It’s been an interesting year for the project, feedback fairly early on in the release caused us to slam on the brakes and have a real think about the direction in which the project was going. We had two choices; do what is normally done and continue down that path and release the game hoping to learn the lessons in the sequel, or do the honest thing taking it back to the start and work in the stuff you really wanted to see.
We chose the honest path meaning progress this year has been somewhat of a forward-sideways step rather than a direct lunge forward. Even so mechanically things are shaping up well, once we have matured and stabilised the code base the rest of the route to completion is a case of joining the dots, it’s high level stuff that will come together quickly once the remaining assets arrive and the story is finalised.
How quickly I hear you ask? Well it’s difficult to say.
There aren’t any rulebooks on the creation of this type of game, well actually we suppose there are; we could take another game and clone it, but that doesn’t really advance the genre. Besides it's been said before, the reason we are here is to explore the RTS – take it apart, assess each piece, put it back together incorporating elements from other genres if they fit.
We’re three years into the project now (one year on Steam,) we are clear now on exactly what the finished product will look like and it’s very exciting but it’s safe to say that our chosen path means that we face some pretty serious challenges in the coming year.
These challenges directly hinge on the unilateral changes that Steam continue to make.
These changes might be for the good of the customer and we are behind them, what's more we remain grateful for being offered the opportunity to trade on Steam. But had we known a year ago the changes that would be made we would likely not have released on Steams Early Access and instead continued down a pre-order/beta route but there is no going back now.
We work hard to ensure that you guys are kept informed and release regular updates, but that might not be enough to keep our heads above water anymore.
The real killer is this ‘rolling aggregate score’ they’ve introduced which has lead to a change in Players reviewing habits. What we’re seeing is that when people have positive things to say they’ll often post on the forums but when people have feedback or issues they often leave a negative review. This is worrying because negative reviews can easily kill a project dead – especially if the aggregate score falls into ‘Mixed’ which happens when a project has 70% (or below) positive reviews – this is simply brutal.
What’s more we have zero control over them, even if we capitulate to what is effectively blackmail and fix the issues by then the Player has refunded and moved on.
Then there’s the issue of grey market sales, the refunds themselves, games websites being closed to indies (probably a blessing in disguise judging from the way games are reviewed these days,) social media reach being intentionally borked - all these little things are eating away at the money we need to finish this thing.
So what does this uncertainty mean for Shallow Space?
Firstly don’t worry; personally, I haven’t spent 3 years of my life on a project only to roll it up when the going gets tough. No f**king way!
Take a look around on Steam for similar projects to ours – open RTS games set in space and you won’t find many (if any at all) and the ones you do find have been rushed to completion. This is because they are extremely unlikely to get funding from investors or the crowd because they are not a safe bet.
But this project is different.
We have proven ourselves to be dedicated, we have something tangible and the most important thing: We have made some money. That effectively makes it a dead cert in the eyes of many an investor. The game is undeniably good looking so potentially we could Kickstart it and even if it failed it’s a nice little publicity push.
Needless to say, more money means more developers and artists.
These are hostile times for any indie project and every bone in our bodies is screaming out to rush this thing to completion. But games take time to make – if anything we need to slow it right down, take bigger steps forward taking time to make sure the new inclusions are more stable.
We need to get a business plan together and start canvassing for investment because the games completion shouldn’t rely so much on Steam profits, especially as it becomes an increasingly hostile place to do business and the cash reserves dwindle.
So admittedly it’s a struggle, but without these struggles we would become complacent and above all the woes progress remains strong. But don’t take our word for it, go back through the previous news, and take a look at the YouTube gameplay videos from 6 months ago. You’ve all bought into a project that is progressive and moving forwards.
This will be a good year.
We can expect 3 times the number of ships presently in the game; the asset factory is churning in the background making it so. The author has fleshed out the main storyline and sidequests and will soon start working on lines for voice acting.
