Spacebase DF-9 Alpha 4b released
- Fixed: Various pathfinding issues. Some of these fixes greatly improve technician efficiency.
- Fixed: Modified Oxygen Recyclers don’t affect the capacity display.
- Fixed: Various crashes related to Spaceface logs.
Spacebase DF-9 Alpha 4: “The Terrible Secrets of Space”, has been released! See the patch notes for a detailed list of changes.
This video comes on the eve of Amnesia Fortnight 2014, a game jam-like event we do here at Double Fine in which you, our players, vote on which prototypes we make and then watch us livestream the process of making them. Jeremy, Matt, and myself are all on different teams for the two weeks, but rest assured once the amnesia clears we’ll be back to work on Spacebase!
Alpha 4’s marquee feature is the new Research system, which allows you to build Research Lab zones where Scientists can research new things to build and improve your base with. There’s also some cool visual enhancements, work on citizen personalities, and the usual huge raft of bug fixes and minor improvements.
(Apologies for the video being a few days late, we ran into some technical difficulties getting it recorded on Friday!)
Video coming tomorrow :]
While Matt finishes some UI code work necessary to make our Research system happen, I’ve been improving the Spaceface log system. The end result is that citizens now have rudimentary personalities!
In Alpha 3 and earlier builds, the process by which citizens would post to Spaceface was simple: when a given type of event happens - getting tired (rest need crossing a threshold), eating a meal at a pub, gossiping with someone - they’d refer to a list of lines written for that particular event and pick one randomly. The first screenshot above shows the selection of lines for “duty need reached a critical level” in the Dialog Database tool we’ve used for every Double Fine game since Brutal Legend. (Aside: this tool also provides a framework for translating the game into different languages, which we absolutely want to do at some point! See our Frequently Asked Questions list for more on this.)
The deficiency of this purely random approach is that citizens in the same circumstances all tend to sound the same. We might write a range of lines, each expressing different quirks and viewpoints, but citizens would appear to flit randomly between these voices, losing out on any real sense of characterization.
Before we even launched Alpha 1 I had a plan for how to improve on this, and only just recently had the time to make it happen. Now, citizens have a table of personality variables (debug text in the second screenshot above) which the log system cross-references with tag data we’ve added to lines (right-most column in the first screenshot) in order to rank the available lines and determine which one best fits their unique psych profile. They’ll also refer to other status attributes such as their morale, current duty, and needs levels. It’s very easy to add new tags, and now that we have a range of personality traits we can, in future updates, have these traits influence the decision-making process.
So now we can, for example, write a log about a miner doing their duty while thinking about delicious sandwiches, and next time a miner is mining and wants to log about it, the system will pick that one if their hunger level also happens to be high. The strength of the system is that we don’t have to write lines for every possible permutation, just tag ones that jump out as being appropriate for a specific voice.
I also added queue functionality for new logs, so that if a citizen tries to post lots of logs within a certain interval the system will only post the most important or appropriate ones.
This system is entirely compatible with the writing we’ve already done, and the only extra work now needed when writing new lines is to just tag them appropriately. The flavor and uniqueness of the Spaceface logs now has the ability to scale with our resources for writing new lines.
What sort of things would you like to see citizens posting to Spaceface about? What kind of personality quirks do you think would make for interesting writing? Let us know in the Spacebase forums!
Progress on Alpha 4 continues. Above, some of the art Jeremy’s been working on: an upgraded version of the Oxygen Recycler, and upgrades for the armor and weapons that Security personnel can equip. These and several other things will be available only once you’ve had Scientists research them in a Research Lab zone.
We’re shooting for the second week of February for the release of Alpha 4. This follows our roughly once-a-month schedule for major updates, offset a bit due to last month’s holidays. In addition to the research system and backdrop planets, there’s already a lot of improvements in the build. The most difficult task still lies ahead, however: coming up with a pun on “She Blinded Me With Science” for the update’s title!
Hello space-people! I am Jeremy, lead artist on Team Spacebase. Here’s a peek at a little something I’ve been working on! First off - the space backgrounds in the game are now 3D - meaning they now use a 3D camera and the nebula/dust layers have a bit of a parallax effect. You can’t tell in screenshots, but it definitely puts the ‘space’ in ‘Spacebase’. I actually started work on this feature back before we launched Alpha 1, but it wasn’t ready. It took a back seat to more important work, but now is finally the time!
Also, you might notice those large spherical objects in the background. 3d spinning planets! Randomly generated for your viewing pleasure! When choosing a starting location for your base, you’ll have a chance of starting near a planet. As of right now there are no simulation implications tied to this - No, you can’t land your base on the planet and explore it. If I could do that with shaders alone we’d be having a different conversation right now - but for the moment they are purely visual flavor. Sorry!
The next addition to the environment system will be the addition of various space-features, based on the properties of your starting location. For example, if your area is high in asteroids you’ll see lots of space dust and floating asteroid chunks in the background. It’s important to me for each ‘new base’ location to feel unique.
IT IS THE YEAR 2014.
Yeah, mostly our phones are just a little fancier. But hey, we’re cranking away on Spacebase DF-9 Alpha 4!
Above is a video from Lead Programmer Matt Franklin showing a sweet recent bug fix: citizens now path around hull breaches with quite reasonable intelligence, thus they’ll often be able to avoid getting sucked out into space. The red lines are a debug tool we have for visualizing vacuum forces. Like other debug tools, we’d like to eventually expose this kind of information to players in a readable, useful way.
As for what new features Alpha 4 will entail, plans are coming together. We had four choices that were each attractive for different reasons:
When we decide what to work on next, we have a few different viewpoints for thinking about what a new feature offers: what does it do to increase the depth of the game’s systems? Does it add depth to base building, the citizen life sim, or both? What does it do to give players a sense of greater possibilities within the game? How does it help players tell more interesting stories with their bases?
"Stuff trading" was attractive because it adds some much-needed depth to citizen behavior and personalities and gives us a good basis for future expansion, but we felt like it didn’t give players enough interesting decisions to make. The power system would definitely add depth to base building, but also runs the risk of making Spacebase feel too much like pure base building, or even a sort of tower defense game, and right now we’d rather distinguish the game with unique features. Room assignment gives players more control over what people are doing but doesn’t expand the game’s sense of scope, making it ideal for a later update.
Ultimately we’ve settled on adding the tech tree, because it opens new possibilities for players and gives them some good decisions to make in the later game, ie once they’ve got a self-sustaining base up and running.
To be very clear, all of the features above are still in the near-term plan for future updates, but the order in which we do them is an interesting puzzle that changes how it takes shape, and what makes the game compelling for new and existing players.
We’ll share some progress on the tech tree stuff once we’ve got it running in-game. Next week Jeremy will have something really cool-looking to show off!
Another minor update for Alpha 3, fixing a new feature:
Our first minor update for Alpha 3 has been released. Details: