A quick update: The Galaxy Beta is almost ready

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We’ve been hard at work trying to get the Galaxy Beta into your hands, and you’ll be glad to know that it’s now less than a week away from completion. We had hoped to get the first iteration of this beta into your hands by the end of March, but have had some unexpected delays that have put us behind our initial projections. A computer failure has slowed work on the Galaxy Beta, and additional development time was also eaten up by preparing tax documents, putting together the final financial paperwork for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland grant, and continuing the process for getting listed on Steam.

The good news is that now that all that is complete and the Galaxy Beta is almost ready to deploy, we’re able to focus on releasing updates more regularly leading up to launch!  For this quick art update, we’d love to show you two of the diplomacy screen backgrounds in Predestination (the Kazzir and the Sauros), and two of our new promotional posters.

We’ve also put together a design pack for the race and level design backers from our first Kickstarter, which will wing its way to those backers alongside the Galaxy Beta update within the next week.

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Square Enix meeting: We had the unexpected honour of meeting with Square Enix President and Representative Director Yosuke Matsuda to show him a demo of Predestination. The meeting was organised by Invest NI and Digital Circle and gave select local game developers in Northern Ireland the opportunity to make business contacts within Square Enix that could lead to future partnerships and deals.

Comic Con Belfast: Brain and Nerd has secured a stall at Comic Con Belfast on June 7th-8th to show off Predestination to potentially thousands more local gamers. This is the first time that Comic Con is coming to Northern Ireland, and we’re very excited to be a part of the event’s debut year.

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A full development update will be coming out within the next week alongside the release of the Galaxy Beta to all beta backers. We hope you enjoy the artwork in this update, and are looking forward to more frequent updates leading up to release!

February Dev Update: Schedule update, and lots of progress to show!

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We’d like to apologise for the delay in getting this month’s development update together, there’s been a lot of development progress made this month and we’ve also been buried under a mountain of paperwork! We’ve now implemented the research system, temporal rifts, nebula effects on the galaxy map, shipyards, ship crews, colony blueprints, the renewable energy scanner, and over 40 functional technologies! We’ve also got concept art blockouts completed for the ships that will be in the game, which are broken down into blocks for the 3D Ship Designer, and our 3D modelers are still working away on getting new buildings complete.

Some of this month’s work has taken a lot longer than anticipated to complete, unfortunately, and we’ve had quite a bit of bureaucracy to deal with this month on the business side of Brain and Nerd that has detracted from development time. As a result, our original release schedule aiming for release at the end of March or start of April has had to be revised. We want to put this game in your hands as much as you want to play it, but we need to do this right and can’t release the game until it’s ready.

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To keep everyone in the loop and manage expectations properly, we’d like to show you the revised timeline that we’re currently aiming for. Please keep in mind that these are estimates and shouldn’t be treated as solid release dates. Brain and Nerd is a tiny indie studio working with a small budget and only two programmers, so unexpected delays may occur. If everything goes to plan and there are no unexpected problems, the new projected schedule is as follows:

  • March – Galaxy Beta V1:- A focused test of the early game progression, with galaxy-level exploration, empire growth using colony blueprints, the research system (with two eras of research), shipyards (with a few pre-designed ships), and hopefully the early game tutorial. We’re working very hard to get this complete and in beta testers’ hands as soon as is physically possible.
  • Early April – Galaxy Beta V2:- A second iteration on the galaxy beta, incorporating beta tester feedback from V1. This iteration will also feature Fleet Combat integrated into the galaxy-level gameplay, temporal rifts (which spawn random events and enemies to fight), and the 3D ship designer will be functional and integrated. We’ll also be implementing the research queue, research synergies, most of the main menu interfaces, and the Start Game screen for sandbox mode with various galaxy options.
  • April – Ship Designer Beta V1:- A standalone version of the 3D ship designer will be released to beta backers along with all of the cosmetic parts for at least one race.
  • April – Final Beta:- Feedback from Galaxy Beta V2 will be integrated into the game for our final beta test stage. If we don’t manage to implement diplomacy and the galaxy-level AI in Galaxy Beta V2, it will be added in this stage. We’ll begin heavily optimising the game’s performance and include low-graphics settings for as much of the game as we can. At this point, we’ll aim to make sure the game can run smoothly on old desktop PCs and laptops with integrated graphics chipsets.
  • April / May – Early Access / Soft-Release:- Feedback from the Final Beta stage will be integrated into the game to produce an Early Access version on Steam and Desura (DRM-free) for all pre-order customers. This could come as early as April if the feedback on the final beta is promising.
  • May – Iteration:- In May and beyond, we will continue to gather your feedback via our forums and iterate on the Early Access version until it’s ready for full release. Any promised features that we can’t get in before this point will be added later as free updates.

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We have a lot of new stuff to show you this month, and we’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on it. Check out the information below and then head over to the February Dev Update feedback thread on the forum to let us know what you think.

