BIS Weekly May 8th

Currently you sell for 25% of the buy price... Generous? Stingy? Who knows.

Currently you sell for 25% of the buy price… Generous? Stingy? I have no idea.

The "density" font isn't working for me, but it's fine as a placeholder

The “density” font isn’t working for me, but it’s fine as a placeholder

I feel good about this week: Difficulty and Stations/Shops. I’m actually a little bit surprised at how much more fun the game is now. It’s feeling more like a legitimate game rather suddenly, and that’s a great feeling.


For Difficulty, I changed planet generation to increase the toughness of tiles as you get further into the planet. You find significantly more pips, of higher quality, but it demands better blocks.

The rate at which this increases depends just on the planet’s “richness”, for now – the richer the planet, the faster “density” increases. (I don’t love that term, but for now it’s what I’ve got.) You can see to the right how this is indicated – for now these gradients down the sides of the play field show the current density, and how far until the next step up.

You can also see a somewhat subtle change in the screenshots: block shadow and glow (the outline when a block is ‘selected’ or ‘active’) are now tinted in the block’s overall color. I find this really helps emphasize the color-centric identity of blocks.

For the time being, this is poorly balanced. There are two main reasons for this:

  1. Density and “tile value” don’t increase in lock-step, nor are they proportional.
  2. Density doesn’t translate directly to difficulty. If your blocks are all power-1, then density 1 tiles are effectively the “minimum” difficulty, which we’ll call “1”. Then a few layers down, you run into density 2 tiles: these seem at least twice as hard to clear, since they muck with your careful planning.

    It’s even more obvious when you consider having a bunch of power-3 blocks. Density 1-3 are all effectively the same difficulty. Then 4-6 are essentially the same difficulty as density 2 was when you had power-1.

    Essentially, each block power you gain, you add 1 density (8-12 layers) to your ‘easy’ list, another 2 to your “2-clear” list, another 3 to your “3-clear” list, etc. So by power 5, you can dig down to density 15 (average ~100 levels) in just 3 clears per line. Depending on what your ‘sweet spot’ is, that could be very rapid acceleration.

The consequence of this lack of balance is that optimal behavior is to clear as far into a dig as you can doing one-clear-per-line (maybe two-clear), and then move on to another dig site. I don’t think that simply restarting is a fun path to push players onto, though, so I’ll be working on ways to fix this.


The changes to stations and shops have really helped increase how rewarding gameplay is.

The gist of what has changed is this: Each space station has its own shop, those shops have their own unique inventory of random (for now) blocks, and you can sell/buyback your own blocks.

Coupled with the “block deck” functionality added middle of last month, you’ve now got a little bit of character growth and a little bit of customization:

  • You can buy higher-level blocks (since blocks don’t level up yet, this is the only way to gain power), and
  • You can buy different block shapes, so you aren’t forced to use shapes you don’t like. (Looking at you, S, Z, and U.)
  • I guess if you really prefer certain shades, you can keep an eye out for high-level versions of each block in that color.

On the right you can see the ‘sell’ tab, which looks mostly the same as the other tabs, ‘cept it shows you which blocks are in your current deck (glowing/highlighted).

Lastly, a sort of meta change: I finally put in a “save screenshot” debug command, so now I can start grabbing consistently-sized screenshots. What a concept.

Next Sprint (or 2)

I think it’s time to add a new gameplay mode: Tinkering.

Now that blocks are inventory items that have level and power, and now that that matters in some sense (thanks to density), I think it’s time to enable the first bit of real ‘character growth’ via Tinkering.

The core idea behind Tinkering mode is that you can tinker with any complex technology you own: your ship, your blocks, your ship and skill modules, your AI crewmembers, etc. Successful tinkering makes that technology better, and that’s the raison d’être for the mode.

Tinkering is a more strategic mode than the classic vertical style. You can move pieces freely in order to achieve the best possible solution. The quality and properties of that solution yield different effects.

What all will be impacted by tinkering is still to be decided, of course. The base goal is simple: a scalar Tinker-success metric translates to a scalar improvement in the object. E.g., you made it through three rounds of tinkering on your new U-block, so now it has +3 base power.

What I hope to do in addition to this is to allow for more nuanced change, so that in addition to “how well did you tinker?” there’s an orthogonal “what other interesting success did you have while tinkering?” E.g., if you managed to have only 2 colors, or all like-colors were contiguous, you might get boosts to the coloration power of a block, or maybe your AI will have an extra rank in “color awareness”, able to utilize color better than before.


  1. Persistent Space: See last week’s Roadmap
  2. Coloration & Combo gameplay: See last week’s Roadmap
  3. Ship & Ship Modules: In the run-up to combat modes, I’d like to allow for the purchase and upgrade of ships and specific ship modules. The basic dig and space travel modules are always (maybe?) available, but you’ll be able to buy a tinker module, upgraded engines, guns, and smelting, modules, etc.

    For the time being I’m thinking your ship frame/hull will have numeric stats on its own, as well. I would like to avoid simple statistics like “armor”, “health”, “speed” in favor of something a little more interesting. For example, instead of “speed”, a ship might have extra tactical positions available each round. The impact is similar (more mobility in battle), but feels higher-impact than saying “This ship has 2.4 speed vs. the normal 1.8… … Do I care?”

See you next week, same Space Robot time, same Space Robot channel!

Posted in BAWD, Developer Blog Posts, Games, News

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