Update – omidirectional/directional webifier abilities now affect rotation rather than speed

Something to add Commander?

BETA Update 4.8

While we’re busy cooking up the sandbox we thought it might be an idea to put in a skirmish mode of sorts.

Similar to the ‘Tactical Simulator’ in the older alpha, Quick Battle mode allows you to dive in and get to grips with any of the ships and get used to the controls.

It might please you to note that there are no caps on the number of ships in the arena.
It might please you to note that there are no caps on the number of ships in the arena.

Behind the scenes, the Quick Battle mode will help to iron out the wrinkles, particularly with combat and already it’s sparked a bit of a rethink with regards to combat AI.

One of the things that makes Shallow Space unique against other similar titles is the detail in the combat, in particular the simulated projectiles and unpredictable nature of the ship movements. But it became clear to us when simulating larger battles that there needs to be some degree of predictability otherwise you’re effectively watching the AI battle it out – this update goes a long way to resolving that woe.

An example is the AI attacking from roughly the same direction each time meaning that combat can now be ‘anchored’ making it easier to flank them and making small but immersive mechanics such as shield rebalancing not only a reality, but extremely useful. Look forward to that inclusion very shortly (literally coding it as we speak.)

Once more we appreciate all the support and feedback as we edge ever closer to our immediate goals. Keep those bug reports coming and remember to post screenshots of your new escapades Commander!

BETA Hotfix Update 4.7.1 Change log
– Added ship customisation to Options menu (primary/secondary colours)

– Fixes to crash on Hard Group setup

BETA Update 4.8 Change log
– Added ‘Quick Battle Mode’

– Fixed issue with orders being wiped on ship jump
– Fixed issue with selection box ignoring units
– Fixed rare crash allocating initial SFX channel
– Fixed issue with fleet icon not appearing when construction complete
– Fixed issue building Sadalbari Command Carrier
– Fixed crash updating rolling selector if ship changes groups
– Fixed issue with Combat AI ‘eternal chasing’

– Update major tweaks to ship Combat AI
– Update 3D ship text no longer affect by time scaling

Something to add Commander?

BETA Update 4.7

Good news! Update 4.7 has arrived along with macOS / OS-X support!

Now that support on all platforms has been restored, we’re going to swap the old Alpha and new Beta builds around on Steam as we’re a little conscious that people are missing out on the good stuff.

So in other words: If you were testing the BETA simply switch the build back to normal!

Managing multiple groups
Managing multiple groups is now very easy by using TAB / Shift + TAB

We’re seeing mainly evolutionary progress this update with the promised additional fleet management tweaks bringing the chapter of unit groupings to a close.

We also have a few tweaks as suggested by the community but the real work has gone on under the hood to prepare for resource collection and logistics which will be switched on in 4.7.1.

As is now the norm; expect a flurry of incremental updates/hotfixes over the course of the next week as we continue the race to complete the short to medium term objectives.

Please do keep pointing out the bugs and we’ll continue to squash them!

Also, just a reminder that this article contains some hints on how to get to the missions.

BETA Update 4.7 Change log

– Added macOS/OS-X support!
– Added ‘rolling selector’ UI piece
– Added TAB to toggle forwards hard/soft group selection
– Added Shift-TAB to toggle backwards hard/soft group selection
– Added intelligent camera focus to TAB (preserves Orbit/RTS Cam mode)
– Added intelligent camera focus to hard group selection (double tap number key)
– Added current zone icon to notification panel
– Added in-game help notifier
– Added additional atmospheric sounds to main menu and Zone Map
– Added images to Imperial Codex

– Update – time speed-ups increased
– Update – ‘Encyclopedia’ renamed to ‘Imperial Codex’
– Update – game window can be resized when in windowed mode

– Fixes to issues allowing Player to trade/transfer/fit items in different Zones
– Fixes to issues allowing Player to fit items to ships before trade completed
– Fixes to crash in Inventory transfering items from ship slots
– Fixes to issues trying to edit ship in a different zone or on Zone Map
– Fixed passive scanning sound broken on holding CTRL
– Fixed Q/E keys inverted
– Fixes to minor issue allowing the selection of option rows
– Fixes to OOZ (Out Of Zone) docking crash
– Fixes (further) to crash assigning target when exiting SRJ
– Fixed issue refreshing group icon when creating Soft Group

Something to add Commander?

Mineral & Fusion Carrier ‘Hermes’

The Mineral & Fusion Corporation has long since been known for their ‘cookie cutter’ designs.

It often works to their favour in that such designs are cheap and easy to manufacture, but there is historically little in the way of the MFC faction directly influencing space-based warfare. They normally focus on the current fad – producing ships to fill the ranks rather than tip the balance, but every now and again as luck might have it, they strike gold.

MFC Hermes
A ‘Hermes’ Carrier with MFC faction hull markings

The ‘Hermes’ in principle was designed to provide part of a carrier group solution, intended that two or three are deployed as a wing. Compare that to the PLC factions ‘Sadalbari’ which was designed as the mainstay of a group; dedicated to both that and Command, you might think it falls a little short of the mark but then again in both procurement and production, the Hermes is nearly half the cost.

The Hermes might also carry half the number of Carried units but it matches the Sadalbari’s might in armament with 2 Extra-Large (XL) and 2 Large (L) turret hard points. On paper that makes it an exceptional ship, but its influence on the arena of Shallow Space was far more pronounced that the ships mere specification.

Before the Hermes came along Carrier operations were out of reach for many, reserved for the highest echelons within a respective faction. But now with some skill, a Carrier can be deployed cheaply as part of an attack force rather than a dedicated combat function and with that; sales of the Hermes blueprint sky rocketed.

The Hermes is credited with truly diversifying the art of space-based combat beyond even the Battlecruiser, because it indirectly forced the Terran Confederate Navy to drastically consider the way it applied itself to the theatre. Previously, Naval fleets would occupy planets in the imperium applying martial protocols to space traffic as the need arose but when that big Naval fleet arrived everyone else made a swift exit. The Hermes exaggerated this game of cat and mouse by enabled guerrilla operatives to deliver precision raids with the deed long done before even the picket could arrive.

It was not a situation gone unnoticed and so the Highest Honourable James Thorensenan, Field Marshall of the Terran Confederate Navy, petitioned the Council of Admirals for federal approval of an elite Naval force known as the ATU or ‘Adaptive Tactical Unit.’ The force has a very broad remit, with the usual restrictions on the building of ships and acquisition of personnel lifted. The ATU can disguise their identity, even adopting custom hull markings, but remain attached Naval personnel under the general jurisdiction of Federal Fleet Command. The ATU is designed to ‘seed’ naval presence in a system, not enough to deter full-scale campaigns, but enough to supplement allied faction forces in local defence, and operate in other capacities as the council sees fit.

As a consequence once rogue pirate forces gathered into a serious organisation and the previously enumerable mercenary entities started to band together into an alliance. With the notion of a lone trader now a proverbial death sentence, strength lay in numbers and factions as absolute entities arose polarising space traffic; all this leading to the very premise of Shallow Space.

History accredits this largely to the inclusion of this mere ‘cookie cutter’ ship into the ranks and nobody denies it; for the Hermes by namesake alone, is the most infamous ship of the century.

Something to add Commander?