 

Galaxy Nebulae:

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There are now five different types of nebula in the galaxy: Red, Blue, Green, Purple, and Orange. Each nebula has a name and contains several star systems close together, and stars inside nebulae roll additional random effects such as increased ore deposits, higher chance of rolling Terran planets, ancient ruins etc. Our goal is to make nebulae strategically valuable positions to hold,  but also make them more difficult to defend. Space monsters may periodically attack ships and planets inside nebulae, temporal rifts might open more frequently in their vicinity, and certain technologies like shields or beam weapons may not function at all. The stars inside Nebulae are also obscured by the gas and dust until you either research Nebula Sensors or send an exploration ship to scan it.

 

Temporal Rifts:

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We’ve now completed the first iteration of our temporal rift mechanic. Throughout the game, these rifts will open and deposit ships and materials into the galaxy or cause random effects to happen. You can send ships to investigate a rift, and something will happen when it opens. They can release enemy ships that will attack, friendly ships that will join your empire, or even deadly Revenant ships that will travel to the nearest habitable world and attack. Alternatively, you could get lucky and find wreckage that you can salvage for materials and technology, or rare commanders that will offer to work for whoever rescues them.

Since rifts are disruptions in spacetime, they can also have some pretty crazy effects on the ships you send there or nearby star systems; Ship crews could be trapped in a time loop and emerge with bonus experience, star systems could be temporarily frozen, or planets could be accelerated in time by several turns. If you have any ideas for other effects and events you’d like to see tied to Temporal Rifts, please head over to the feedback thread and let us know!

 

Geothermal Vents and Solar Hotspots:

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Every race starts the game with one ore deposit, one coal deposit, and one food resource in range of its first colony. Terran planets will have some more coal that you can find, and some planets have a deposit of uranium to run a nuclear power plant with. If you decide to go down the fossil fuel route, there are technologies you can research to increase coal power plant efficiency and the Deep Core Mining technology will unlock additional hidden deposits of coal and uranium on every habitable planet.

If you go down the renewable energy route, you’ll unlock solar and geothermal power plants that require no resources to function but output significantly less power. To even the odds, several Geothermal Vents are now distributed randomly throughout each planet, and colonies built on these vents will enjoy a bonus to power generation from geothermal power plants. You can also research the Energy Scanner technology, which shows areas of high solar activity near the equator that do the same for solar power plants.

It’s our hope that players will strategically place their cities in these locations when colonising the planet. Based on feedback from the Planetary Exploration beta and to make strategic decisions like this more meaningful, we’ve decided to impose a limit on the number of cities a planet can have based on its size. The smallest planet type will hold only two cities, while the largest can support up to 12. These changes will be part of the upcoming Galaxy Beta and we’re looking forward to getting some feedback on how it works out.

 

The Research System:

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The Research system has now been completed (larger image), and over 40 technologies have been designed. Technologies are separated into the four fields Physics, Construction, Bio/Chemistry, and Sociology. Each field contains branching choices that force the player to make strategic tradeoffs, as most races have to take a single path through each tech tree. Creative races will be able to go back and research alternate paths. Every technology contains one or more buildings, weapons, ship modules, or global effects (such as unlocking deep core coal and uranium deposits or the renewable energy map).

Research is divided into several self-contained technology eras themed around the various stages of the game, starting with rebuilding your civilization after crash-landing on your first planet, and moving on to space exploration, colonisation, territorial conflict, and so on. Our aim is to make it so that your race’s research progression roughly matches up with your empire’s expansion, so you’ll typically reach things like weapons around the same time you meet another race. We’re also thinking of making it so that each tech era must be unlocked with an empire achievement, so the second era might be locked until you successfully send a scout ship to another star system, the third unlocked when you make first contact with another race, etc.

 

Ship Design Progress:

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Work is progressing on the designs for each race in our modular ship designer. The image above is a blockout of the standard Renegade battleship design. This design breaks apart into a series of hull blocks, cosmetic parts, engines, and ship modules for use with the 3D ship designer, and the smaller Renegade Cruiser and Frigate designs are both built out of the same parts. We’ll have an artwork post on the way soon with hi-res versions of the Renegade ship concepts, and the diplomacy backgrounds for each of the races revealed.

January Dev Update: 3D Ship designer success and Predestination has been Greenlit!

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It’s been a crazy few months for Predestination, with our second Kickstarter meeting overwhelming success and Predestination finally being greenlit on Steam! We’ve opened the first two beta stages to our new beta backers, and work is continuing on the upcoming Galaxy beta.

We’ve made steady progress on the 3D ship designer and implemented several new features already. Cosmetic parts and ship items can now be rotated and scaled after placement using a simple slider and dial system (the UI below is temporary and will be improved on). Parts now have metal and powercore costs and are arranged into sections on the UI. The firing arcs of weapons fitted to the ship are also now displayed on the grid, and rotating the weapon rotates its arc.

