Comm Msg #054 - December Development Recap
Happy new year everyone. Here’s our December in-depth dev update!
Functionality and UI
A lot of work was done on the galactic map, and I’m happy to say that it’s completely finished. The galactic map shows all of the destinations by relationship, and also allows you to easily see which factions own which destinations.
There’s now a list of factions on the right side of the screen - hovering one causes all destinations belonging to that faction to rotate. We tried highlighting first, but rotating is working better to show the difference.
In the galactic map we made all courselines white, except your prior path which is cyan. Now you can finally see the path you’ve taken so far!
I spent a fair bit of time adjusting the galactic map key, getting the sizing, rotation, scale, placement and line thickness just right in all of our test resolutions. I ended up deciding to block the fleet list entirely from this view, so I spent some time getting that just right.
I also worked on the size, rotation and thickness of the galactic map icons themselves. I’m very pleased with the results.
There was some functionality that needed to be changed in order for the icons to be sized correctly.
The galactic map no longer shows the course plotting line in progress.
And at long last, the galactic map now displays the rendezvous point - the destination that you are trying to reach as the point of the game.
And in December we finished the starmap! It is now working exactly as designed.
We added the faction name to the main starmap display, which is the most important piece of information about a given destination.
Now when you hover a destination that has been scouted or visited it pops up a tooltip view of the resources for that destination. If you haven’t scouted or visited a planet its resources display question marks. If you hover an unreachable destination it now displays the message ‘out of range’ instead of showing resources.
The starmap now finally orients correctly, with your most recent prior course pointing down. The path to all of your previously visited destinations is also visualized in cyan. It is a lot easier to stay on course now!
When plotting a course, the timer is now a bar instead of a numeric countdown, removing the last of the numeric countdowns from the game; all timers are now bars. The duplicate jump button was also removed from the planet info dialog.
Once your course is fully plotted, the new courseline displays as solid green.
There was an old piece of functionality that changed the color of the current destination, but that was making the new icons look terrible so we removed that.
Ships in the scouting report now display in the same color as their relationship to the player.
The ‘confirm jump and abandon a ship currently scouting’ dialog was fully completed.
Hovering a ship in the scouting report now shows the ship’s type. This makes scouting reports 100% complete, too.
The jump button received some planned UI improvements. When you don’t have enough fuel to jump but have plotted a jump, the jump button is greyed out and a ‘need fuel to jump’ warning displays below your fuel counter. A specific sound effect is also triggered. This makes it clearer that you can’t jump without 1 unit of fuel.
I worked on some improved mockups for our context menu to try and clean it up and make it more usable. This included working up some 3D models and animating them; it’s faster for me to model up something that we may actually use than do a 2D mockup. There’s more work that will be required there, but I think we are close to a final solution.
The fleet list is also now functionally complete, although there are some minor issues that need to be cleaned up.
For me one of the biggest bits of the fleet list is that you can now see when you have a faction leader aboard your ship! Faction leaders also now display a portrait and an explanation of the power they bestow when you hover them.
When you hover a ship the fleet list you know see a large revolving live-action close-up view of the ship in the ship info panel. Loving that.
Quite a few sizing adjustments were made to accommodate different resolutions and maintain consistency.
Hovering a plan now displays the ‘equip’ tooltip. Plans can now only be deleted when you have the chance to trade for a new plan.
Ships in the fleet list now sort with warships on top and lesser ships ranked below.
‘Melt down’ now appears as an action when you hover over your existing weapons, giving you the opportunity to sell your weapons for ore at any time.
Weapons that cannot be fitted to particular ships now show an ‘incompatible’ warning when hovered.
One of the last remaining bits of functionality to add to the fleet list was to accommodate diagonal mouse movement, meaning not to switch between ships if you move the mouse diagonally to the info panel of a ship.
I cleaned up the trade dialog, removing the portrait and other unnecessary bits as quite a few trade events actually involve situations where there is no trader on the other side.
We expanded the newMissionTitle functionality to only display text, not a timer bar. Heru also added the ability for newMissionTitle tags to display sub-tags like destination and shipname.
After a design discussion we decided it would be better not to expire events once they had been scouted. Instead we will evaluate the event for it’s conditions once the player jumps in and if the conditions are no longer valid we swap out the event. This covers off a small but meaningful edge case and keeps the game balanced as intended.
Heru made an adjustment to our getShip event function, removing it defaulting isPlayer to ‘yes’ as this was making some events look like they were broken.
Balance and Narrative
In December I focused exclusively on the early game experience. I’m getting closer to my goal to have the game flow naturally as much as possible, using narrative and good UI to set context and explain what is possible in the game.
To this end I made adjustments to the frequency of early game trading, scaling it way back. I also moved all the caches to later in the game.
