All the Steam Keys are now out! Plus screens of the first custom Ark!
Chris here! Turns out it was about 300ish Steam keys that were not out yet, but thankfully those all went out now. Valve approved the latest batch, and we should be all set for players and press from now through launch.
Sorry for the flurry of updates lately -- I know how annoying that can be when a kickstarter does that. We'll go back to having less-frequent updates for a little while after this, although there's still daily-or-nearly-so activity on the forums in particular, and very frequent on our blogs and release notes pages.
About The Ship Aesthetic
Earlier today I asked about a change in the ship aesthetic, and got a pretty resounding yes on that one. On the forums and elsewhere, there was a pretty much universal "yes please." No surprise, but I just thought I'd do a quick pulse check before making a big change like that.
There are a trio of recent videos that show how this is achieved, if you're into that sort of thing. The videos are long and artist-technical, but I'll be doing some more ones that are more speed-painting-y soon, too.
The result for the Special Forces Ninja Hideout can be seen below:
About The Gloomy Backgrounds
Another thing that Cyborg brought up, and that has been in general a bit of a bugbear for folks for a while, is how happy things like the backgrounds were trending. What a mood killer!
Here's an example of what the galaxy map looked like in one game prior to the changes that just went out in version 0.601 ("Grumpy Ark"):
And now here's that same screen in the new version:
One of the interesting things is that not only does that feel more space-like, but it also helps separate the background and foreground. Basically it will help the stuff in the foreground to "pop" more. For example, in the below, where the glow is still insane but you get the idea:
And if you're curious about the new "grumpier Ark" in action:
You can see what I mean about icons popping better against the gloomier background. Sometimes it's the little things like that -- and we just need people to come in and give us a bit of a kick in the pants sometimes.
I think we're on a good trajectory for the moment with lots of good things in the works, but in the next weeks and months we're going to start asking you for more and more feedback. And, heck, hopefully during that time period you can actually start playing the game and actually enjoying it in a realistic fashion rather than as a proof of concept.
We're getting there!
Hey -- About Those Backer Arks...
Some backers (11, I think it was) commissioned custom Arks as a part of their pledges. These are things that will be integrated into the game for everyone to enjoy, so these people are actively making things more awesome and creative for everyone.
We still haven't heard back from a few of those folks yet (probably quite busy), but Blue has been having a great back and forth with something like half of them, and the Arks are in various states of concepting ranging from thumbnail sketches to detail sketches... and one of them has gotten all the way to the point of being fully modeled, actually. :)
Here are images of it from in Maya:
These are all prior to having their PBR painting applied and before being integrated into the game with the other post-processing filters, etc. And we haven't even begun to discuss what makes this Ark different from "Ark One" (my new name for the first one, that I basically commissioned) in a gameplay sense. The backer will work with Keith on that sometime in the next month or two, roughly.
Anyhow, I plan on doing a video of me doing the PBR painting of this second Ark, and then getting that inserted into the "big ol' parking lot" of ships so that Cinth can wire it up for actual inclusion in the game.
Evolution of That Custom Ark
I won't share what exactly the backer was saying to us, because I didn't get his permission to do that. But he had some really cool early descriptions to give to Blue, and in response to that she created the following thumbnail sketches based on his earliest concept:
He really liked the one in the first column, second down, as you can probably guess based on the final product. This particular Ark went quite smoothly, so it was straight to refinement sketches after that instead of another round of thumnails:
For this, it was the bottom one in the second column, as the sharp-eyed among you will notice. The tail effect was a big attractive thing.
At this point it was time for some rough modeling to get his feedback on those pieces without color or details yet. So this is what Blue came up with (these are different angles of one model):
He had a few requests for changes based on that, and some good ideas for a bit of detailing. Which led to here:
There was also discussion about the coloring and what some of the final bits would look like once detailed and painted, of course.
Which is how we got back to where we started, with the "final" version of it in Maya:
Now it's PBR-time for that bad boy, and I'll have a video of me handling that probably tomorrow.
In Other News: Tutorial!
This may have slipped under the radar, but the game actually has a tutorial now! It will grow and evolve of course, but it's much better than the written thing we used to have. A lot is starting to change fast, these days. A lot of the invisible work we spent a lot of time on -- Blue, Cinth, Keith, and myself -- is starting to actually coalesce into something you can see.
And, heck -- BadgerBadger is practically an honorary member of the dev team at this point. Cyborg seems determined to catch up lately, though, in terms of stepping in as a really useful hand on GUI design and refinement.
In truth we've had a lot of support from a lot of folks, but thus far compared to some times in the past it has been a rather quiet alpha. That's fine, as it's given us room to breathe and work, but we are coming up on the period where we'll start ringing that bell louder and louder looking for more people to tell us what we're doing wrong. ;)