Before Alpha Features Review – part 2
Features Review – Part 2
In this update we will continue to talk about the new features put in since the Demo. As with Part 1, we will likely not get to everything in this update as well and will keep providing some summary review notes of all that has changed and what to expect differently from the Demo to the Alpha and beyond. In this update we want to cover the New Aliens you can expect, talk about the Tactical view and how you can command your ships in mid combat, Fleet groups and ordering them around much like most RTS games, some new features like Ship to Ship Telepresence, as well as “Lost Tech” and how you can recover these technology unlocks in your campaign.
Bare in mind most of what is written here is still Work In Progress and may change come the final release.
Introduced in the Big Reinforcements Inbound update, we introduced several new Aliens along with some graphical updates on the old ones.
Not only were the materials updated on all Silicoid, but we also replaced the “Whitebox” version of the Squid (formerly named “Spore”).
The gameplay behind the Squid hasn’t changed. We still want this Silicoid to be the base line “grunt” of the Silicoid aliens and act as a standard easy to kill enemy on its own, but will quickly be troublesome if you find yourself outnumbered by them. The standard alien spore cannon will still be its spitting attack as it tries to kill you.
Maggot and Wormlet
Derived from the Spitter/Grub/Worm, these additions to the Silicoid race give move of a challenge than your typical “Squiddy”. With the Maggot being the precursor to the Grub, you’ll find the harder developed shell more difficult to pierce with regular weaponry. The Wormlet on the other hand seems to be developing more offensive measures as it has started developing crystals on its back much like the giant Worm which also detach from its body and seeks out heat sources much like modern tracking missiles do.
To provide a sort of “evolutionary” gap fill, both the Maggot and Wormlet were created in order to both provide more variety in the Silicoid roster as well as lay the foundation for their rapid “metamorphism” which allows the Silicoid colonies to adapt to different environments quickly to overcome any particular challenges they might face. The idea here was to also lay the foundation for the Silicoid to morph into more “Crystalline” versions that absorb energy based weaponry more easily as the game progresses.
Both Maggot and Wormlet alien weaponry haven’t been finished yet, but the idea is currently the Maggot will have more rapid spitting attacks, and the Wormlet will be faster than Squids and will shoot a few number of smaller seeking crystals.
Another evolution step, this time from the Grub itself, this shell version seem to value protecting itself from external damage rather than dealing it out. It seems as well that the Shell Grub seems to have developed the ability to not only reflexively close its mouth fully to protect itself from internal damage, but also be able to form a protective energy shield in front of itself rendering incoming frontal damage negligible.
As the game progresses and energy weapons becoming more apparent, we wanted to give the Silicoid a fighting chance against the Solar Warden and developed the Shell Grub as a stop gap between them and their full Crystalline evolution. As a first step toward developing energy shields for themselves, the Shell Grub is a much tankier enemy than most Silicoid and can also act as more of a bomber with its large magma ball that also has a wide area of effect when exploding.
Last, but certainly not least is the Larva. This seems to be the most basic of forms for the Silicoid and is usually found within Mega Meteor dens and hatcheries. Its not certain if the larvae are developed before hatching from another smaller egg or come as a whole bunch from a single larger egg, however it seems as though the Larva act as also care takers of eggs much like nursery ants in a hive, but then also reform into new eggs/cocoons to then transform into larger Squids or other Silicoid as needed.
Without a method of spitting any sort of magma at their enemies, we thought that the Larva could “kamikaze” directly into ships and latch onto the ships with their teeth and attempt to drain energy from their victims until their sacks fill up and burst causing even more damage to their target. Since the old “Exploders” didn’t really seem to hold a decent place within the Silicoid hierarchy, we decided to move the Exploder’s gameplay onto the Larva and be used to defend the interiors of the Mega Meteors.
Silicoid Alien Eggs were developed to house the morphing Silicoid which will be seen inside the Mega Meteors and potentially outside the normal meteors as well. The idea here with gameplay is allow the eggs to sort of be a random chance spawning if the Player gets close to the eggs and also a smaller random chance spawning if the Player destroys the egg first. The idea is that perhaps a Silicoid is attempting to survive the assault on its eggs and breaks out before dying to the onslaught of attacks against its protective egg membrane.
