December Dev Update

December was another great month for development on XO.


An attack formation leaving the fleet
An attack formation leaving the fleet


Continuing with our work on the event system, we can now have a second level of choices that return back to the first. We use this to allow the player to ask questions during an event without committing to an action.

For a given mission we can randomly assign a jump destination a small, medium or large distance away, and tell the player the name of that destination. We can tell the player how much time they have (in game days) to complete a particular mission before they take it on.

We can also now give attack orders to a formation that we’ve created in an event.

For a given event we now display all gains or losses in the same way at the same time, whether it is a change in faction relations or a gain or loss of resources, items or ships.


Integrated summary and reward dialog
Integrated summary and reward dialog


We began work on a special type of event we’re calling a fleet event. These happen immediately when you jump into a new destination and are influenced by the political state and the resources of your fleet, among other things. Sometimes they’re purely narrative, other times your decisions can have a big impact on the fleet. This won’t be ready for some time.

There are still bits of the user interface being worked on — for example I mocked up a starmap view for events to better help the player decide the merits of accepting a given mission.

And… a major milestone has been reached. I began writing events for the game in earnest this month! Although the event system won’t be fully complete for some time, it is quite stable and far enough along that I can write events that will be used in the final version of the game.


Pact warships obliterating a Rover pirate
Pact warships obliterating a Rover pirate


From here through release I will try to spend a good amount of time every week building events. I have been writing ideas down for years and storing them in one place, and now I’ve begun tapping into that reservoir. For the last few months I’ve also been soaking up more historical fiction, documentary media (film, books and audio) and reading/watching fleet-based sci-fi. I am shamelessly pillaging ideas from all of them!

I’m really enjoying the process of creating writing the narrative. Each event I write adds more depth to the universe of XO. I’m now in a place where there is enough depth that the events are beginning to write themselves.

The first step for me is writing the story and outcomes. Once I have the writing in place, I begin building the JSON script for the event. Then I test the event in the game. As I play out each event multiple times adjusting the balance, I often go back and tweak the writing too.

Heru has done a great job building the event framework. Having done a couple dozen events now I can really appreciate how flexible and easy to use the system is. Who knows, maybe some of you will make your own events someday?

I really love the flow of the events and what they bring to the feeling of the game. I have to restrain myself from playing already finished events when I’m testing. 🙂

We are continuing to refine movement. If you’ve followed our development arc, how the ships move has been an epic undertaking. Our prototype was close, but because it lacked gravity it felt static. We tried orbits without gravity, but that was lacking. Once we got gravity in place, handling orbits with gravity became the next major challenge. Then for combat and intercepting, we tried a ‘ballet’ type movement where ships circled around each other, but the dance became too confusing with more than two ships. Calculating trajectories on objects moving in a circular orbit along with gravity and inertia is not easy. And then you add the ability for formations to move on top of that, and you have a big challenge. But, we’re close. Right now I’m happy with the movement, but not yet overjoyed by it. We’ll continue to improve it.

In other areas of the game, Heru completed Rules of Engagement (ROEs). Weapons Free and Defend now work exactly as expected.

All current ships in the game now have icons thanks to Alexander! There are still a handful of ships yet to add but I’m very happy with the final product.


The fleet off Angel
The fleet off Angel


We moved ship parameters out from Unity’s prefab system. Prefabs are great for some things, but for balancing ship parameters, they’re less than idea. Now they’re stored in a JSON format which makes those values easy to edit. This may (coincidentally, ahem) also allow people to add their own 3D models to the game and tweak ship properties after we release…

There have been a couple of requests for some more clarification on completion timelines, but we’re still not able to predict that. We are steadily completing tasks and the list is growing shorter, but there is much left to do. XO will be ready when it is ready, and we will post concrete timelines here first, when we have confidence in them.

We are going to be bringing someone on purely to help with communication and getting the word out about XO, and possibly doing videos, so look for that in February.

Considering the holidays, I’m quite happy with December’s production pace. I’m very happy to be shifting into a much more content-oriented role. My best wishes for you all in 2018, and my deep thanks for the support, trust, and understanding you continue to show!