Hey all, it’s time for your weekly update! We’ve had quite a week with the release of 2 patches and our 3rd Alpha backer weekend. The feedback for our new weapons has been overwhelmingly positive and last weekend was the smoothest of our major launches with a relatively small number of support requests. Our core 30 seconds of fun is massive space battles and, even in our rough pre-Alpha state, we believe the latest Alpha weekend has demonstrated we are achieving our goal of building a compelling experience. For those of you who were unable to participate we highly recommend you check out some of our community generated images, videos, and reviews.
Despite all the warm fuzzies from this last weekend there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done between now and the release of the Alpha within the next few months. The most important of these is the core gameplay loop which includes the resource system, ship configuration, and victory conditions. On top of that we need to finish capital ship weapons, implement radar/sensors, and improving warp remains a perennial thorn in our side.
I’m going to take this opportunity to segue a bit from the usual dryness of our weekly updates. When we originally launched the Kickstarter for I:B it was with the knowledge that many people would likely lambast us for (temporarily) abandoning our ultimate goal of building an MMO. While this intuition proved to be correct, particularly within the gaming press, we knew we had to reduce the scope of our ambition to something we were confident we could deliver with the resources at hand. We had no idea if we could convince enough people to back I:B and the exuberance of it being successfully funded was quickly replaced by the terrifying realization that we had no idea if the vision we articulated would actually be fun in practice. This was further compounded by the fact that we had now accepted people’s hard-earned money to deliver on that promise.
With great relief I believe I can now say we are confident that not only are we moving in the right direction, but that we will deliver a quality gaming experience that uniquely sets itself apart from its competitors. There’s still a long road to travel between now and shipping I:B to retail, fraught with challenges and frustrations, but the game is coming into focus and we can see a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel. We will deliver Infinity: Battlescape as a worthy addition to the library of any space combat enthusiast. Thank you all so much for your patience and for believing in us, we can’t wait to release the Alpha so we can begin introducing more of you to the game!
I know it’s been described before in earlier threads way back, but it would be nice to get another high level description of what the gameplay modes will be like. Maybe like a high level easy to read infographic…you could even put it on the frontpage of the website as the Overview/Gameplay sections are pretty minimal on details right now.
What battle modes? How many players on each team? What are the win conditions? Basics on how to achieve those win conditions? Do we have to kill x number of ships, or hold y number of resource nodes for some allotted time? Take down a final base? what is end game?
To be fair, we’re targeting a gameplay experience, but there is the Battlescape site which gives an overview. Refinement will take place as we continue to add new features and move forward with development. The most logical place to document those features would be that site, once they’ve been refined, tested, changed, refined… etc.
That isn’t correct. The high-level design has pretty much been established for a long time. What we haven’t refined are the details, because we do not beblieve we can establish these details before iterating on gameplay and testing things out.
For example, the game design doc specifies that there’s a warp drive to go from planet to planet seamlessly. It doesn’t explain how this drive works, the speeds you can reach, what are the exact conditions to enter or exit warp. We’re figuring that out as we iterate and get feedback from the community.
They demonstrate the graphical style of the game, not its gameplay.
Gameplay is about the experience of playing the game; what decisions players have to make, what skills they need to master, what tasks they need to complete, and so on.
Here’s the blurb from Hutch’s linked page that puts the reader in the right ballpark for Battlescape’s gameplay:
Infinity: Battlescape is a multiplayer space sim involving hundreds of players split across three competing corporations of the Starfold Confederacy fighting for control of a […] solar system filled with planets, moons, asteroid belts, and other celestial phenomenon. Seamless planetary transitions will bring combat from deep space to the surface of alien worlds. The primary goal will be to destroy your enemies and their infrastructure through orbital bombardment from capital ships and/or an array of smaller spacecraft including bombers, interceptors, and corvettes.
A match begins with each team being allocated some combination of space stations, planetary bases, factories, and AI controlled defense turrets. Each player will start with a moderate amount of credits with which they can buy ships and equipment. Every couple of minutes a factory spawns a cargo ship which will transfer raw materials to the nearest space station or planetary base for processing into credits. These credits are split evenly among the members of the team however if the cargo ship is destroyed its owners lose the credits. Players are able to donate credits to other members of their team so that they can pool resources.
That gives us an idea of the decisions, skills and tasks involved.
I am always dubious when the Epic™ word gets thrown out because I feel like it gets used as a substitute for uncertainty or wishful thinking. A picture tells a thousand words, but who is the author of those words? What words are the dev choosing to tell that story? If the concept is too ambiguous then people will fill in the blanks with their own narrative. It is important to continue to fill in the details as the vision comes into focus.
