Today on Cogmind's 10th anniversary, I'm excited to announce the release of a massive update, in the works for more than a year now. Inside you'll find a huge array of new challenges, more fun mechanics, and most importantly an extensive rebalancing aimed at improving every aspect of the experience. Beta 11 has been heavily playtested across a dozen large prerelease versions by patrons helping fund its development (HUGE THANK YOU <3), and having played a lot of it myself, I agree that it's by far Cogmind's best version yet. Time to share it with everyone!
Cover art by Zyalin, feast your eyes upon the 1080p version for more detail.
This release is so massive we're going to deviate a bit from Cogmind's normal announcement format, starting with a summary of major features and changes existing players will want to be aware of, followed by a changelog excerpt listing only the more important entries, then the usual feature details and demos.
The Big Picture
Before we get into details, with Beta 11 it'll be helpful to have a simpler guide through the most important balance-related aspects of this mammoth release, especially for those of you who definitely aren't going to read much beyond the first bits of this announcement or the articles backing it (there is a lot of writing behind the development of this release over on the dev blog).
Have some bullet points!
- Easily the biggest paradigm shift in Beta 11 is giving all storage units the <no_stack> tag, and redesigning storage capacity around this idea. No longer will you be potentially allocating numerous utility slots just to expand inventory size, freeing up those slots for more interesting utilities, of which you'll find many in Beta 11! :D
- Hover and flight were too similar overall, with the latter form of propulsion in particular capable of surprisingly powerful builds despite also having the ability to easily reposition or avoid danger. Lowered mass support has now shifted them more towards the intended evasion/hacking role, at which they also do a better job due to lowered energy costs. This is part of the wider efforts to further differentiate builds and parts in general in Beta 11.
- Ground-based propulsion overweight penalties were also adjusted to make it somewhat less desirable to shrug off that drawback with insufficient consequences, while doing so remains a viable strategy for some builds.
- The number and types of challenges in the main Complex 0b10 areas have increased, and that also generally means greater difficulty, though Cogmind now also has even more tools at their disposal, alongside a greater number of better balanced options that might not have been as viable before. As usual the alternative difficulty settings (Adventurer/Explorer) have been updated to make adjustments to new content so it's less punishing for players looking to reduce the challenge there (adjustments listed in the usual place in the manual).
- Fabrication was redesigned such that each Fabricator can only be hacked to build something once, unless using Authchips (which also avoid the new consequences of successful fabrication). Fabrication is still a useful supplementary tool, though unlikely to be able to create almost complete builds from scratch as before.
I'll be discussing some of these topics in greater detail further below.
An image excerpt from the full release announcement on the forums here:
The full changelog is so long that I also decided to split it in two, where the above is actually less than half of its actual content, but includes all the more generally important updates, the kinds of entries I would normally highlight in past changelogs. Experienced players interested in additional details (and options) will probably want to also check out the full changelog included with the game, or available online here.
Saves from earlier versions are incompatible with Beta 11, but even if you're on Steam and Cogmind automatically updates, Beta 10.2 is still available via its own legacy branch and you can roll back to finish a run in progress first if you like.
One of the cornerstones of this version is the comprehensive review and subsequent rebalance of many items and mechanics, about which I wrote a lengthy article on the dev blog, conveniently titled "Rebalancing Cogmind." It's not a complete list of changes or anything (although it does include links to spreadsheets :P), but it does cover a lot of the whys and hows while sharing the entire process behind it.
Power sources, propulsion, utilities, weapons... no category went untouched, and lots of individual items and mechanics were tweaked to better balance them in the bigger picture of the game Cogmind has evolved into over many years, especially focusing on weakening clearly overpowered parts, or in more cases increasing the viability, desirability, and fun of otherwise previously subpar items. As a result, some old strategies may need to be rethought, though the overall results feels really good once you get used to the changes, with more tradeoffs to consider and more ways to get creative or augment your abilities, made even easier by the storage rework ;)
With so many changes large and small, I recommend that long-time players reset assumptions about many items since they may no longer hold true. You'll likely find that something you ignored earlier is now perfect for your preferred strategy, or some other kind of build you've been considering. Hopefully you're not too paralyzed by all the juicy new possibilities, not to mention all the chaff that was removed to leave room for good stuff, or turned into the good stuff itself!