We’re working on the Zone/Map switching so that it is seamless, resource collecting, construction and working on that planetary map but implementation-wise this is all superficial stuff reliant on the foundations we’ve already built that improve every week.
The hard work is done now, all that remains is to tidy up and continue to build on those foundations. We foresee struggles but fortunately we are now stood at the top of the hill looking down. We must be a little more careful in todays landscape and spend more time building the business and not just the game but there is little doubt that 2017 is the year we’ve been working towards.
Wishing all of our Players and followers a happy new year and the biggest thanks from the team for all your support in 2016!
Just a quick note to add that we have a round of fixes and tweaks coming in for updates that have been released in the last few days - details below.
Some great feedback coming back, special thanks to SnottyGremlin for his clear and constructive criticism, very useful to hear from new Players!
As always, we really appreciate the support and we hope you have a great festive period!
Update 6.1.2 Change Log
- Added option to disable 'Film Grain' in graphic options - Fixes to crash caused by clicking 'End Deployment' with no units deployed - Fixes to camera drift when Joystick plugged in - Fixes to scrolling using mousewheel affecting camera zoom - Fixed crash saving game with containers - Fixed crash refreshing inventory window - Fixes various to stability - Tweaked default camera panning speed - Tweaked targetboxes to make them more visible - Tweaked Ship Builder UI button to close on click if already open
Update 6.1.1 Change Log
- Fixes to combined Inventory window - Fixes to Save/Load - Fixes to missions/objectives not being cleaned up on game exit - Fixes to tutorial being show in Quick Battle mode - Fixes to rare crash on mission 'All Good Things' - Fixed issue with time controls animating incorrectly on game restart - Fixed issue with Player ship fleet panel not spawning correctly on load game - Fixed issue with 'ghost ship' on load game
As promised, we are pleased to announce Update 6.1 boasting a fully interactive tutorial!
By interactive we mean that it offers up a set of instructions and the tutorial continues once you have completed them. We figured it would be a better way to learn than an instructional video.
It's comprehensive and will take you through camera controls, group creation and fleet movement, inventory management and ship configuration and mission/objective management and basic combat drills. Expect the tutorial to grow as the game grows, with the impending station building and resource collection mechanics to be injected imminently.
We also have a few minor fixes from an incremental patch released a few days ago listed below.
We are simply bursting with excitement right now and if you're not then you should be, with the UI refresh and the tutorial framework out the way - quick stop to update the game media and then it's time for one almighty meat injection!
As always we massively appreciate the supportive comments and if you've just joined us welcome, take a flick through some of the previous news and strap yourself in, because things are about to get REAL interesting round here.
Incremental Update 6.0.1 Change Log
- Fixed destroyed enemy causing crash in sandbox - Fixed close button doesn't work in Dialogue window - Fixed context menu not appearing for modular stations - Fixed incorrect ship reference in Dialogue window subtitle
We are pleased to announce that Update 6 is ready! This is the most significant patch released to date with literally hundreds of additions and tweaks so we're going to break from the normal tradition of listing them all because there are simply too many.
If you haven't already we recommend you take a look at the previous article which will tell you what to expect from Update 6 but in addition to all that good stuff we have even more crammed in for good measure.
So we created a system called 'Context Targets' which allowed us to use abilities which targeted NPC ships such as 'Open Communications' or 'Subsystem Targeting.' Since implementing that the feedback coming back is that it's a little cumbersome so we've replaced Context Targets with a pop-up menu accessed simply by left-clicking on a NPC ship (with at least one Player ship selected.)
The context menu intelligently lists all the applicable abilities from the selected ships as well as the various standard options like 'Move To,' 'Trade' and 'Open Communications' making life much easier.
Previously the dialogue panel was anchored to the ability bar, now it has it's own dedicated window. This means you can effectively have more than one conversation at a time, which will make more sense when we start to roll in additional mission types and widen the scope of play.
