As we recently finished releasing patch 0.7.6.0, this pretty much closes our months-long focus on the UI. The next patches will refocus on gameplay and related features, such as match progression, ship upgrades and the squad system. There is of course a lot more work to do on the UI, but it won’t be the exclusive focus of any single patch and will instead be spread over the next patches as we were doing before.
We now have a Trello board for development tasks. If you’re curious to see what we’re working on / will be working on in the next few months, check it out.
The main ones are:
Revamping the credits system
The credits system is made of two parts: a “passive” part (the AI commander distributes credits every minute to all team members, based on team income from haulers) and an “active” (/skill-based) part (you earn credits by killing other ships or destroying modules). The problem right now is that the system favors too much the active credits, which basically makes the economy a footnote and removes the strategical aspects of the game. Most players aren’t even aware of the existence of the economy and the AI haulers carrying resources between factory and bases, and that it’s possible to attack them
Of course, improvements have to be made to the missions system too, to emphasize that haulers can be attacked (or should be protected), and to the ship upgrades (so that you have more options to find and intercept haulers in flight, which is currently quite tricky), so everything ties in together. But at least in the
short term we are looking at addressing the credits system and rebalance it to the passive side.
The competitive leaderboard, team stats and battle reports
So instead of getting credits as rewards for killing ships, you’ll earn something else instead, which we’ll tentatively call SP (Skill points). Like in an ELO system, you’ll start with a fixed number of SP, and you’ll earn (or lose) points based on your actions.
We also want the new system to take into account more than just killing other ships, but accomplishing objectives and helping your team. For example, corvette users repairing/resupplying others will earn SP.
Your rating will be displayed in a leaderboard in the teams tab of the in-game UI. At the moment we’re thinking of merging the teams together, to show a single competitive leaderboard with mixed teams. The leaderboard will also display player stats (SP, kills, deaths, assists, time played etc… ). This screen will also in general show team assets, like the number of factories/bases/stations, their distribution/type, their income, the team’s income per minute, etc… Eventually this screen will become pretty advanced, with graphs showing stats over time.
Finally, the last component are the battle reports. We’ll be revamping the battles progression too, but in terms of reports, we want to better signal to the player that a battle is ending and why. A lot of players are currently unaware that the battle they’ve participated in has ended, simply because they didn’t notice/read the popups at the top of the HUD. We’ll be showing a full battle report screen, with stats over time, your rewards, and of course the outcome of the match and how you were able to impact it.
As the game is called “Battlescape” (a battlescape being a location of the solar system where the factions are competing, like a planet and its surroundings), we’ll be introducing more Battlescapes to the game. In the first step, it’ll simply be a new planet + moons over a different location, and once a Battlescape has been conquered (as we have a single one in game at the moment), the match will continue to the next Battlescape.
We haven’t decided how the scoring will work yet, maybe we’ll try to keep it simple and easily understandable like a best-of-N to win the entire match. Eventually we’d like the game to feature an entire solar system with multiple Battlescapes. As for traveling to another Battlescape after the current one has been conquered by a faction, you’ll be able to undock at allied bases and respawn over the new Battlescape, or simply take a few minutes to manually warp travel there by yourself.
There will be changes to the match progression within a single Battlescape too. The current in-game match progression feels completely chaotic and unpredictable. We haven’t made a decision there just yet, so posting your ideas is welcome. We’d like to keep the progression simple and understandable, even predictable, maybe with a graph or a series of nodes representing bases and showing where the next battles will take place. Of course we’re only talking about the AI here: players will still be able to form their own fleets and coordinate to attack wherever they want.
We are going to get ride of the notion of “critical battles”: all battles will become critical, as in: if the defending team loses the battle, it’ll lose its base. This will likely shorten the duration of the matches, at least for the current Battlescape (this will eventually get compensated by adding new battlescapes to conquer).
We’d also like to improve the AI so that it physically attacks bases and their weak points; so by losing the battle, the enemy will naturally have free rein over destroying the base. This requires a lot of AI improvements, especially in terms of sub-systems targeting (needed for players too) and 3D pathfinding/obstacle avoidance.
Another thing we are looking at is staging the battles in terms of progression. We still need to implement base shields, with shield generators that have to be destroyed by smaller ships to disable the shields, to let capital ships attack. Other ideas include overhauling the defense platforms and turrets to pose a real threat to capital ships, so they would have to be disabled by small ships during the first stage before capital ships can warp in. At the same time, we don’t want to set the game on rails too much, so everything described above would mostly apply to the AI, with players opting in to follow these objectives, or follow their own tactics.
Let us know in the comments below what your vision of a battle would play like under the new system.
The mission system + fleet AI improvements
The mission system is in dire need of an upgrade. Instead of just saying “participate to this battle here”, it should provide you with a list of battle objectives which you can do or not. This should be ship-specific. For example, for corvette users the HUD should emphasize which nearby allied ships are in need of repairing or resupplying, and give you a reward if you do it (skill points). Interceptors would have to chase bombers, destroy turrets/engines on capships, destroy defense platforms/turrets on bases, destroy shield generators etc… The difficult part here will be to provide a good variety of sub objectives so that it doesn’t feel too repetitive.
In addition to that, we’d like to do a lot of AI improvements, the main one being fleet/squad formations. AI ships would regroup after a fight, form up in a small squad, destroyers stay nearby cruisers or carriers to escort them, and so on. We can even imagine the AI squad system to integrate players and/or follow player’s orders, but to be honest that’s a lot of work to implement, so this will likely be implemented step by step over the longer term.
New missions will be integrated to the missions system and screen. They already partially exist today, but will get more developed and streamlined. Within the next couple months, we’d like to refine at least the hauler attack/escort missions, the scouting missions (finding out where enemy bases are located) and the bounties missions. We’d like to see players be able to place a bounty on another player, and that show up as a bounty mission (probably time-limited) in the missions screen. We can add other mission types and variety at a later stage when the game is closer to completion.
Our goal is to implement the first version of the ship upgrades system by the end of the year. We’ll split all the existing ship modules/weapons into upgrades (ex.: deploying mines, warp jamming, the scanner) and add some new ones (new weapons, missile types, and maybe electronic warfare).
Squads/fleet system, directional shields, sub-systems targeting, hauler/carrier gameplay revamp, improved damage model, VoIP, atmospheric flight, persistent progression… we’ll try to fit in as many of these features between the bigger ones as we can. But there is no doubt that we will be very busy in the coming months and next year to bring the game closer to completion. Keep in mind that we’re a very small team, so progress is going slowly, but we appreciate your patience and sticking with us. We believe that after implementing all these new systems and streamlining the experience, the game will be massively improved and become ready for a marketing push towards our 1.0 release.