So the intention has always been to create a Real Time Strategy game that encompassed as much about space-based fleet management as possible in a game. This includes modelling more detail then you would normally expect and simulating the physics of the ships and projectiles to create more varied and captivating action.
That remit hasn’t changed, but when we released Shallow Space as an alpha some players found a number of issues, issues that could not be ignored – some were easy enough to change, others required another look at the game design document. Fortunately we were able to extract the time consuming, tested and functioning parts of the project and nest it into a fresh project, wiping away many of the reported issues and opening doors to many exciting features not commonly seen in this type of game.
The cost to the project is a setback in time, time is money to any developer but we were prepared to front that cost in favor of creating something that both early adopters and the team will all have been proud to be involved in. The result is a project currently split between the older discontinued alpha available on Steam, and the ‘Overhaul Beta’ that will soon replace it, which is also publicly available on Steam by changing your game branch in the games properties.
So let’s talk about what we can expect.
Shallow Space as an RTS
Real Time Strategy remains the main focus of Shallow Space, and thanks to the feedback from the current alpha is close to being mechanically complete. This time, the RTS layer was built on top of a multiplayer engine ready to be switched on when we have the available resources.
In the current alpha, one of the common complaints was that the arenas are too big which lead to lots of scrolling and a lull in gameplay, this issue was exacerbated by the 3D nature of the combat in that ships needed large areas to parry else the entire arena becomes engulfed in a big, uncontrollable conflict.
In the Overhaul, we get around that by splitting the play area into zones. Each zone might contain a series of installations lending it to a particular function (ie: Ship construction or trade) so not only do we have better control over the types of activity and where, but we can also really explode the scope into hundreds of concurrent zones around tens of planets containing thousands of ships, without fear of overloading the players immediate focus.
But there are some that prefer the more linear setting, perhaps for casual skirmishes or learning to control their fleets effectively and we will continue to cater for that.
Shallow Space as a 4X
While simulating the activity of a couple hundred ships, it quickly became clear that a traditional RTS interface alone will quickly end up becoming irritatingly insufficient. To combat this we’ll be adding UI elements traditionally only seen in 4X games.
An example of this might be a window allowing the issuing of a sequence of repeatable instructions to your traders or miners or even your combat fleets. This automation, complete with all the relevant data and charts, will give you the option of managing your operation like a business.
There will be some overlap between the RTS/4X layers. So in the early game you might procure weapons and small quantities of material via ‘petty trade’ and issue resource collection instructions locally via the abilities bar, but as your fleet grows into innumerable groups all assembled for a specific task, something a little more geared to the ‘bigger-picture’ is both required and planned.
But more exciting than marrying those two concepts together is that we’ll be borrowing a 4X’s sense of scale.
We are working to create an accurate procedural model of a potentially unlimited number of planetary systems for you to use as your galactic sandpit, each planet and zones will harbor a set of materials that will have you plotting epic journeys for your fleets planning them around the orbital patterns of planets. With each planet containing multiple zones and accompanying parallax environments to match the scene, it’s clear that we intend to not just use space as the visible setting, but completely immerse you in its majesty.
Shallow Space as an RPG
Linear storytelling just doesn’t quite have the impact it used to, and we should take advantage of being able to tell the story from the viewpoint of the Officers on the ships. We think listening to them talk out issues as they encounter them will directly anchor you to the action.
You will still get all the juicy goodness from the current alpha, the ability to customize ship load-outs and appearances but one observation of the current alpha is that none of it matters when it ultimately boils down to who has the higher cumulative DPS. To combat this we can now host the action in multiple zones around a particular planet or even a complete system. Allied forces will play a key part in this with the player able to influence their approach to a situation via dialogue and building reputations.
As it fits we’ll be borrowing much from the MMORPG standpoint of telling the tale, but removing around 80% of the grind. For example, you won’t have to be in the same zone to raise a ship on comms and even if a mission does contain an element of grind you can automate it or even play with multiple fleets on other assignments at the same time.
But mainly in this layer we focus on creating multiple facets to the story, requiring fleet and resource co-ordination taking the intent from a linear driven campaign to a grand campaign in an expansive sandpit.
The hold-up right now is the race to replace the current alpha with functionality that is similar or exceeds what is currently available in the Beta.
That Beta has been humming along nicely in the background, publicly available on the shy for nearly a month now inviting the most patient and passionate of fans to provide constructive feedback. With the core mechanics of the game nearly solid we’re happy to declare that chapter closed to begin work on the fun, game-building stuff.
Expect the detailed update posts to restart shortly, talking about additions and amendments with us focusing on building more of a presence. We’ll revise the roadmap and media, bringing everything to bear on the new Beta and thanks mainly to your support and understanding during the work of the last 6 months; what a Beta it’s turned out to be.
But don't take our word for it, fire up the new Beta and see for yourself!