Dev Update (05/11/2015)

Hi everyone,

In yesterday’s live stream (You can view it here if you missed it). David Braben answered many questions including the dates for the various upcoming betas. The first beta will be for the 1.5 content and will commence some time next week. This will be followed by the Horizons planetary landing beta on the week of the 23rd November.

David’s sneak peek last week showed some of the settlement action so I’ll describe some aspects of this in more detail. Ports and settlements are the upper end of the scale of locations you can discover on planet’s surfaces. They can vary in size themselves from huge, established conglomerations of structures to quite small outposts. Surface starports are generally the largest and they act in a similar way to the starports in orbit. They can have the same facilities and have economies dependent on the type of world and with specific variations depending on the starport itself. New economy types have been added that only apply to surface starports.

As with the orbital starports, missions can be taken from surface starports and they can take you to surface bases. Similarly missions can be issued from orbital starports that require visiting the surface – assuming you have the ability to do so. There are also new mission variants that apply only to surface operations.

Complementing this is a range of resources and commodities that are only available from surface starports or by collection from points of interest as I mentioned last week. We’re also adding a new type of method for locating resources and uses for them which is a prelude for the loot and crafting system coming later in the Horizons season – more on this soon.

The surface starports and settlements are where the population of these airless worlds live and present various opportunities for Commanders. The style and layout of these facilities reflects their purpose. One of my favourite examples of this is the prison colony – this is an imposing and well-guarded structure that you might need to penetrate to facilitate a prison break.

Surface installations are a lot more open than orbital stations. Of course you can collect and deliver goods from surface bases, but it is also possible to hack data links, sections of bases get power from specific generators – taking out those generators takes out the lights in that section, but also the power to the turrets… Skimmers can also be taken out, or taking out the towers that control them can be just as effective way of breaching the defences. Whether it’s a secret research base or a prison colony, there are multiple stages to carrying out your objectives.

As we’ve shown and mentioned already it is advisable to take a flexible approach to these settlements – some of them are protected by capital ship scale weaponry that is lethal against ships, although less so against the SRVs – both because of their slower motion, but also they have a minimum angle of declination – so a Scarab can use the landscape to stay below the guns in most cases. Smaller turrets and skimmers are more of a threat to the SRVs. If you’re operating in a wing then each Commander can work in different roles at the same time, but even on your own you can achieve the same effect more slowly by switching between your ship and SRV accordingly.

Depending on the world’s population there can be none, a few,  or many of these surface starports and settlements. As you’d expect they’re more common within the human habited bubble, but they’re not exclusive to that volume. Similar crime and ownership rules apply to settlements and ports as they do to space stations and outposts. Some of these can be lawless, others where the law is enforced – so take care before opening fire! As well as the bounties available at these sites you can encounter settlements in a state of war which can be engaged in a similar fashion to combat zones.

So far we’ve focused on the locations and the more action orientated gameplay, but naturally there’s more to planetary landings than that. I’ve already talked about the points of interest you can discover, but how you find them utilises a new device on the SRV, in addition to the ground scanner you have already seen. This works very differently to the ship scanners and we’ll reveal more about this next week.

Having said all this, we are still at work on the base game too. This week we updated the galaxy sim that fixes an issue with asset ownership not flipping when a conflict is resolved. A cap on influence changes has been added – this scales depending on the population of the system (a higher population allows a bigger swing) and the degree of changes (so a large value of changes allows more change in influence) and limits the maximum amount of change in a system when the background simulation effects are calculated. This will prevent the massive swings that we’ve seen, but a concerted campaign can still bring a faction down quickly if it is not countered. For the player group minor factions that were affected by the massive drops we’ll reset them to their initial ownership state where we can.

Comment on Mike's post in the forum here.