Cogmind's 9th major beta release, "Wizardry," is a big one where you can
- upgrade with permanent bothacking abilities!
- become a mobile fortress with siege mode for treads!
- pore over greatly expanded scoresheets!
- make use of optional quicksaves!
- enjoy tons more QoL!
- etc! yes! more!
In the works for more than half a year, this release brings us pretty close to 1.0, at least based on the fact that there's little left in terms of "must-have" features on the roadmap.
Lots more details can be found in the release notes and sample images further below, but first, the changelog...
(Note: Beta 9 is far too large to fit the entire release notes on Steam--their system doesn't support it... so I've had to share the changelog here as an image rather than text. For a normal view of the full release notes, see this same announcement on the forums!)
One of the highlights of today's release is another big expansion of the Relay Interface Framework, the new bothacking system introduced back in Beta 7 ("Hack the Planet"). Beta 9 now allows you to also install permanent bothacking upgrades, either enhancing existing abilities or granting entirely new ones!
I have a blog post going over how RIF upgrades work, but in short you'll gain a new ability for every additional RIF Installer you use. So yep this requires you visit a bunch of Garrisons, but hey bothackers are right at home inside Garrisons, yeah?
That said, the new system makes it very tempting to visit every Garrison you possibly can, even if it's possibly a bad idea at the time xD (speaking from personal experience here, as one of my Beta 9 streams demonstrated...)
RIF was already decent on its own (still is!), but for each new ability you get you'll probably be that much more effective (the abilities are mostly randomly handed out, and may not synergize with your immediate build/plans/tactics), eventually reaching pretty epic proportions. Abilities include features like getting more out of your Relay Couplers, using Phasewalls, and making allies immune to Programmer hacking.
The new RIF abilities UI for listing learned abilities and their effects (to open click on the HUD's RIF button, or Shift-Alt-f):
Check out the blog if you don't mind spoilers and want to read up on the full details.
Robot hacking also got a cool new hack option, amplify_resonance, which essentially turns a robot's power source into a proximity bomb that will detonate when near another power source. This can truly wreak havoc on squads, and is a lot of fun. overload_power still has its place (and is cheaper), but also more challenging to control (and slower) if using it to take out groups of targets.
And for those with or without RIF, if you're using a Datajack to run parse_system hacks on unique NPCs that might report special text to let you see their thoughts, those will now also add their unique parts to your gallery, so you don't have to murder them (or try to find a way to get them killed) just to get those IDs :)
If the silent approach isn't your thing, there is also a new way to make an even deadlier statement with your firepower: siege mode.
As most other forms of propulsion already do, all multislot treads now have their own special effect when "overloaded" (toggled a second time), transitioning them into siege mode in which you exchange your mobility for combat buffs, becoming immobile but gaining bonuses to accuracy and coverage, with even some damage resistance.
Entering and exiting the mode does take some time, as you can see in this demo here:
During the transition only the negative effects are in play, so when to activate and deactivate are even more tactically relevant decisions.
Treads also have a new Siege stat in their info window where you can access the context help and learn all the specific details.
Robots entering siege mode temporarily show as a flashing a yellow X on map, so yeah, enemies can do this, too, and you probably already know which ones ;). Yeah, it's kinda scary, but it also might give you a better opportunity to reposition or escape!
Siege treads originated as a new mechanic voted for by patrons during Beta 9 development, and were expanded from there. You can read a lot more about the process behind designing siege mechanics on the blog here.
