State of the Game Update December 2018

ClockworkDuck

Impeller Staff
Staff member
#1
Hey Mercs!
We are diligently working and have some exciting news for the close of 2018. This update is to let everyone know where all of our efforts have gone and also give you some sneak peeks at upcoming improvements to the game.
In our last State of the Game update we talked about how we had decided to spend some time to optimize and improve our game systems in an update we call Ships 2.0. This update is still going on and were are getting really close to releasing to you. The game is already running much better, and we anticipate the improvements to continue. We also added a lot of features to enhance player feedback and understanding of the battle around them. The design and tech team have been working together to update, optimize and improve every aspect of the ship systems. See the design blogs on Thermal Management and Armor for an in-depth dive on those particular aspects.
Our big plan for 2019 is to release the game on early access. That means the game will finally be available to the public - especially those who missed the opportunity to back our Kickstarter! Before we hit that stage we are going to need a lot of help testing every aspect of the game. Your feedback has helped us so much in the past and we are going to be relying on it again to make sure our launch to early access goes as well as in can. We plan to launch the new ships 2.0 version for beta testing on Steam soon and will include all of our kickstarter backers and more. We are going to time that with a new name for the game as well. Starfighter, Inc. has been a working title since it’s inception but was never meant to be our final name, and we will be excited to reveal that at last.
Now let’s start our update with Lead Artist Remco van den Berg.

ART
In the art department we have been focussing on polishing assets, adding NPC ships that have the greatest impact on gameplay and scenario design, as well as adding more amazing customization features to further enhance your experience.

Lotus-class Defense Platform (Drone)
The Lotus Defense Platform (LDP) introduces a whole new category of basic security infrastructure: the autonomous weapons platform. This heavily armed and armored platform offers new opportunities and challenges within any battlespace it is deployed to. Whether you encounter it as a friendly asset or enemy, you will have to rethink your tactics!
The LDP is not limited to purely orbital deployment. It’s advanced autonomous capabilities allow it to be deployed over great distances, all the while protecting itself by closing its armored “leaves”. Once on station the Lotus unfolds its leaves (platforms) and becomes a deadly force for long-range targets to deal with. It’s armed with a various setup of weapons ranging from railguns and lasers to missile launchers. When deployed the platforms act as a shield for Pilots to use to safely repair, refuel, and adjust their independent systems.



Lotus-class Defense Platform​

Updated Hyperion Cockpit.
While reworking the Pilot Vehicle Interface (PVI) we saw that there were some issues with the original Hyperion cockpit design, mostly in regards to displays. Since the Hyperion is an older vessel in our universe and has not incorporated the spherical cockpit design we designed the cockpit interior to be more inspired by our current understanding and needs of combat vessels. The biggest differences are the shapes of the displays. The original design had very awkwardly shaped displays that were hard to work with, and now the displays are larger and use a simpler shape to display information more clearly to the player.


Hyperion Revised Cockpit Design

Detail of Hyperion Throttle
Ship Customization
We’re working on a new component customization system, enhanced by VR, that will enhance the overall ship customization experience and allow players to get closer to the inner workings of the ship. This system will potentially also be used to configure the ship’s hardpoints for weapon management and more.
We’re also creating additional Schemas for each ship. These are preset patterns that allow for different colors to be assigned to different parts of the schema. This provides even more options so you’ll be able to customize your ship to your heart's content and fly your squad’s colors.

Pegasus Schemas

Pegasus Schema: Verdant Marauder
Hyperion Schemas

New Hyperion Schemas​

Animations
We’ve had the privilege to work with an animator recently so we could improve some of the arm animations that you see in first person. Also, we are working on getting some NPC pilots in the hangar to show more life in the hangars.

Player Customization

In-Game Shoulder Patches
In order to really represent your squad and PMC (Private Military Company) you will need a patch on your shoulder to signify your allegiance and loyalty to your friends, colleagues and company. Backers will receive a special First Responder Patch on in their collection to showcase our gratitude for their support in this journey we are on.


Hostile Takeover patch
Helmet Customization
Pilots will be able to customize their helmet with a digital face visualizer to showcase their ferocity and express their state-of-mind.

Customized Pilot Visor
Environments
On the environmental side of things we’ve started reworking our asteroidal/moon material. Using Substance Designer we’ve set up a system that creates impact craters and small rocks on a surface in a realistic way. In addition we’ve looked into adding detail textures for when the pilot comes a bit too close to an asteroid, say close enough to slam into one. But rest assured when you die due to a massive crash into an asteroid you’ll have something pretty to look at.


Asteroid / Moon Material Images


Asteroid / Moon crater details


Improved Asteroid textures

Asteroid Details


Asteroid surface

Hecate-class Carrier
This is one of our exciting new NPC capital ships. The Hecate is a fleet carrier used to deliver fighting forces for long distance missions and can be fielded in numbers relatively inexpensively compared to larger supercarriers like the Atlas. It is well equipped to service ships of all sizes, having shielded docks to cover smaller ships, and a subsurface repair bay with a deployable front and dock that can fix these small ships internally or fold out to work on larger ships externally. Large propellant stores and significant crew area for delivering personnel also make it an effective ferry, transport, and logistics center. Though its armor is thin by carrier standards, it makes up for this via redundancies and careful positioning of parts: the fighter bay is stored internally, with fighters capable of being deployed through several elevator bays, launched and slowed via surface railguns, and moved internally through a central transport shaft. The ship's body is hidden by an armored bulge that can cover it so long as it is smartly positioned towards enemy forces, with habitation bays folding against the body during combat. Each bay is self-sufficient and capable of detaching to save their crew as independent spacecraft.



