Hello, Kitkat here.

This still feels rather strange — chatting to you all so soon. Back in AAA land, ‘nobody said nothing’ for years. I still don’t want to big things up too quickly before we get a chance to start showing those things in the game — let actions speak instead of words, as it were — but on the other hand if we don’t keep talking, you’ll wonder why things have gone quiet. I know a week or two is ages if you’re waiting for game updates, but in development land, that’s no time at all. Take an idea, design it, make sure it works with ALL the other ideas, code it, stick pretty pictures on it, test it, release it. Apart from starting to sound like something we might do in an animal sanctuary, those cycles take a while. We mention a thing, then… silence.

So when I say we’ve been talking, designing, working on ‘lists’ and coding underpinning systems (as well as pushing forward some other project work and the business), that may sound rather ‘meh’. But fear not, this meh is important meh…

Scoping

More lists? Yup. Lists are your friend: a rather pedantic friend who wears tank tops, organizes their mail alphabetically, and likes to have everything in its place, but a friend none-the-less.

We’ve put together a ‘game scope’ to both expand the project while imposing some limits. It’s really just a big list of features in a spreadsheet with some estimates on how long they may take to implement. But a lot of those features have been derived from the feedback you’ve been giving us, ranging from usability fixes to ‘more depth please’. Working out even a rough idea about what these features may be, still ate up our time like a delicious taco.

We went through that epic spreadsheet in an equally epic library (in our new office, that small ‘meeting room door’ at the end of the hallway turned out to be a whole library — who knew?). We all got bleary eyed after the hours of discussion, but now have a pretty good idea about what we’ll be adding to Distant Star over the next few months and, just as importantly, what we won’t.

But in the words of Lewis Carroll:

“My, my,” said Alice, “what a lot of stuff…”

Screen Design

Now, scope in hand, Trevor’s spinning up code and I’m moving on to a mixture of screen mock-ups and systems design. While that doesn’t immediately put a new spaceship or a fleshed out tech-tree in your hands, it’s a vital first step.

Spanning usability and gameplay all in one go, those screen mock-ups are important to visualising game changes, while focussing on one of the oft forgotten constraints of software development: ‘If you can’t interface with it, you can’t have it’. Seems obvious, but many game ideas seem to trundle on for ages before discovering ‘No sane person would try to fit that much s**t on a screen’. Thus, many ideas either evolve or die depending on the interface implications, the need for consistent usability across screens, and so on. So I’ve already hurt my head on some seemingly inconsequential usability details, while simultaneously looking at big sweeping system things.

So why doesn’t this ‘clicky thing’ work right NOW?

Yah, I know. It’s all about priorities and it’s going to take a while before changes start to percolate through.

Some of the first things we get out may be a bit funky until we get a handle on the backlog. Additions and improvements are likely to start slow but will grow with gathering momentum, as we design out the changes, build underlying systems, and find more helping hands. We also want to evolve what’s there, rather than bring it all down for months. On the plus side, that means you’ll be getting content as we go. On the negative side it may feel like things are moving more slowly than cold Marmite on a granite slab, but fear not — we are all working like frenzied (space) weasels.

So what is this marvellous ‘stuff’ of which you speak?

I’m pretty sure you’d make the same list as us and, in fact, quite a few of you already have.

Behold, some of the areas we’re looking at including:

  • Art and Audio.
  • A better exploration experience.
  • More intelligent AI, with options for difficulty, etc.
  • General improvements in usability.
  • More info (manual, etc.)
  • A much larger tech tree, while making sure the variables involved have a clear and meaningful effect.
  • Story events
  • More races
  • An interesting, but simple, treatment of trade.
  • A more involved combat system
  • Creating more Structures (stuff to build on planets)
  • A division between planet orbit and surface (allowing planets to be ‘invaded’)
  • Some measure of diplomacy.
  • Better treatment of ‘habitability’
  • Ship design and a more tactical treatment of ships.
  • Map updates, galactic features, and a ‘fog of war’.
  • Improved resources.
  • A look at our revenue model.
  • Other stuff.
  • Broken stuff.
  • Stuff you suggest as we go along.

“Ah, I love the smell of stuff in the morning.” — Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, Apocalypse Now. (1)

(1) Hmm. Strangely, Kilgore didn’t mention our EPIC NEW FORUMS in that quote, but do feel free to come and have a chat, anyway…

Leave a Reply