Unlike the Demo, Tactical View has been introduced to the game allowing you to now during real time be able to order ships around either for tactical movement or attacking specific targets. This allows Players to now micro manage fleets on a tactical level.
To get into the Tactical View from the PDI “Strategy View” (viewing the entire planet), select one or more vessels and either click the Magnifying glass icon in the top right, or use the key bind for PDI Zoom ([Z] by default). This will transition you into the Tactical View of the selected ship (focusing that ship in the center of your Tactical View). From there you could either Box Select more ships or keep your current selection and then order a Move To command by right clicking on the Tactical Plane for X,Y coordinates, then move your mouse up/down and right click again to confirm the Z coordinate offset from the Tactical Plane.
Basic commands for vessels include:
– Move To
– Hold Position (Stay at location and fire weapons)
– Attack (Close to firing distance/Dogfight with target)
To rotate the orbit camera around in Tactical view, just press and hold the same mouse button used to rotate the PDI Strategy layer – [Right Mouse Button] by default. This rotation works for both left/right as well as up/down. To Zoom, use the same from the PDI Strategy layer – [Middle Scroll wheel] by default.
One additional feature with the Tactical view is that you can both “Lock / Unlock” the Tactical Plane to your selected target, which will cause both the Tactical Plane and your camera to follow in sync with the selected vessel. Currently once you “Focus” ([Z] by default) to your selected target, you are currently locked. You can change the lock of that by selecting another vessel and pressing “Focus” [Z] again. Currently to Unlock from that target, you can use the WASD keys to change the translation of the Tactical Plane (and your camera) if you want a different view and not be “focusing” on a single vessel.
– W = Forward
– S = Backward
– A = Left
– D = Right
These translation directions (much like a first person shooter) work relative to your camera direction on the Tactical view and not World Space.
Currently, both the Translation and the Scroll Wheel zooming are a bit fast and have no ramping depending on Zoom amount, but I wish to tweak that in the future. This will aid in making a more smooth movement when changing the current location of the Tactical View Camera.
As seen above in the animated .gif of the tactical view, you can Box Select any of your vessels in your current viewport and order them all at once. This list on the side is expandable and can hold if necessary hundreds of ships to all order at once (haha that would be insane to have that many ships all at once).
These are just the rudimentary features just to get the Tactical View up and running for the RTS Gameplay that was missing in the Demo. Further features for Tactical view not yet developed but I wish to include at a later date:
Engagement Distances – The ability to define a desired distance that the Ship will attempt to remain at when engaging in a dogfight with an enemy. For instance, you would want to keep your long range bombers at a distance when hurling missiles and other long range weapons at a target.
Target Priority – Something like a dropdown list of different enemy combatants or Meteors to set a priority of engagement targets. This will be useful for vessels like Destroyers to focus on larger targets like the Worm or Meteors while the fighters engage against Squids and other smaller targets. To make these setups easy, I wanted to setup a separate tab for the ships for what their current target priority is. I also wanted to allow you to be able to box selected a bunch of vessels and set all their priorities all at once.
Fleet Formations – With ships pretty much crowding each other either on their way to or at the target move to destination, Fleet Formations seem to really be a necessity soon in order to stop this crowding from occurring. Also just for the look, this will be something I wish to setup in the near future. Ideas of Formations will likely be; Wedge, Box, Circle, Column, Row, etc. Perhaps some more advanced formations will be added later like “Surround center ship” or vertical formations. Additionally with Formations, the thought was to make all these ships move at the fastest speed of the slowest ship in the formation in order to maintain their formation during the move. Another idea with Formations is to have the button for the formations light up to denote that the formation is enforced at this time, and then dark to denote formation is broken and not enforced. This means you can demand ships ignore formation and just run if the Player needs their ships to move right away.
Waypoints – Currently there isn’t a chained waypoint system setup, but I do wish to add that. Both in Strategy View and Tactical view I want the Player to be able to tell their fleet if required to first goto one location and then once arrived, goto waypoint 2, etc.
Keep Facing Direction – This advanced feature is also meant for long range craft or any craft that might have fix forward facing weapons. It will allow the Player to determine which target/target direction to keep facing at all times, allowing other additional commands like Move To commands to have the ship use their maneuvering thrusters to move them to that location (slower acceleration than their main thrusters) in order to keep a frontward facing lock of their target (or to attempt to anyway).
