Galaxy Beta V2.0: Planet Overhaul and Fleet Combat Iteration

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Galaxy Beta V 2.0 has now been through internal testing and all beta backers will be mailed shortly with installation instructions and a download link. This beta is a major milestone for Predestination and a big step forward toward release, containing both the latest version of the Fleet Combat gameplay and the final major gameplay iteration on Predestination’s planetary gameplay. We’ll try to put together a video soon showing how the game now plays for those who aren’t in the beta, and of course  the testers are free to make their own videos or streams of it since there’s no NDA on our betas.

In this post, I’ll look at what’s changed in this beta, and the next steps for Predestination. This beta stage consists of three main scenarios: Fleet Combat V 2.0, Planetary Colonisation V 2.0, and the latest version of the Galaxy map (which unlocks after you win the planet scenario). We’d appreciate any feedback you have on the beta scenarios, and we’re particularly interested in hearing how you like the revamped planetary gameplay. If you’re a tester and get a moment to check out the latest beta, please head over to the forum and let us know what you think because it really does help us a ton with development.

shipcombatupdate

If you happened to catch our stall at Q Con in Belfast recently, you’ve probably already played the latest version of our Fleet Combat demo scenario. The scenario Galaxy Beta V2.0 is the second major iteration on Predestination’s Fleet Combat gameplay and has a number of key improvements over the original beta version:

  • Attacking has been simplified. Now when you move the mouse over any enemy, you can see the firing arcs of all of your weapons. You can now just click on an enemy to automatically fire all available weapons at him. You can still individually target weapons by manually activating them, but are no longer forced to.
  • Shields are now displayed as actual models around the ships, and moving the mouse over an enemy highlights the shield you’re going to hit. The current demo has a Class I Shield that has a lot of gaps, and more advanced shields will have more solid-looking models.
  • Hitpoints and damage have been multiplied by ten and rounded to the nearest unit, so we’re no longer dealing fractions of damage. The damage numbers are also larger and more visible.
  • Ships no longer have “free turns” as this was confusing, and the default firing arc for weapons is now the Extended arc to make aiming at enemies significantly easier.
  • Your turn now automatically ends after firing. We’re going to make this an option as some tactics will require players to fire and then move.

We’ve still got some features to add, such as technologies that let you simulate ship movement before committing to a move, and a simple way to rotate your ship. The UI, animations and other graphics are also in need of some improvement before release. But before we go back and revisit the Fleet Combat, we’d like to get the rest of the core game finished and have fully released the custom 3D ship designer. Modular ships have been fully integrated into the Fleet Combat test scenario, so once we release the ship designer itself, the system is already fully compatible with the game.

colonisation

Predestination’s most unique feature is its deep planetary colonisation gameplay, and we’ve spent a lot of development time iterating on it to make sure we get it right. Most space 4X games have very basic planetary interaction, so we’re really in unfamiliar territory and your feedback has been essential in guiding development. We’ve previously discussed the major Planet and City overhauls that introduce features like Roads and Infrastructure, but there’s one final piece of the planetary colonisation puzzle that remained to be tackled: Resource Deposits.

It’s been pointed out to us in the past that our old planetary resource system could feel a bit lifeless as all deposits functioned the same way; they were just isolated little dots on the map that you could use to build ore refineries, research labs and farms. We knew we could do better than that, so as part of Galaxy Beta V2.0 we’re pleased to reveal that the resource deposits themselves have received some love too. A summary of the big changes is below:

oresplatOre Changes: Each planet used to have a few isolated hexes containing ore, each of which could support one ore refinery that automatically produced 10 metal/turn. That was a bit boring, so we’ve now made generate in seams of 3-8 deposits and refinery output is based on the number of deposits near it. The refinery extracts ore from all deposits within a range of 1 hex, so it can mine up to 7 deposits at once. Each refinery now generates 4 metal/turn plus 1 metal/turn for each deposit it’s mining, so it now produces between 5 and 11 metal/turn.

 

 

farmFarm Changes: There used to be only a few food deposits on each planet and you could only build farms on those spots, which didn’t really make sense. Now you can place a farm anywhere on the planet’s surface if it’s the correct environment for your race. Farms now grow food on each hex of the correct environment within a range of 1 hex. The base building generates 40 food/turn and all farmed hexes in its area generate 10 food/turn. Specific food deposits are still generated on the planets as before, but these now give an additional 10 food/turn bonus. In addition, food consumption has been changed so that 1 unit of food now supports 10 units of population.

oreleftResource Depletion: The biggest change with this overhaul is that Fossil Fuel and Ore deposits will now deplete as they’re used. They start out with 100-125 units of material and run out at a rate of 1 per turn while being used. Once an ore deposit disappears, the refinery it’s part of will lose the 1 metal/turn bonus that deposit granted. The base refinery building will continue to operate indefinitely though, producing its base of 4 metal/turn.

When a Fossil Fuel deposit runs out, it’s gone for good. You can extend the lifetime of all fossil fuel deposits by researching technologies like Natural Gas or Oil Drilling, but it’s just a stop-gap measure. Eventually you’ll need to switch to another form of power generation, like solar, geothermal, wind power, wave power, or nuclear (as uranium deposits don’t run out). Both this and the ore depletion are designed to allow players to use up the planet’s resources to expand more rapidly, and it stops players from just turtling up inside one or two solar systems.

artifactResearch Changes: We’ve changed things around a little with research. The research building that goes in cities is now called Research Lab and generates 5 RP/turn, while the infrastructure placed on Crashed Ships and Ancient Ruins is now called an Excavation and gives a 100% bonus to all research in the city it’s linked to. The big change is that after you’ve done enough research in a city connected to a Crashed Ship or Ancient Ruin, you’ll finish excavating the ship/ruins and could gain an advanced Artifact technology. These technologies are powerful and unique in each game session, so once you discover one, no other race can discover it in that game. They’re kind of like Wonders in Civilization but you don’t know what you’ll get until you excavate it. This system is in Galaxy Beta V 2.0, but most of the Artifact technologies haven’t been implemented yet.

 

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I know that you’re all very eager to get your hands on Predestination, and we’re just as eager to get it finished and in your hands, so I’d like to discuss our current development plans going forward. The good news is that Galaxy Beta V2.0 is the final major change to our planet gameplay as we’re very happy with how it’s turned out; all that needs done to it now is some balance tweaking, a few UI improvements, and the addition of some new technologies.

Putting that aside, our primary goal is now to get the sandbox game mode to a fully playable state and then release an Early Access version on Steam. In order to do that, we need to finish the following features:

  • Develop a Planetary Colonisation AI. This could also be used for people who want to automate their planets entirely rather than micromanage or use blueprints.
  • Develop a Galaxy Level AI that colonises the galaxy and builds fleets of ships.
  • Finish designing and implementing the start screen for the selection of galaxy size, type, race etc.
  • Overhaul the Research dropdown menu. The current plan is to have an icon for each technology and to move all the important information to a detailed tooltip.
  • Create a new Blueprint screen for the creation and editing of city blueprints, and ensure that updated blueprints are propagated throughout your empire.
  • Finish the second iteration of the Diplomacy Screen and implement the Diplomacy dropdown menu for opening diplomatic contact.
  • Implement a full diplomacy AI and favour/memory system for AI races.
  • Implement trade routes and a UI for setting them up between your own planets, and integrate trades into the Diplomacy system.
  • Integrate Fleet Combat with the Galaxy level gameplay so combats spawn when fleets of enemy/neutral races meet.
  • Add Ground Cannons and space stations to fleet combat in defense of a planet, and make it so they can use the planet’s energy to attack.
  • Create a bombing phase after combat where you can destroy cities, roads and infrastructure from orbit or land ground troops to take over cities.
  • Design and implement the Planets dropdown menu (At least the Manage Planets and Blueprints sections)
  • Finish Research Eras 2 and 3 and implement more of the Ancient Artifact technologies.
  • Implement the Command Point system that will limit how many ships you have, and display the number somewhere on the UI.
  • Implement a tax UI that will let you change your empire-wide tax rate. Link this feature to the Universal Currency technology.

As always, we’d love to hear what you have to say about the latest developments and you can head over to our forum to let us know!

Cheers,

– Brendan, Lead Developer

Development Update: June 2014 – City Revamp, Ship Designs, and Beta Plans

juneupdate

June was a jam-packed month for us; We showed off Predestination at Comic Con Belfast and Q Con XXI, performed an iteration on the Fleet Combat gameplay, worked on a lot of new building and ship models, and completely redesigned the city system. We’ve also switched to a new newsletter system to make sure that everyone is definitely receiving important development updates, and are now working hard on the next beta release: Galaxy Beta V2.0. This update is due for release within the next two weeks and will contain all of the planet and city changes discussed in the May and June dev updates, in addition to a newly overhauled version of the Fleet Combat gameplay.

Update (2nd August): The next beta stage will be out within the next few days along with a full breakdown of the new gameplay.

 

newsletter

We’ve been receiving emails recently saying that some people aren’t receiving their monthly updates or links to new beta stages. To solve this, we’ve started up a new mailing list system for dev updates and beta links, so those of you who have unsubscribed from Kickstarter emails or pledged on Paypal can still receive our monthly updates.

We’ll be sending this update out through email and if you want to opt out of that mailing list, just follow the instructions in the email. If you want to sign up for the development update newsletter or switch the email address you’re receiving them to, head over to the newsletter page and subscribe with your preferred email address. Also, if you feel like you should be on the beta list and haven’t received the Galaxy Beta, please send a mail to tina@brainandnerd.com to let us know and we’ll investigate.

 

shipodesignertitle

Back in March, we gave you a sneak peek at the default Renegade Battleship design. That ship has now been decomposed into individual parts and we’ve made a lot of new cosmetic and functional ship parts since then. The Renegade ship part set is now fully complete and we’re in the process of texturing each block and integrating them into the ship designer.

When that’s finished and has passed a quality inspection, we’ll be able to release the first beta of the 3D ship designer to all beta backers. I can’t put a date on that yet, but further ship model packs will be much quicker to develop and deploy after the beta goes live as we’ll then have the entire production process hammered down step by step. Below are the finished blockouts of the default Renegade Frigate, Cruiser, Battleship, and Space Station!

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cityrevamp

If you’ve been following the Predestination blog, you may have seen our Game Design Sneak Peek on the upcoming city revamp. For those who haven’t seen it, a summary of the most important parts is below. Following last month’s overhaul of the planetary gameplay to use our new road system, your feedback indicated that the cities and blueprints would also need to be revamped to be more engaging with the new setup. We agreed, so we went back to the drawing board and came up with some big changes.

In Master of Orion II, players were able to specialise their cities for industry, farming or research by moving population between the three jobs. We want that kind of tactical option to be part of Predestination, so we’re going to let players specialise their cities for Research, Food, Metal, Military or Tax by introducing a series of new buildings designed to synergise with infrastructure connected to the city. Once this revamp is implemented, this should complete the final major iteration of the Planetary Colonisation gameplay.

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Work-in-Progress Infrastructure models: Research Outpost (Left), Ore Refinery (Middle), Coal Power Plant (Right)

Research/Food/Production City:

Cities specialising in Research, Food, or Production can use new industrial buildings that give a small boost on their own but also multiply the bonuses of connected infrastructure. You can use a building in a city without the matching infrastructure and still get some benefit, but it won’t be as efficient:

  • Factory: Produces 5 metal/turn, +10% metal/turn produced by infrastructure. Also increases metal storage by 1000.
  • Food Processor: Produces 250 food/turn, +10% food/turn produced by infrastructure. Also increases food storage by 500.
  • University: Produces 2 research/turn, +5% research/turn produced by infrastructure.

Each of these buildings has two upgrades which can be researched and built, adding new components to the building and increasing its bonuses. Below is the work-in-progress version of the factory building showing the components that appear with each upgrade tier. The central hex will be filled with metal storage and transports.

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Other City types:

Military: To specialise a city for military or defense, the player will have to sacrifice the above industrial advantage and use his building space for Ground Cannons, City Shields and other military buildings. Details of all the planned military buildings are in our recent Design Sneak Peek post on the city revamp.

Residential (Trade and Tax): Tax will be a lot more important in the updated version of the game, as money is now used to build infrastructure and roads on a planet, and each building costs at least 1BC/turn maintenance. To specialise a city for residential purposes to generate tax income, you’ll need to sacrifice building space for housing and extra services to keep the planet’s population secure and keep morale high. More details of residential cities and trade-related buildings can be found in our recent Design Sneak peek post.

Balancing Cities:

Each city currently has space for up to 6 large buildings and 12 small, which turned out to be far too much space for meaningful strategic tradeoffs. Players in the beta noted that they could build whatever they needed without running into any space problems. The numbers on paper also get out of hand with 5 or 6 factory buildings in the new system, so the solution to both problems was to reduce the city size.

Each city can now hold a maximum of 4 large buildings and 8 small ones, or 3 large buildings and 15 small. Fitting in four industrial buildings (like the Factory) means you’ll be unable to add any large buildings like the Space Port or City Shield at all, which is a strategic tradeoff that you’ll have to make when designing your cities

newcitylayout

 

Blueprints:

One of the primary goals of the city revamp is to make it so players can make good use of our Blueprint system. With multiple cities to manage on a large number of planets, players should rarely have to revisit a planet once it’s set up, instead just managing everything with blueprints. The only reason you should need go back to a planet would be to respond to a random event or attack, to change a city from one specialisation to another, or to build something special manually like a space station.

The city revamp described above should satisfy those requirements. Players can now design cities for particular specialisations or even hybrids like a heavily defended factory city or a tax-heavy research city, and can switch between specialisations easily by switching blueprints, providing a similar strategic function to moving population between jobs in MOO2.

Build Times: The final change that ties all of these building changes together is that we’re adding build times to buildings. This will hopefully discourage people from frequently switching cities from one blueprint to another as it’ll take several turns before all the construction is complete. We can then also add a technology or race pick that lets you spend money to complete buildings instantly, a big financial tradeoff that you might need to make if enemies are heading toward a planet with no defenses built.

 

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I’d like to give a big thanks to everyone who’s supported us so far in making Predestination; the backers who have funded us through Kickstarter and Paypal, those who voted for us on Steam Greenlight, the people we’ve met at conventions who offered words of encouragement, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland who support the emerging local games industry, the indie gaming websites that give tiny indie studios like us exposure, and everyone who has contributed suggestions and feedback to help make the game better.

It’s been a long journey and we wouldn’t have made it this far without your help, so we appreciate your patience as we’ve iterated on our unique planetary gameplay to be sure we get it right. Our plan for the immediate future is to finish implementing the city revamp above and then get all of the new planet gameplay into beta backers’ hands within the next week or two. This should be our final iteration on the planets, and we can then move on to finishing the core galaxy level gameplay and NPC AI, hopefully then leading on to an Early Access release.

As always, we welcome all feedback on this month’s dev update on Kickstarter or our forums. To close this month’s dev update, here’s a photo of me at Q Con apparently trying to destroy two Predestination fans with my viking eye lasers.

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Cheers,

— Brendan Drain, Lead Developer

Design sneak peek: City overhaul, new buildings, and blueprints

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Our next monthly dev update is due soon, but before that I’d like to take a more detailed look at the Predestination Beta’s upcoming city revamp, which forms the second part of what we hope will be the final major iteration on Predestination’s planetary gameplay. A short summary of the changes will be part of the next dev update or you can skip ahead to Step 4 to read them, but for those interested in the game design process, this post will go through the steps we took to arrive at the new version of the City and Blueprint systems.