Sample info page for Hvy. Siege Treads, one of the new dedicated parts especially effective in siege mode:
The Evasion window explicitly shows the negative avoidance modifier for being immobile:
Advanced.cfg comes with some new tread-related options, too. Set autoDeactivateSiegeModeOnMove to 1 to have siege mode automatically start transitioning out of siege mode if you try to move while in the mode, which is quicker than toggling the treads manually. And set autoActivateTreadsOnAttack to 1 to automatically switch to treads when attacking (for the accuracy boost and anti-recoil properties), which also automatically switches back to the original propulsion once moving again. This second option is quite useful for "halftrack" wheel+tread builds:
Cogmind's scoresheets have been pretty awesome over the years, allowing players to see and share a large number of statistics from each run, but as we approach the end of Beta development it was finally time to make them even awesomer, so now we've got an insane variety and level of detail with per-map stats for all those many hundreds of values, a complete history log, an ASCII map of where the run ended, a more detailed breakdown of robot types destroyed, specific cause of death (if the run ended in a loss :P), relative class distribution and dominant class per map, and so much more...
I've written an in-depth four-part "Building the Ultimate Roguelike Morgue File" series on the blog starting here, which covers a range of topics around the design and content of these new scoresheets.
But wait, Cogmind doesn't have "classes," what do you mean by "dominant class"?! As part of the new scoresheet development I devised an automated system for categorizing your build based on your current loadout and sometimes other factors. You can choose to display your current build classification (dynamically updated!) directly on the HUD with the advanced.cfg option "showBuildType". Here's a combat build supported by infowar utilities, called a "Skirmisher":
In terms of scoresheet data we'll be able to see how builds evolved over a run:
As well as which build was favored by the player over others based on total relative time used:
It'll be really cool to examine these new stats later :D
The performance stats which count towards score ended up mostly unchanged, but were expanded slightly with the addition of Regions Visited. Rewarding exploration is a good way to encourage it, so a set amount of points are earned for reaching each new map. In the early years points for "Evolutions" served that purpose well enough, earned at each new depth, but back then the world was narrower, whereas players can now spend up to a half or even three quarters of a run inside branches, exploring horizontally. While it’s true there are also bonus points to earn in branches, not everyone may actually earn those anyway, and it’s worth recognizing that they still made the trip.
Some sources of bonus points were removed, but that's because they were originally piggybacking on the bonus point system as a kind of makeshift "history log" throughout Alpha/Beta, whereas the new scoresheets actually have a full history log containing all the notable events during a run.
There are currently several hundred different types of history log messages, and reading the log is like reading a pretty decent summary of the run. Here's a short example:
With history logs we'll be able to see more specfically what special encounters players found, and how they made their way through each floor, more in word form rather than all the number-based stats (although I'm sure the turn counter will in some cases be pretty elucidating, too).
I wrote a bunch about designing and building the history log here, which includes more samples.
So as you can see these scoresheets are jam-packed with fun and useful stuff, and you also don't even have to wait until the end of your run to have access to one! Mid-run stat dumps can be created using Shift-Alt-s in the main UI, or via the Records game menu:
Dumps are great for sharing with other players, or checking on the details of your progress.
Sample causes of death recorded while I was testing that system (demonstrating a variety of sources):
Sample ASCII map of final surroundings (more on its visual design in the relevant blog post):
Over the years all of Cogmind's player scoresheets have simply been uploaded as text files, then each day I'd copy the files and run a program that produces the leaderboards and some stats, but those days are behind us now. All the new stat uploads will instead be entered into the brand new database!
This database will power the new leaderboards (among other public stat uses), which aren't currently set up, but the data from new Beta 9 runs is being collected so don't worry--as long as you've got uploads enabled, it'll all be included later.
You can even already see your run data on the server by using the URLs appended to your local scoresheet, which look something like this:
The TXT form will be an identical copy of your scoresheet, stored online, and the JSON format is one way to represent the server's internal data for that run (sample). With the new scoresheet format, a long run can end up with literally tens of thousands of data points!
Thanks goes out to Will Glynn for being instrumental in getting that up and running. So I updated the credits menu :)
Difficulty modes have been rebranded! They've now got names--Explorer/Adventurer/Rogue, and are no longer hidden in the options menu. We've had these settings for a while now, but they're underused since who knows how many people didn't seem to know they even existed xD (among other reasons discussed in the relevant blog post which goes into more detail).
Now it'll be impossible to miss them since the first time you start up Cogmind you'll be presented with a new menu that appears even before the title screen, asking which difficulty setting you want to choose.
