Two exciting things for you today! First of all, here’s the first video of the game:
I know it’s very short and skips through things pretty fast, but I wanted to keep this under a minute and give you an overview of a number of things without getting bogged down in details. It’s a sort of high-level view to pique the interest of people who might not have heard of the game. For detailed explanations of play mechanics and going through Let’s Play style videos I’m going to need a lot more than a minute! I’ll be doing those sorts of videos during late April or into May for sure. For now, if you want a heap of play-by-play analysis of the video, that’s down below.
Next up, a bit of a surprise perhaps:
“Tales of Woe” is a three-part series of humorous video shorts set in the Stars Beyond Reach universe. The first video focuses on the approach to the planet, and reveals the general backstory. The second video is a look at a supremely unlucky set of new arrivals on the planet. And the third video is a look at that civilization as it has become ascendant… but at what price?
Anything Extra You Can Tell Us About That First Video?
Sure! That thing really is a tease, isn’t it? So here are some facts, in chronological order from the video:
1. The music playing at the start of the video is a small bit from the “Stars Suite,” which is one of the many tracks being worked on by the very talented Pablo Vega. Rather than doing as many short tracks, he’s focusing on doing longer “suites” that grow and evolve around a central theme. It’s really cool, and the number of musical changes that happen throughout make it really seem like something… well, something more out of classical music than a video game. It’s awesome. (And for the record, I am about the biggest video game music nerd you’ll meet, I expect).
2. The very first clip there is showing your view super early in the game, when you’re placing your lander. If the minimap makes the world shown here seem small, that’s because it is — this is a Tiny map, which is I believe four sizes smaller than Standard, above which there are another three or four sizes. Anyway, even on the tiny maps there’s plenty of room — though you’ll have to eat a neighbor, most likely, by the end.
3. The second clip shows your lander after it has just unpacked, and with a few things rolled out. You may notice that I’m on turn 63, and that’s no mistake. I’m hardly into the game at all there, and I’m that far along in turn count. I’m not sure what average ending turn counts will be, but I would imagine somewhere in the 2000 to 5000 range. It’s also worth noting that those 63 turns took me… I’m not sure. 15 minutes at the most. Some turns take quite a while and some don’t. The time between turns is about a second at worst at the moment.
4. Also in that second clip, you’ll notice that there are some bars showing around the base of four of the buildings, looking almost like health bars but not quite? Those are building efficiency bars, and they are usually based around how staffed that building is. When it’s fully staffed, the bar goes away. A healthy town won’t be having those all over the place. I just got attacked by helicopters from the west, though. In the case of the housing, it’s based around how full that housing is (so lower is not more unhealthy, it’s just a capacity meter). The vertical bars next to my lander and next to that one factory are health bars, showing damage from the helicopter attacks that completely wrecked the building in the far left of the frame.
5. The third clip is showing first the Evucks, then the Peltians. This is what it looks like when the AI plays as these races — it’s a completely different tileset from when you play as these races (in which case their tileset is the same one you saw in clips 1 and 2, where I happened to be playing as the Krolin). The AI players all use completely different mechanics from you, and pretty different mechanics from each other. In some cases completely different from one another.
6. Also of note in the third clip are a couple of buildings that were not visually finished at the time, but they now are. I took this footage last week. You can also see scaffolding on a few buildings, which is there when buildings are under construction. And you can see a whole bunch of specialty resources that are being mined by the Evucks, too. Each one has a double popup around the building, making it so that it fills the negative space between the building rather than sitting on top of the building itself. We do that a lot. The on-map graphics and indicators are very very close to final, and I’m really happy with them. The HUD around the outside of the screen has a long way to go still, but will be in much better shape in a month’s time. For now it’s functional, and some parts are beautiful.
7. Clip four shows first the edge of a Thoraxian settlement, and then it shows both the Burlusts and the Skylaxians practically merged into one town. It’s kind of lucky those guys are friends — you can tell because there are no health bars up all over the place, or wrecked buildings. The same can’t be said of the Thoraxians and the Zenith, further south from here (visible only on the minimap in this video). Those guys are exchanging rocket fire, ground troops, and helicopters like mad. The few health bars that you do see in the Skylaxian section have numbers above them like “T -1” and “T -2,” which along with the scaffolding show that those buildings are under construction, and how many more turns before they are complete. Again the proximity here is based on this being a Tiny map, and you can see it leads to some pretty interesting situations.