This simplifies the selection of weapon arcs considerably, eliminating the awkward Left and Right arcs. Certain weapons will now naturally have wider or thinner firing arcs, and we plan to add weapon mounts or modifications that modify stats like range and firing arc. With over 100 applicants for the 3D modeling position we advertised, we’re still in the process of selecting someone to work with; If you haven’t heard back about the job yet, stay tuned as we’ll be mailing all candidates with a response even if they’re unsuccessful.

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Planets are now generated procedurally using a new system that splotches terrain together into unique continent shapes and then dots it with mountains where appropriate. This upgrade is more than just graphical in nature; it’s part of a major gameplay change that lets Aquatic races build colonies underwater and makes terraforming possible.

Habitable planets are now a combination of the four main environments: Terran, Ocean, Desert, and Tundra. Terraforming buildings and weapons can transform small areas of the planet from one environment to another, making them habitable for one species but uninhabitable to others. The upgraded planet graphics and terraforming technologies will be tested in the Galaxy beta. The first iteration of our colony blueprint system designed to reduce planet micromanagement will also be released in the Galaxy beta phase for feedback.

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Woohooo! Thanks to your votes, Predestination was one of the latest batch of 50 games to be approved on Steam’s Greenlight service. This is really good for us as we’ll be able to sell more units, and it also means we can promise to deliver the game, DLC and updates via Steam codes if that’s your preferred method of delivery. We’ll also be aiming to release on Desura, and by direct download on our own website if you’re not a fan of any of those platforms.

Since we’ve been Greenlit, we might also be able to offer Early Access on Steam in addition to our existing pre-orders. Once the game is feature-complete and we’re happy to move it out of the beta phase, we could possibly release an Early Access version to all pre-order backers for a final phase of polish and feedback before full release. We may also be able to use Steam’s Workshop site to store game mods, ship designs, alternate user interfaces, and other player-made contributions.

Beta testing progress:

Links to our Planetary Colonisation and Fleet Combat betas have now been delivered via Kickstarter messages to everyone who pledged at the $40 tier or higher. If you’re a beta backer, we’d love it if you could test the betas and deliver your feedback on the beta forum. We’ll be sending beta links out to Paypal pledgers tomorrow.

The next beta phase may be slightly delayed due to the extra work we now have to do behind the scenes registering Brain and Nerd with Valve, sorting out tax information, and integrating and testing our game with Steam’s systems. We’ll do our best to get the galaxy beta in your hands as soon as possible!

Cheers,

– Brendan, Lead Developer

Predestination 3D Ship Designer now on Kickstarter

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The Predestination 3D Ship Designer kickstarter campaign we discussed in the previous update is now live!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nyphur/predestination-3d-ship-designer-a-turn-based-space

You can help us out by spreading the link via your social media networks and sending tips to gaming news sites to spread the word about Predestination.

 

A quick Q&A on the ship designer and how it relates to Predestination as a whole:

Q. Will work on the 3D Ship Designer slow down progress on Predestination?

A. No, it shouldn’t! We have hired an additional developer named Lugh who is currently dedicated to working on the 3D Ship Designer. I am still laser-focused on the core Predestination game and work is progressing on the galaxy-level gameplay.

Q. When will Predestination launch?

A. Last year we set a tentative launch window for digital delivery to backers of the end of 2013 or Q1 2014. We’ve since made a ton of progress and we believe can now more accurately pin down a release date. We’re now aiming to release the first combined beta (all the core gameplay together) to backers by the end of January 2014, and launch the finished game in March 2014. We are of course dedicated to making sure the game is solid and polished before release, and will delay launch if backers don’t think it’s ready for the general public at that time.

Q. Why is the 3D Ship Designer project’s goal so low?

A. We’ve only asked for $3,500 for the ship designer because the project is already funded, so our first goal is basically the first stretch goal. You’ve already funded Predestination and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland has provided the £10,000 we needed to produce a basic ship designer. The kickstarter is to add some new features, and to give more people the opportunity to pre-order the game if they missed it last year. If it doesn’t get funded, we’ll still have the 3D ship designer in the game, but it won’t be quite so flashy.

Q. What can I do to help?

A. The most important thing for us right now is to just get the word out there. It’s been a year since you helped us succeed in the original Kickstarter campaign, and there are plenty of fresh-faced 4X fans out there who would love to hear about Predestination. This is their last chance to become a kickstarter backer before the game is released. You can help by posting links to the kickstarter on any forums or gaming communities you frequent, sharing the project on social media platforms.

Perhaps more importantly, you can help by sending tips on the game to any gaming news sites and blogs you read. We’ve mostly been covered by small indie blogs so far, and a few minutes of your time sending tips to the larger gaming media sites could make all the difference in the world and help us bring Predestination to a much larger audience.

Q. Can we get a special deal on rewards from the new campaign since we backed the first one?

A. We hadn’t really expected any of our existing backers to want to pledge again, but at least one person has already backed both projects. We definitely want to reward people who double-back us, and would love to hear your ideas on additional extras we could give. Double-backers and high backers will also of course get a special mention in the game credits for their extraordinary contributions. If you have an inquiry about becoming a backer of both projects, send us a message here on Kickstarter.

