Early Access and

Posted On 11 Feb, 2016

Today is the day, we’re on early access starting at 8am: http://store.steampowered.com/app/392080/

We also have a new patch with loads of content. Click to read about it…

So here’s how this patch got out of control and became totally exciting by accident. Our thought process went something like this:

“Hey, lets fix a few small bugs before going live.”

“Okay, man, maybe we should show off some of this new stuff in a short trailer, it sure does look neat now.”

“Yeah, we could do that, lets just tweak this one thing a little so it looks a tiny bit more awesome.”

5 days go by…

“Why did we just overhaul the entire interior rendering pipeline? Are we stupid? When are we going to finish this trailer? We need more taurine!”

Interior rendering overhauled

Remember when we replaced all of the animations for crew and added a lot of new sprites for things like inventory and weapons? Yeah that’s not what we are talking about here. This is a rework of the entire draw loop for the interior of the ship, and it is as big as when we moved all of our rendering code for ship exteriors onto the GPU. Maybe bigger.

First thing to consider is that it will probably benefit performance anywhere from slightly to insanely. We can still optimize it, but we are moving to a system where the entire interior of your ship, including tiles which aren’t even on the screen, is essentially a single draw call followed by a few animations and some post processing steps. This is an upgrade from our old system of “draw every tile multiple times and change GPU state for almost every single one” but who cares about that…we can now do awesome shader based stuff on the interior for pretty much zero cost. For instance damage can look like this:


This system also has a ton of other benefits and may allow us to easily “look” inside ships during combat, make a mini-map with the full interior of the ship in real time, or even just zoom out to see more of our ship interior. However the main benefit of this system is simply that it lets Jan make everything prettier.

All research loot overhauled

It was often a complaint of hardcore testers that they were finding the same research blueprints over and over again and that was frustrating for them. “I haven’t found any structure at all!” they would say, frustrated. Little did they know, that I had actually forgotten to add any structure to the loot tables, they weren’t just unlucky, the loot system actually sucked!

Enough of that I said, we need a system that prevents duplicate loot, and I built one. If you have ever wondered why some games force you to identify an item after you get it, well I can tell you at least one of the reasons is this: the loot tables care about what items you have gotten between the time when loot is added to the level, and when you acquire said loot. We have this problem really bad, because ships spawn and then potentially fly around for days before you blow them up and see their contents. Since our flying loot pinatas hold loot for a long time, there is that risk of it becoming irrelevant long before you find it and making life really hard.

Enter data cores, the new system for finding blueprints. From now on, instead of blueprints, you will find data cores in various loot locations and when activating them you will have a chance of revealing blueprints that you don’t already have. They also sometimes drop garbage that you don’t want, because they are going to be more common than than blueprints used to be and they are going to have multiple tiers of quality. The idea that tougher challenges will come with better data cores, and better data cores will give a higher chance of dropping more interesting blueprints. Also they are color coded by rarity/value and they have internal loot tables so we can still retain control over dropping specific types of blueprints in specific types of places.


Did I mention that I finally added structure modules to the loot tables? Part of my loot-overhaul process involved picking up a lot of research that never made it into drops, and fixing the research screen to give a lot better information about what you are researching. I’ll be paying close attention to loot-drop feedback to see if the new system is a positive change overall and to find out how we need to tweak it in the future.

Save games upgraded

We are still pretty early in development and this engine is really insanely complex, so some random crashing is probably to be expected, even after hitting Steam early access, but save files being corrupted…that’s just not cool. People are putting lots of time into their singleplayer saves and then a crash comes along and invalidates it, that’s got to be extremely frustrating. As a result, one of my big efforts in this patch was making save games a bit more reliable and also a bit more future-proof. Good news by the way, they were already future proof enough that I could make these changes without breaking existing saves.

When you launch it will upgrade your save to a new format where world data (which isn’t very important but often gets corrupt) and progress data (which is super important and almost never gets corrupt) are saved in different locations. However more importantly, we added a save file backup system that automatically creates a backup of your save when you successfully load a game. Now, anything that corrupts your save will be able to roll back to the most recent good save file instead of leaving you without a save at all. Progress lost will now be like a normal game: go back to the most recent good save. Still irritating, but reasonable enough that we can shift focus to making the game stop crashing instead of worrying about corrupted saves all the time.

