0.3.4.00 domesticated fork

Posted On 14 Mar, 2016

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…

New game features

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

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.

 

Drone Launchers

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.

dronesbay

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.

  • It is a feature that was offered as part of a stretch goal during our kickstarter, and we decided to include it even though we didn’t reach that funding milestone. We may not be able to afford new shoes…but damn it we wanted to have drones in the game because they are cool.
  • It’s the first general purpose module put into the game which is really going to make players want a better bridge module with more system slots so the inclusion of drones increases the depth of all ship design possibilities.
  • It allows you to repair ships other than your own, including broken airlocks and engines from the safety of your own ship, thus assisting in early game salvage operations.
  • The drones look freggin’ awesome swarming over a damaged ship and repairing it. It’s important for things to look freggin’ awesome

 

UI elements for ship combat feedback

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.

guiread

The top widget aggregates information about your reactors showing the following:

  • how many you have
  • how many are functional
  • how many are overheating
  • how many are warm
  • how many are cold

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.

 

Toilets!

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.

terlet

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.

 

Launcher enhancements

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:

 

Launcher notes

  • ¬†username field will no longer crash if you try to type an invalid string that spritefonts cant draw
  • the username gets saved between sessions if you successfully authenticate with it
  • fixed a crash when trying to update with no internet connection
  • fixed a bug where the launcher would only self update when downloading the ship arena test app
  • added an auto self update test for the zero falls version of things which means the launcher will attempt to get the latest version of the launcher when starting.
  • uploaded the latest version of the launcher to the link at our store page

0.3.4.00 notes

  • EVA added – crew can now exist outside of ships
  • New screen and UI graphics added to support existing outside of your ship
  • Added an entire framework to handle drones
  • added another big sound optimization which reduces the number of 3d sounds created by engines from 3 per engine across the entire session down to 1 per ship only in screen space thus freeing up sound channels and preventing awkward silence
  • doubled the number of sounds which can play at once, however it is still far less than it was when it was crashing from too many sounds
  • retouched some art assets
  • fixed some graphics glitches in logistics
  • rounded sensor range display to two decimals
  • fixed an issue where armor with oxygen storage was not saving the oxygen regeneration rate with the save data so that the armor would stop generating air after a save/load. this fix is retroactive and will repair existing oxygen armor
  • fixed a potential crash with crew pathfinding when looking for air in broken ships
  • corrected some rendering values that resulted in excessive bloom when in areas on low atmosphere
  • missiles no longer orbit their targets when they miss or when they are fired at short range
  • removed a lot of unused data structures from every ship to free up a bit of memory
  • fixed a bug where damage dealt to dead ships would stay in memory for too long
  • added a T1 repair drone module
  • added a T1 repair drone ship system ability
  • scrapping a ship now returns energy to your station’s capacitors
  • replaced 170 occurrences of string drawing with a new fault tolerant method that should hopefully prevent crashing on foreign language installs of windows with different rules for displaying numbers
  • fixed another bug that could prevent the game from noticing that you are outside the bounds of the ship interior and let you walk in invalid areas
  • buffed oxygen regen values on dropped armor
  • added a new type of suit that will sometimes drop: EVA suit. This suit has no armor or shields, but allows movement outside of ships
  • seeded higher level loot with EVA suits that also have defensive properties
  • fixed a random crash caused by air updating inside ships which broke into very strange shapes
  • added a new large version of the advanced T2.5 radiator
  • technological advancements in extreme space engineering have allowed us to add two new modules for equipping your space ships with the most luxurious of accommodations never before seen across the verse: Toilets have been added to the game. Currently they do nothing.
  • added a new animation for mass driver cannons
  • fixed a bug where marv figured out how to change out of the nice shirt we gave him.
  • After numerous failed brainwashing sessions we have decided to make a running joke out of the fact that Marv never participates
  • a ship which is on fire no longer loses all air when being written to disk because it was causing ships to lose all air when moving between airlocks