Open-world Overhaul: Material Concerns #4

Progress remains strong as we continue the overhaul in earnest and we remain extremely positive about the outcome! All the lessons learnt over the last two years are being rolled in, skills have advanced in all areas; coding, modeling, design but the exciting part is the effect on the overall gameplay experience now; with feedback, animations and consistency from the UI in particular having been massively improved. The graphics also are really quite something now too; with the team working together to bake scenes so rich it’ll cook your eyeballs in their sockets.

The proverbial meat trapped in-between our teeth right now is the physics side of things. I think we’re up to around 20 attributes that need to be meticulously preened, balanced and stashed to make these ships actually look and feel like the lumbering hulks they are, not an easy task but well worth it – a huge timesink though.

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All the resource icons have been exposed here but you’ll actually have to jump zone-to-zone and scan for your resources to locate them.

Hard to show in the screens but the ‘galaxy’ is coming along quite nicely, we’re learning what makes a good zone and where to put them, salting the permutations of random-ness and weaving it into that perfect and huge play area.

Pretty soon we’ll be ready to start injecting the NPC traffic which will hopefully contribute to the economy. We can’t make any promises there however, because we’re still not convinced that a live economy will actually be fun. Not sure how many of you played X3 and spent 45 minutes trapping across the galaxy to sell your meticulously sourced wares to find the computer has stolen the deal…? No fun.

But it’s that economy that has been the subject of the last two weeks.

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We’ve come up with a set of base and refined materials that the player will use to construct ships and stations. Breaking from tradition, ships will be constructed from as many as 3 or 4 different materials that will need to be located, mined and refined from their base materials AND transported to the place that make your ships.

Yes, it sounds a little sadistic granted, but beyond the random occurrence and mission system we need to give the player reasons to look beyond their immediate surroundings. In a 4X colonization would be that thing, but this is an RTS (an open-world one at that) so we have to think outside the box. But you don’t have to produce your own ships if you are economy averse, completing missions and subcontracting production (aka: purchasing) from friendly stations will also be possible, but you’ll need to complete missions to unlock their services.

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Even combat ships will be able to haul freight, very important as the logistics of your unit will be half the battle.

Much the same as Eve Online each ship will have a cargo bay and the player can shuffle items between ships (and static cargo containers) to get those resources to where they need to be. It’s important to remember that we are moving away from the standard RTS-fare of player units being disposable entities that you build, CTRL-A, send in. You’ll go through great lengths to acquire the blueprints, materials and crew for these ships and when you loose one, it will hurt.

But we’ll soften that blow of loss by introducing easing mechanics. For example, when ships are destroyed they will leave behind persistent floating wreckages that can be recycled to reclaim X% of the materials. The crew, well some will die (poor souls,) others will make it to lifepods that you’ll have to recover to be able to staff replacement ships. So what we’re trying to do here is create a situation whereby loosing a ship is actually fun as you hastily tractor in your lifepods and what’s left of their cargo and your trashed fleet limps away to get repaired or hide.

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It’s not all about the combat either; combat is obviously in because it is undeniably fun. But what is also fun to some people is the simple act of gathering resources, building a commercial empire and finding and locating those special items or blueprints. Provision is in to automate the actions of the ships, repeating a simple queue will be in from the start and further down the line we will introduce programmable AI for more complex queues.

Keep an eye out for those utility drones and boarding Corvettes we mentioned last time, we haven’t forgotten about those! We also have a juicy assortment of Freighters now; an image of one of them is below. Also if you’re sat there sweating in anticipation do checkout the ‘Steam Artwork’ section from time-to-time, we tend to pop WIP stuff up there just to prove that the cogs are still grinding.

Honestly, you don’t need to worry about those cogs continuing to grind. The stuff we’ve fed you is just the tip of the iceberg, we continue to bounce of the walls and run around screaming in-between devtime. We are massively excited and motivated and can’t wait to get it out there!!

Previous overhaul articles: 1, 2, 3

Something to add Commander?