Thanks for all your support so far, everyone. With your help, we’re making Predestination a reality and bringing back the classic turn-based 4X game.

Cheers,

– Brendan, Lead Developer

November dev roundup: 3D ship designer, iterations, and work on Galaxy screen

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November was a very busy month for us, so we’d like to apologise for the lateness of this month’s development roundup. We’ve been working hard on putting your feedback from the first iteration of the Fleet Combat and Planetary Colonisation betas into the game, and now have most of the suggestions implemented. The combat and planet betas have now been successfully merged together into a combined client that will become the first iteration of the galaxy beta. Work has now begun on the Galaxy screen and main UI menus, and we’re working hard on getting that ready to show to all beta backers as soon as possible.

The big news this month is that we’ve been working on a new 3D ship designer for Predestination that’s been made possible thanks to a grant from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. We’ve got some great ideas for expanding the ship designer with extra features, and will launching a Kickstarter campaign exclusively for the 3D ship designer hopefully within the next week. We’re very excited to have locked in a basic version of the 3D ship designer as a feature, and will use the Kickstarter to see how far people would like to expand the feature. Check out the sections below for more detailed breakdowns of everything we got up to in November:

 

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The Planetary Colonisation beta was quite well-received, which we’re extremely happy with as planetary colonisation is one of Predestination’s core features and we see it a significant improvement over previous 4X games. Your feedback on the colonisation gameplay has been invaluable, and we’ve now implemented the most requested features:

  • When zoomed in, you can now see all deposits, metal stores and available energy (see screenshot below)
  • Players can now select a Reserve amount of metal for a planet that won’t be spent on the build queue. This can be useful to reserve enough metal for a new colony or expedition, and in the later game could be handy for reserving enough metal to build emergency ships.
  • Colonies and Expeditions can now be cancelled by right clicking on them and clicking Yes on a confirm dialog. The cost will be refunded into the planet’s stores.
  • Fixed the OutOfVideoMemory exception some people were having and dramatically reduced GPU load for planets. Also added the option of using a low-resolution skybox to save video memory.

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The Fleet Combat beta was the first time we’d ever released a version of the Predestination game client into the hands of backers, and there were reassuringly few major bugs. We had a few teething problems with an unusual crash on European versions of Windows and received a lot of feedback on the user interface design and gameplay. Those issues have now been resolved and your feedback has been implemented in a second iteration of the beta. Below are a few highlights of the changes made:

  • The number of move points you have left is now drawn as a visual indicator. This also shows how many move points your current move will take if you’ve got the mouse over a valid hex move.
  • The move point indicator can be clicked to rewind to that move, allowing you to undo mistakes. This feature is disabled if you fire on any ship or are fired on.
  • The camera can now be rotated with arrow keys.
  • Shield and armour values are now rounded to the nearest whole number and are 10 times higher than before.
  • Clicking on an enemy ship now automatically attempts to fire all weapons in order at that enemy if he is in range of any. Weapons can be disabled by clicking a checkbox on the weapon button. Individual weapons can still be fired manually by clicking the appropriate weapon button.
  • Shields are now drawn as 3D models around ships on the battlefield. The shield your attack will hit on an enemy is highlighted.
  • A new tutorial option will highlight hexes that the game detects will be “good moves” that put you in range to fire on something.

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In our recent one-year catchup interview with sci-fi game site SpaceSector, we revealed that work had begun on a new 3D Ship Designer for Predestination. The ship designer was one of the big unrevealed stretch goals in our original Kickstarter campaign that we didn’t reach, and we’ve been looking for a way to make it happen ever since. We’re happy to announce that this feature has now been made possible thanks to a £10,000 grant from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland! Lorraine McDowell, Director of Operations at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, had this to say about the project:

“At the Arts Council we want to put our support firmly behind local businesses and to help them develop and transform their creative ideas into commercial success. The source of our wealth, job creation and economic competitiveness here in Northern Ireland is shifting to our burgeoning creative sector and we need to make businesses such as Brain and Nerd as well equipped as possible to compete at the forefront of the global market. As such, we were delighted to have the opportunity to support this 3D ship designer project that will help take the already successful Predestination sci-fi game to a whole new level.”

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Supported by the Creative Industries Innovation Fund

We have a new programmer on board who is currently dedicated to working on the ship designer, and have made significant progress on it already. Starting with a modular block-based design, we first implemented a lego style ship designer in which blocks snap together at pre-defined join points. This approach has been used in games before but we found it to be too restrictive and not very modder-friendly, so we developed a new version that is completely freeform! You can attach ship parts anywhere on the model, as can be seen below with the ship hull covered in turrets at various angles.

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The screenshots above show some of the progress we’ve made on the 3D ship designer using placeholder models. The £10,000 grant will let us complete the basic 3D ship designer and commission plenty of ship part models, but we want to improve it beyond the original design with new features like racial ship parts and ship refitting (a much-requested feature in 4X games). We will be launching a tiny $3,500 Kickstarter for the ship designer in a few days to lock in those new features and will offer additional features as stretch goals if we reach that target.