Major UI Features
We've got yet a ton more QoL features, including some major ones that people have been looking forward to, like the dedicated item search UI. (I described the related features in more detail on the blog here.)
It even supports all kinds of filters for more customizable searches, with help text right there in the interface. And selecting an item (listed by distance from your position) shows the fastest open path to that location, and can also be used to move there automatically.
Similarly, it can be convenient to tab through different categories when viewing item labels on the map, e.g. all weapons, all propulsion, etc.
Anyone with a distaste for Shift-Alt commands (or just anyone who has trouble remembering the command when they actually need one :P) will be happy to know there's a new Spacebar menu specifically for special commands. (We've got an article about this one, too. Because of course.) Just hit Spacebar followed by the letter key (or use the mouse) to use one of these helpful features, several of which are new to Beta 11.
We have a new class of combat bot! The "Heavy" can be pretty tough because they have a powerful cannon, cloak other combat bots, use sensors to eventually pinpoint hostiles snooping around their defensive zone, and summon more allies to reinforce the area. Scary! Fortunately they telegraph their location due to their powerful Active Sensor Suite, allowing you to generally avoid them if you must, or want to, though they tend to guard important locations so you'll likely have to deal with one sooner or later.
That's not to say everyone will want to avoid them, since they are a pretty great source of good gear, if you can salvage it after tearing them to pieces.
They have a great line of destructive new heavy kinetic cannons.
They also have a whole set of very useful utilities, among them the very sensor suite they're using to find targets, one that you can also take advantage of to penetrate all forms of cloaking and sensor blocking (though at the cost of sometimes giving away your position).
The suite is even capable of analyzing the environment for tracks to determine pathways that likely lead to points of interest, like machines and exits (there's a whole article on this sensor type as well).
Friends called in by the Heavies to look for hostiles are not very nice, involving either a random Specialist variant (of which Beta 11 has added 4 more!) or another brand new combat class, which carries one of these and will do a number on you if they can get close (fear the SFX!):
There are lots more details about the Heavy class in an article about "area denial".
Note: The Active Sensor Suite environment data for non-Complex areas was not actually completed in time to be included with Beta 11, but it's still already very much worth using.
Heavies generally aren't moving around (well... not usually ;)), so you don't often need to worry about staying out of their path, or that they'll suddenly show up and ruin your plans, but cargo convoys will definitely ruin your day if they surprise you. (The article with lots of details about convoys is here.)
Imagine lots and lots of really good loot, and that loot is on the move and being escorting by lots and lots of dangerous bots, not to mention held inside an armored freighter armed with its own autonomous laser system. That's a convoy, and ambushing one is quite an accomplishment and extremely rewarding, but also makes you think twice whether you're really ready for it!
They'll enter a main map, travel along a predetermined route, then leave. As you can imagine if you're familiar with intercepting Haulers, you can use various means to determine their cargo and intended path, so you can try to hit them at just the right moment. Get creative :D
Mmm, a Modified TNC from the Exiles shows us the loooooot... (the loot is also significantly out of depth, so you can get late-game experimental gear in the mid-game)
Sample convoy route:
Newly active convoys are announced globally, so you'll at least know there's one on the move when it happens, and can consider reacting accordingly.
If that's not enough risk reward for you, you can try raiding a DSF (article with more details). "Distributed Storage Facilities" have been in the lore since the beginning, but they were never a place you could visit, at least not until Beta 11 :)
We have Garrisons, and Waste, and together with those we now also have DSFs, the third kind of small map-between-maps. These store tons of good loot inside, as you might expect, though of course it's also guarded, not least of all by a Heavy stationed in the middle, plus a rapid sterilization system engaged when things get hot (to make them... hotter? :O).
You'll see entrances to these all over Factory and Research, but the only way to actually get in is to hack it open before any combat bots on the floor have even spotted you (or any other threats, for that matter).
Strategically these can be a great place to get a whole new build (or buff up your current one) if you're confident, although doing so also gives up any potential branch rewards at that depth since their exit leads up to the next depth.
