Second iteration on planet exploration system

There are lots of software development strategies, but the one that comes naturally to me is rough iterative development. The process starts with an idea for a feature, which is then used to produce a gameplay prototype. I try the prototype out to see how it feels, and show it to people to collect feedback. That feedback is used to refine the prototype into a second iteration, which is then tested and shown to people again to collect feedback. This cycle continues until eventually I’m happy with the feature. Usually I do all the testing myself and only show the prototypes to a few real life friends, but over the past few weeks I’ve been showing the prototypes to people via the blog. Even with just a few people commenting, it’s been really useful.

Last week I showed a gameplay prototype of the planet exploration system and got some great feedback. This week I’m back with the second iteration on that system:

The new system works as follows:

  • There are now a lot more squares to scan on a planet, meaning a lot more exploration is required.
  • There are now buttons for sending out missions of different sizes: 1×1, 3×3, 5×5 etc.
  • The scout travels to the center square of the mission, spends 1 turn per square surveying, and then heads back to base.
  • On arrival at base, the area is revealed and a survey report pops up listing what has been found.
  • You can queue up as many missions as you want and they’ll be tackled in order.
  • Missions have a cost based on the distance and number of squares surveyed, which must be paid up front when you schedule the mission. This makes it really expensive to scout far away places.

I feel like the basic scouting mechanics are now very solid, but I need to add a few more things to the next iteration of this system:

  • Option to cancel any scheduled scout mission before it begins to get a refund.
  • Some way to have multiple scouts? Maybe they’d just speed up the surveying process itself, and reduce its cost.
  • Scanners that can instantly scan squares in exchange for energy reserves.
  • Colonising settlements, and scout missions being sent from the nearest settlement.
  • Try out different “fog of war” effects for the squares. It might be better if unexplored squares were dark and opaque, and it’d work better on ice worlds than the current pale white.

Once those features are in, I’ll begin work on a system for placing extractors on resources. I should be able to get that done within just a few days if nothing comes up that stops me from working. I’ll post a video of it when it’s done. If you have any feedback on the planet exploration system described above, please leave it in the comments as it’ll be very useful as I do the third iteration on the feature this week. For example, should scout missions cost money at all or should the balancing factor in scouting far away places be just time?

About Brendan Drain

Director @ Brain and Nerd
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