BIS Weekly May 22nd

I guarantee this panel will see a lot of iteration

I guarantee this panel will see a lot of iteration

Another long stretch. Most of the UI/hooks around Tinkering are in place now, meaning I can start working on the actual gameplay. This sprint included work introducing Ship Modules.

For now I’ve got a placeholder UI in to let you select from anything you own that can be tinkered with. On the right you can see the initial/basic “item details” popup you see when you select such an item, letting you choose whether you want to work on that particular item or not.


Tinker Overview

So, quick overview of what this shows, and how it pertains to the current design of Tinkering.

First, when you tinker, you’re scored on three different aspects of your solutions – your color choices, how well you match the overall shape, and patterns you match while you do this. To some extent these three fight with one another, i.e., it’s hard to do well with patterns and colors at the same time.

Those scores translate into sets of related item improvements in a sort of “top score” way. So if you continually score exactly 4000 points on ‘Color’, eventually you will stop being able to improve color-related stats. You’ll have to improve your performance to refine those items further.

Generally, large gains in score will be uncommon, and driven more based on your characters’ leveling, items, and upgrades that you find or buy. For example, a Tinker module with 2 tinker “bays” (where blocks spawn) is significantly better than with just 1 tinker bay. When you can afford that second-tier Tinker module, you’ll find you can improve many of your items a fair bit more.


Score Bonuses

To complement these large, discrete gains, each time you tinker with an item you get small permanent bonuses to your score. That way, even if you don’t beat your old high score, at least you made some forward progress.

These permanent score bonuses are split: For now, 50% is applied to the tinker module itself, and 50% is applied to the item. This creates some inertia around specific items, but not too much. It also means when you get new items later in the game, you’re able to improve them much more rapidly than your initial attempts.

The score bonuses are not capped for now, though I may introduce some kind of diminishing returns on their scaling for balance purposes.


Three Tiers

I’m planning on having three tiers of Tinkering available:

  1. Tier 1, “Free”: Always available, the basic tinkering approach.
  2. Tier 2, “Metal”: As you gather valuable metal pips, you can use them for a boosted form of Tinkering. The cost depends on the item type… Tinkering with electronics might require copper or platinum, whereas tinkering with your hull might require iron or other space-y materials.

    Tier 2 tinkering provides a larger permanent score bonus (say, 5 or 10%, vs. 1% from Tier 1), as well as relaxing some of the constraints you normally face. This means you’re likely to get a higher overall score, or be better able to target something you’d found difficult before.

    Additionally, I may add special stats that can only be improved through Tier 2 tinkering.

  3. Tier 3, “Elemental”: Elemental pips are very rare and have multiple uses, so you likely won’t use this mode often. When you do, though, you’ll get a very significant shift to permanent score bonuses, even more relaxed constraints, and other qualitative changes to enable you to achieve a much higher score than usual.

    As with Tier 2, it is likely that Tier 3 tinkering will offer unique stats to improve.


Ship Modules

Ship modules are expensive hardware you can acquire, giving your ship new capabilities. As with all other equipment, they can be tinkered with to improve their capabilities. (Yes, this even includes your Tinker module.)

All ships start with an intrastellar engine module, allowing you to travel between your starting star’s planets and their moons and/or space stations. Leaving the star will require an upgraded engine module. All ships also start with a basic mining module, allowing you to mine planets and moons you visit.

For the time being, the only module available for purchase is the Tinker Lab. Acquiring this enables the Tinker gameplay mode as described above. Of course, not all modules necessarily create new types of gameplay, but I hope to make them all have a significant qualitative effect on the game. E.g. if you buy a “hull armor” module, space combat should feel different afterwards, rather than just adding some number X to your current armor.

This same goal applies to module upgrades. E.g., upgrading your ship engine to second tier engine doesn’t just make you Y% faster in space – it allows you to jump between stars.

Those small stat changes are part of what Tinkering is meant to cover, so if you want to move around faster, that’s where to look.


Next Sprint (or 2 or 3…)

I’ll be implementing and testing the basic Tinker mode. Additionally, I’ll be splitting my time between BIS and another as-yet-unannounced game. I may switch from “BIS weekly reports” to general SRG progress reports, or perhaps alternate between the projects (so each has bi-weekly updates).

Until next time!

Posted in BAWD, Developer Blog Posts, Games, News

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.


Difficulty

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.


Stations/Shops

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.


Roadmap

  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