This Kickstarter campaign won’t be offering all of the same rewards as the previous one. Our usual pre-order, beta and collector’s edition tiers are available, but we’ll be offering new creative rewards themed on the ship designer itself like opportunity to design one of the default ship designs in the game. We’ll make another announcement when the campaign is live (which should be within the week), and hope that you can help us reach our goal by spreading the word on Predestination to your friends and on social networks.

Once again, thank you for supporting Predestination! We’ll release another update when the 3D ship designer is on Kickstarter.

– Brendan, Lead Developer

The Predestination Planetary Colonisation beta has now begun

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We’ve just launched the second round of the Predestination beta, introducing the planetary exploration and colonisation gameplay. If you’re one of our beta backers or are otherwise signed up to test the game, check your Kickstarter mail or email for a message from us with a download link. If you were supposed to be in the beta but didn’t get an email, please send us an email to planetbeta@brainandnerd.com and we’ll sort it out for you.

As with the previous beta stage, there’s no NDA and you can talk about it or make videos if you like, but we would appreciate it if wouldn’t share the beta or download link publicly. It’s not quite ready for public consumption yet and is still using mostly placeholder 3D models and sounds that may change before release. If you’re not in the beta but still want to see the progress we’ve made this month, check out the video below of us playing through it and let us know what you think!

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Some games are practically finished by the time they get to beta, but indies like us really do need your help to test everything. We need to know how well the planetary portion of the game performs on your PC and whether you encounter any bugs or glitches. We’d also love to hear what you like about the gameplay, what you think should be improved before release, and any ideas you have for new buildings and technologies associated with planetary colonisation. To that end, we’ve added three new stickied threads to the beta forum:

  • Help / Instructions Thread - If you’re having trouble getting the game to install or run, or would like to ask the developers any questions.
  • General Feedback Thread - All feedback on gameplay, the UI, performance, and any suggestions or ideas should go here.
  • Bug Reporting Thread - Report any bugs encountered during play, including graphical glitches and any gameplay issues that arise.

If the game crashes, a dialog box will also appear and allow you to submit a bug report straight to us with a screenshot and details. We would appreciate it if you could fill this in and submit it, as it really will help us squash bugs.

 

greebnlight

Another hundred games were Greenlit yesterday, which means we’re now about 96% of the way into the top 100 remaining projects. Valve seems to be greenlighting games in large batches, so we need your help to push us as far up the list as possible before the next batch hits. You can help by sharing the Greenlight link on your social networks and sending gaming news sites tips on Predestination and why you think it deserves coverage.

Predestination will be sold by direct download with no DRM as promised, but getting greenlit would let us also release on Steam and access a huge market, giving us the funds to continue developing and produce free updates as well as DLC and expansions.

A huge thank-you from Brain and Nerd to everyone who has supported us so far!

Cheers,

– Brendan, Lead Developer

 

The Predestination Combat Beta is now live!

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The Predestination Combat Beta is now live. If you’re signed up to beta test the game, check your Kickstarter mail or email for a message from us with a link to download the game. If you’re supposed to be in the beta and haven’t received the link by the morning of Friday 20th, please email combatbeta@brainandnerd.com or message us on Kickstarter and we’ll sort it out. We would appreciate it if you would refrain from sharing the combat beta or download link publicly as the game is not ready for the general public and is still using mostly placeholder 3D models and sounds. For those of you who aren’t in the beta, check out the video below of us playing through it and let us know what you think!

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This is a real beta test and the first time we’ve deployed the project to so many test computers, so we need your help to test it thoroughly. We need to know if there are any problems with running the game on your PC, what framerate you get in each of the four scenarios, what you like about the gameplay, and what you think needs to be improved. You’ve already provided us with some great ideas for weapons and technologies and useful feedback on each part of the game that we’ve shown in videos, but now you can try it out for yourself. The beta forum is now unlocked and has three stickied threads:

  • Help / Instructions Thread - If you’re having trouble getting the game to install or run, or would like to ask any questions.
  • General Feedback Thread - All feedback on gameplay, the UI, performance, and any suggestions or ideas should go here.
  • Bug Reporting ThreadReport any bugs encountered during play, including graphical glitches and any gameplay issues that arise.

If the game crashes, a dialog box will also appear and allow you to submit a direct bug report with a screenshot and details. We would appreciate it if you could fill this in and submit it, as it really will help us squash bugs.

 

futurebetaplans

This is the first stage of the Predestination beta and focuses on the Tactical Fleet Combat gameplay. Subsequent stages will introduce the planetary and galaxy-level gameplay, and then we’ll tie it all together into a final version that we’ll iterate on and polish using your feedback:

  • Stage 1: Tactical Fleet Combat
  • Stage 2: Planetary Colonisation
  • Stage 3: Galaxy Gameplay
  • Stage 4: Final beta with all three combined, and worked on based on feedback from the first three stages.

