February Dev Recap

February was extremely productive. We’re getting excited as most of the functionality in the game is now in place!

Gunboat

Gunboat

Our event system has been dramatically improved, and we are happy to say that it is now much easier to create events for the game. Brian J has been creating events as well as beginning the long process of integrating a compelling early game narrative with a series of tutorials.

We have been putting a great deal of effort into improving the usability of the game. Every time we take the game out to show we gather more information and use it to improve how the game plays. This month we were at two different OMSI events demoing the game to thousands of people. During these events we gather analytics, do a lot of observation, and try to interview people after they’ve played to gain insight on what is and isn’t working.

We also demoed the game at a fascinating talk by Dr. Adam Gazzaley of OHSU who is working on entertainment-quality games to be used for therapy. Their results are truly impressive.

Newtonian equations and movement diagrams
Newtonian equations and movement diagrams

Since last March, Dominic has been working to get the ship movement feeling right. It’s hard to overstate just how much effort has gone into this. We wanted to convey almost a sense of ballet to the flow of Newtonian space combat, and we are extremely happy with the result. These animations don’t do it justice.

Newtonian movement
Newtonian movement

We also worked on improving the input system for the game, although we’re not entirely there yet.

Thanks to Brian D we have our own font that fits in with the vector art style. It turns out that making a proper font takes a couple of weeks.

Font testing
Font testing

Brian D also did a lot of character art, a shiny new grid, starmap concepts, and worked on adding destructibility to all the ships. To that end, we’ve been experimenting with how to convey ships taking damage. We like the idea of the ships reflecting the damage they are taking by having large pieces blow off and drift away. And once a ship is disabled, have it slowly drift out of control. The early results are promising and we’ll continue to refine them until we feel great about the effect.

Planetary info mockup
Planetary info mockup

The political system is fully implemented, and Brian J now has the fun task of adding all of the interesting political powers in the game – for example giving the XO the power to threaten ships to force their compliance, the Negotiator the ability to soothe stressed out crew with Hypertherapy, and the Propagandist the art of character assassination to discredit enemies.

Military depot

Military depot

And as sometimes happens, we encountered a fairly substantial bug in the game that was causing it to completely lock up. This forced us to divert some time running the bug down. It turns out that something we are doing in the game is triggering a bug in Unity3D itself! Fortunately, a beta version of Unity3D fixes the issue. Unfortunately, the beta version has entirely different bugs, so right now it feels a bit of two steps forward, one step back. It is hard to say if this issue will delay alpha, but we are hopeful that when Unity3D 5.4 exits beta in mid-March the bugs will be fixed and we will be able to proceed on schedule. Unity has been great so far so this may not impact alpha.  It may result in a short delay of a couple of weeks. We will keep you posted.  (We may also decide to work a bit longer on some features, too!)

But the very good news is that at this point in development we are now feeling like all of the technically risky elements of the game are behind us! From here on out we are implementing things that definitely take time but are quite easy — the starmap, creating content, and things like that.  We’ll also continue to refine the experience and user interface past beta.