There's plenty more new toys than I'll cover here (including many which are big spoilers and a lot of fun), but let's highlight a few of the more common ones.
Machine Analyzers reveal machines networked to the machines currently in view, super useful for tracking down similar interactive machines, or even just knowing where other non-interactive machines are located to help learn more about the map's layout.
This new processor also let's you know when an explosive machine has been destabilized, and when it will blow, functionalities which used to belong to the Structural Scanner.
For its part, the Structural Scanner itself is technically now "new," but it's certainly been redesigned with a more focused purpose, and offers a great new bit of intel, telling you about the terrain immediately behind each wall. Great for quicker navigation through labyrinthine areas where making your own doors is probably faster!
(Machine Analyzers and the revamped Structural Scanner were covered in more depth here along with other infowar work.)
Because you can never have enough intel, we also have Seismic Detectors, one of the six (SIX!) new sensor technologies added to Beta 11. These offer a wide and very interesting cross-section of data since they'll tell you info about distant machines, robots, and certain events, but only those which generate seismic readings, brighter for stronger signals.
They're also pretty easy to acquire--I'm sure your neighborhood Excavator would be happy to oblige if you just blow them to pieces.
It won't help you avoid airborne patrols, but with the right knowledge you can deduce a lot about the signals you're seeing on the cheap. Big brain utility right there.
(The end of the Rebalancing Cogmind article has more Seismic Detector details and demos, and more design info about... Trap Extractors).
TRAPPER BUILDS ARE HERE!
So yeah for a while we've have a number of trapping-related parts, but most are either uniques you have to luck into finding, or hard to build around as a primary strategy. Inventory space was the biggest limiting factor when it came to extensive trap use, but the redesigned Trap Extractor solves that by allowing it to also store and deploy traps that you've hacked or acquired through other means.
Carry more extractors to load up on additional trap types, and watch disarmed enemies run around like headless chickens, or on fire, or just explode into tiny bits.
The new Trap Scanner might also come in handy for trapper builds, or just anyone who wants to speed around without suddenly getting blasted, chopped, or sucked into a chute.
The completely redesigned Force Booster is an example of a rarely used (or confusing/hard to use) mechanic that has been given new life, and why you might want to reassess your opinions that may have formed over previous runs as to which items you like and which you avoid. It now simply increases max melee damage.
It actually also has a clear drawback to using it (one of the first such utilities to do this), in that it decreases accuracy, but if you can overcome that (or ignore it), Force Boosters sure can make already deadly melee weapons that much more devastating.
Force Boosters are also one of the new utilities to take advantage of a new tag halfway between <no_stack> and <stacks>, called... yes, <half_stack>. So you are allowed to simultaneously use a second one to add half its bonus, increasing damage even further (for example the best one gives a 40% damage boost, so half-stacked it's +60%!). Some items with effects that could not be stacked earlier are actually allowed to partially stack now! Another point to review :)
Look, Target Analyzers can be half_stacked, too!
Like I said before, a bunch of new toys fall into what I would consider spoiler territory (go out there and discover things!), but I'd add least like to point out here that a few of the new toys resulted in adding engine support for new twists on old mechanics, especially in the projectile department, and along with that we now have support for "directional explosions." So instead of explosions always projecting outward in all directions, we can get them exploding in an arc, like, oh I dunno, claymores? ;)
Here's a sample of the mechanic in action, where this wide explosion technically doesn't actually blast Cogmind or the Terminal (this was an engine test--there is no weapon exactly like this):
With these kinds of things having engine-level support, I'm sure we'll see some more real examples in the future.
To end this section we have not a new toy, but a new feature for an old one: Autohackers can now hack through doors that require manual codes, too, making them somewhat more useful (and of course aligning with what one might expect them to be capable of!).
There are a ton of little mechanical additions and changes, which is what the changelog is for (well, except where I left out a ton of new stuff because it's more fun to just find it), but anyway there are some bigger changes that deserve a bit of discussion. Let's go over some of those mechanical highlights...
There has always been a player tendency to want to build up a massive inventory capacity and hoard items like there's no tomorrow.
