Welcome to a new year of Cogmind!
It's been so long in the making I've started to have visions of even grander major updates, and we end up getting Cogmind 2019, Cogmind 2020, and so on until my permadeath, ha.
In the New Year's spirit I streamed Holiday Mode on January 1st, building around a very specific weapon available that day (and on New Year's Eve), the RPDS. Some very potent fireworks were on display, including plenty of unnecessary carnage. It was an interesting time with different challenges from a more regular run.
FYI an RPDS does... this :D
Or in ASCII:
For a long time now I've wanted to do a video that demonstrates how to reliably get through the early game, since it's not all that hard but some players have trouble figuring out how to overcome the various challenges there and end up either having to switch to another difficulty mode or playing the majority of their runs in the early game, which honestly is just the very tip of a much more varied Cogmind experience!
Once you're good at it the first few floors only take maybe ten minutes as you prep for the mid-game challenges, so I wanted to share some of the main tactics that ensure you'll make it through. We've had some other early-game tutorials on video before, but I wanted something of my own that I covered what I thought was most important.
Well we can check that off the list :D
I streamed "Pwning the Early Game" this week, and already a bunch of players have been finding it useful, so that's reassuring.
Although I normally talk a lot of strategy in my streams, this was quite different from the usual since it was focused purely on the essentials for the first floors. I first spent about half an hour describing most of the main UI and basic mechanics, essentially an intro to the game, then did a slow run through the first several floors, talking about strategy, combat tactics, and different robots, systems, and AI. After that I concluded with four more quick runs through the early game, putting everything learned into action to reliably reach Factory. (There are time stamps in the YouTube description.)
Well, speaking of the early game... let's talk a bit about Beta 8! Why? Because that's its biggest area of focus :D
I haven't really talked about it yet, and while I want to wait until the main announcement to go into details, it's relevant here so let's go.
With Beta 8, in the the early game you'll often have a way to find unique items, and these items can affect your entire play style, if not for an entire run then at least for a while. I mean I guess even regular items and prototypes (and especially artifacts) can already do that for you, but any time unique items are added this is a chance to provide opportunities like that.
For example, among the new items that are being added, there's the PSU Rigger. As per its name, it can be used to rig any power source to explode like a proximity mine. This one's going to be pretty fun to use :D
I can already smell the cheese connoisseurs approaching now...
(Aside: I've actually teased this item in a couple previous screenshots, that and other Beta 8 features, and it's fun to do this without talking about them to see if/who notices ;))
This kind of stuff has always been part of my long-term plan for Cogmind (because having worked on it for over five years now we're apparently not quite yet in the "long term" xD). Basically expanding the game with new ways to experience and interact with the same world, adding smaller amounts of content with outsized impacts on a run, albeit optional, of course. I have tons more item concepts and avenues for obtaining them in various parts of the world, but these things will be introduced over time, mostly after the actual 1.0 (assuming I can still afford it :P).
Now don't get too excited about the Beta 8 gear--you won't be able to pick and choose items, but I can guarantee there are going to be some fun and interesting new experiences coming.
Work on Beta 8 has been pretty smooth lately, just time-consuming as there are some rather complex additions for this update. Some random dev snapshots...
Visualizing the ambient sound from a new area:
Hm, a curious new UI animation, what could it mean? :)
There are quite a few new items coming to Beta 8, and I'm still adding yet more:
Most of those above were actually appended to the art preview selected for the "Year 5 of the Cogmind" annual review, though one of those is previously unseen.
While we're looking at art, check this out:
Anyone remember what that is? After its removal back in early 2016, it's finally making what is likely to be a much-anticipated comeback among players who've used it before ;)
I've been working on a whole bunch of stuff for Beta 8, though most of the new content is under wraps until the release. Instead I can show this mysterious animation as updated for compatibility in optional low-contrast modes:
But there are also some interesting new mechanical developments to get specific about. Let's dive right in...
Is that a Leg in your Pocket?
I always wanted a simplified propulsion system in Cogmind, which is why from the very beginning (2012!) propulsion itself has had no mass, regardless of whether active or inactive. This makes it much less complicated to juggle even more propulsion considerations on top of all the other parts you have to think about.
Of course it also resulted in the interesting side effect of so-called "propulsion armor," or sometimes attaching useless deactivated propulsion simply for its coverage and integrity. As a pretty unique quirk to Cogmind's systems that you can learn to use to your advantage in some situations, I've never felt a strong need to do anything about it.
Then suddenly some weeks ago I wasn't even thinking about this topic (or even propulsion) at all and for some reason the idea of adding a "drag" mechanic popped into my head. I liked the principle of having inactive non-airborne propulsion slowing down flight and hover, and started to like it even more as I continued thinking about how this could indirectly help further differentiate treads and aid heavy combat builds. With a new mechanic to limit certain kinds of propulsion armor and the potential for temporarily cheesing tread-specific benefits, treads could be buffed such that it's easier to make extremely "tanky" builds with lots of treads, which almost become a build's armor, among other benefits.
