The biggest mistake we made with the previous attempts at a game client (aside from not considering multiplayer,) was that we tried to dress up the prototype too soon.
We got swept up in the glory; the need to show progress and make the shiny videos and screenshots, so much so that we forgot about the most important aspect of the game: The gameplay.
What should have happened is that we sorted the game out first and then made it look pretty. Making it pretty is the easy part for us now, we have the knowledge and assets to do that - we need to take this opportunity to make it fun first.
We will try and stay faithful to the original Shallow Space where we can, but because of multiplayer some things have to go.
The perspective and camera are the biggest changes, gone is that completely three dimensional camera movement - players were reporting headaches and we want to be able to run this client on phones and tablets eventually. This fits with making the game more accessible, easier to play and therefore more fun.
We'll also be leaning on standard computer game abstractions a little more.
We won't be chasing our tails trying to get the scale of the ships right, realistic ship scale is a fallacy, we spent 5 years chasing it, the capital ships will always dwarf the frigates and you loose the frigate details. Is it useful it anyways? It just becomes confusing in a game in which you need to notice and control your fleets undistracted.
Instead we're looking at more traditional RTS tricks whereby the ships are a representation like board icons on a game like Civilisation for example.
In fact, the game is going to play a LOT like a realtime computerised board game. With the countless strategy games we've played over the years adopting this successfully, aiming for this look and feel will increase our chances of making a fun game.
But other than that we'll remain faithful to the original concepts; mining and fighting in a realtime environment, ability to customise ship loadouts and turrets, hiding in asteroid clusters etc. - all present or planned.
We only really touched on this in the Shallow Space Steam preview, the strategy layer which is a planetary view - enabling the player to move fleets ships around in the planets gravity well.
The area outside of the gravity well is considered unusable due to limitations with our ships FTL, hence the game being called Shallow Space.
The concept was fairly sound but we're going 2D with it, again because it's easier to understand and control, particularly when a particular planet is busy.
Here's a mockup:
Each of the squares (sectors) represents a Tactical area as described above. The shaded sectors are owned by a particular faction or contested.
Players will subscribe to a particular faction such as the Terran Confederate Navy (TCN) or the Mineral and Fusion Corp (MFC) and they will battle for control of sectors and resources (or find a quiet corner to play by yourself.)
Initially we'll model a single planet to get the core concepts right and then we'll look at modelling a single system and then chunk of a galaxy.
Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen
No but seriously, progress is strong and spirits are high. Stay tuned!