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Development Update: May 2014 – Augmented planet gameplay, Beta feedback, and Diplomacy

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The first iteration of the Galaxy beta has now been in backers’ hands for just over a month, and we’ve been working hard on fixing bugs and addressing the gameplay issues it raised. Your bug reports have helped us track down and fix several major crashes and game-breaking bugs, and your feedback is helping to direct Predestination’s development. Feedback from the Galaxy beta indicates that the planetary gameplay needs more work, performance needs to be improved on low-end systems, and areas like the research system could use a little more work, so that’s exactly what we’re doing.

As we’re now well into June, there have been a few requests for an updated release schedule. We’re quickly learning that game development isn’t an exact science, that not everything goes to plan and that most games go through delays and feature cutbacks as they approach completion. Our number one commitment has always been to make Predestination the best 4X game we possibly can with the limited resources available to us, and to iterate on the core gameplay until it feels right. That means we’re never able to fully guarantee a release date or a schedule for future stages of testing, but the tradeoff is that we definitely won’t push the game out the door in an unfinished or unplayable state.

What we can promise is that we’ll continue releasing our monthly development updates to keep you up to date on how the game is progressing, and that we’ll listen to your feedback and ideas at every step of the way. In this month’s development update, I’ll run down all of the major changes being made in response to your feedback on the Galaxy Beta. These changes will be released later this month as part of Galaxy Beta V2.0, and we’re keen to hear your thoughts on the changes now. We’ve started a poll and discussion thread over on the Predestination forums and would love to hear your thoughts on the information below:

 

planetgameplay

For the Galaxy beta, we reduced the size of the planets and the number of resources on each to make it easier to manage multiple planets. Feedback suggests that this worked, but that players would like to see some more engaging and interesting gameplay on planets.

Right now, you build extractor on deposits to automatically link them to the nearest city, and they’re then globally accessible in colonies all over the planet. It was all too simple, with not much strategic planning in city placement and no real opportunity for conflict. Your planet’s stats when fully colonised also felt pre-determined by what deposits were present, and there were no real strategic tradeoffs to make. To fix those problems, we have four major changes/features:

roads#1 – A new road system:

The old boring system of linking to resource deposits is dead and gone! In Galaxy Beta V2.0, you’ll build roads on the planet grid out from your city to link up with deposits. Each section of road costs money and metal, and you can bomb enemy roads to disconnect key deposits from a city. We’ve also reduced the size of each city’s territory to just the six hexes surrounding the main city, so deposits inside the territory are close enough that they don’t require roads and so can’t be disrupted in this manner.

3depositlimit#2 – Six-deposit limit:

The big change that comes with roads is that resource deposits will no longer be globally accessible. Many of our testers actually didn’t realise deposits were global in the beta, so we think it’ll be much more intuitive to make them link to individual cities. Each city now has a territory of six hexes, each of which can contain either a deposit or a road leading out to a deposit, imposing a natural limit of 6 deposits connected to each city. I think this makes a lot more sense and should be more interesting to manage.

depositlimit#3 – Infrastructure:

To make blueprints more useful and deposits more intuitive, we’re moving buildings like the Research Lab and Ore Refinery out of the city and onto the deposit itself instead as a piece of “Infrastructure”. Each piece of infrastructure will cost metal and money to build, consumes energy, has an upkeep cost per turn, and needs a certain number of workers to operate. Energy and workers are sourced from the city that the road leads to. Cities are now mainly residential, so blueprints work nicely and we can make cities smaller.

deposits#4 – Additional deposits:

The 6-deposit-per-city limit also means that we can add more resource deposits to a planet through technologies or random events to increase the number of options available without disrupting game balance. Since each hex in a city’s territory is equivalent to a single deposit, we can even let players build some deposits. For example, a Hydroponic Farm Infrastructure could be built next to your city that would act like a Farm that doesn’t need a food deposit, allowing you to properly colonise barren planets.

 

diplomacytitle

We got a lot of work done on the Diplomacy system this month, including the first generation of the diplomatic AI and most of the diplomacy screen’s user interface. You can currently add spare resource deposits, money and technologies to your offer and demand the same from the opposing race, who will decide whether to accept or decline. You can also add mutual relationship offers to your deals, like non-aggression pacts and alliances.

