Ruins Of The Ancients, Prescott Starbase, Enemy Caster, HOTAS Support
Today’s production update will be the last for this year. Obviously, we had different topics planned for this one. We’re fully aware that many of you still feel bummed out about our new Early Access release date, even though we have received a lot of understanding for our reasoning from our backers. So thanks again for your support!
We’d like to conclude an unprecedentedly rough year for probably all of us on a high note. Thanks to our new timeline, we got some cool new content and features to share that would not have made it into the Early Access release version (our code freeze was pushed back by two weeks, the content freeze by four weeks).
Ruins Of The Ancients
You might recall from the Kickstarter campaign that you awesome EVERSPACE fans unlocked the stretch goal “The Ancients’ Rifts,” a sector in the endgame offering extra hard challenges and the best loot in the game. In this area, you will encounter remains of a mysterious alien race first found in EVERSPACE, and you’ll get an early taste of what’s to come in the ruins of Ancients’ structures scattered on an all-new moon in the Union system.
Encountering the Ancients without any warning whatsoever was a major highlight in EVERSPACE. Their ability to transfer energy into matter as well as control time and space added new challenges in combat, the opportunity of fast-travel, as well as some wicked alien tech to play within the endgame—all must-haves in any great open-world space RPG, right?
So, how better to introduce the mysteries of fast-travel as well as “mind-bending” weapon technology and devices (with a chance of surprising side effects) in the universe of EVERSPACE than utilizing some ancient alien tech that nobody seems to know much about yet, hence the generic name. But what if The Ancients turn out to be deeply connected to the established lore? Definitely not a new concept but proven in popular sci-fi classics many times before, and yet endless possibilities for adding new ideas in EVERSPACE 2…
As revealed in production update #19, the star system Union is a bustling trading hub in EVERSPACE 2. While the newly-introduced and independent Freelancers run extremely profitable businesses in high-tech gear, medical supplies, and mining resources in the clouds high above planet Culver, the omnipresent Outlaws, already known from the predecessor, make a killing with loot of any kind from scavenger and piracy hunts and sell it for high profit to the highest bidder at the black market of Prescott Starbase.
Think of it as a highly condensed version of an entire city floating in space with various departments, ranging from the neon-light-flooded shopping and entertainment area, the jam-packed residential neighborhood, all the way down to the industrial and dirty space harbor district—you know the gist of such sci-fi megacities because humans and aliens are alike when it comes to basic individuals’ needs and business.
While it is still under development and far from being complete, we’re excited to announce that Prescott Starbase will be explorable on day #1 and that we’ll add more functionality and opportunities to interact over the next year during Early Access.
Using an analogy from the movie industry, NPCs in video games are somewhat like actors that have to be cast for each role from a pool of talents and show up on set at the right time—definitely not all at once, except for the inevitable cast photo, maybe.
Our systems were designed to populate locations with the occasional visit from different NPCs for both friend and foe – like background actors, to make a scene lively and convincing that there is more going on in a given fictional world than what you can actually see.
No matter if watching a movie or playing a video game (especially in RPGs), it’s all about triggering that amazing Kopfkino to make you believe you are actually present in that fictional world of your choice. If not done right, you may not be able to put your finger on it, but you can tell something is off, immediately making you realize you are just sitting in front of a screen.
Obviously, in video games, especially in open-world looter shooter RPGs, you can interact with NPCs in many different ways. At the same time, your current loadout and stats add yet another dimension of complexity “to the scene”. This requires both careful level and combat design to prevent immersion from breaking, no matter what players do.
Most of the time, we’ve worked with groups of enemies sufficient for compelling encounters in the Alpha and Beta. However, as the game world of EVERSPACE 2 will grow a lot over the next 12 months, so will the need for more encounter variety.
While we’re off to a good start with the closed Beta, keeping you guys and hopefully many more space pilots hooked in EVERSPACE 2 for tens if not hundreds of hours during Early Access and beyond is by far our biggest challenge. This is why we focus on making each location worth visiting beyond exploring and looking at new stuff, which can get old quickly, no matter how pretty the vista might be.
To get a tighter grip on things, we established a new in-house tool (the Enemy Caster) to help our designers in trying out different combinations of enemies within seconds and playtesting if they make an exciting challenge without leading to any unfair results—provided players engage within a reasonable level. That said, there’s nothing wrong about feeling lucky and testing your skill boundaries against lvl +5 enemies if you so wish… (Erik didn’t know that we changed the tool’s name to Enemy Caster as the original one was misleading).
