State of the development in April 2016
April is there... So, how have things advanced since our last status update in January?
Let's start with my domain: programming. I (Erhune) have managed to sort out all the personal affairs that slowed down my development activity in 2015. I'm now back on Gangs of Space full-time, and work is advancing well!
The cleanup work from all the features we removed from the V3 game design is complete, and almost all new features that we announced previously during our V4 presentation are now implemented:
feature-wise, we have: ship levelling, subsystems, new item generation, new universe lifecycle, contracts, a ton of new combat stuff (including resistances, critical hits, deviation, new effects...)
we are putting the last touches to all the new interfaces: the redesigned ship window, the redesigned shortcut bar, the new navigation window, the levelling window, the new item and subsystem tooltips, contract progress and reward windows...
(that's an ingame view, unlike previous screenshots which were Photoshop design documents)
- content-wise, we have one ship ready (Gemeter R) with 23 different subsystems (5 hulls, 5 generators, 5 engines, 5 armaments, 3 computers) including 9 different abilities. We also have 40 items (4 projectile weapons, 6 light shields, 16 active items, 3 passive items, 11 crews). All these items have variations over 12 levels, and many of them are actually item templates that can generate hundreds of different types of bonuses.
There is also a lot of "invisible" work going on server-side. I had to redo the whole cluster management system because of the new way the universe expands and shrinks. I also added a ton of instrumentation and logging so that we will be able to extract lots of data when we can finally open the alpha to the public, which will enable Grouroux to make informed decisions about game balance. I also used the opportunity of redoing many things to clean up and refactor a LOT of stuff that had been on my todo-list for ages.
Some of you might also have noticed a lot of features disappearing from the gangsofspace.com website: some because they didn't make sense any more (Empire Management, anyone?), some in anticipation of their return (ladders...), some to prepare for better versions to come (Gang Management...).
Grouroux has been on a multiple-month adventure to clean-up our 3-and-a-half-year-old Unity project and upgrade all the graphic stuff to be more cohesive, to use a unified lightning model and good texture quality, and most importantly to remove all useless stuff that has accumulated and was slowing down the software a lot!
Since we have redesigned the progression of difficulty in depth, we also needed many more enemy variations. And we haven't yet talked about an upcoming feature that will multiply them even more (hem... special enemies anyone?... more details to come in a later post!). So Grouroux asked me to implement a new shader that use the Unity 5 lightning model but allow more color customization without having to design hundreds of textures and materials by hand.
Since then, he has been working on enemy variations, and most of the Pirnat ships are now done! Lo and behold!
Now, there are 2 BIG graphic-intensive tasks left on our radar: map generation and special effects. These will be the focus on our efforts for the weeks to come (come take a peek at the design process!), with a few minor other things (like updated item icons).
As told in the Programming section, much of the game design for V4 is done: difficulty curve, items and subsystems balance, drop tables, contracts...
The only missing part here in order to be able to resume the alpha-test sessions is the enemy balance and a few new enemy behaviours.
The road from here...
Here is our tentative roadmap, in broad strokes:
- Finish what's described in this post
- Test it in private alpha
- Fix the biggest bugs and balance issues
- Gather feedback in public alpha
- Add the last missing features (special enemies, achievements & unlocks, ladders, bosses, tutorial, few missing UI...) while regularly testing them in public alpha
- Add more content (ships, items, enemy factions)
- Promote the game to Beta status and release it on Steam Early Access
While development is definitely picking up steam again, we don't have yet a precise idea of the time frame of all these steps. Especially, since the game has considerably changed since the last test sessions, we will need to gather fresh feedback during the test sessions to estimate how far we are from Beta.