The balance changes for each mode are more or less the same as before, as described in the manual, though there have been a few tweaks, most notably the removal of Alarm traps from Materials in Explorer mode, keeping Operators out of sight of the Materials starting locations so they don't call reinforcements right away in Explorer/Adventurer modes, and outright removing them from -10/Materials in those modes. Altogether these factors tended to significantly compound the dangers of the early depths and contribute to a lot of deaths from being overwhelmed, which doesn't really have a place in the early game for easier difficulties. (These factors are expected challenges of the traditional Rogue mode and remain unchanged.)
A bigger change to Explorer/Adventurer modes is the optional quicksave feature. So yep, permadeath is technically not enforced in those modes, allowing you to save/load to your slot at any time via Ctrl-F7/F8, or via new buttons on the game menu.
The game over window also includes a new button that allows you to load back to your last restore point instead of dying (and if you never manually created a restore point, it'll lead to an automatic quicksave made at the beginning of the current floor):
Non-permadeath/loaded runs will not be uploaded, however, and therefore not included in the leaderboards. You can see whether your current run has been loaded before, and how many times, via a new indicator that appears in the top-right corner of the HUD:
You can read my thoughts on permadeath and this feature on the blog under "Quicksaving and Restore Points," as well as in the manual under a new section titled "Saving/Loading."
For those Explorers/Adventurers who want to remove the temptation to make or use quicksaves, the feature can be entirely disabled in advanced.cfg by setting noManualSaving=1. All the relevant buttons will disappear and the hotkeys won't do anything :)
There have been quite a few balance changes, partially a result of this release taking a while to make it out there, but also because we're closing on the end of Beta so it's time to iron out a few things.
Assault squads can be a bit more powerful now, and high security dispatches grow increasingly deadly with each dispatch, changes which mainly just affect those who are out there repeatedly farming these opportunities for points--they really weren't deadly enough :P
One of the extended-game fights had also become easier than intended, so that's been rebalanced.
Research branches are somewhat less scary because the results of being scanned by a Researcher are different by area, rather than always calling in, uh, death on wings. This might have something to do with the Q-Series loadout algorithm being rewritten for Beta 9 to make them more formidable opponents ;)
In other good news, crit builds are back in business! Crit-stacking was amazing back in Alpha, but eventually got nerfed by giving the most dangerous enemies immunity to critical strikes, making it hard to fully rely on crit tactics when dealing with tougher challenges, and leading people away from those builds in general. Now almost all the bots with Critical immunity have been converted to a new "Coring" immunity, which only gives their core immunity to critical strikes, but all their parts are fair game, so it's possible to use a good crit build to strip even a powerful target, just not outright destroy them purely from critical strikes alone.
If you've been having some bad experiences with thieves, that was a bug, oops xD. Regular thieves you can run into in the caves are pretty annoying, but they shouldn't be downright evil like Master Thieves are--the code for the latter new type was accidentally also applied to the former in Beta 8, giving them all the ability to both steal from your inventory and always pick your most valuable parts! Regular thieves now once again only steal the first thing they can get their grabbers on.
The largest area of balance was part stats, and I won't go over every single one mentioned in the changelog, but some of these deserve a bit of discussion...
- Quantum Capacitors have finally been switched to occupy two slots rather than one. It's always been far too good at one slot considering the powerful low-weapon builds it enables, so now requires a bigger utility slot investment in exchange for that power. And it's still really good! Weapon Cycler effects have also been capped at a lower amount (30%) to maintain their balance against capacitors.
- Humpbacks were made somewhat irrelevant with the comeback of Hcp. Storage in Beta 8, so they've once again got their niche back and store even more parts at an even higher mass cost (!).
