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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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