Weapon Fire Control – This advanced feature is designed to specifically disable/enable the selected vessel(s) from free firing high value payloads, such as Gauss Cannons or Torpedoes. The design isn’t fully flushed out yet, but the idea is to setup 3 fire control methods for the AI to adhere to; Fire At Will, Manual Fire (Player specific command to fire), Disabled (Do not fire at all). This gives more control to the Player when they wish to allow the AI to fire their weapons, or when not to. Even more advanced features for this will likely include “Only fire at specific targets” which would disable the AI from trying to fire some Gauss Cannons at small Squids for instance and wasting a shot on a likely miss.
One additional note. Currently in the Build, once you Telepresence out of your current ship, you will be dumped back up to the Strategy View. We feel it makes far more sense to have you return into Tactical View and focused on your last ship you were just piloting in Tactical View. This way if you need to make commands from the Tactical level, you can do so easily by quickly hopping out. We plan to include this in the Alpha.
A more advanced feature I’d like to implement on top of this is perhaps to target a vessel while Piloting, and then have a button combo press with Telepresence so you can leave your ship but be setup with the Tactical View Focused on that Target you last had in your ship. This way you could target a vessel at range and quickly leave piloting your ship so order that distant vessel while focused on it, or even target enemy hostiles or Meteors at a distance, then Telepresence up to Tactical View and then create orders for your fleet in how to engage (keeping Bombers back and send in fighters first, or what ever tactic you’d like to use).
This isn’t an exhaustive list of Features for the Tactical View (or even just the PDI in general), but I hope this gives you an idea of where I’d like to take the RTS layer of Solar Warden and what you can expect from the micromanaging level of Tactical View.
Ship to Ship Telepresence
This might be a good time to talk about not only the Tactical Commands from Tactical View, but also being able to just quickly take control of another vessel from your current one. Currently pressing [Tab] will Telepresence you back to the PDI, however we felt the need on a few occasions to take control of another vessel since we really needed its firepower for something specific. Or the AI just wasn’t doing its job. Or the AI just needed our piloting skills to avoid getting destroyed. So we decided to create a quick feature to allow for Telepresence to jump from ship to ship. By default, all you need to do is target a friendly vessel and use the default key bind [Shift] + [Tab] to trigger a Telepresence over to that ship, allowing you to then instantly take command.
This is already available in the build and will be present in the Alpha.
Another feature that was covered in earlier updates that is good to cover here are “Fleet Groups”. AKA “Selection Groups”, they are displayed at the bottom middle of the PDI HUD.
And likely we will include it at the bottom middle when Piloting vessels to so Players can have access still to the Fleet Groups while Piloting so they can give attack commands or “follow me/this target”, etc.
This new display shows which current hotkey (1-0) is being used for saved “Selection Groups”. Much like most RTS games, these Fleet Groups are ways for you to select either your Fleet, or your Stations and assigned them to a hotkey for quick selection in the future. To save your selection, simply Press and Hold [Ctrl]+[Number] (the number you wish to save your selection to). And if you wish to reselect this group, simply press the [Number] you assigned them to. If you have the full group selected, it will show up as green in the bottom bar, otherwise the number will remain blue. Not assigned groups will remain transparent as they haven’t been assigned to selections yet, or all of the vessels/station in the selection group has been destroyed.
This feature replaced the old “Fleet Groups” mechanic and now allows you to group your vessels as you see fit. Personally, I like to group my Fighters in group 1, Bombers in group 2 and Corvettes in group 3 since I will normally have my Corvettes to hold position when firing from a distance, and then the Bombers to target larger targets (like the Meteors) and then have my Fighters engage the Silicoid Squids.
Since these are just saved selections, Players can quickly select all the vessels in group 1 for instance and then will be able to assign Target Priority or Engagement distances when those features come online at a later date.
Addressed in a previous update, Shipyards are now ready as a proof of concept with some basic costs and build times assigned. Currently the only 2 costs related to building a vessel are your Currency (Credits) available as well as “Fleep Points” (FP). FP is used as way for us to maintain a Player’s fleet cap for both gameplay and performance reasons. Currently there isn’t specifically a cap except for what we assign and will likely test this in the Alpha.