By the way, this feature is probably the main reason we worked so much on game updates and haven’t solved the steam keys issue yet. People are really upset about lost save games, and we didn’t like the idea of people losing save progress so we adjusted our priorities.

We also fixed a number of bugs that were making the game crash periodically, so we’ve got stability progress on multiple fronts.

Also we made this:

All the latest patch notes

(including some that were missed a while ago)

  • fail safe added in is no longer needed because I found the bug preventing factions from initializing. The fail safe will now repair your save file if you made a game during that bug.
  • to clarify the above note: fixed a bug where there would be no enemies in the universe if you saved the game and reloaded during the tutorial

  • disabled threaded updating for player ship until we can verify that it isn’t causing random crashing (seems likely to be music related and not thread related)

  • added some more stability to music track playing and handling missing or null audio tracks
  • activating travel drive now instantly disables the cargo scoop
  • fixed a bug where a bridge could be used even when it was broken resulting in being instantly booted out again next time you take damage
  • updated the help text for bridge modules to warn you when a bridge is destroyed
  • added some new internal debugging features
  • added some more hair styles for crew
  • added some more outfits for crew
  • added lots of new inventory icons
  • updated artwork for docking indicators
  • buffed all big structure modules slightly
  • added a whole lot of new structure modules
  • deprecated a small structure item to encourage more interesting design constraints
  • added a keybind for toggling the UI during gameplay
  • UI now fades in instead of instantly appearing because we like over-engineering things like that
  • fixed a bug where the crew widget would not render until you changed screens
  • updated the art for the crew follow/hold position button so it is no longer an ominous colored rectangle
  • you can now click the crew follow/hold button while piloting a ship
  • resized the exterior animations of most T2 engines
  • configuration changes are now saved when you exit the config screen instead of at the end of the game
  • farming upgrade drops will now be disabled until farming actually works
  • improved the functionality of quick slot keys so that they are a little better at not messing up your quickslot arrangement
  • upgraded the visuals and animations for your currently held items in ship interior view
  • added clickable quick slot visuals to the crew UI so you can see your quick slot items
  • completely overhauled blueprint drops with a new system: data cores
  • data cores require decryption to reveal their contents (just activate them from inventory)
  • data cores drop blueprints
  • data cores prevent duplicate blueprint drops
  • data cores have multiple tiers of quality
  • some data cores have a chance to drop garbage
  • completely overhauled interior rendering.
  • interior rendering now uses a 3d camera similar to the exterior rendering and supports zoom. However there is no zoom yet.
  • interior rendering now makes better use of modern shaders and is easier on the FPS in many cases
  • interior rendering now features a freggin epic glowing heat effect when taking damage
  • new interior damage effect makes it look like a completely different game
  • added an ambient occlusion effect to interior modules to help visually distinguish them from the background structure
  • added a subtle 3rd visible layer to ships to make damage effects more 3d looking
  • ship structure underlay is now symmetrical, OCD players are advised it is now safe to look at your ship’s interior
  • we buffed repair guns again
  • repair guns are now a lot smarter at targeting modules and can tell if part of a module is in range, even if the part you tried to repair is not within range
  • upgraded how module blueprints are handled in the research screen by including an image of them and the ability to view their full tool tip
  • improved the mess that was module research descriptions and made the research screen info text more informative
  • centered that damn title in the research screen
  • fixed a crash in logistics when clicking on an undocked ship that overlaps a docked ship
  • fixed a UI crash from a drop down menu with no elements
  • fixed the icon artwork for dirt, beautiful dirt
  • finishing the tutorial now adds an option to the tutorial in your next game which allows you to skip it entirely without using debugging mode
  • upgraded save file format to include a backup that can be rolled back if the game detects save file corruption
  • fixed a content bug where activated ship systems often didn’t display their icons correctly
  • fixed a crash in design screen caused by attempting to delete a tile that was out of bounds
  • fixed a bug with capacitor animations where they could start glowing after loading a game even if they are destroyed