We aren’t done with it yet, but we are ready to say it will be soon. I’ll now rant about it for a while.
Before I rant about the patch I just want to say a short blurb about our lack of community involvement and the duration of this update and the duration of the project etc.
First of all, you should understand that the reason we went to kickstarter instead of an investor or a publisher is the same reason I have kept the team tiny and light-weight from the beginning: The core “idea” of Wayward Terran Frontier is too large to be rushed. The game is nested simulations with the interior of every ship having the complexity of a full game in terms of the design challenges, the assets required, and in terms of the CPU overhead. Then, the exterior simulation needs to have the complexity of a full game as well in order to keep combat compelling, and it must do it while managing the complexity of that interior simulation for every interaction. The final layer of complexity then is of course the fact that with an infinite universe and a dynamic economy our world simulation has begun to approach the complexity of some full game projects as well. From the beginning I knew what we were getting into with this project and, although I’m now in a much better position to articulate the idea, I suspect I always knew how careful I would need to be to prevent entering into development hell due to code complexity. It has always been necessary for us to move slow in order to avoid design decisions that could make our code-base completely unmanageable. Future features such as mod support, mastery talents, quest events, and AI enhancements would be absolutely impossible if we allowed code to become a mess since we are essentially building all future content on top of 3 games worth of complexity. I’m very proud of the fact we can still iterate on a project this large.
As for community involvement, I’ve not been doing my duty as of late because an illness in the family has taken away a lot of my time. I have to balance the jobs of corporate executive, designer, programmer, and team lead, and when disaster struck I decided that marketing and community manager were the roles I could afford to give up without causing too much trouble. I’m sorry for the lack of updates on the blog and social media etc, I promise we are still working full speed on the patch content, and the next patch will have more patch notes than any that came before it. I’m very excited about what we’ve been working on.
In terms of picking up development pace, we are getting to the stage where the big design decisions are mostly out of the way and the complexity has been managed. What that means is that we’re finally at a stage where throwing people at the problem could actually help solve it, and as such I have spent a bit of my time talking to a person who may or may not join the development team and do some work on the upcoming content patches. It’s lots of paperwork and negotiating, so no promises at this stage, but fingers crossed at some point I’d like to expand the team.
Speaking of patch content, lets finally talk a little about what’s going to be released to testers soon.
This patch has been more content and less mechanics which means we didn’t have to program something horrible like an economy or a world rewrite. As a result it has been a lot more fun to make, and the cool-stuff to development-time ratio has been higher than previous updates. There are a bunch of new quests including more sassy dialogue that I had a lot of fun writing and we built out a full pilot mastery system that will add variety and progression as well as a ton of customization to any play style. On top of all that we have done a full overhaul of crew weapons and the monster system with new animations for everything, and man I guess there are more things in this patch than I can list in a single paragraph, expect lots of QOL improvements and bug fixes.
Maybe at some point I’ll get lazy and just throw patch notes up here, but right now they are still a fast moving target.
We are getting ready to start some hardcore internal testing of everything we added, which means sending stuff to our group of dedicated keyboard smashers on the tester branch. Not entirely sure exactly when that will go out, but I have a very small list of things to work on which is itself mostly testing related at this point. In other words I have to write the code for a new screen, which usually takes a few days, and do enough internal testing to make sure sending it to testers isn’t completely pointless. We’re getting very close.
The one main “mechanic” updates we are adding to this patch (aside from mastery points) is the system of phases for story progression. Please feel free to ignore the term “phase” as you won’t ever see the words “Phase 2 begun” or anything like that inside the game. What the system does is it allows us to keep track of what every faction is doing, what the loot tables contain, what stations can be explored, what enemies spawn, etc for the entire story of the game from start to finish. This way the game world can change as the story progresses without requiring us to rewrite the faction logic for each future update. When this patch releases it will allow you to progress from phase 1 to phase 2 by completing a series of quests, and under the hood you might not realize it but we have actually built plans into the system that should take us all the way to the final phase of the game that will include the final quest and the end of the singleplayer story.
The offshoot of this is that phase 3 will be more fun to produce than phase 1 and 2 were, because secretly all of the talents, most of the loot, most of the ships, all of the zones, most of the NPCs, and a lot of the design work had to be done for every phase (there are something like 9 of ‘em) in order to build the system before we could set up phase 1 and 2. The details are more worked out for phase 3 than they are for phase 5 and so on, but the idea is that we have a huge set of internal docs now that describe exactly what needs to be done for future updates. That’s exciting to me.
Also worth pointing out: The reason we have this information inside a series of design documents is because I can’t be bothered to remember anything these days given all the stuff I have to store in my head. So don’t bother quoting me on that “9 of ‘em” thing because I can’t remember and I’m intentionally withholding the actual number. There will be many.
I had to have a section dedicated to some juicy details about the patch so I figured I’d explain a bit about this new mastery system we are putting in.
Mastery points are talent points that you gain from progressing the story, they will work like talents from other games and you should find them instantly familiar if you have played any RPG game. The goal of gaining mastery points is not “designing” your talent build but unlocking more options to increase your opportunities for interesting builds. As such resetting your mastery during the game will be trivial but unlocking all the points will take time.
The purpose of mastery points is to mix up the balancing equation between different ship builds. Currently modules and weapons are designed to prevent one type of build being simply better than another in terms of different weapon systems, different layouts, and different strategies. Mastery points are the opposite, with each one drastically changing the value of one type of ship design over another type such that one design or strategy will simply be better.
Get the fortified bulkheads talent for instance and thick armor becomes almost impenetrable allowing you to build a massive bullet sponge of a ship, but on the flip side you could also choose Unibody design which increases the durability of your hull and allows you to take a hit without wasting any precious internal space on thick armor. These types of choices will be spread through all of the talents and many of them will have drawbacks in addition to benefits so you need to make smart choices to ensure you are picking a mastery that makes sense with the ship you are flying.
The hope is that this system will allow the casual player to gain a power advantage late game simply by trying things they like, and will allow the power-gamer to break the game’s balance by combining mastery, crew, and ship design into the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.
Also mastery talents will interact with crew nano-auras in all the most fun ways that they can, so expect some fun builds when combining them. A simple example would be projectile turrets which start out as early-game tech, but can become violent and chaotic late game when you stack enough double-shot to get double shots to proc from your double shots. We have tried to build something cool like this into every weapon type so there are lots of neat things to try and combinations to test, but we also plan to add lots more nano-aura types in the future to compliment our mastery system.
Beam weapons can cause lightning arcs now!