We've streamlined and unified the actions taken on Left/Right click. So right clicking on a text link in the notification panel or mission objective is the same as right clicking on the thing itself for any Ship, Space Object or Zone. This makes things easier to control and much more fluid.
Here's an example:
You select and group your fleet
You click on the ship with the exclamation mark to see what they want
You find they have a mission on offer - you accept
You tick the box on the Objective UI piece to track it and while over there you right click on the Zone link automatically sending your ships there.
Left clicking on items in play raises or lowers the tactical overlay to their level making them easier to navigate towards.
There are far more notifications now confirming actions, telling you how many jumps away a target is and letting you know about Out of Zone activities such as your allies spotting an enemy vessel.
We also have all the fixes and additions brought across from the BETA patches:
So this is a massive step forward and it's a lot more stable than Update 5 so we're making it live right away. Now that the UI is better look forward to Update 6.1 in which we'll be introducing the Tutorial and updating the in-game manual pages.
The 3D UI has been decluttered giving the Zones a more open feel and the 2D UI has matured.
So before we delve into creating the tutorial and adding new stuff we thought it prudent to get rid of the prototype UI elements and really look at how we interact with the game to make things a little more involving and intuitive.
As you can no doubt immediately see, a number of things stand to change in Update 6 as we sweep the prototype user interface under the table and replace it with something altogether a little more mature.
Spatial User Interface (Battlegrid)
Some of the feedback coming from you guys mention that the Overhaul doesn’t yet fully capture the majesty of space. After breaking the scene down into its abstract parts and questioning them we found that the grid and border around the game edge made the maps (or Zones) feel a little claustrophic. What’s more, when polled, 70% of you hinted that we should explore an alternative to the grid based reference plane.
Your wish is our command.
Previously the levels were pizza box shaped; now we’ve changed them to a cylinder shape. Not only does this feel more fitting when combined with the radial camera, it gives us an better sense of scale and to us, feels a little more natural. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating and we look forward to feedback on that.
The overall composition of the UI improves the games general ambiance.
2D User Interface
The fleet panel (top left) has been condensed reducing the full width faction logo icons which looked a little dodgy at resolutions below 2K. Unfortunately we couldn’t keep all the large hologram fleet icons on screen at the same time because it lead to scrolling, but clicking on the smaller tactical icons and Soft Group icons will correctly filter the lists.
We have removed the health bars on the fleet icons and made the hologram image of the ship itself the health bar. Quite a bizarre little tweak but it’s surprising just how much it assists us when looking for damage status and as a bonus it’s more aesthetically appealing.
The situation panel (top right) has also been reworked.
Previously we had square Zone icons with numbers that made the thing look a little like a bingo calling card, now we’ve replaced them with pictorial representations of the contents of a Zone. If a Zone is dark, it’s still listed making it much easier to track changes as you and you allies chart space. It also makes more sense as this is known space – so really as a Commander you would know how to get there just not necessarily what awaits you…
Otherwise we’ve tweaked the fonts, position of the elements and how they react when you use them to give the whole thing a more polished feel.
Picture additional planets orbiting that Sun, with lines joining the Jump gates between them. We're not ruling out orbital mechanics either.
Update 6 will see some cosmetic dressing to the Zone map with large amounts of work going on under the hood to prepare for additional planets. Again the Zone icons have been replaced with images, all Zones are now shown and an orbit line added for the example Planet Ares around the systems Sun.
It’s important to note that the Zone map looks cluttered because we’ve added a larger number of Zones to a single planet than we might normally. As we add additional planets we can expect to spread things out a bit visually.
Lessons from the old Alpha
The old menu screen is back!
We put a lot of work into that old Alpha and in the transition it’s possible that we might have forgotten about some of the advancements it offered us. (Remember you can still access the old Alpha using the BETA tab in the game properties.)
Some more feedback indicates that the dedicated Hangar from the old alpha is quite sorely missed. We’re happy to report once the tutorial has been completed and we've switched on a few more key mechanics we’ll be bringing that back.