Quite often I see games touting Epic™ as their selling point and that is fine, just make sure the environment is there to support a realistic outcome that players can consider by their own definition as epic. We obviously won’t get hand-held through a cinematic experience so the gameplay solutions need to account for that.
I would be keen to see the storyboard image from the kickstarter updated or broken up into its various gameplay components to better understand what we can anticipate to experience.
A summary of the storyboard:
3 Corporate Factions - who are we fighting for? WHY should we fight for them?
Resources - commodities? types? what is the base unit for each?
Territory “influence” control
System Map - with ability to select a position coordinate for navigation & team strategy (potentially communicating that map info to other players
Scouting features like optical zoom
Facility types (eg. mining facilities, space stations) also as resource / funding nodes
Stealth gameplay via radar & optics - EM, IR, optical suppression / minimization
Jamming and countermeasures (chaff)
Communications - point to point, location-based
Ship disabling - once disabled what incentive is there not to self-destruct and respawn? Can large ships be repaired?
Planetary defense cannons
Radar detection altitude - bases with ground defenses to avoid.
Capital ships with orbital bombardment capability - ie. long range weapons as opposed to close range.
A destroyed base can be turned into a resource generator - How? Repair gameplay? AI NPC drones? Player repair ships?
Territory control via base destruction / capture - how many bases per planet? what region of space does that dictate as captured? where else in the vastness of a real-scale star system is required to be captured? Asteroid bases? Potential ‘hidden treasure’ stations in empty space that provide an extra resource bonus? perhaps starting as neutral and one team needs to capture it first.
As Flavien says some of these will be determined by balance and feedback, but it would be good to know what starting point you want to reach for the alpha.
I’m not asking for all the details to be nailed down, testing and iteration is vital. However I think there is a big spectrum between the intricate details at one end and the high-level design/target gameplay experience at the other. There is plenty of room for a bit of planning at some level between the two.
If you read that blurb again, I think you’ll agree with me that it could apply to an RTS or even a board game! So while it does give an idea of the decisions involved, I don’t think it does much more than that.
I agree with @selbie that there needs to be a starting point. Some of that feedback and iteration can occur before systems are implemented into the game. It’s far easier to iterate on paragraphs of text than on actual implemented systems.
Hypothetically speaking (of course), when the game launches and if it’s super successfull, would you guys gradually evolve I:B into the MMO by adding new things over time or would it make more sense to “start from scratch”?
Because I could totally see a future patch adding multi-system support for matches that you could call, say, “Campaigns” and then one day: woops, i guess you can make thousands of systems now, might aswell call it a galaxy.
Implementation is the only practical means of communicating a design idea to people who aren’t intimately involved with the product design. Products are designed by a handful of people at most, and they must be utterly aligned in their thinking if they’re going to be at all successful. “Design by Committee” is a loathed concept for good reason.
Presenting paragraphs about ideas to the forums would result in a bunch of players trying to align their thinking with that of the design team. Lots of questions. That would be the best scenario. The middle scenario is a bunch of players misunderstanding the paragraphs and sending the discussion off on pointless tangents. The worst scenario is a bunch of players misunderstanding the paragraphs and rejecting the design they believe those paragraphs represent.
You’re probably thinking “No, I mean stuff like changing the speed of missiles.” Yet that one change will have implications throughout the player experience, and the design team has gone through all those implications and has decided that’s the way to go. You may see it differently. You may even see it more clearly. But they’re not presenting the idea to just you. They’re presenting it to everyone in the forums, and the resulting mayhem could last for years as people endlessly debate the relative merits of one trivial change. Especially if it impacts their desired style of gameplay.
When all is said and done, the product team would rather carefully consider a change, implement it and throw it at the players for feedback than discuss it endlessly with them. I’m speaking from experience.
I’m certainly didn’t mean low-level details like the speed of missiles! - I was thinking much higher-level, just not quite as high-level as that blurb and some concept art of ‘epic battles’.
Also I wasn’t suggesting they open it up to everyone in the forums, just the “private developer forums that allow you to help us shape the development of the game”. Admittedly that is still 336 people, but that’s less than the 7774 members of the forum.
I was using missile speed as a trivial example. Anything larger in scope would require a description to be written by Flavien so that players knew the entire idea. Then there would be a delay while players debate the relative merits of the idea. All this would have to happen very early on. And to make it a useful exercise, it would have to result in modifications, tweaks or wholesale replacements that Flavien likes better than the ones he originally planned.
You know what gameplay design discussions are like in a forum. That’s a reflection of why you want your design team to be small and tight (meaning that they think the same way so they can communicate efficiently).
That would be true if they had financed everything outside Kickstarter.
As far as I’m concerned, I’d like to have some influence, or at least some insight, on the higher gameplay. Tweaks on missile speed / ship’s maneuverability can impact gameply, true, but the gameplay has to exist first.