This final beta stage will then undergo regular gameplay iteration and feedback cycles until it’s release quality. We’ve also managed to secure a small local arts grant to help build a 3D ship designer for the game, which should also be introduced at some point after release. If there are any changes in any of these plans, we’ll make an announcement about it.

 

daniaward

We’re pleased to announce that Predestination has won its first award! Last week we received the 2013 DANI Award for Best Gaming and Animation Project of the Year. The DANI Awards are given for outstanding work in Northern Ireland’s digital media industries, and this year were held at the week-long CultureTech festival in Derry.

Tina Lauro (left) and Brendan Drain (right) at the 2013 DANI Awards

Brain and Nerd Co-Director Tina Lauro (left) and Director Brendan Drain (Right) at the 2013 DANI Awards.

 

greebnlight

We’ve been slowly climing the ladder toward the top 100 projects on Steam Greenlight, and are now about 70% of the way there. Once we break into the top 100, Valve is more likely to take notice and Greenlight the project. The good news is that Valve has significantly increased the rate at which it greenlights games, so we stand a good chance of success if we can get enough votes to be noticed. Getting greenlit would take a lot of pressure off us as Steam is the largest digital distribution platform for games by far. Even if we get on Steam, the game will also of course be available via direct download with no DRM at all, as promised.

 

A huge thank-you from Brain and Nerd:

We’d like to give a huge thank-you to all of you for backing Predestination and following its development with interest, and to everyone who has voted for Predestination on Steam Greenlight or sent news about the game to gaming blogs.

It’s been a long and challenging road for us so far as a new studio embarking on its first game project during an economic slump, and there’s still some way to go, but none of this would have been possible without your initial support. If you’re in the beta, we hope you like it and promise to take all of your feedback on board. Once again, thank-you from the entire team at Brain and Nerd!

Cheers,

– Brendan, Lead Developer

 

The first Predestination beta stage is on its way!

Hey guys!

I know that many of you are looking forward to getting your hands on the first playable versions of Predestination, and I’m just dropping a quick note to say that the first beta is on its way! As we’ve previously discussed, our plan is to release the Predestination beta in stages to get more focused feedback on each area of the game before we combine it all together into the final beta. The plan is to release three individual stages covering the three main areas of the game, and then to combine them into one final beta stage:

  • Stage 1: Tactical Fleet Combat
  • Stage 2: Planetary Colonisation
  • Stage 3: Galaxy Gameplay
  • Stage 4: Final beta with all three combined. This will then undergo regular gameplay iteration and feedback cycles until it’s release quality.

We initially set a target of the end of August or start of September for deploying the fleet combat beta. The bad news is that this has been slightly delayed as we think it needs a bit more work before collecting feedback. The good news is that it should be released later this week and it’ll come with an in-game tutorial and four test scenarios. If you’re one of our beta tester backers, you’ll be sent the link via Kickstarter or email. We’ll also be doing our usual development roundup on Kickstarter at the same time the beta goes out.

betateaser

We hope you’ll love the fleet combat beta when it comes out very soon. Thanks so much for all of your support, we couldn’t have made it this far without it!

– Brendan, Lead Developer

July Dev Update: Global resources, scouting improvements, and new user interfaces

JulyDevUpdate

It’s hard to believe that another month has just rolled by, but it’s already that time of the month again! We’ve been hard at it this month to build on the good progress we’ve already made on Predestination, and while the team are beginning to resemble creatures straight out of a 1950s horror movie every morning, the game is really coming together! We here at Brain and Nerd can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on, so let’s get cracking!

Last month we talked about the work that has been done on the game’s AI, the Zl’oq and Kazzír were revealed, and we talked about scouting. This month, we want to focus on gameplay and show you some up-to-date progress on how the game is actually running. In previous updates, we’ve been able to mention what we’ve been working on and explain what we’ve been doing, but we really haven’t been able to show much in the way of gameplay because much of the UI wasn’t in place. It’s difficult to show anything when using placeholders and patching together screens with blu-tack and paper clips! We now have enough of the UI constructed and tied together to be able to join together some of the different parts of the game and show you some sample gameplay.

 

Dev highlights for July:

  • Orbital resource scans.
  • Scout waypoints.
  • Planetary resources are now global (explained below).
  • Expeditions that secure resources (explained below).
  • New user interface for the planet screen.
  • Long-range system scans.
  • Colony ships are now in the game, and colonisation now works.
  • Diplomacy pane and race relationship diagram.
  • Fleet combat is now fully hooked into the galaxy screen.
  • The first iteration of the Tactical Combat UI is now complete.
  • Togglable Hide Grid option for fleet combat that only shows movement and firing arcs.
  • The basic AI has been battle-tested.
  • Larger ship sizes are now available.

Of course, this is all work in progress and is by no means final. Some of the planned features aren’t in the game yet such as the Blueprint system and Ship Designer and we still have many parts of the UI that need to be finished, but we do hope this gives you a better idea of how this game is going to play when the time comes to let it run in the wild!

