Lets talk about what I’ve been doing!
Development has been slowly picking up pace over the course of this month. Immediately after the kickstarter I had to move to live in another town (where the rent is cheaper) and that slowed development for a bit. The good news is that one of the biggest development costs is developer housing so this also guaranteed lower development costs for the future of Zero Falls.
I’ve done a ton of little general tweaks and improvements already. I found some of the biggest bugs that was making the game almost unplayable, and fine tuned a bunch of values and added a few tweaks here and there. Many of you probably saw the new travel drive redesign since it has hit the ship editor already, but you haven’t seen the bug fixes that make AI much less irritating to fight.
The original version of travel drive was to simply turn off drag and allow full Newtonian flight so you could pick up as much speed as you like. This had a number of issues, it was very jarring and unrealistic to stop instantly when it turned off, and it didn’t accomplish the gameplay I wanted from fast travel. Lets not also forget that dodging asteroids could be difficult at high speeds.
So the new travel drive throws real physics even more out the window. To hell with reality. If we have asteroids that are unrealistically close to each other, we should have an engine that can navigate between them with unrealistic precision. That’s why the new travel drive works the way it does (among other reasons) and I think gameplay will be improved for it.
The travel drive was changed in response to play testing, and another thing that play testing has revealed to me is that digging for ore just so you can spawn replacement ships isn’t a fun mechanic, so I’m divorcing the two. I’m introducing a new resource: station energy, that will be used for spawning things that you need after you die. These are things like your body, your equipment, and your ship. The old resource that you get from mining ore and recycling appropriated ship cargo will be used for upgrades and unlocks of all types. Research of new technology, and building station upgrades is going to be possible with the harder-to-get resources, and I have come up with a whole bunch of station upgrades that will make progression more fun. Now instead of mining ore so you can spawn another ship, you will be mining ore so you can upgrade your capacitors that will allow you to spawn a bigger type of ship, or maybe in the future spawn crew to help you in your adventures.
These changes are probably something that could have been released post launch, but they will corrupt save files so it is probably for the best that they are already half in. Just need to do the research screen side of things and tweak some UI elements to make it work.
The other thing I have been doing is completely redesigning the player’s home base from the ground up. It was very much a placeholder before, and it was created before an optimization that let me have much larger stations (like 10x larger) so it had to be very trimmed down. Now Jan has given me a ton of new assets for halls and walls and doors that is letting me rebuild the interior of the entire station. This thing is going to be pretty huge, so we also worked to put in some fast travel systems inside the station. A series of lifts will now let you move instantly from one side of the station to the other so you don’t have to spend 10 minutes walking.
The interior is still full of placeholder art, but now instead of the entire station being a placeholder, only certain rooms are placeholders. We will probably have to corrupt a few save files in the future when we update that stuff, but we don’t want to so we are taking our time to prepare as much as we can before release.
Here’s the difference between the new (WIP) station interior I’m designing and the old one seen on youtube a few times:
This is todo-list, not done yet or in progress, but you probably want an estimate of when this thing is going live so instead of telling you an arbitrary date, I’ll tell you what needs to get done and why. The list may change as the days go by, but my biggest priority at the moment is getting alpha released so it probably won’t grow too much longer.
Priority #1 is getting the ingame loot spawning rules to be save-file independent so that I can add new content after launch without breaking your save files. Right now the loot gets put into ships and it sits there inside the ship as long as that ship exists. While this is a great system for reality enthusiasts, it means only new ships that spawn after downloading a patch can have items in their storage that were added during the patch. I don’t know if I will really be able to solve this problem, but there are a few things I know I can do to make it better and those things are on my do before alpha list.
A much lower priority then, is creating a ton of new loot. I already received assets for new turrets, new ship modules, and new crew gear that just has to be put in and tweaked a lot (drop rates and stat balance stuff) I want to get that stuff into the initial release, but if time gets short and people are nagging me I might move it to a patch post-release.
UI is also constantly in progress. We made a ton of assets and redid the design screen, now we need to take a look at logistics and research. Probably logistics is going to remain placeholder until after the alpha release because that UI needs to reflect unfinished gameplay mechanics. Research is currently ugly as sin and I won’t allow the game released while there is a chance someone might see it. Other little UI things will go in as we make them, a charge progress bar for fast travel drive for instance.
Finally, and this is most important: Before alpha goes live I need to make a big push to find and fix any accounts that had email mismatches or didn’t get added to the database so that everyone can get the game as soon as it goes live. Kickstarter backers are my favorite people, but their accounts are the most frustrating to manage from a technical standpoint. Many of them created accounts on the store that are different from their kickstarter accounts, and in order to make sure they get their product I’ve been tasked with comparing lists of people and checking thousands of individuals for inconsistencies. Considering how many of you there are, you guys have been surprisingly patient and polite, I have to say I really like our fan base.
So I’m going to get back to my pacing around and abusing caffeine and trying to get everything perfect before the launch, and that you for being patient. We are as excited as you are to get people playing this game.