3D Concept art: Hecate-class Carrier

Design
Lead Design Phillip Patterson has the latest on what design has been doing during the Ships 2.0 transition and what we’re really looking forward to getting out to you as soon as possible. To keep the feature creep to a minimum we’re mostly focused on refining gameplay based on feedback from Alpha testing. One of our primary goals was to make the entire ship and all of its systems work better. This means that Design and Tech spent a lot of time going over math to make sure that all of the scientifically accurate systems worked as intended and gave us the correct numbers. Then we helped the programmers optimize all of those systems to make the ships (and the game) run much smoother.

Playability
One of the largest changes we are looking to make is how a mission or contract flows from a player perspective. Originally we were looking at single objective missions where pilots could pit their skills against each other in an environment where skill was paramount. By listening to Alpha feedback we learned that the amount of time spent in the hangar vs the amount of time spent flying seemed lower than we wanted. Due to how fragile hard science makes ships, (and because regenerating health bars and force fields cannot be used to extend fights), combat was quick, brutal, and left little opportunity for extended skirmishes. We discussed several ways to address this issue and what we came up with was a Round System.
We are planning to test a game flow where players will participate in a blood sport, for realism and immersion, and have rounds where players can try out different ships and strategies. Prior to starting a match, each player will choose up to 3 ships from their hangar to take with them into the battle. Knowing the battlespace and objectives ahead of time should allow players to express their skill in ship customization and preparation by choosing the best ships and loadouts for the job at hand. In between each round the game will reset and each player will be able to choose different ships if they feel the situation warrants it. This means that you can try to overcome enemy strategy with different ship loadouts, or work with what your team has by bringing a ship configured to compliment what your allies are using.
The round system allows us to give players better chances to show off both their piloting and customization skills. During the beta phase of this system we are going to be relying heavily on what our players think of how it works to make tweaks. We are open to all options in regards to the system to find what players enjoy the most moving forward.
The round system also allows us to change up how and where players spawn, to introduce another avenue for player expression of their mastery over our game. We are looking at creating a system where in between rounds players can choose their starting vector, from any direction towards the battle space, as well as their incoming speed. This should open our maps up to a lot of different tactics. We are still looking at the best ways to implement this and balance it. It could turn out that we limit where players can come in from for reasons like “that is broken” all the way to “it makes no sense for a pilot on Team A to be able to spawn there”.
This is another area where we will rely heavily on your feedback. We need to make sure that it adds to the experience in a positive way. We want to assure you that the old game modes are still in there. We just want to see what is the best for the game moving forward and are really excited to get these features out to you and see what works best.

Battlespaces
The next design change we want to talk about are our battlespaces. The current version of the game has four unique working battlespaces, one of which has 4 variations offering different tactical setups. We are going to keep some of them, update or change the rest, and make a whole lot more. Our goal is to have a lot of options in both battlespaces and objectives. We will continue to look at your feedback as well as which maps are played more and how well balanced they are. We want to have a large variety of combat scenarios that players can get into, exploring different ship configurations to handle the situations that are presented in the various battlespaces. Once we have figured out what battlespaces are the best and most popular we can start working on variations and tweaks to make them all a pleasure to play in.

Simulator Challenges
The simulator gives us the opportunity to give players more controlled challenges and tutorials to help them learn all about the complicated mechanics of our game. Currently we have a sparse, but functional, tutorial and a ring race. We are looking to change up the tutorial so that it teaches more of what players need to know to hop in a multiplayer match. Feedback from Alpha showed us there are several features that are critical to survival and that weren’t properly introduced to players. We are addressing those areas and looking to alleviate other pain points as we move forward. We have broken the tutorial into 4 sections to allow players to return to specific info without having to do the whole tutorial over. We are also adding simulator missions designed to help players get a feel for flying and combat without having to fight other players.
The popularity of the original Ring Race level, (my best time is 1:47), has led us to looking at a few new variations on it as an extra challenge. We’ve worked on two new courses to help the player learn how to control their ships. Pilots can use this as a precision maneuvering course or a race to determine who the most skilled pilots are. The rings are actual physical rings to increase the difficulty and need for precision, since hitting the rings will throw the pilot significantly off course. We even have a few ideas to make the courses even harder. Eventually we will even add leaderboards to show the whole solar system who is the best!
I am sure that you noticed a few common themes in the design update. We are looking to give each player more and better chances to show off their skills in the cockpit and in the hangar. In other words, choosing the right selection of ships and configuring them for the optimal tactics, then that should be just as important as your ability to pilot a ship. We are looking at economy and progression to ensure that experimentation is encouraged as opposed to punished. As lead designer this is something that is very important to me. The second major theme is that we want player feedback, and we want a lot of it. We want the game to be as fun and realistic as possible and if the players feel like we are not meeting those goals then we will work with them to make sure that we get it right.
With all of that being said, we want to thank you all for joining us on this amazing journey and we are confident that you will like all the amazing upgrades and new additions to our upcoming build. Stay tuned!

Happy New Year Mercenaries!
 
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