You, fine members of the Astrobase Command community, have asked for a bit of big picture visibility on our progress since we’ve started and a better sense of where we are heading.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been almost 2 years since we launched the Kickstarter for Astrobase Command. Even though it didn’t turn out quite the way we hoped, we’ve been busily pushing on with the project.
In the course of those two years, we’ve put out quite a few updates and as we burrow deeper and deeper into our respective areas to get the game ready to go, we sometimes get pretty focused. Our friend @AztechConsulting led the way recently by pointing out that we were getting so far down into the stardust that you can’t see the galaxy for the planets (how’s that for mixed metaphors?)
So we spent some time gathering some notes that would help give you a better picture of where we stand at this point. In the process, we cast our gaze all the way back to our pre-Kickstarter era and then took note of key events and developments to take stock of the challenges and accomplishments we’ve undertaken so far.
We were quite surprised by how much we have actually pulled off. It’s easy even for us to lose sight of the mountains of work we’ve had to conquer to get to this stage. Here are some of the key themes and events that we’ve tackled to date:
- Created an original IP and set a distinctive retro visual style;
- Set up a collaborative workspace in which we can efficiently create and share content despite being separated on two different continents;
- Developed our dev tools;
- Emerged from the chrysalis of our prototype coding with wholly new builds to improve code efficiency and integrate new gameplay elements;
- Developed a mechanism for characters to have conversations;
- Developed AI Agent utility systems;
- Handled the business of actually setting up a company. It takes more time than one would think;
- Created a slew of procedural generation technologies for character portraits, planets, planetary locations, weapons and equipment; and
- Most importantly at this stage, we are in the process of wrapping up the foundational work for the AI Storyteller. We are getting diverse stories that are tailored to each character’s attributes and presenting engaging dilemmas for them to tackle in their own manner.
All of this leaves us only a few features away from having the full game loop that we can start polishing up in anticipation for its release to EA. Mind you, some of these features are hefty, so Astrobase won’t be on EA in the next month or two, but the light at the end of the hyperspace tunnel may be coming into view.
Also, each of the team members have undergone a number of personal challenges, ranging from cross-country moves, to changes in the situation on the home front, and even medical challenges.
As member of the gamedev community, we’ve also lived through the shift in perception when it comes to the level of finish expected of Steam’s Early Access candidates. It would have been a poor move for us to hop on just to try to get a revenue stream too early, as we believe that it would have ended up representing a greater risk to the ultimate outcome of successfully delivering a full-featured Astrobase Command to all of you.
And yet, despite these obstacles that have been thrown in our paths, we are still here, we are still working, and we still burn fiercely with the desire to deliver Astrobase as soon as possible.
Now that we’ve cycled through some major internal milestones, we have a strong understanding of the time it takes for our small team to tackle different challenges. It’s also clear what we’ve got left to do before we’re ready to get Astrobase Command into your hands.
We have carefully planned our Path to Early Access. In the short term, we’ll keep scheduling details For Internal Use Only because we’re still finalizing our PR strategy. Announcing a specific date is a card we can only play once, so we want it to make as much of a bang as possible to the media.
What we can say is that our EA release date hinges on how much we like our next internal playable build. It is scheduled for late December. We only want to release something to EA that is good enough that we can ethically charge money for it.
Because we haven’t taken any money yet, and that we don’t intend to until we are happy that we have a special nugget of gaming unobtainium, we’re not under any commitment pressure. This is a luxury we want to keep because we’ll keep cutting builds until we’re satisfied that you will be satisfied.
We do enjoy being open with you and sharing some of what makes making games so engaging and challenging, and hopefully pass on some useful learning points and tips for you to use in your own projects. So hopefully this update will meet that objective and at least let you get a feeling for where things are at this point.
This week I’ve been remaking the garden (again). This has been one of the sections that I’ve not been happy about, resulting in several re-makes of it. Now I’ve arrived at a base of it that I like a lot more. This of course means I needed to remake the plants. And it being part of a visual polish type pass on my part I felt it was finally time to abandon Unity’s built in tree-creator tool and switch to the standard SpeedTree.
Of course, I can’t just have one section with good looking plants and the rest looking bad, so this means I have to remake all the existing ones. Not that we have a crazy amount of plants, but it still adds to the amount of work I need to do.
This week I worked on 2nd pass of the narrative gen text seeds. It’s coming along great. And since this task is really the base-case for the feature to have something for implementation, working through more complex examples and generally mapping out the the next steps of it has been in my mind.
I’ve also had a foray into business development side of things. While not terribly interesting to talk about, as we move closer to an Early Access build that sort of thing starts to become important.
Hey there Spacers!
This week, I worked on how modules are being assembled using some new assets Daniel put together. They provide improved lighting in hallways, as well as unique hull assets depending on the hull type used in module construction.
This also allowed me to iterate on how we load these assets for assembly, which smooths out our loading process somewhat.
Finally, I spent some time architecting the basis for our save system and am really satisfied with the result. It’s rare that a coder can write something he’s confident will last him for years almost as-is.
This week, I made a little more progress on some graphics changes, but mostly have to take care of some post-end-of-fiscal-year paperwork (Jealous?).
We also took some time to discuss our community’s requests for clarification on our release schedule. We’re putting together a handy graphic for the main site that’ll clarify what our different release versions are, what features you can expect in each and where we’re at amidst all those.
This week I’ve overhauled some sections that needed a bit of love. Sometimes what happens is that something is made early on, before the art style was nailed down as much, and sometimes it’s a matter of assets not looking quite good enough.
Oh and the Windows on my laptop decided to just stop working. That was fun.
I expect to have the plot points and the associated text all wrapped up this week. My ABC development time has been working towards that end. I have already started organizing the data for the associated db work, and thinking about what the underlying class structure in the code will look like. Definitely “over the hump” on this feature!
This week I caught up on a bunch of pending graphics tasks, including finally getting the LODs exporting correctly, getting in some new assets and fixing some outstanding visual glitches we were dealing with.
The hope is to get everything up to the same level graphically so Daniel can evaluate it as a whole and iterate on it accordingly.
This week I’ve started out continuing the work to add more visual variation of the external view of a station. Since Adam finished the LOD export stuff I then switched over to doing several passes over all assets and rooms(sections) to align them with the updated requirements. Basically a lot of repetitive technical work that isn’t quite repetitive enough to be scriptable.
I have 3 more to go, and then I will have done a first pass on all the plotpoints we determined were necessary for the first playable procedural narrative generation feature.
I was going to go a bit into details, but I didn’t want to give the competition a heads up. After those three are done, I still have to go back over the lot with the new data tools and make adjustments. But it’s a lot easier to improve something that exists than to do from scratch so hopefully the most grueling part is done.
This week was largely an admin week for me, knocking out income taxes, service taxes, tax taxes and cat taxes.
I also managed to spend a little time working on the LOD problem and look forward to a dedicated block of programmer time next week to knock that out alongside a bunch of important graphics updates (this game is going to be so friggin’ pretty, it drives me crazy).
This week my work was very much a continuation of the work from last week. Which means I was working on the exteriors of the station modules to add variety to the overall station visuals.
This week I took some time to do business development for the company. Not to get into the details, but there is a bit more to releasing a successful game than just making it! I also caught a terrible flu, which knocked me out and impacted productivity.