We’re running at fever pitch here as development pauses while we start fine tuning for the First Playable Beta and the fruits of all our labor truly begin to unfold. At the same time the shared work space is filling with new assets, sounds, music and lore all waiting to be injected so we think it’s fair to say that things are about to get really interesting around here.
A few words on the latest video to start with.
Firstly, all the music you hear will be in the game. SFX are back in the game with over 50 new additions and all the 3D spatial sounds have had the low band pass reverb treatment so the room suitably rumbles as ships roar pass and the sounds are pleasant both loud and clustered.
We’ve added 80 minutes of music (more to come) along with the 10 piece procedural battle music piece we spoke of. A whole host of particle effects and shaders have been tweaked and added just for the sheer glory of it, and to the absolute delight of the 3D team, the ships no longer look like they are made from polished acrylic.
Under the hood massive work has gone on to make the combat AI (especially the Corvettes,) a little more believable with more specific behaviour added relating to plotting intercept vectors for distant targets and keeping units in firing range. Of course, the trouble with all this clever AI behaviour and dazzling imagery is its a bit of a nightmare to test… I’ll try and explain.
So I’m working on a wing members reaction when their wingleader is destroyed, I put in the required code and hit play and here I am in Zone 1. I get as far as selecting a Carrier to launch a wing.
‘Oooo that’s a nice shaped asteroid cluster, let’s take a look at that.’
PEW-PEW-PEW… THUNK – cursory glance at the fleet panel ‘nope – none of mine.’ Spin the camera round and it’s a pirate Cambridge and… yep it’s on an intercept course.
Hmmmm OK I’ll bite; ‘launch all fighters, Carriers withdraw to extremity of indicated asteroid cluster, group the Battlecruiser and Light Cruisers together and plot an intercept course, authorise use of special weapons on the Battlecruiser, prepare lead Capital ship for a short range jump to tackle the…’
BZZZZZZ – THAWCK – ‘that sounds like XL weapons fire, a siege laser maybe, it can’t be here already…’ Spins camera round for a look and it’s a lone allied Homan Battlecruiser, emerging from an adjacent nebula, main guns blazing.
I pulled the fleet back and watched, this should be interesting.
What happened was the Homan completely took apart the Cambridge with a Siege Laser (not particularly overpowered, much) despite having a quarter of the hit-points and a fraction of the targets cumulative DPS.
What this means is that all the new little tricks we’ve rolled in; the more individual nature of the ships, directional shields etc. – are leading us to something that is very difficult to achieve which is asymmetric balancing. Had the enemy had even one Light Cruiser as an escort, that lone Homan wouldn’t have stood a chance.
This is going to be essential in separating Shallow Space from the normally predictable nature of combat of some RTS games and creating something that is continually engaging as you discover your own way to tip the scales in your favour.
Another thing to consider is my excitement playing it. You have to imagine that I’ve been making this thing for over 2 years now and the novelty of it wears off. But these battles have me shrieking like an ecstatic child, spinning round in my faux-leather racing chair grinning from ear to ear.
Now if they do that to me playing with ships I’ve just plonked in there to test, imagine your own reaction when your hand-picked prototype Battleship trains its proverbial ‘Borg’ guns that you bastardized in a lab somewhere, and swings it’s freshly painted ass around for an alpha strike.
Yes my friends: GLOOORY AWAITS US!
Of course while I’m sat at my desk processing all this, literally spasming with joy – I’ve bloody forgotten what I was testing!
This little beauty hit the shared workspace just yesterday; the 3 piece ‘Tartarus’ Modular Shipyard, complete with iris Corvette docking hatch. We can add all that to the 12 other installations that will be switched on after the First Playable release.
On that point, keep your eye on the Official forums, in particular this thread and you’ll be treated to instructions to get to the First Playable of the Beta on Steam. First Playable will be a silent launch for the die-hards – once it hits, we’ll roll out patches practically on a daily basis for a fortnight or so to get us were we need to be.
So we are on the home stretch, literally down now to tidying up menus and adding a help system. If you’re new to the project, grab a copy because it won’t be this cheap forever and if you’re one of the thousands waiting in anticipation, get excited – it’s allowed because it’s nearly time!