Generally, every enemy ship has its individual stats (hit points, damage output, speed, agility, etc.), all sorts of equipment as well as specific attack and retreat behavior—it’s almost as complex as designing for the player and can easily turn out being an even deeper rabbit hole than what it looks like on paper. However, the more shortcuts game designers are willing to take by limiting what enemies can do and which items they can use compared to what’s at disposal for the player creates a shallower overall combat experience, weaker immersion, and less fun overall.
Thanks to the comparatively simple player progression through the predecessor’s linear game world, plus not being able to back-travel made things even easier, we were able to balance all enemy stats within long spreadsheets. Due to the much higher complexity in combat design for our ambitious open-world looter shooter RPG, we already reached the limits of this method within the first star system of EVERSPACE 2, which is why we’re pretty excited about our new tools. Imagine how nasty it would be if you get pinned by a bunch of pesky Webber Drones and before you even had a chance to stun them with an EMP blast and free yourself, a group of self-destructing drones would appear right next to you… Oh, wait!
Long story short, for the Early Access release, we already have quite a few more enemy types than in the Beta, and more to come over the next 12 months. Thanks to our new in-house tools, we’ll be able to offer you guys an even broader gameplay-variety in combat on your journey through six or eight star systems, plus the endgame. To ensure that these new combat encounters are properly balanced and fun for as many pilots as possible, we’ll heavily rely on everyone’s feedback during Early Access, so keep it coming and share your thoughts on our discord or in the forums on Steam and everspace.game.
Due to popular demand from EVERSPACE players, we added rudimentary HOTAS support post-launch to that title, even though it had never been a promised feature because we believed it wasn’t a great fit for fast-paced 3D space shooters in general. The implementation did work but required some fiddling to assign input parameters for each model, which led to some frustration and quite a few negative user reviews on Steam. To create a better experience for HOTAS fans, we’re putting more emphasis on this feature in EVERSPACE 2 right from the beginning.
For initial test purposes, we implemented experimental HOTAS support in the closed Alpha/Beta, which still requires some tweaking depending on your hardware and is not as robust as you can expect from an officially released product. After analyzing feedback from test pilots using HOTAS, we decided to overhaul the entire implementation completely and add presets for the most common setups on day #1 of Early Access for the models below:
- T.Flight Hotas X
- T.Flight Hotas One
- T.Flight Hotas 4
- Hotas Warthog
- T16000M (Single)
- T16000M (Dual Config)
- Logitech Extreme 3D Pro
- Logitech/Saitek X56
- Logitech/Saitek X52
- Logitech/Saitek X52 Professional
Now, while this should be solid enough for Early Access (but not the final product!), joystick pilots should bear in mind that piloting a starfighter in EVERSPACE 2 is more like flying an agile assault chopper than a supersonic jet fighter. To defeat ES2-baddies in space, combat is more about 360° two-axis precision aiming and dodging enemy fire by swift two-axis strafing as well as quick-boosting to get out of the fire zone and then turning on a dime to counter-attack. Much different than pulling off barrel rolls, corkscrew loops, or an Immelmann like in old-school in-atmosphere dogfighting.
Of course, you absolutely can do all that, but fancy dogfight maneuvers won’t help you much because your opponents will turn on a dime anytime, too. We know this probably won’t hold back any die-hard space sim fans using their HOTAS/HOSAS gear and disable inertia dampeners for the extra kick of immersion in EVERSPACE 2, which, admittedly, is a fun experience. We’re just saying: be aware of what you are getting yourselves into… it’ll be a tough ride! Having said that, we’re working hard to give you the best HOTAS experience for such a fast-paced game as possible.
Alrighty, that was quite a lot for our concluding production in 2020. We hope everyone has enjoyed the space ride so far. If you did, don’t be a stranger and join our fun/informative/goofy live streams every Friday on Twitch and YouTube, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm CET / 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm EDT / 11:00 am to 1:00 pm PDT. I’m pretty sure that Erik, our one-and-only Community Ambassador, and host of the weekly RFG show, will spill a few more beans than we agreed…
Well, it probably has been an unexpectedly rough year for everyone. So more than ever, we wish you y’all a wonderful winter holiday with your loved ones and hope to see you super relaxed, happy, and excited for the EVERSPACE 2 launch in January. 🚀👀💥🙌
your dedicated ROCKFISH Games Team