We’ve also resurrected the original menu screen showcasing the newest ships as we were missing it!
That’s not all
Throughout the duration of Update 6 we’ll really be addressing the user experience (UX). The tutorial is quite a common request now but that actually tells us that things aren’t quite as obvious or intuitive as they need to be.
An example of this will be the inclusion of a small contextual menu when you click on a Ship or Space Object. This will allow you to quickly access actions such as Open Comms or Attack, perhaps hide in a Space Object without having to mess about with context targets or the ability bar.
We’ll also be looking at the Zone and Space Object tooltips – do they really tell us what we need to know?
What’s more, we have 5 new ships about to land including fixed weapon attack Cruisers and pirate ‘aberrate’ variants and we’ll also be adding in some random encounters.
Update 6 is just being polished off and should land in the next few days.
We hope this demonstrates how quickly things are moving now as we continue the process of adding and refining, and we hope you join us in our excitement as we continue cramming this thing full of win! As always, thanks for the continued support and if you have any feedback please hit the forums or even the comments below – you should know by now that we are very good listeners!
Hopefully you've all enjoyed the rapid pace of progress over the last couple of months as we mature the Shallow Space Open-world Overhaul.
Help us get into the Top 100 for the 3rd year running! You don't need an account, no requirement to log in at all, just a few clicks required to vote to help us secure a little bit of additional exposure.
As an added incentive to exercise that itchy click-finger, head over to the games IndieDB page to see more angles of the latest MFC fixed weapon attack Cruiser due to be added to the alpha imminently! Dubbed simply the 'MFC Marauder' we need to give it a more exciting name - any suggestions?
Another BETA patch yielding additional work on unit veterancy and experience with the proceeds of a battle now distributed amongst the ships. Experience is dealt as a ratio, so if a single ship did 75% of the damage they'll receive 75% of the XP.
Interesting to note that with this system, experience is split between all ships that caused damage to the target, so swarming the enemy with a huge overpowering fleet will result in minimal XP rewards.
We've also removed the clutter of the attack lines and will shortly replace them with another style of visual confirmation. Otherwise, a couple more fixes and tweaks - another minor patch to come before we merge with the public build.
In this BETA patch we see a continuation of the saving and loading mechanics introduced in 5.3, one handy item is the 'emergency save' feature which will automatically save your game if there is a crash.
Otherwise we continue the combat mechanics focus of Update 5 in general preparing to switch on unit veterancy and experience, and adding in idle shield recharge when not in combat.
In addition there are a bunch of fixes and tweaks as suggested by the community - keep them coming!
Update 5.3.1 Change Log
Added emergency save-game on crash
Added Officer/experience framework
Added ranks to sample ships
Added shield recharge when ship out of combat for 45 seconds
Added shield recharge rolling HUD text
Added ship tooltip to targetbox, and tactical and fleet icons
Added save message to notification panel
Fixed crash on ship UI animation
Fixed issue with fleet icons not appearing for sighted enemy
Fixed Space Object text no longer affected by time scaling
Fixed issues clearing down refinery dialog options
Fixed crash switching zones if mouseover Space Object
Fixed correct behavior on ESC press when save/load window shown
Updated Space Object tooltips
Note this patch is currently in BETA, but you can access it if you own the game:
Right click on the game in your Steam library
Select 'BETAS' tab
Select 'testing - Overhaul Beta' from the list
BETA patches are only available on Windows and Linux.
As mentioned, a new beta branch has been opened up. The purpose of the BETA is to ensure that updates are more thoroughly testing before they hit the public domain, more information about this here.
To get to the BETA:
Right click on the game in your Steam library
Select 'BETAS' tab
Select 'testing - Overhaul Beta' from the list
Note that the BETA is only available on Windows and Linux.
Saved games will be transferable but you'll need to fish them out of the 'SavedGames' folder in the main game folder in your Steam library (soon we'll enable Steams 'Cloud Save' which will hopefully do this for us.)