For those who like to play the puppet master pulling the strings in the background, we’re adding the ability to demand that a race declares war on another or breaks its alliances. You’ll have to give up some seriously valuable tech and resources to make that deal appealing, or offer your own hand in friendship (backed with a powerful military) in return. Below is a screenshot of the current work-in-progress version of the Diplomacy Screen:

earlydiplomacy

 

Work still to be done on the diplomacy system before it can be released for testing includes:

  • Favour system: This will track of positive things you’ve done like good deals or gifts, and negative things such as greedy deals in your favour, wars or breaking peace treaties with other nations. AI races will remember your past actions and react accordingly.
  • Racial variations: Certain races prefer technology over resources, and will value their preferred choices more.
  • Counter-Offers: The AI needs to be able to make counter-offers and contact you with its own offers, so we need an algorithm to come up with those offers.
  • Exporting deposits: We need to add a piece of infrastructure for exporting deposits from planets for trade. This will be used to send deposits to another planet in your empire, or to offer them for trade in diplomacy. We also need a system for selecting where you want the deposits you gain from trade to go.

Other ideas we have in the pipeline that aren’t essential but would be nice to add include:

  • Threaten system: For those who like to play the warmongering races, you should be able to add threats to your diplomatic offers. Threaten to declare war if they don’t give you want you want, and they might take you a bit more seriously if your military is stronger than theirs.
  • Offering ships etc: We plan to let you offer your ships and solar systems in a trade.
  • Advisors: Some commanders you hire could also be diplomatic advisors, specialising in military, science, spying, or planetary management. They could give you hints during diplomatic negotiations, letting you know what the enemy thinks of your military strength, whether they’re in dire need of a particular resource, or if they really need a certain technology and will pay over the odds for it.

As always, we’d love to hear what you have to say about the latest developments and you can head over to our forum to let us know!

Cheers,

— Brendan, Lead Developer

 

The Galaxy Beta has arrived! Pre-warp gameplay overhauled, research expanded, shipyards implemented

galaxybeta

The first iteration of the galaxy beta is now complete, it’s been through internal testing, and we’ll be sending out links to all of our beta backers over the next few days. For those of you who aren’t in the beta, this post will summarise the new features and overhauled gameplay that has made it into this version.

Pre-warp stage: The galaxy beta starts with a focused test of the pre-warp stage of the game. Players start the game immediately after crash-landing on a planet and setting up a city near the crash site. To get back into space, you must research four key technologies to rediscover warp travel:

  • Stellar Cartography – After developing space telescopes or land-based observatories, this mapping technology unlocks the galaxy map necessary for plotting fleet movements.
  • Ship Fuel Cell – With your original ship’s fuel source depleted, you need to develop a new fuel cell capable of powering a warp drive. It uses either nuclear materials or sustainable biofuels, depending on which tech you’ve chosen.
  • Orbital Shipyard – A building necessary for the design and production of ships.
  • Space Programme – Launch a Satellite into orbit as part of a formal space programme. The satellite can expend 1000 stored energy to scan the entire planet’s surface and is exclusive to your capitol city on the homeworld.

Scenario 2: Picks up where the pre-warp scenario ends, literally. Your planet, technology and city blueprints from the pre-warp stage are saved, and the galaxy map opens up. You can now build ships (just pre-designed Scout and Colony ships for now) and explore a medium sized galaxy for habitable worlds. There are no secret things to find yet, and no enemies to fight in this version, just planets to colonise and explore.

planetfeedback

In this first stage of the Galaxy beta, we’re most interested in hearing your views on the following topics:

  • Performance – How high is your FPS on the planet and galaxy parts of the game? This will help us figure out where we need to optimise the draw code.
  • Is the pacing right for the pre-warp stage? We aimed to have the player break the warp barrier by about the same time as his first planet is fully explored and utilised.
  • Did you find Blueprints helpful? They are currently just build templates for colonies, but in the final game you’ll be able to edit them and update your cities across the galaxy with just a few clicks too.
  • How did you find the research system? Does it feel like each choice is meaningful? And do you have any ideas for technologies in future tech eras?
  • All other feedback is always appreciated.