8. Clip 5 loses all the music, because gosh darn it I spent a lot of time on these sound effects and I didn’t want them to be fighting with the music. ;) What you can see here, though, is actually several turns’ worth of AI attacks me at once. How does that work, you ask? Well, the results are calculated immediately, and then the animations play without blocking you from doing anything. So you can do, say, 5 attacks from your barracks against the AI all at once, and either watch your guys do the shooting or not watch — doesn’t matter. It’s not slowing you down either way, since it blocks nothing. The same is true if you hit end turn a bunch and the AI is attacking you — you can have two or three or even more turns’ worth of attacks from them coming towards you all in one crazy barrage. As soon as an attack starts, the health meter of the target adjusts to show the result, so you can base your next action on that instantly without having to wait around to see what the animation shows. The animation will show the leadup to that health change. I’m really proud of this system and how absolutely fluid it makes things.
9. That same clip is showing attacks from both the Thoraxians and the Zenith, ganging up on me at once. Lots of temp graphics for the Zenith in the south, although those are all complete now. The Zenith are just sending some ships at me from their seaport and then firing rockets off their ships into my city. They actually target my power generators first, which then causes major problems for me the next turn. The Acutians send ground troops from two barracks, a ship from their seaport, and two helicopters. They target a whole bunch of stuff, including some medical facilities and some of my own barracks. Oh, it looks like the Evucks actually sent a ship over to me in that clip, too — I hadn’t noticed that. I did notice that the Evucks coast guard was helping protect both the Acutians and the Zenith when I was playing that savegame, but they must have finished their full seaport to launch an attack before this clip. Huh.
10. Clip 6 is basically the next turn, and shows me building some small solar collectors on the far back side of that town, where none of the enemy forces can reach. It’s towards the Burlusts and the Skylaxians, but they don’t seem to hate me. It’s hard to tell for sure, unlike in TLF. You have to use diplomats or spies to figure out the attitude of races toward you, and you never know the attitude of all races toward all other races. You are a lot less all-knowing, which I like. Anyway, this was a test game so the number of crowns that I have to spend (up there at the top) is almost 100 million, which is of course ludicrous.
11. Incidentally, in that same clip it shows the placement animations and sounds. I really feel like having a satisfying animation and sound set for things like that helps give a sense of “bubble wrap popping fun,” as we say. Obviously the larger game is the big thing that has to be fun, but having the little things just feel fun and fluid has a big impact on the overall feeling of fun. I really like placing buildings. ;)
12. Clip 7 shows me launching a counterattack against the Acutians a few turns later. You’ll notice on the far left that my power at this city is now north of 71k, so my solar panels finished building and the destruction of my town hasn’t completely crippled me. I am not running at full efficiency (98 unfilled jobs) and I’m positively drowning in smog (I seriously need some hazmat folks, plus the placement of my toxic buildings was stupid to start with), but overall I can push back against the Acutians pretty decently. Each attack I make costs energy from my working pool of power that is left over after powering buildings and whatnot. That’s the balance that you see over there on the left.
13. In that same clip, you’ll notice that I select barracks as the type of attack I want to launch. It then highlights all the buildings I can hit with any of my barracks, and it highlights all of my barracks that have not already been used this turn. I then can click the targets I want, and the best barracks for the job is automatically chosen. That costs energy, exhausts that barracks for the turn, and — depending — may cause some of my citizens to die or become wounded. The exact results of the combat are shown in advance, no percentages or guesses or whatnot. You click the button and that exact thing will happen. There is randomization of course, but it basically shows you the result of each die roll before you have to commit to that attack. It makes it more fluid, and it also prevented me from thinking “hey, that’s not the result I was expecting — was that a bug?” when I clicked enemy buildings.
14. Same clip, you’ll notice that I actually rapid-click on one of the buildings of the Acutians and send a lot of ground soldiers at once. That isn’t me click-spamming. The health bars of each target show the current health and the projected health right to the side of them. As soon as one click happens, they both update. If I like the new update, I can immediately click again, and repeat. So within about 3 seconds I can launch 6ish attacks, doing exactly what I want, getting exactly the results I expect (though I don’t pay attention to my soldier deaths or woundings until after the fact, usually — I view that as a supply problem, the way I play), and it takes very little time. And the battle looks pretty epic at the same time, which is a nice bonus.