Other functionalities from Shipyards are the ability to automatically repair your vessels when near (we will add a credits cost to this). To Repair a vessel, you simply need to order (or fly) a vessel within range of the Shipyard, and nano-bot repair drones will fly out from the shipyard and repair your ship automatically (currently no vfx present). You can see the repair radius of the Shipyard by clicking the Repair Menu icon.
Currently disabled due to the Ship Component Refactor are “Modify” (ability to refit a ship), and “Customize Variant”. For the Alpha though, we were thinking of including some variants in the list along with their “Default” load out variants so you can build some of the variant variety vessels also seen from the Demo.
As stated in the previous update, we aren’t certain if we will have static placed Shipyards, or have a basic setup on the Hephaestus to have these Shipyards be built. We are currently leaning to the latter since we want Players to have the freedom to place Shipyards where they please, but we will see what time permits.
Technology Unlocks and “Lost Tech”
The ideas behind “Lost Tech” leads into the fiction of the Solar Warden and how most of their advanced technology was lost shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union and the “Star Wars” program basically lost all of its funding and had to cut costs pretty drastically and thus a lot of military equipment was abandoned mid-development. This leads to the loss of several advanced research project just floating out there in space in orbit around the planet.
The idea here is to allow the Player to send ships out to certain locations (likely dangerous ones) and attempt to recover these lost artifacts. Either Satellites, or even Vessels themselves.
One such lost tech ship was the “Black Knight”. Covered by a Johnathan Marcus in a previous update. The idea here is that some clues will be given to the Player at random (sometimes by Johnathan Marcus or other sources) during their campaign and they might choose to pursue capturing that vessel and obtain technology it contains.
In this instance with the “Black Knight”, this isn’t a satellite, but a vessel that is stuck in polar orbit around Earth and you must retrieve this derelict space craft to unlock its cloaking technology.
Not developed yet, but the idea here is if you wish to retrieve these vessels, then you must equip a vessel with a “Grapple” and toe the vessel to a shipyard (within repair distance). The Grapple would be a simple harpoon with a wirecable that will tether the two vessels and allows you directly “pull” said vessel. However, Physics will be at play here and you must take the mass/thrust capacity of your ship into account, otherwise instead you will find yourself being yanked instead of pulling it.
The Grapple itself will be a Weapon developed for a later time since it too will be used to “capture” Meteors so you can turn them into Mineable asteroids, but that’s a topic for a later date.
Another instance of Lost Tech would be the “Aegis” and its ability to produce shields around ships.
Other Researched Technologies
Not yet developed is the Research tree, but the ideas are generally the same. We want to introduce certain features for vessels via first unlocking a specific chassis that’s designed to have that particular component. Like the “TV” missile for the Myrmidon. The idea is that you would choose from the PDI different research topics for your scientists to spend time on (eg. TV Missile). Once complete, you will then need to construct the prototype vessel for that component (Myrmidon) and perform a “field test” with that component. That field test will likely comprise of performing an action with said component to make certain it works in a potential combat scenario (Mission Objective: Destroy a target with a TV missile, for example). This allows the Player to get use to the new feature and doesn’t overwhelm them when introducing them to it.
During this time, only 1 prototype vessel is allowed with the equipped component. Once the Field Test is complete, that new Tech will be unlocked for all ships to be able to equip it (if there’s space or an appropriate slot available to it).
Not likely to be in any initial release of the Alpha, but we plan on including this feature once more of the Ship Yards and Components are complete for the vessel to allow this feature to be used in its fullest.
End of Part 2 and More to come!
Since there’s still more to cover that’s different from the Demo, I still need to go over a few more details I haven’t reviewed yet, such as
- Mega Meteors
- New Flight Modes (Direct Vector and Relative Speed+Direct Vector)
- Credits and Command Points (Idea rework)
- PDI Layout reworked
- PDI Time Dilation
- Various Visual Improvements
I thank you all again for your continued patience. Reviewing all the features since the Demo has given me new found inspiration and renewed enthusiasm to keep working on this project and get more updates out to you guys more often. I’d like to aim for an update release every Friday since that seems to work best with my current schedule. I know I’ve never been the best at keeping the promises for dates, but I hope perhaps I can change that this time. Again, for the Alpha I still wish to fulfill my obligation to all the original backers and have you guys check out the Alpha as soon as the game is in better shape to play with, with all the features mentioned to be available to you in one form or another. Once again, I thank you all for reading this latest update and will see you in the next one.
God Speed, Warden
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