It has been some time since our last Dev Diary (all the way back on March 6th!), but though some of us have been laying low the past month (myself due to work and other real-life commitments), we have still been plucking away at our endeavor to bring you the best Star Trek strategy experience this side of Antares! In our last dev diary, we discussed a bit about the features of the core framework of Τhe Final Frontier expansion and some of the hidden mechanisms behind the design of our new planetary system (plus the updated STA3 tutorial). In this diary, we will be exploring further details of the planetary system, but with special attention to some of the work that has been done with visuals, neutrals, and random events, as well as some more about our future plans. So, let's begin, SHALL WE?
Perhaps one of the most notable additions in the past weeks since our last diary has been a large amount of improvements to our visuals, many of which we can give thanks to Max for his diligent work. In our drive to present to you with a living and believable universe to wage war and forge peace in, we have been systematically reviewing the various existing models and textures, improving anything and everything that we feel could be improved.
One of the items since time immemorial that I had expressed a want to improve is the variety of asteroids in the game. In real astronomy and in the Trek universe too, there are a huge variety of different asteroid types, ranging from massive space boulders, to tenuous ice fields, to the eponymous "dirty snowball" of the Oort cloud, and I wanted this diversity to be reflected in our mod. Max has so graciously taken this to heart, using some of my suggestions to provide a variety of visual updates to our asteroids that will certainly be appreciated by the screenshot archers amongst you. As we mentioned in the prior dev diary, there will be a wide variety of colonizable asteroids for you to capture, each with their own unique features, but you will also now see many differentiated asteroid bits floating around in gravity wells too, which will help to spice up various neutral and planetary gravity wells.
This grand visual update also allows us the chance to re-imagine some things that we did not have the opportunity to do before, meaning that some of our ships have been receiving some facelifts to bring them more in line with the standard of excellence that we have set forth. A few notable designs that have been reworked/reimagined in recent times : the Klingon K'Vek Super Heavy Cruiser (featured below), the Romulan Griffin EWAR Cruiser, and Max's current project which he has teased, the Federation Excalibur Space Control Ship. You can bet there will still be more to come. We will also be looking to update some of the remaining (comparatively) low-res models from our original release, a group of models which mostly includes a small number of stations, but also a few ships as well. Ultimately, we hope to bring all in-game models up to par for the official release of The Final Frontier.
In other news, work continues on the implementation of all things neutral-related, once again, Max has been hard at work with modelling tons of new neutrals to accommodate the new planetary system. In the preliminary designing of our new planetary neutral system, it was determined that there were essentially three main categories of neutrals: planetary defenders, event neutrals, and unknown neutrals. The first category, of course, refers to the typical neutrals: those you will see defending certain planets, to which there will not be too many significant changes in implementation. Although some of the defender races will be adjusted according to the new planet types, you will still see Breen defending cold planets, Tholians defending Demon Worlds, and the like. However, there is one regard in which this system will be changing: defender strengths will be adjusted. In the last dev diary, we mentioned that there was a new system in place to determine a Planetary Habitability Index (PHI), which in turn defines, along with the average total usable surface area of the planetary surface, the maximum planetary population. This value, then scaled with Sins population representations, and combined with the Intrinsic Resource Index (IRI), determines the average strength of planetary defenders, the justification being the larger the population, or the more valuable the resources, the more inclined a faction is going to want to defend its strategic interests.
Many new events will also be making their way into the game. One of the main points that was kept in mind when designing the new random events system was to include a higher proportion of non-military random events: alien encounters, galactic news events, natural phenomena. This was done partially to address concerns regarding the high frequency of doomsday spawns, and partially to develop the "living universe" mentality that we have championed with this expansion. This is not to say we haven't added military events, for you will see quite a few new random military events, especially minor raids, criminal hijackings, and other things of the sort. Let me stress that these small-scale events will be tested heavily to ensure that they are not annoying, that they play out as intended, and add to your game experience rather than detract from it. And, as always, you can disable them for truly competitive play. One of the more nifty things that Max has experimented with recently and seems to have gotten working is a "doomsday asteroid" event which sends a rogue asteroid slowly hurtling at one of your planets during play. If the asteroid is not destroyed before it reaches the "point of no return", it will impact, dealing catastrophic damage to the planet's population, defenses, and infrastructure. Naturally, this will be one of the highly rare doomsday events, and will need testing, but is quite cool. Well done.
In other matters, Draconis, elusive mastermind that he is, has begun experimenting on improvements to be made for the AI, and has been waiting patiently for me to finish updating the planetary stats so that he can tailor the AI to our new framework. Some concerns that he will be addressing for our next update will be: problems with certain AIs "getting stuck" during play, the dreaded "siege spam", and the irritating "ship trickle". These words are probably all too familiar to STA3 players, and we hope to eliminate, or at least, severely mitigate, their appearance in our mod. Naturally, though it will be a challenge to overcome the intrinsic wants/needs of the Sins AI, we believe Draconis (and Zurme too) are more than up to the task.
Once the planetary stats have been determined to be in a (mostly) finalized state, the right honorable Cailean (who has been chomping at the bit to get to work on new maps, and updating old ones as well), will be able to finally test out some of his ambitious and creative ideas, although I'm sure he has already begun drawing up many new and detailed plans. I think there are many among us who are looking forward to some of his new creations, myself included. Some of the new map designs will take on some very interesting forms: we will be including, of course, traditional maps, but also some new "realistic" maps which will attempt to simulate believable systems, and lastly (God-willing) of several "Empire at War" style maps that will allow you to play on a truly grand scale if you so choose. And furthermore, on the matter of map-making, I know some of you have been asking about Galaxy Forge. I will reiterate that The Final Frontier will feature a completely revamped Galaxy Forge, giving you the same power that we have to bend the universe to your will as you see fit. This will be released as a separate item alongside the main mod when that time comes.
The debonair OrionSlaver (answerer of all questions) along with the trusty SFC, the inimitable Outerexodus, and our good man Conner (KillaBC) will be fulfilling various roles (strings, icons, testing, texturing, modelling, QA, PR) as they so often do. As always, we appreciate the wide-ranging expertise that they provide to our team.
I hope to provide more frequent updates as we move forward with The Final Frontier, these last two months have been rather difficult for me, but I hope that as the sun brings its full force in the glory of summer, I will have more time to devote to writing dev diaries and other related works. Any questions, comments, concerns, please let us know in the comments section below.
This is the righteous and faithful Ambarenya, signing out.
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