15. Clip 8 starts in with one of the later verses of the main Stars Beyond Reach theme, which is just such a cool piece. That’s sung by Pablo himself, some of his friends, and the Vox Virorum choir from our local area. They just knocked it out of the park.
16. Same clip, it’s at first showing some early bits of the tech tree. A lot of the tree is invisible at the start, gated behind your social progress level. That way things aren’t too overwhelming at the very start, but you can still see a good ways ahead and make plans. Originally there were about 100 techs in this tree, but through testing I found that to be too many to be fun, and I condensed them down into I believe 74. There are then another 125ish “techs” of sorts in the social progress screens (not shown in this video), and then of course the “procedural techs” so to speak that are market items like broadcasts, inventions, writings, and so forth that you can make. The main tech tree is almost exclusively focused on unlocking buildings. This is a near-final screen, with the scrollbar at the bottom being pretty much the only temp piece.
17. Clip 9 shows a pretty unpolished screen that is the linguistics research tab. First thing TLF players might notice is the much-improved icons for the various races. And then of course the new races and the AI War races also have icons. Each race has 7 levels of language skill that you can learn with them. At the start of the game, you get 2 levels with one random race, and 1 level with another random race. You have to have at least one level with a race to speak to them at all, and even then it’s pretty incomprehensible. Negotiate in that fashion at your own risk! At the highest level of language skill, everything is in perfectly plain English — everything in between is gradations. On the right hand side you can see a proverb from each race. Each race has 12 proverbs, and they switch out every 10ish turns or so. They let you look at some text to see how your translation skills fare against a short sentence, and they give some insight into that race — the sort of proverbs a race has do say something about them, after all. I can see the word “dead” in the Neinzul row! I wonder what they’re saying is dead. ;)
18. Clip 10 shows me in a different game, playing as the Skylaxians very early on in. This is the diplomacy screen, and visually it’s semi-polished. I am on the right, playing as the leader Lapnu. On the left is just the icon for the entire race of Thoraxians. I have no idea which queen I’m talking to. It will take some spies or diplomats to figure that you. Discovering that can be pretty important, because learning her goals and personality will be important to how I deal with her. Right now I can kind of speak to her sort of, but I have no idea what her true motives are, and half the time I don’t know what she’s saying. If I want to do long term business with her, it’s best if I learn her language better and figure out who she really is. Once I know her identity, then her real portrait and name will appear on the left instead of just her race icon. Fortunately with the “first time ever meeting and greeting” I managed to pick a statement that elicited a mildly positive response, so there’s that.
19. Clip 11 shows the Boarines up by the north pole, and then the Andors near them. And that’s that!
The game is already at a point where it is feature complete, and has been for a bit. The last few weeks I’ve been going through and wrecking stuff and figuring out balance and so on, but the game is huge and there’s a lot of that sort of thing to do. We’re going to be doing a closed beta, which is basically saying that it’s invite-only. That said, we don’t have a specific cap on the number of people that we’ll let in, so if you want to be added to the list of future beta players, please feel free to post on the forums here.
We’ve got essentially three groups of beta players:
1. Redshirts. These folks are being thrown into the game right at the start, when documentation is the most-poor and so is the balance. If helping to polish the roughest stage excites you, please apply. If it would be frustrating, please don’t. ;) We’ll be sending the Redshirts their invites via PM on the forum probably on Monday the 13th or very close to there. If you’re worried you won’t get the PM, send us your email address instead.
2. Blueshirts. These folks will come in probably about a week after the redshirts. The worst things will have been taken care of, and the blueshirts can clamber over the dead bodies of the redshirts to have a better first experience. But it’s still a lot of live fire going on down there, if you know what I mean.
3. Everybody else. I’ll be bringing in people in in batches every week or half week or so. I want to space this out some, because we only get your first impression once, and as we polish the balance and documentation that is something I’d like to see the results of (is that clearer or not? etc.).
Help Us With Procedural Market Item Names! (If You Want)
If you want to help us with the components for procedural market item names, that would be awesome. It’s a big task, but if a lot of us do just a bit on there, we’ll have two big nice things. Firstly, nobody goes brain-dead from trying to fill out the whole thing. And secondly, we get a wider variety of creativity from a larger group.
Target Release Date: June 5th
It’s been a long haul on this project, and we’re really excited to be able to share increasingly more with you over the coming months. I’m super proud of this one.
Until next time!