I mean yeah, there are indeed a lot of useful parts out there, and you're also going to lose parts and need replacements, but when the hoarding starts getting so out of hand that many of your utility slots are taken up by inventory-expanding parts and it cuts into your actual ability to fight, or use intel, or... have a real build, then that's a bit of a problem where the game design needs to come in and save players from their own tendencies (as a player I, too, am guilty here xD).
Having huge inventories also leads to inventory management annoyances, and there's always going to be an inventory management aspect to Cogmind gameplay, but we literally had players with 10 pages of inventory items... like... wow. Okay so that's an extreme example and a more common number might be 40-50 or so on a heavier build, but still.
The solution was to only allow you to use one storage at a time (so basically add the <no_stack> tag to all storage units). And of course this change isn't made in isolation--all storage units get a redesign towards this new goal, meaning capacities increased and mass updated etc. Basically we decided what a reasonable cap would be for inventory size, and extrapolated a reasonable scale for the units under this new system, taking into account both build balancing needs and the desire to avoid going overboard on inventory management.
It feels great.
There is indeed more inventory pressure since you can't just keep expanding it to accommodate more (aside from upgrading to a larger, heavier type of storage, up to the limit), but if you were a hoarder before you now have so many more free utility slots to actually use interesting parts and also increase your build effectiveness at whatever it is you're doing, be it evasion, hacking, intel, combat..., and this actually results in 1) a more engaging experience along with 2) likely less part attrition in the first place!
Even bothacking builds are fine, one of the first setups I was eager to test under this new system, since I like running them and traditionally they relied on a huge inventory. But all those extra utility slots meant I could actually attach a bunch of couplers and better use them in combination with RIF abilities. Botlord, indeed.
It might take a little getting used to, but your builds are going to be a lot better for it, and... if you must, there are some newer very large and heavy storage units, but the extra slots come with increasingly diminishing returns in terms of mass. So far most people testing the game haven't really gone for the largest possible inventory size anymore. Enjoy your new utility slots ;)
As part of the storage changes, Cogmind's base inventory size also increased from 4 to 5 slots, without any storage utilities at all.
Oh yeah, of course there's a whole article on this topic here with lots more details.
Your choice of storage is important when coming up with a build theme, and so is propulsion, which also saw some fairly big adjustments. This, too, is where experienced players are really going to have to suppress expectations and reevaluate strategies.
- Treads: Treads lost their innate accuracy bonus, as they're clearly quite good now and can eventually take advantage of siege mode for that accuracy (and other benefits) if they need it, not to mention using some of those freed up utility slots for optional targeting computers. Their overweight penalties increased because it was too easy to ignore the slowdown in exchange for all the extra support it offered, though for some people/builds the penalties are still within acceptable/usable limits. That's always my goal with balancing, to make it so that some people will make use of a particular approach or mechanic, but not everyone or most people. So treads nerfed a bit but still very good at what they do: support combat builds that blast everything in sight while taking a beating and laughing it off.
- Legs: Legs are carving out a bit more of their "mobile but pretty combat-capable" niche with a new momentum-based mechanic that increases their evasion with momentum, but decreases their accuracy at the same time. So they're now even better at repositioning while under fire, though suffer if they try too much running and gunning while out in the open. On that note, by extension this also improves legs as a choice for heavy melee combat--chaaaaarge!
- Wheels: Wheels didn't change much, already serving their niche pretty well as the propulsion known for being fairly fast, supportive, and easily acquired but also easily shot off. They just got a little bit of an overweight penalty nerf.
- Flight: Flight builds definitely got a mix of buffs and nerfs, trying to reorient them away from having such crazy combat potential, especially in the late game. They're already super fast, they don't need to be super powerful at the same time? xD. They're still just as good at scouting, escaping, hacking, and anything that benefits from speed and can rely on lightweight gear, though flight unit mass support was reduced, making it that much harder to fly around with bulky stuff. It's still possible to get creative and make a decent flying build that can fight if it has to, though its effectiveness won't be as extreme as it once was. Energy costs were also reduced, making it easier to power the core of a flight build, or easier to stack more units for even faster speed.