I also added a number of easy early events that introduce the player to the idea of crews and stations. More ‘milk run’ events like this are needed to demonstrate other game actions.
I continued to make small but meaningful adjustments to events; these are too numerous and small to note, but they include the position of ships, timing of events, and adding or adjusting dialog.
I try to ‘game’ the game whenever I can, and when I find an exploit we cover it off. Such was the case with an event that required an extra trigger to close off a possible cheat.
I also added conditions to several early crew-related events so that they won’t spawn until the player has the ability to do something with them, or if they do spawn the player can do something that doesn’t require crewing.
I played with the size of the universe. The final size won’t be set until after alpha or possibly beta, as I’ll be using your playtesting data to help me decide how large the game should be. This has an effect on some UI-related things like how much distance there is between destinations, so we are deferring that work until we have a set size to our universe.
I created a stripped down version of events - basically removing all of the dialog so I could test certain things quicker.
Speaking of events, the count is now 397 events including four or five used for testing that won’t be in the final. Most of the events that I added in December were early game milk run type events and additional pure combat events.
The only events I will probably be adding before alpha are fleet events, pure combat events, and some early milk run events.
Heru fixed a z-fighting issue with the autopause notification overlapping the contextual action menu.
There was a similar issue with the fleet list and dialogs that only showed up in very low resolutions which I fixed.
I had to make some changes to events where I was using crewCount of zero and forgetting to include the operating crew. Oops.
We had an issue where selecting an antispinward action was triggering the spinward action, but that’s fixed now.
The new faction leader info panel was smooshed only when displaying the Rover leader, but that’s been unsmooshed.
Pact faction leaders were showing up, now they are disabled.
I fixed an event where a ship needed to temporarily join your fleet to work properly.
Heru fixed a case where crewCount conditions were not working in conditional choices.
We had an issue briefly where the shipname flag that hovers over a ship wasn’t disappearing correctly, but that’s been cleared up.
The description for faction leader powers weren’t displaying correctly on the faction leader tab, but that works now.
Similarly, we had a minor issue with the faction leader box not being drawn properly but that’s all taken care of too.
I had some events that weren’t showing up - it turns out that I’d included a condition that was responsible. I removed the condition and all was well.
I accidentally changed a prefab in Unity which made it look like there was a bug. Fortunately we use source control so the fix took five seconds. I can’t stress how important it is to use source control!
There were several issues where the ‘jump ready’ green courseline would revert to a dotted line, but those have all been taken care of.
The cyan prior courseline briefly stopped showing up, but it works as expected now.
newMissionTag was incorrectly displaying titles for certain events, requiring an adjustment in what the game thought a mission event was.
Heru fixed a bug related to protecting other ships and Harvester latching.
He also made sure that once you visited a destination, the resource for that destination would show up in the starmap after you left.
Sometimes the colors in hovered resource bars weren’t matching the colors in the planet detail view, but that’s all fixed now.
Planets in the starmap detail weren’t showing the correct type, that’s working again.
There was a case where you’d see the resources for a destination before your scout ship returned, but that’s been taken care of.
Scouting was also marking the scouted destination as if it had been traveled to by the fleet, but that is no longer the case.
I did a lot of work on the characters in the game. I added eyes to the rest of the models and made additional adjustments to the lips and eye sockets for the remaining models. Then I added eyebrows to many of the models.
I modeled up some pretty fun hairstyles. Here’s a few:
I need to add some more hairstyles and a few more accessories, but it’s all nearly complete now.
I created and then went through a few revisions of the galactic map icons until I felt they were just right. I’m particularly happy that I was able to squeeze in a little homage to Atari Battlezone, a game I played quite a lot of back in the day. I also really like how the Harvester icon came out.
I made some improvements on the origins of a few ships like the Empire refugee ship and the Corp lifeboat to make them look better and easier to select.
I made some more tweaks to collision boxes on a few ships as well.
I adjusted the size of the Rover getter icon.
And of course it took a couple of days to do the November Kickstarter update.
So here is the latest update on where we stand until we reach alpha. DISCLAIMER: keep in mind that there are many smaller tasks that I haven’t included, things may come up that require attention, including a number of bugs we have yet to fix. We may decide to add things from the wishlist, or move things from beta to alpha or vice-versa. We will certainly encounter more bugs. None of this includes marketing tasks. And we have more to do between alpha and beta.
With the above disclaimer in mind, here is the list of major functionality remaining before alpha: We still have quite a few pieces of UI to complete. We need to finish the game over/restart cycle; we haven’t yet started on saving and restoring the game state. While we have begun optimization, much is remaining. We need a handful of events added. And as you would expect testing and balancing is ongoing.
Considering that Heru lost more than a week due to family issues, and I lost about that much time due to the holidays, I think we made very good progress. I am extremely grateful for the positivity and support as we come into the final stretch.