Head over to the official feedback thread to let us know what you think.

 

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Research overhaul:

When we posted the first version of the research system last month, your feedback highlighted that there may not have been enough scope in each technology era. We’d originally planned to have around ten eras with up to nine technologies in each, and arranged in a tree formation that means the player can pick three. It turned out that there wasn’t much room for making tactical tradeoffs in this system, and there was a very obvious optimum route through most eras.

To solve this, we’ve fleshed out the technology eras from a 3×3 grid to 5×5, increasing the number of technologies per era to a maximum of 25 in each field. This required us to create and implement a lot more technologies, but we think you’ll be pleased with the results. The graphics on the research screen still need some improvement before release, but you can see the new tech tree layout for the first era of technologies below:

 

screenshot

 

Planet UI overhaul:

The planetary colonisation user interface and gameplay has been overhauled significantly since the Planetary Colonisation beta. In version 2.0 of that beta, we added information on deposits, energy and metal to the interface when zoomed into a colony, but players still felt the need to zoom out to access the resource indicator hexes. Based on your feedback, we made the building list smaller and used the extra space to keep the resource indicator hexes on-screen when you zoom in.

Buildings no longer appear in the building list if you don’t have the required resource deposit for them, which should make the gameplay easier for new players to grasp. We plan to add an option in the options menu to override that restriction for advanced players who want to pre-build buildings to use deposits that haven’t been found yet. Blueprints are also now implemented, letting you save a city layout and apply it to a new or existing city. Our new building models aren’t ready yet, so we’re still using placeholders for now.

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Planet gameplay simplified:

The overwhelming feeling about our planet gameplay was that it was great in theory but could be far too much work per planet, so we’ve made the decision to shrink the planets and limit the number of cities you can place. Now you’ll be able to place between 1 and 6 cities on a planet depending on its size class, meaning manual colonisation is a lot more feasible.

To compensate for the decreased building space, there are now fewer resource deposits to find on each planet. And of course planets are now much smaller and quicker to explore! You can test out this balance in the Galaxy beta, and we’re looking forward to your feedback on it!

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Shipyard Screen:

The Shipyard screen is nearly complete and the first iteration is included in this beta. When you build a shipyard building in Predestination, a space station is placed in geosynchronous orbit above the city. Clicking on the space station opens up the Shipyard screen in the screenshot below, which shows all of your ship designs and lets you add ships to the shipyard’s build queue. You can only build one shipyard per solar system and it can access all metal stores and production in the entire solar system, so if you find a system with several mineral rich planets then it’d make an ideal shipyard system.

Adding a ship to the production queue costs a certain amount of money up front, and the yards then use metal each turn from the planets in the solar system to build the ship. For example, adding a colony ship costing 900 metal to the queue may cost 90 credits up front and take 100 metal per turn for 9 turns. Cancelling the job will refund only 50% of the metal and credits used. The galaxy beta features pre-made colony ship and scout ship designs, but in the full game you’ll be able to edit your ship designs from this screen and create new designs. We hope to have the ship designer ready by the end of May along with the first batch of modular blocks for designing new ships. For now, the screenshot below uses a placeholder ship.

 

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Galaxy Map changes

While testing the galaxy beta, we discovered that sometimes maps would generate with no habitable worlds near your home system, so you would essentially become stuck until you got larger sensor ranges or the ability to colonise barren and molten worlds.

To solve this, we now generate the homeworlds first, then deliberately place a habitable world within 25-50 lightyears. Several systems spider out from the homeworld to ensure each race has a chain of systems within 50ly of each other, providing at least one path for empire expansion.

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A huge thank-you to everyone who has supported Predestination with pledges and donations, and a special thanks to everyone participating in the beta to help us refine the game step by step.

Cheers,
— Brendan, Lead Developer

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.

UPDATE: The galaxy beta is now ready and is undergoing some final in-house testing on various setups before we release it to backers. Your patience is very much appreciated.

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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