Update 5.3 Change Log
- Added save/load buttons to menu - Added save game window (New, Replace, Delete) - Added load game window (Load, Delete) - Added most recent save selected ready to go - Added F5 quick save game - Fixed crash closing petty trade window after cancelled trade - Fixed crash using ability if context target is destroyed
It’s that time again folks, but this time, rather than the mindless utterances of a dedicated developer – we’re going to directly discuss some of the feedback that’s coming in.
Where's the damned tutorial?
We do have in-game help listing controls with a basic explanation of some of the games mechanics (top-centre left, question mark button,) but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that there needs to be some degree of ‘show me’ style instruction to the game.
It’s been suggested that a video tutorial would suffice but experience tells us that these are too quickly rendered obsolete, so the tutorial needs to be in-game.
The problem is, as more mechanics are introduced, the tutorial will have to be continually rewritten to accommodate them leading to a duplication of effort.
Looking at the feedback now coming in, we now accept that we will have to concede to the request of the Players for a tutorial and have plans to include a modular tutorial that will grow as the games mechanics grow. To start with, the basic module might encompass fleet manoeuvres and management later including an intermediate module of resource collecting and trade.
In any case, you have spoken and we are listening – the tutorial is now a top priority.
What's with the bugs?
I’d like to start off by saying that actually we have quite a slick bug reporting and resolving process here!
When the game crashes it tells you exactly what has happened and copies it to your clipboard. When we receive the crash report, either on the Steam forums or the Official game forums we are able to directly patch the issue and have a hotfix uploaded to all three platforms often within a day.
Let’s break down our rough 4 week development and release cycle:
Week 1: Major update; new features – new bugs introduced
Week 2 & 3: Incremental updates; Hotfixes and additional supporting features introduced – bugs get addressed
Week 4: Update freeze – game is relatively stable
This really works from an internal development point of view; the project moves quickly, features are introduced and tested and from the feedback the bugs are squashed. To some degree this is an ideal reality of ‘bleeding edge’ alpha software.
The problem is, people are paying money for this and content aside - people rightly expect the alpha to be playable and with this current system sometimes it’s only stable for 50% of a cycle which is simply not good enough (though it should be considered that we are adding stuff during that 50%!)
So what’s the problem? Well to a degree we are pushing forward at a pace that doesn’t really allow for sufficient testing to be completed before the updates are released. Often, only the new stuff that is coded is tested but the new stuff is breaking the old stuff. Problems of this type are known as regression issues which is the price of our rapid progress.
We can’t slow the project down, there is too much to do. But the issues are annoying some Players and getting us out of bed at 2am to fix them isn’t much fun.
So how can we have our cake and eat it?
Well we need to ‘airlock’ the newest updates in another BETA branch in Steam.
Similar to how we managed the Open-world Overhaul when it was being updated in parallel with the old alpha, we’ll continue the fast pace and put it out of the way but still accessible to anyone that comes looking with instructions on the update articles. Once we’re sure the new stuff isn’t causing any problems we’ll then make it live.
This way the game is stable 100% of the time and we get to keep the rapid rate of progress. Ideal.
We’ll be opening up the BETA of Update 5.3 early next week and will post some instructions on gaining access.
Why can't I save my game?
A number of you have expressed strong desires to be able to save and load.
The reason why so far this has been omitted is because really the sandbox was only a small cross-section of what is to come. So far we have been focused on injecting mechanics into the alpha. But with the mechanics already in-game and those due to be added shortly, we are now far enough along to consider this a priority.
Saving/Loading will be part of Update 5.3 which will be in BETA early next week.
We really appreciate the positivity and support of the comments in previous posts, there is simply nothing more motivating than that.
Once again let me take the opportunity to thank-you for your patience, the bug reports you’re sending in are massively helpful please keep them coming and brace yourselves because great things are inbound!