 

explorationupdate

We’ve been sifting through a lot of feedback from the forum and our recently released Greenlight page, and have noticed that some people are worried that colonisation and planetary exploration might become too complex. While our blueprint system will solve the micromanagement problem associated with having a large empire, we wanted to be sure that the colonisation gameplay wasn’t too time-consuming. This month we hammered out a few changes and new features that should achieve this:

Orbital Resource Scans:

Exploring planets for resources still felt a bit hit-or-miss even after last month’s scouting optimisations, so we’ve streamlined the process with orbital scans. Planets in systems you have visited will now display large circles indicating roughly where each resource is. You’ll still have to use scouts to pinpoint exactly where each resource is, but you’ll now have a clear indication of roughly where they are. Researchable technologies can make orbital scans more precise, and rare finds and random events are not shown on the scan to keep some elements of surprise.

Scouting Waypoints:

If you saw last month’s update, you’ll know that we added a new swarm AI to planetary scouts that lets them work together to explore areas near your colonies. The AI prioritises unexplored squares near your colonies and will work efficiently when left to its own devices. Now that you can see roughly where the resources are with orbital scans, we’ve added a new waypoint system that lets you tell your scouts which areas to prioritise when exploring. You can set waypoints anywhere on the map (such as in the middle of a pack of undiscovered resources) and the Scout AI will treat it as if it’s a colony and explore all the nearby squares. Scouts can also now be instructed to go to anywhere on the planet, so you can send one to your newly created waypoint to get him started immediately.

 

colonisation

One of the big challenges we face in designing our colonisation system is how to let players design re-usable city blueprints when the resources available on a planet won’t necessarily be evenly distributed. We discussed several different approaches to this on the forum and debated it around the Brain and Nerd whiteboard, and came up with a solution.

Global Resources:

Resources that you find on planets, such as ore or coal, are now globally available. That means you can build a city next to three ore resources on one side of your planet, for example, and then use that ore in a city on the other side. Global counters are kept for each type of raw resource linked to your cities, and certain buildings will consume units from the counter. For example, a fossil fuel power plant uses up one coal resource and outputs 25MW of energy. Resources near a city (in the green area) are automatically linked to it for free. Resources outside a city can still be acquired by sending an expedition team to secure them, which incurs a cost per turn in logistics upkeep.

Material Stockpiles:

Certain buildings will consume raw resources and output a refined material. If I have five ore units on a planet, for example, I can build up to five ore refineries that output a certain amount of metals each turn. Raw resources can’t be stockpiled or stored themselves, only fed into buildings, added to trade negotiations with other races, or piped to another planet using a freighter to set up a trade route.

Both of these changes should combine to make it much easier to run a planet using reusable city blueprints. For example, if a planet has 30 ore resources and 10 food, you might build two farming cities, two residential cities to use all the food to produce taxable population, three ore refinery cities, and one food/metal storage city full of silos and shields. If another planet has only 20 ore but 20 food, you would just build more farms and residential cities and fewer refineries rather than having to individually tailor each city to its the nearby resources.

 

shipcombatupdate

We’ve received several comments that the fleet combat part of the game doesn’t really fit in with the visual style established by the rest of the game. Predestination has a very dark deep-space visual theme, and a gray 2D hexagonal map didn’t really look as good next to that. We’ve now added a new toggle option to switch the tactical plane on and off, and made it off by default so that more of the background and ship visuals come through. Check out the video above at the 5:00 mark to see what it looks like, and please let us know what you think!

 

thanks

We’ve had a few people asking about the first beta test, so we wanted to outline what our current plans are for that. I can confirm that the first phase will be soon- how soon? We’re hoping and aiming for the end of August. We are planning to run the Predestination beta in stages to get more focused feedback, with the first stage being a Fleet Combat test. The second phase will be a test of the Planetary Colonisation system, and the third phase will be the full beta for the game proper, with the Galaxy Gameplay, Planetary Colonisation and Tactical Fleet combat all playable. We’ll have more news on each stage closer to its release time; right now, we’re going to focus our efforts in the short term on getting the first phase rolled out.

Finally, we all want to thank all of you guys and gals for the huge response we’ve had on Steam Greenlight! At the time of writing, we have had 6,118 ‘YES’ votes and we’ve had over 20,000 people view our page in just 35 days. We’re making good progress, but in truth, we really need your help on this one, because we’re going to need a lot more support if we’re to make it to the top 100 and have a better chance for consideration! Please tell your friends, pester your Steam friends, tell your neighbours, tell your plushie Companion Cube that we all know you keep hidden behind your pillow! Shout it from the rooftops, people:- PREDESTINATION NEEDS YOU!

Thanks for your continued support!

