Welcome to the From Orbit Phase 4 completion dev update!
As far as the number of tasks completed, Phase 4 was the most productive so far. Lots of bugs fixed, as well as usability issues that were frustrating during play testing.
After I recorded 40 minute or so long playtest video, I thought why not edit it down into a promo reel? One reason: Editing video takes a long time. I managed to get it down to 5 minutes, but really it should probably by more like 1. I’ll do better next time.
One of the most important accomplishments for this phase was acceptance onto Steam Direct, and build scripts to update the Steam build for testing purposes. Not only is Steam a great way to buy/sell games, but the ability to push an updated test build to everyone with a simple batch file is tremendously helpful. No more zip files on Dropbox.
OSX and Linux builds were also packaged and tested through Steam, and at least at this stage are looking like they shouldn’t be any problem. We’ll see how things go once controller support becomes an issue though.
Another big ticket item, the ability to save your game progress and continue. Not only does it make testing a lot easier, but the game feels much more complete when you can play it normally and interact with it like other games, picking up where you left off and actually making progress, instead of starting from square one every time.
Sound and Music
Unfortunately, unforeseen circumstances precluded much sound effects work this go around, but I did put in a simple options screen with volume controls which should make testing the game more comfortable and less annoying for everyone.
Two new music tracks were written this phase: Main Title, and Overworld. The game is sounding great and feels more flushed out with music instead of silence throughout.
There is now some very simple world generation. Each planet has a generated name, and level indicating approximately how difficult that planet will be (as well as how rewarding with resources). Also noted are any anomalies detected on the planet. At the moment there’s only one: the distress beacon, which indicates the possibility of rescuing an additional crew member to add to your party.
Enemy Wave Spawning
In addition to the overworld and planet generation changes, enemy spawning was also changed to a simple wave spawning system, allowing both for some breathing room between combat for exploration and repairs, as well the the ability to spawn more challenging enemies.
A new tougher enemy was added, but has no art or animation yet so currently resembles a very large, featureless golf ball. That doesn’t stop it from messing your ship up though if you aren’t careful.
A seemly small but important change was that switching unit modes is no longer instantaneous. It takes a few seconds now for a unit to switch from say, Defender to Medic. Just this small delay has a big impact on gameplay, as before the most effective way to play was to switch back and forth continually between all of the modes, as there was no reason not to. You could in effect be nearly all of the modes at once.
Not so any more! It’s now necessary to anticipate your needs, even by a few seconds, in order to start switching, or you’ll need to make a call about whether it’s worth it to switch at all. You don’t want to be switching into Medic mode while a space monster gnaws on your leg.
Interface and Code Cleanup
Quite a few interface improvements have gone in. It’s possible to cycle through different units using the keyboard, or through the unit icons on the left of the screen. Unit icons also display the current health for all of your crew.
Future improvements will include portrait images instead of icons, as well as various status indicators, such as whether a unit is idle, busy, or currently under attack.
There were also a lot of under the hook code cleanup and fixes. Navigation was improved using Unity’s new runtime NavMesh generation interface. The unit equipment system was improved and cleaned up, and some code duplication and cleanup happened for the targeting and attack components.
Since several changes and a new enemy have increased the difficulty of the game considerably, it’s only fair to provide some counter balance. It is now possibly to spend your hard earned resources to buy upgrades, and although the current list of upgrades isn’t that exciting, they’re absolutely necessary to progress past the lowest level planets.
A lot of work remains to be done for upgrades, and some of the time this phase was spent just brainstorming what these are going to be and how they’re going to work. Future upgrades will include more interesting and active abilities, instead of just simple stat boosts.
And what is a game without losing? The game over screen makes a return. If all of of your units are killed, or your ship is destroyed, this is where you’ll end up.
The next two months will be the last big block of time dedicated completely to From Orbit development for now. In October I’ll be returning to my day job (also making games, but different games) and From Orbit development will continue more slowly.
Now that all of the basics of the game are in place, it’s time to expand and refine them into something that’s actually fun for more than a few minutes.
- A New Environment
- More Enemies (maybe even with art this time)
- More Upgrades and Active Abilities
- Improved Enemy Spawning and AI
And possibly the ever-elusive “win” state.