You've waited very patiently, and it's about to pay off. I am pleased to announce that the Alpha 1 release of Outlier: Open Skies is available for you to download and test! In other words, it's happening!
This version is an early, ground floor (more like unfurnished sub basement honestly) release that is designed to gather initial feedback and to test performance and stability on a variety of hardware. It is nowhere near complete and probably doesn't look much like the imaginary final product.
In this version, you will start with 2 well armed Sparrow fighters and 50,000 credits. You'll start near a station, and 1 jump from a system with a shipyard. You should be able to get started pretty easily. If you've played High Albedo, you should be immediately familiar with the interface too.
More than you might think! The following things are working pretty well.
- Space - Space works great. Procedural planets work great, nebula and asteroid fields work great, spaceflight works great. Space is just great!
- Asset Management - The core of the game is the idea of owning as many ships and stations as you want to build your empire. This is working great. Ships and stations are available from shipyards. There are currently 3 craft to fly.
- AI Behaviors - Working pretty good. The combat AI is reasonably challenging and the trade AIs are cut throat competitive. Remember that these are the same behaviors as in High Albedo, so they are well tuned by this point.
- Dynamic Universe - This game simulates its entire game world no matter where the player is, so NPCs continue to go about their daily lives. The universe is emergent, built out of the interactions of hundreds of NPCs as they trade and fight. The economy is a supply and demand economy where stations need to be supplied to produce their products. It's really beautiful!
- Procedural Universe - Generated from a seed number, and textured from derivatives of that number. This is not an infinite world (it can't be - the economics would require an infinite number of actors), but it is pretty large and it will take you a long time to explore.
- Extensibility - This game is designed to be easy to mod. All data files are plain text, audio files are WAV, the 3D models are all BLEND files (the working format Blender uses before exporting!), and the entire thing is open source and written in a cross platform language.
What's Not Included
Most of the features of the game are incomplete, but some are simply not present because they have not been written yet.
- Full Joystick Support - On my test system (Debian + Logitech Extreme Pro) the joystick is working great. However, there are no re-mappable controls and I have not tried other joysticks. I would love to know how yours is supported.
- Muli-Axis Standing System - It isn't done yet and is not in this build. The one axis standing system from High Albedo is present.
- Storyline and Random Missions - Also not written yet. There isn't even a way of talking to NPCs right now so it wouldn't do much good anyway!
- Sovereignty Features - In High Albedo it was possible to claim a system using the sov transfer papers. This isn't in Outlier yet.
- Capital ships - As mentioned previously, there are only 3 ships right now and all are fighters.
- Factional Distinctions - A lot of the factions are in place, but it's hard to make them different than each other with only 3 ships and 2 station models. Future passes will resolve this problem.
- Planet Side Gameplay - Planets are, simply put, not done yet. They are actually off limits in this build, but it's easy to hack around that if you want to experiment.
Now that the depressing part is over, lets talk about the future.
What happens next mostly depends on your feedback. There are a lot of things to improve upon and add, but my initial priority list (discounting any serious bugs or issues, which will be bumped to the top) is as follows.
- Get AI ships properly avoiding collisions.
- Adding loot drops and transporter devices to steal loot from other ships (for piracy).
- Adding bailing ships.
- Mining - Both asteroid mines and shooting rocks apart one by one mining.
- Improvements to control scheme and joystick support based on feedback.
- AI Conversation system, random missions.
- Adding the second axis in the standing system.
- Adding more ships and weapons.
- Adding campaign scripting from High Albedo.
- World building passes, adding more ships / stations, more factions, and incrementally making existing factions more distinct.
That will keep me busy for a while, but I would love to hear your feedback. After all, that's the whole point of releasing it in such an early state!
On my test system, this game runs at a smooth 60fps except when in very heavy combat with a dozen fighters missile spamming, in which case it gets into the 20-30fps range. The development and testing machine has the following hardware.
- AMD Phenom II (x6) 3.2GHz CPU
- Nvidia 560TI Graphics Card
- 12GB Ram
- Logitech Extreme Pro Joystick
- Debian Linux running XFCE desktop with Nvidia's official binary graphics card driver.
- Java 7, although the game is known to work with the recently released Java 8.
After testing, I'd love you to send me your performance information with a similar hardware report and anything else you want to add, especially if you are reporting a problem.
- On Windows 7, the game takes about 10x longer to load and save. I have no idea if this is an issue with Outlier, Java, JMonkeyEngine, or Windows.
- On Windows 7, the game may drop to frame rates below 10fps for a few minutes at a time, after which it spikes to 60FPS and remains there for the rest of the game. Once again, I am not sure why this happens.
- Joystick may have inverted control on Windows 7.
- On Linux, running the game with desktop compositing enabled may cause the desktop to freeze if you switch to a different virtual desktop.
It works on Windows but it is clearly best played on Linux. I'm sure I can get these issues nailed down with your help.
Thank you for your interest in Outlier and following me in this project! I am always open to feedback, feel free to leave your suggestions (or more likely bug reports, it is Alpha 1) here or send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Fly safe!