So all treads, legs, and wheels will come with a new stat, "drag," which kicks in only when these parts are inactive while airborne. Note the addition of a new stat here doesn't lengthen the item info, just takes the place of the "mod/extra" stat where appropriate ("mod/extra" is only used for airborne propulsion, so that same stat slot for non-airborne propulsion is instead "drag," essentially how some weapons may have a Heat Transfer stat or a Spectrum, but not both). Also note that drag values are not all over the place--they're actually static by propulsion type.
Now, balance-wise, the idea behind drag is not to prevent propulsion armor completely (in which case it could just be blocked!), but instead simply have a speed cost associated with it, one that some players might be willing to pay under certain conditions.
Here's a demo of the mechanic in action:
As with any brand new mechanic, we'll have to see how everyone responds with their builds, but in short, treads will become that much more unique (especially compared to legs, which have always offered similar capabilities), and propulsion armor won't be so common anymore. (Drag will not impact core movement, by the way!)
Drag is liberating. It's introduced a lot of design freedom to make treads shine at what they should do best: Enable you to effectively crush hordes of bots. (Okay well literally crushing them under your treads is already possible, but you know what I mean :D)
To that end, treads will be better putting their generally massive integrity to work protecting your other parts, gaining about 40 coverage each. This pushes average tread coverage much closer to that of light armor, and armored treads will be about on part with light armor in terms of how well they shield other parts.
On the offensive side, each tread slot gives a 2% bonus to accuracy. So the average tread build will have something like 6-8% better accuracy for all weapons, or even 10%+ for those going with a truly tanky build using a greater number of treads defensively as well (or to carry a ton of stuff--we might be seeing more... really heavy stuff in the future ;)).
Treads will also have a reduced overweight penalty (though still not as good as wheels).
In the end there are a lot of strategic implications here. As a combat player I know I can't wait to take a Beta 8 tank out for a spin :P
I've received some great new fan art, both of these based on my previous streams :)
Zyalin drew my gunslinger combat build for the stream in which I won MTF's bounty (he gave me a goal and I achieved it, so he bought four Cogmind keys to give out to others in chat).
Beta 7.2 "Terminal Love"
Last month there was a relatively small update, Beta 7.2. The full changelog can be read on the forums, and it's mostly focused on improving machine hacking, but among the changes we also have robots flashing when hit by projectiles. Some kind of explicit hit feedback was requested not too long back and although it's not a feature I personally need in my runs, I must admit it's been well-received by those who've seen it so far, so here it is!
(Ignore the fact that enemies just sit there and take it--that's just using debug mode to demo the feature :P. Also, they're not really dying because I'm intentionally using a somewhat weak weapon against late-game Programmers.) It's on by default, but like many QoL features you can toggle it in the advanced options if it bothers you for whatever reason.
Road to Beta 8
Most recently I've been working on on the main plot of Beta 8 (i.e., spoilers :P), though here are a couple more things I could show...
I needed to debug a new mapgen feature, and that required having a visual way to quickly tell one cave from another as far as the generator was concerned (for some special cases where logically separate caves might be directly attached to one another), so I added that in real quick.
I've never done a visualization like this but always wanted to after seeing so many other devs produce pretty color-based ID systems. Doing this is pretty easy: Just use HSV coloring and start with a low hue, then increase the hue for each subsequent object by some static amount for each one. Knowing the number of objects in advance also makes it possible to prevent colors from overlapping, since the hue interval can be set based on that known.
For something else I was working on recently I had to look into historical bug reporting figures, and came up with some stats:
There's the Top 10 earners of "bug points," based on some macros run on changelog data. Since the first release in 2015 there have been 460 total reports (including duplicates and simple things like typos, but also of course some major stuff as well) submitted by 118 unique players. These figures exclude the outstanding issues to resolve for Beta 8, which aren't in the changelog yet but I'll be getting to them all at the end of this dev cycle, as usual. Thanks everyone for helping making Cogmind be the best it can be!
I was chosen for the "Best Developer" award by Spitball Sessions! You can read about that here, and check out their GOTY 2018 podcast. I am honored, and will continue trying to do my best :D. Thanks to everyone for your support (and reviews! they really keep the game going in Steam's algorithms so that I can add more features rather than having to worry about wrapping it up sooner).
And if you're using Proton to play Cogmind, it'd be great if you could contribute to the database.
I guess this is also a notice for those of you who didn't already know: Although Cogmind isn't marked as supporting Linux on Steam, manually activating it for Steam Play does allow you to purchase and download and play normally! There shouldn't be any issues as I've fixed the few Wine-related bugs on Cogmind's side before it even came to Steam, and have added other QoL features specifically for Linux players. (If you do run into the no audio issue there's a workaround--not sure if they've fixed that in Proton itself yet.)
The biggest "Other News" we've got here is that as of this week we're on our annual family vacation for winter/Chinese New Year. I really wanted to have Beta 8 out by now, but it's still not there yet. Being out of town for a few weeks I won't be streaming for the next month or so, and although it's a long "vacation," technically it's more of a workcation since I'll still be setting up office and doing a fair bit of regular work on Cogmind as well.
It feels really good to be caught up on all the personal and/or non-Cogmind things that were getting in the way these months, though, and to have the Roguelike Celebration behind us, since that trip and preparing for my talk and all the other related work really ate up a ton of time and resulted in the additional backlog of other chores I had to get out of the way xD