– The Brain and Nerd team

June Dev Update: Steam Greenlight, Artificial Intelligence, Scouts, New Feline Concept Art, Naming Races and more…

juneupdate

Hello everyone! It’s certainly been a productive month here at Brain and Nerd, not to mention a very, very busy one! Between Game Development, two more Work Experience students, preparation for ‘Q-CON’ and preparing to launch our Steam Greenlight page we’ve certainly not been short of things to do this month!

voteongreenlightsmall

We’re very pleased to announce that the Predestination Steam Greenlight page is now LIVE! We urge all our Backers, Supporters, Friends, Friends of Friends, Acquaintances, Steam Friends, Social Buddies, Random Strangers, Wandering Monsters, Robots and Pets to go and up-vote PREDESTINATION! Help us to deliver Predestination worldwide on the PC’s most popular and widely used platform! We’re also on Desura and IndieDB, and we have a wishlist page on Good Old Games so be sure to follow us on those as well!

Q-CON!!

With Queens University Belfast’s ‘Q-CON’ Gaming & Anime Convention just one day away, we’re preparing for an absolutely mammoth weekend of fun and hard work and we’ll be in full force to spread the word about the game! With over 2200 attendees last year, Q-CON is only getting bigger, and our own Brendan and Tina will be doing a talk at ‘Q-ED Sessions‘ which will hopefully lead to some more interest, and maybe ultimately allow us to secure a few more pre-orders!


shipcombatupdate

Development of the game is running along smoothly. Brendan has taken his previous hard work on the tactical fleet combat and has built upon it by working on the first iteration of the Fleet AI. At the moment, the AI is able to work out all of the possible moves that it can make, and evaluates all available moves based on a set of parameters.

The AI considers variables like how much damage it’d take if it moves, how much damage it’ll deal back to the enemy, whether the move will enter firing range, or simply put it closer to the enemy just to name a few examples. Certain Races can be set as more aggressive by valuing dealing damage over a strong defense, or can be made more safety conscious by preferring safer moves, like evading enemy weapons range, over dangerous or riskier moves. While this is all very much work-in-progress, it’s definitely a step in the right direction!

explorationupdate

We wanted with Predestination to allow the player a number of options for Scouting planets, while also reducing the need for busywork as your game advances and your empire grows. I asked Brendan about what he has been working on as far as Scouting and he has come up with an interesting way to do it- here is what he has to say about it;

‘In a few previous updates, we’ve talked about Predestinations full planetary exploration system. At the start of the game, you have one colony on a largely unexplored planet, and you’ll begin sending out scouts to survey areas for resources. You can either manually tell the scouts where to go or just set them on autopilot if you don’t want to micromanage them. The design goal is to make it so that manually directing your scouts will provide a small advantage in the early game, but that this advantage will become increasingly obsolete as the game goes on and more advanced scanning technology is developed.

In the old system, the player didn’t really have any way of knowing where the resources were, so manually directing your scouts wasn’t much better than setting them on auto-pilot. This month we solved that problem by adding a new game mechanic that shows roughly where resources are. A large circle is drawn on the map around each resource, and the resource can be anywhere inside the circle. The circle first appears when you get close, or you can perform a scan from orbit to reveal them. You can also now send your scouts directly to any point on the map and they will head there and scan any square in their path. This all combines to make manually scouting an interesting hunt for resources.

Scouts were also taking far too many turns to explore, so I removed the need to return to their home colony to refuel. Each colony will now launch a scout when it’s created, which will work autonomously without returning to base. The scout will disappear if its colony is destroyed, and you can launch more by building the appropriate building in the colony. To make all of this work, I had to develop a brand new auto-scouting system that lets the scouts work together. The autopilot now weighs up the distance to nearby hexes with their distance from the nearest colony so that they will always explore outward in circles. They also prioritise unexplored areas near new colonies, producing decent results without a lot of micromanagement. Check out the video below to see three scouts working together’

raceupdate

We introduced the Feline Race back in March and asked for your feedback. Based on this feedback Connor has been hard at work, and has provided us with new artwork for this race! After having a massive brainstorming session we’ve decided on a name for them; ‘The Kazzír.’

We think it fits the vibe of who they are, as well as the new design artwork very well… speaking of which- we’re really excited to be able to show you the new artwork that Connor has done for them! We tried to incorporate the spirit of what Nuala came up with, combined with an art style that is more reflective of the Predestination universe. We absolutely love the result!

Feline Race Artwork

Feline Race Artwork

Name Decided for Aquatic Race!

We also discussed the Aquatic race quite a bit this month, and again, after a lot of discussion, reading the forums and plenty of deliberation we’ve started fleshing them out. We decided to name them ‘The Zl’oq.’ These guys are anything but elegant, so we think it sounds sufficiently brutal! It’s a very guttural sound that you could imagine coming from a sea creature.

A full race reveal with example Starting Techs and some interesting gameplay unique to the aquatic race archetype will be coming soon!
Wish us luck for Q-CON!

We’d like to take the opportunity to thank all of you, our backers and supporters, for your continual feedback, your suggestions and your support! We wouldn’t have made it this far without you!

Thank You Very Much!

- Enrico, Predestination Staff