Back again with another update, things are really moving here, as you can see we’re starting to add some of the enhanced gameplay options and we’re not far off matching and in some ways exceeding what 2.0 had to offer. Still not looking too pretty and man am I looking forward to giving it a layer of paint and fading that ghastly grid a bit - but it’s not important right now.

One of the easiest mistakes to make in an RTS is to give the Player too much to do.

In Shallow Space 3.0, there is no unit construction or base management (for a while at least) so that allows us to recoup on some Actions Per Minute. But still we have to be super careful else we’ll create something that is stressful. Once the action gets going, we don’t want the Player to be freaking out trying to activate a million things. Not fun.

So we’re very cautiously adding some abilities.

We’ve cut back the UX considerably in 3.0.

The Player doesn’t have to worry too much about the camera now, we just have zoom and rotate like a normal RTS. Movement in the third dimension is gone, as again positioning the units was stressful and actually subtracted from the tactical experience.

Even though such things added a sense of freedom, they increased the stress on the Player to perform. In this latest version, the number of actual gameplay actions will be limited:

  • Right click to move
  • Move your fleet close to another to attack
  • Left click to activate an ability (one ability per fleet.)

That’s it.

When the action heats up, you’ll be free to sit back and watch tweaking your camera rotation or unit positions, and changing the arena with some abilities, but generally we want it to be low stress because this time, the fun will be in the Strategy.

Here i'm testing some Hermes Carriers, the white lines are trails from their Fighter drones. Note that the large stations also have Fighter drones squadrons.

But we still want the Player to feel connected to the battles. We’ll achieve that mainly with abilities attached to XL weapon turrets and special Carrier units that can house Fighter drones.

So the XL weapon abilities ‘Ranged shot’ and ‘Flak’ will allow you to pinpoint areas of the map and affect unit health or deny the enemy ground. Fighters likewise are an ability allowing you to project force away from your precious Capital units, but they won’t require direct control.

Video takes a long time to produce and we’re not there yet, so right now I’m just going to walk you through a potential scenario that we might find ourselves in.

A small scenario to break down and explain, the numbers are explained below.

Here I have a small Taskforce and I’m looking to ‘liberate’ the cargo from some Freighters. I’ve marked the screenshot with some yellow numbers:

  1. My Capital ship. I only have one and so I’m going to be careful about how I commit it into play. I’m about to close a gap in the terrain using my Flak Cannons (AOE weapons marked out by the red dashed patch by 3) the aim is to deny the enemy ground and create an ambush funnel around by 2 (really I should have an extra fleet there, my bad.)
  2. My pack of Enifs are setting upon some Freighters like Piranas, I want the cargo.
  3. After the warm up to ‘attaining firing solution’ for my Flak cannons, this area will erupt into miniature explosions for around 20 seconds which will cause light damage to fleets and heavy damage to any Fighter drone squadrons that attempt to move through it (housed at 5.) There is also a Fleet of Matar medium Cruisers hiding around that corner, I want to discourage them from using that opening to attack my Capital ship (or soften them up if they decide to do so.)
  4. These are asteroid clusters, fleets can’t move through them and I can’t fire my special weapons through them either. They make the position of my fleets, especially my Capital ship important. (Read more in Anatomy of a Sector)
  5. The station has a large squadron of Fighter drones that will come swarming through that gap to assist the Freighters, right into the loving care of my Flak cannons.

It might not play exactly like this; Fighters in particular are tricky to get right and run the risk of being stressful to the Player - so they won’t might not be flying around the map like the fleets. But hopefully you see, 3.0 is shaping up to be a far more tactical experience which was as originally intended for Shallow Space.

Honestly, I still worry about giving the Player too much to do.

Things start to get really tricky with 5 or more Fleets and we’re in two minds about adding a drag selection box to ‘move all fleets to here’, we’re just not sure it’s that type of game.

But even looking like this it’s fun to play, way more fun than Shallow Space 2.0.

We still need to pad the experience out with some mining and rest activities so it’s not ‘fight fight fight’ all the time, but everything looks and feels much more controlled, much more game-like. It’ll be far easier to balance this and work in the game-loops, leading up to improve things with your feedback when the time comes.

We have another sprint or two working on Fighters and mining, not much to talk about beyond what you see so you’ll probably get another progress update when we start on weapon fitments for the individual ships.

I can feel another Captain's log coming on in the meantime, I’ll see you there.