The enhancements to our store are under development by a 3rd party, which means steam keys are being worked on, but for the moment it is out of my hands. With all of the business related things out of the way I have been free to spend some time working on new game features, so…
For the first time since we hit steam, we are finally adding new stuff again instead of just fixing bugs. Of course there are also a bunch of bug fixes in this release as well, but we finally have some fun new content coming. The content we worked on in this patch was mostly geared towards addressing issues with the early game, and the difficulty of capturing a new ship in a hardcore simulation where the enemy ships aren’t at a significant tactical disadvantage to the player. The biggest complaint was that capturing an enemy ship usually involves disabling the enemy ship and then boarding them and then flying their ship back to base, but disabling enemy ships often prevents either boarding, or flying that ship back to base. As a result we have buffed repair guns numerous times, but it wasn’t enough and so we chose to spend a bit longer on the problem addressing it with some new game play mechanics.
The result is a patch that’s big enough to get a new version number and a new name, so here is the rundown for patch 0.3.4.00 aka “domesticated fork.”
Eva was a big feature that we had mentioned as part of our kickstarter stretch goals. The idea is that when you walk across a hull breach where the floor is missing from your ship, you shouldn’t just die instantly, you should be ejected out into space where you can float away while contemplating your mistakes. The project involves extending the simulation to support crew existing outside of ships in all manner, and also includes equipment that allows you to breathe and even maneuver in outer space so that ultimately you can board broken ships without using an airlock. More importantly, EVA means that when you shoot holes in an enemy ship you will sometimes see their crew floating out into space.
Well EVA is working now.
We’ve added categories of crew armor which have EVA thruster fuel in addition to oxygen. These are essentially suits intended specifically for EVA missions. Once you have charged up the air, you can use them to safely leave your ship and fly over to board other ships even if those ships don’t have a working airlock. Just make sure to shoot them full of generous holes before you do.
We don’t have repairing ships from the exterior working yet, it is something we are looking into, however the ability to enter a ship with a damaged airlock should already drastically improve the chances of salvaging things successfully. Just be careful, oxygen and fuel are in limited supply on low quality EVA suits. Higher quality EVA suits on the other hand will be harder to find, but they can serve as full body armor in addition to providing EVA capabilities.
The next big feature added in this patch is drone launchers. We’ve only got 1 drone launcher in the game at this point, however adding that one drone launcher was a massive feat of engineering that will pave the way for all future drone module shenanigans. We have lots planned.
This is a tier 1 repair drone. It uses a system slot in your bridge, and will likely be unlocked by most players early in the game. When activated it will launch a drone targeted at the ship under your mouse cursor. The drone will then fly around its target repairing damage with its little repair laser until it has run out of energy, or it gets recalled by the player. If the drone is destroyed, it will cost time and energy from your reactors to replace, no need to fly back to base and reload.
Here are some itemized highlights of the drone launcher subsystem.
Ships, power, capacitors, reactors, and heat are very complex in Zero Falls. I even made a video to explain it all. We have tied to make the system simple where power can be used easily by simply connecting things to the grid, but complex and interesting enough to spend hours optimizing connections and cooling and hardware. One of the most important tools to have when playing around with a system like that is good design feedback. Does your design run too hot? how many capacitors do you really need? What’s the bottleneck for this set of guns and reactors? All of these are things you have probably wanted to know at some point, and I imagine it is pretty frustrating not having access to that information.
To remedy this, we have made a pair of fancy new UI widgets that have pretty high information densities. We think they are in line with our other UI widgets in terms of information per square centimeter.
The top widget aggregates information about your reactors showing the following:
Below that we have some information about capacitors, showing a graph of aggregate capacitor levels over time, as well as bars on the bottom which divide capacitors into groups based on their current levels. If the red bar is entirely full it means all of your capacitors are empty, while the opposite bar on the left represents every capacitor being full, and the middle bars represent the percentage of capacitors in the mostly empty and mostly full categories.
Together these widgets give a much better picture of the overall health of your ship’s power systems. You can now see if one of your reactors is fully overheated and has stopped providing power, or if your capacitors are ever being fully drained from use. Hopefully this will help people make better ship designs, and also give better feedback during combat, as well as a good tool for diagnosing issues with a design or even just issues caused by damage in combat. Remember to repair those radiators when they get shot.
That’s right, try and contain your excitement because we’re adding toilets to the game. I think we are a dark, gritty sci-fi game for a mature audience who can appreciate the needs of their crew members. However, if it turns out that we aren’t there yet that’s okay too because right now toilets don’t actually do anything. This is just my way of saying that we have also added some cosmetic modules to the game which we will be using in the future to make our maps look more interesting and realistic.
I am however not apposed to the idea of considering gameplay implications of having ships without toilets. Maybe in the future your crew will refuse to join you on long interstellar voyages if you don’t give them somewhere to relieve themselves along the way. It is conceivable that with enhancements to crew AI toilets may actually become a useful life support necessity some day, however for now they will be simply decorative. I hope you enjoy making a toilet star in the ship editor.
We also did some work on the launcher because someone finally went and made a username with illegal characters that monogame can’t draw and we had to look into the issue. It’s been a while since I really dug into that code, and I wasn’t looking forward to it at first, but once I got things working I found myself adding a few small improvements here and there. New changes include self updating, handling a lack of internet more gracefully, and remembering your username between sessions. See the full change list below: