Dev Diary: Not Day One

Welcome to the wonderful world of "man, making games takes a ridiculous amount of work." As this development diary was started 6 months into development, this particular entry will be a bit longer than most. As well as discussing what we've been up to this week, I'm going to give a quick over view of where we are at the moment in general.

At this point in time, nearly all the major systems function similar to how they will in the final version, balancing and tweaking aside. We recently did an overhaul of how systems are going to look which means that each system will adhere to a similar template. While the details will differ, the layout of information in system interfaces will be pretty much identical, which should help players navigate each system easily. The current major task in progress involves getting all the systems to the point that they function while using the new(ish) style interfaces. When that's done, we'll be able to send a copy out to an artist to make much prettier versions of those interfaces.


An example interface

While the function of the systems you're interacting with is almost done, effects these systems have on the outside world is still lacking. We (desperately) needed to reach out to external artists to make Starship Mechanic look good, so there's been a strong focus on getting all the interfaces and visible objects to the point where we can commission art assets. As much as we could ignore this and it would be technically playable, we don't want to release a game with such beautiful systems as the one shown above.

That doesn't mean that the universe logic has been neglected. We know how it needs to work, the atmosphere we want it to give the game, how it interacts with the system mechanics etc. It's just that it's mainly still on paper, rather than in the game. Most of the work since we finished the prototype back in June/July has been on polishing the game mechanics (not easy to do when you all live miles apart, and have other commitments). We will go over what these changes are in future blog posts, so make sure to watch this space!

What have you actually been doing this week then?

This week has had three major events. On the topic of making things look not hideous, the first, is through much begging and bribery, the amazing Gwen at Nessy Sketch has agreed to do the concepts and final portraits for our diverse crew. She was already doing concept work for us, and we liked it so much we asked if she could also do the final versions.

So without further ado...

Meet Hannah

It's hannah

The second, is that we're scrapping the pipe system. Big news for us, but not anyone else because no one else knew we had one. The idea of the pipe system was to increase the customisability of your engineering bay. If you wished to have a shield system on the port side of the ship protect the starboard side, the only limit was your imagination. You just had to link up the pipe (well, more of a hose) from the shield system to the relevant reciever on the other side (you know, to pipe all that 'shield juice'). We wanted to have the pipes react to physics events, so they'd wiggle around when the ship gets hit, bend around walls, etc.

There were unfortunately a few issues. The first one was that it was really difficult to get working nicely. It would interact a bit oddly with walls, there were difficult to fix bugs with attatching the pipe to a reciever, it was hard to have a sensible way to reduce the amount of pipe so you would just get more and more of it and some other issues I've probably forgotten. The other issue is that even when it was working correctly, it never looked very good. Only so much of that can be blamed on dev art, the way it was done had limitations on how pretty it could be that I have no idea how you'd get around. The last issue, which cemented the death of this mechanic, was that it didn't really fit in. Nothing else in the game is a physics object in the same way, everything else is intended to feel like it could be part of a technical reproduction of an engineering bay. The pipe didn't really belong.


Oh god the pipes

It did however serve a purpose mechanic wise, and without it we were left with a problem. How do we give the player freedom to create a more personalised engineering bay? At the moment, there are two main contenders. The first is that each ship will come with a certain number of expansion bays. These expansion bays can be used to install certain systems, allowing you to improve the combat effectiveness of your ship. The bay you install the system to will determine which side of the ship it operates on.

The other option is to effectively borrow from the existing wiring mechanics. Give the player another type of wire for the purpose of linking up a system to a port on the ship. If you want the shield to supply the starboard side, then wire the output up to the relevant wall reciever.

We're not sure yet which version we're going to go for yet, we need to get to the point where we can test both versions properly and see how they feel. Hopefully we'll have some kind of answer in the next week or two.

Last, but by far and the most exciting news, is that we are finally in the process of booking our seat at Rezzed. This is run by the same people who do the Eurogamer Expo (EGX), and is pretty much EGX but for indies. This will be the first time we are showing off Starship Mechanic to the pupblic. We are very excited, and scared... but mostly excited.

If you've managed to get this far, well done, and thanks for reading!