- Burnout rates were effectively negligible on hover/flight units due to the types of builds people have been using them in, so those rates are now high enough to be worth taking into consideration now--the extra speed should come at some cost :P
- Beta 9 is the great armor mass nerfening, mainly because good flying builds were sporting way too much powerful armor, which when combined with ridiculous speeds made them practically invulnerable. It'll be harder to put together an all-around OP build like that now, while combat builds won't have much trouble supporting the extra mass so the changes don't affect them nearly as much. Light armor mass is unchanged, but medium and heavy armors are 30% and 50% heavier, respectively. Powered Armors in particular are an outlier and weighed almost nothing so had their mass increased significantly (their original balancing factor in the design was rarity, but it's not that hard to acquire them! I'd like to preserve their current availability but make it so that it's more likely combat-focused builds will use them, rather than flight builds for which they are far too good with their amazing coverage and damage reduction).
- Beta 9 will also be known as the great EM nerf. Every single electromagnetic weapon was adjusted to consume twice as much energy per shot. This includes guns, cannons, launchers--all of them. Despite the change, EM weapons are still great, but will require a little more support from other parts (power sources and/or batteries) to use extensively. They're definitely more balanced now.
- High-rating Phase Shifter effects got a significant nerf as well. They're still good, but not insanely so as they were before. This change also indirectly nerfs one of the toughest hostiles in the game, so there is a silver lining here ;)
- Early-game sensor utilities got a bit of a buff to make them somewhat more useful (before they're of course quickly replaced by better versions anyway). This includes Sensor Arrays, Imp. Sensor Arrays, Terrain Scanners, Imp. Terrain Scanners, Mak. Terrain Scanners, Seismic Analyzers, and Terrain Scan Processors. So maybe give them a second look if you're already used to ignoring them :P
- Piercing weapons got a buff to their special effect, doubling target core exposure rather than multiplying it by 1.33. The original figure sounded large but the way it's calculated made for almost negligible gains--the new value is significant enough to matter against the average target.
Surprise (not really), there are lots more little QoL features in Beta 9!
Machine hacking got some nice upgrades, probably the coolest being the one voted for by patrons during Beta 9 development: expanded autocompletion with a menu based system.
This is especially useful with part schematics, listing all those valid at the current machine given the current depth, with partial name matching of course, and tab autocompletion.
As you can see in the demos above, the new behavior uses a two-step process treating the command and variable separately, rather than treating the entire string as one for the purposes of autocompletion as before. As a result, using Ctrl-Backspace only erases back to the previous open parenthesis if there is one, rather than always clearing the command.
Note that changing the system's behavior also required limiting autocomplete to the Tab key, rather than allowing either Tab or Spacebar.
Manually hacking a machine target which is already listed as a direct hack no longer incurs the usual indirect hacking penalty, either, for those who just want to type and not worry about first checking what already might be available.
And there are several new hacks to discover out there...
Because we can never have enough ways to facilitate part management, here's another: Swapping back and forth between two parts is now even easier via the new autopair system that remembers which parts have been swapped. You don't even have to think about it or look for a specific part in the list, because it's always assigned to 'Y' in the swap menu.
Notice the tick mark to the left of parts that have an autopair, as a reminder.
Parts ejected by machines now push away other parts, rather than rolling the ejected part over others. This is to ensure the newest part is actually placed instead of possibly being crushed due to lack of space.
Player-dropped parts crushed for that reason are now explicitly reported in the message log so they don't seem to disappear mysteriously (although technically they have always played special sfx and the parts list animation for destruction).
Inventory type-wise and mass-wise sorting also subsort by integrity (high-to-low) for otherwise matching items:
Prop explosion data is now shown in the scan window, making this more apparent without having to open the full info window:
I hope you enjoy Beta 9, a big release which is really like two major releases in one :P. Although the new leaderboards aren't ready yet, be sure to activate uploading in the options menu (and set your desired player name!) if you want to participate in them when they do go live. Next up I'll be sharing some stats from the lengthy Beta 8 period, as usual.
Saves from earlier versions are incompatible with Beta 9, but even if you're on Steam and Cogmind automatically updates, Beta 8.2 is still available via its own legacy branch and you can roll back to finish a run in progress first if you like.