- Hover: Hover is the new (old) flight. It's pretty fast, and it can definitely still support some of those combat builds flight was running before, but doesn't have the flight advantage of being able to hop enemies and get out out of almost any scenario without actually destroying anything, so at least more balanced in that respect. Hover is still basically filling that "jack-of-all-trades but also challenging to maintain" role.
Like propulsion, damage types in Cogmind have undergone a fair number of updates over the years, and Beta 11 is easily the most balanced they've ever been. They've all got their proper niche now, and more importantly are all worth using if you want to build around that niche, or have a situation that calls for one type or another. For all the details check this article.
Thermal weapons were too easy to lose before, so were outright buffed by increasing their longevity via a combination of increased integrity and lower coverage (as balanced it's a niche since they're less likely to be hit than other weapons, but still have lower integrity, meaning if well-protected they will last even longer, but will be lost more quickly if not protected).
Kinetic cannons were very hard to sustain as a long-term build solution because they didn't leave much if anything of targets to salvage (most importantly matter!), but now they blast matter right off victims with each hit.
EM got nerfed, uh, again :P. Who would've thought that being capable of bypassing almost all defenses would require so many counterbalancing drawbacks!
The new tradeoff is pretty interesting, where EM creates "corrupted" salvage, which adds to Cogmind's system corruption when attached.
There are ways around this, for example preventing or getting rid of the corruption via other utilities, or evolving it away, but it does often mean that salvage (which EM is actually otherwise quite good at obtaining) obtained like this may not be immediately usable without some extra drawbacks.
As you'll find, Beta 11 actually comes with several new utiltiies for dealing with corruption. The System Backup Module mechanic (actually since merged with "System Restoration Modules" for Beta 11) was also changed to have them operate more quickly but damage the module in the process, which is overall a better design approach that avoids require tedium.
Be aware that point blank AOE EM tactics can actually now cause a chain reaction in Cogmind's power sources, in the same way as it could for other robots. There's no log in this recording, but you can clearly see the secondary explosion and screenshake!
You don't need to worry about other bots doing this to you, which would be sorta unfair, so it's always your fault if it happens :P. Power Shielding also protects against the effect, so at least that's one way to more safely use this strategy.
Impact melee got buffed (AGAIN!), and having used it in my stream earlier this week I must say it's pretty formidable. Those weapons were totally redesigned and despite their unusual targeting mechanics can really pulverize a robot good...
Prior to Beta 11 there was only ever one meaning of "critical strike" in Cogmind, and it meant destruction of the target part/core, but we've now got 12 of them! This is good both for further differentiating weapons as well as adding new tactical options. The in-game context help will be useful here as you examine weapons to learn more about them.
The Blast crit, generally found on kinetic cannons, can blast parts right off of a target:
See all your (and their) critical effects reported right on the map, too:
So that's all the general weapon-related topics I wanted to cover here, but know that lots of individual weapons got tweaked, too, so be on the lookout for changes :)
(Note: To keep this announcement shorter, the rest of this section has been cut. See the announcement on the forums for the remainder of the Mechanics section.)
Tons of QoL, as usual.
(Note: As above, this section also cut, includes 13 QoL-related demo animations/images on the forums.)
(Note: As above, more information and a few animated demos were cut from here as well.)
For those of you just starting out, leiavoia has put together a nifty guide to Cogmind, one which avoids any major spoilers. It's got pictures and everything!
As always, aoemica's Cog-Minder is a useful Cogmind reference and theorycrafting tool for advanced players, or just someone who wants to look up stats for some robot or item.
And leiavoia's Dataminer offers a great alternative way to examine your scoresheets or those other players have uploaded.
The leaderboards will finally be reset tomorrow now that we have a new major version out!!!
I've been streaming Beta 11 prerelease versions throughout the past year (archives), and look forward to continuing with more runs in the completed Beta 11, and of course yet more prereleases as we eventually head towards... Beta 12 ;)
But let's not get ahead of ourselves...
Having just dropped this huge update it's a little early to go into depth about what's to come, but in short, I imagine we'll next see an 11.1 with some more fixes and tweaks, especially some little stuff I wanted to include in Beta 11 but didn't have time for (also that Active Sensor Suite data for non-0b10 areas). Then after that we'll be on the way to beta 12 and 13, each of which will be adding another new faction ;)
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