Early Access Update Fyrtiosju (47)
build id: 5D470BE3
nornware AB is happy to announce a new update to Space Beast Terror Fright.
PUB PARTY LAYOUT / GRID / LIVE MAP
I have created an alternative layout for viewing available parties, namely a grid in addition to the legacy list. The main reason for this is that I realized I could make live information available about missions in progress to everyone, not only the players in the mission. It's now possible to "watch" up to 15 missions in progress on the grid screen (15 is what fits), or a zoomed in version of any single mission.
The in-mission information available is of course not "full" information (as you have when you are actually playing), but a compressed and stylized version that looks similar to the plan previews already available in the mission settings screens. It almost looks like a classic ASCII rogue-like.
Even when not in-mission, more information about current settings for each party can fit in the grid mode than can fit in the list mode.
Of course all of this is highly experimental, but I thought it would be cool to get a better sense of what is happening in the entire multiplayer community at a glance.
CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK / MISSION OF THE DAY
For a long time now I've been contemplating adding more high-level variation to SBTF, specifically an idea I've had for ages I call "Campaign of the Week" (CotW). "Mission of the Day" (MotD) has been in the game for a long time now, but one of the main realizations that came out of that system as well as the legacy single mission leaderboards is my firm belief that for a leaderboard to be meaningful the game has to be practically infinite. This is required so that players may play as long as they are able, achieving as high a score as possible.
I realized that this would be possible to implement; choose a "campaign seed" instead of just a single mission seed and use that to deterministically generate an infinite sequence of missions. That way a leaderboard could be made meaningful again, because it would be tied to the specific campaign which in itself is infinite. Add to that the modern trend of having "seasons" in games (in this case a "season" is only a week) and perhaps we have a compelling and recurring challenge for the community. After all, once the week is over, you can no longer submit high scores to that campaign, and hence someone will "win" that campaign by getting the furthest and achieving the highest score = permanent bragging rights.
The current implementation is of course quite experimental, but it includes some new map generation tweaks that allow for campaign missions to start off small and increase both in size and difficulty as the campaign progresses. All of this can surely be improved upon, but the general feel at the moment is pretty good. In particular I felt quite strongly that the early missions need to be quite small in order to be possible to complete quickly, because player investment in CotW is quite bit more that in legacy modes; if you die you not only lose your character and upgrades, but if you want to continue the campaign you need to play it from the beginning again.
Of course for this to be reasonable you are indeed allowed to attack the campaign over several play sessions, with your progress being saved after each successful mission. Your score is also submitted upon the completion of every mission, and is always replaced with any higher scores that may come later.
CotW leaderboards are only for single player / local, but it is possible to play CotW in network mode. The use cases are a bit different, as characters in networked games come across the wire, and I didn't want to get into the complexity of securely tracking multi-user CotW attempts. I also realize that this is really one of the first pseudo-player-vs-player features of SBTF, so I have taken some steps to make sure submitted scores for CotW are legitimate (potential bugs aside).
Mission of the Day (MotD) is still there, but has been moved into the mission setup screens, so it is hence also possible now to play MotD in networked mode. MotD will track completion locally as well, so you will see an record of this in the user interface.
In order to make all the legacy modes (Random Seed, Explicit Seed, Randomize All) able to exist alongside both CotW and MotD, there are now several characters and science values persisted for both local and network modes. It was important to me to make sure that switching modes back and forth didn't corrupt any potential CotW in-progress, and of course each mode has specific implications for how characters work. The legacy modes all share the same characters and science (as before), while CotW has its' own copies. MotD generates a new character (and 0 science) for each attempt, so nothing is persisted for that mode. Weapon loadout is however global (per player slot) across all modes.
"KIT MODE" PROTOTYPE
While working out the implications of Campaign of The Week and in general preparing the game for more user customization I realized that it might be interesting to have a mode where you specifically select what upgrades you had going into a mission. I personally like fast and crazy SBTF that Randomize All tends to offer, so I tried a mode based on Randomize All but where you also always start the mission with the following upgrades:
- AMMO CAPACITY: 900 rounds
- DOWNLOAD TIME: 2 seconds
- BATTERY LIFE: 180 seconds
- BATTERY CHARGE: 12.5 seconds / second
- MOTION TRACKER: directional + scientists
- PATHFINDER: airlock
- AIM ASSIST
I found that this combination encouraged very fast play (fast downloads / activations / repairs), as well as the option to rescue scientists with perfect information (including being able to find the airlock easily). I specifically chose a motion tracker combo that isn't available in regular modes (you would normally have all motion tracker features once you get scientists) that gives you a little bit of a hint (directional) while still forcing you to keep your eyes on the action. To this end I also added aim-assist to the mix.
I also added the rule that in kit mode, by its' very nature, datacores will not give you any upgrades at all; you start the mission with the "kit" that I designed.
What I wasn't prepared for was the emergence of mistakes being quite punishing. Due to the recent addition of the rule that non-fatal damage may randomly knock out upgrades instead of repairable systems, the effect of losing your upgrades is permanent within the scope of the current mission. Also interesting was that because I had only set the upgrade bits for the specific upgrades I wanted (like AMMO CAPACITY: 900 rounds), losing that upgrade meant that you go from 900 to 500 (the un-upgraded default). This turned out to be a really cool and quite devastating twist to things.
If it turns out that the community likes the feel of the "kit mode" prototype, it would be rather trivial to allow complete customization of the "kit" in this mode by the party host. I'm sure the community will find a lot of cool combinations that lend a unique flavor to the game when combined with all the other options that already exist.
I realize that the investment in your character decreases quite a bit in this mode, because regardless of surviving or not you will go into the next mission with a full kit, but maybe that's ok in the light of my intent; make a new mode where you can immediately smash your head against some fast and furious SBTF action.
Kit Mode also has a specific character tied to it, so it will not mess with any of the other modes.
POTENTIAL USER MAPS
While implementing this update, one of the core changes internally has been to make the game independent of the method by which a plan (map) is created. Everything is currently still procedurally generated from a mission seed / option combo, but the code is now in place that will allow for hand-crafted maps.
Of course I'm unsure of how compelling it might be to both create and play custom maps in the context of SBTF, but I grew up with games like Racing Destruction Set and Boulderdash Construction Kit and had a lot of fun with them. Also the Steam SDK has good support for storing user content, so I see potential for lots of creativity from the community.
- The reactor overload screen effects have been toned down.
- Mission settings in network parties will now send immediately upon change instead of once per second, so other players will see updates as soon as possible.
- Panic rooms are now equipped with toilets for scientist use while waiting to be rescued.
- I have seen that network game reinforcements can sometimes be buggy in that players are re-spawned twice on consecutive simulation ticks. This is a bad artifact of the current network implementation, and as I plan a re-write I will defer fixing this for the time being. In practice this should mean that you will have exactly half as many reinforcements as you set in the mission setup (players please confirm this if possible.)
As always, thank you for your support and patience.
/nornware AB c/o johno