So gamma islands are back, you’ve been busy there for 3 weeks already. With the expected small hotfixes out of the way we can say that we’re happy with how things went down, we hope you’re having a good time too.

This brings me to the main announcement of this blog. As outlined in the previous status report, once we’re looking at a stable gamma system, we’re ending our Early Access phase on Steam.

Originally the EA phase was meant to be quite short, basically to make sure that our new servers work as they should and our integration with Steam is flawless. But because of the removal/revamp of gamma islands the game has lost a large chunk of its content, we decided to extend EA until it’s finished. Of course we could still wait until we’re done with the mission system revamp, and with new PvE content, and the new engine, and and and… but that would be a vicious cycle and we’d be stuck in there forever. With the new changes of the Steam UI it has also become even less desirable to stay in Early Access for longer than absolutely necessary, simply from a visibility standpoint.

So with that said, we’re officially launching on Steam this Friday, the 17th of October. And as it is the case with all newly launching games, Perpetuum will be -10% off for a week.

Of course this won’t really change much from a development perspective, we’re continuing on the road we have laid out and keep improving the game.

New mineral system

We’re also planning a small patch for this Thursday (version 3.5.2), with a few bug fixes, and something that we wanted to do for a while now. This is a reworked mineral spawning system, which won’t mean too much difference in gameplay at first, but it makes our lives easier and it’s also more optimal for the server and the database.

To get a bit more technical, mineral fields so far have been generated and stored in raw bitmaps, and “fields” as a concept did not actually exist. Minerals in ground tiles had no connection to each other, and we couldn’t tell whether two tiles belonged to the same mineral field or not. This made it practically impossible to create rules and mechanics that would affect a whole mineral field.

With the new system, fields are node-based and are stored hierarchically in the database, which makes it very easy to let a whole field despawn without any residue after a certain time for example.

The system is very different compared to the current one, which will result in all the mineral fields being reset, so please be aware of this.

From a balancing standpoint we’ll also take this opportunity and make the faction-specific mineral difference even more significant, going from a 1:1.5 ratio of non-faction:faction minerals on an island to a 1:2 ratio.

Intrusion and gamma changes

Two relatively small but very significant changes will happen here, based on forum feedback and our observations, which will be deployed in the patch after the next one (3.5.3).

The change related to gamma islands is that we’ll be lifting the limit of 3 terminals per island. We have anticipated this change and mentioned before gammas were opened that we’re playing it safe but this might happen, but now we’re sure it has to go. The remaining terminal-to-terminal range limit and the red no-build areas should be enough to provide a soft limit for the number of terminals on an island.

The change to intrusions will bring an end to the automatic stability increase of beta outposts, and will require the owner corporation to complete their own SAP events as well. This will be the only way to increase the stability of outposts; if an event happens without any interaction then the stability will remain unchanged. Attacking corporations completing SAP events will of course still reduce stability, like they do now. As a result of this change, intrusion events should be more fast-paced and straightforward as defenders won’t have to stand around for two hours waiting for someone to come, but it will also require more effort to keep an outpost stable.

Robot balancing

We’re preparing a larger balancing patch that affects pretty much every robot in the game. The general aim is to boost light and assault class robots, and to stimulate or rather make room for a larger variance in weapon and module choices for all robots.

Listing all the changes specifically would be too much for this blog, but here are the main points:

  • Light and assault bots get additional head and/or leg slots.
  • They also get a slight CPU and reactor boost...
  • ...and a 25% mass increase, so equipped modules don’t affect their speed that much.
  • The current faction-specific weapon damage bonus of all combat robots will be changed to a combination of a larger general weapon damage bonus plus a smaller faction-specific weapon damage bonus. This means that your robot will be less “crippled” when using weapons other than its faction-specific ones.
  • Weapon-specific bonuses of assaults and mechs will be size-independent, so assaults will receive bonuses for medium weapons, and mechs for light weapons too.
  • All robots will receive an extra bonus that is either connected to their intended role or their faction.
  • We’d like to emphasize the scout role of light combats, so they receive a detection bonus.
  • Combat assaults receive an optimal range bonus in order to take on longer-ranged mechs more easily.
  • Light EWs get a small bonus to their faction-specific weapon cycle times to increase their combat capabilities a bit.
  • Combat mechs should be as agile as possible on the battlefield, so they receive a bonus to demobilizer resistance.
  • EW mechs’ main role is to disrupt from the distance, this means an EW module optimal range bonus for them.
  • Combat heavy mechs, being the slow fortresses they are, receive a small survivability boost with the help of armor resistance bonuses.
  • Industrial light robots get an accumulator capacity bonus giving them more working stability or even survivability, depending on their loadout.
  • Industrial mechs will be pushed more towards a combat support role with remote support module and sensor strength bonuses, while still retaining their primary mining and harvesting bonuses.
  • We’re also making indy heavy mechs a bit more sturdy with a bonus to their armor amount.
  • It’s not all that bright of course, so don’t be surprised if there will be also nerfs to some robots’ specific bonuses.

Mk2 robots have special bonuses and those will stay as they are, but basically Mk2s (and other special variants like prototypes) will get the same treatment as their normal counterparts.

These can still change as we will still go through all of these modifications again in the coming week. It will also hit the public test server first since we’re of course curious about your feedback too, so we don’t have an exact schedule for this other than “soon”.

Closing

Although this report is mainly about the impending and shortly upcoming changes, don’t forget that the larger updates outlined in the September and May status reports are still in effect. So the next blog post should tell you more about the incoming second stage of our mission system revamp. Or maybe another one inbetween about the teleport and highway network revamp?

These posts should be more frequent, I know. Gamma island mechanics are currently the most complex parts of the game and development dragged out more than expected. But we wanted to get it right this time before we move on to more pressing issues, like the situation on the PvE front.

The good news is that the wait is finally over soon: the reworked gamma islands patch will hit the live server next Wednesday, the 17th of September.

Now, since this will be a big patch that includes a lot of changes and fixes outside of gamma mechanics too, we’ll take a bit of precaution. When we deploy the patch on the 17th, gamma islands will be there, but the teleports leading to them will be initially disabled. We’ll use the next two days to gather any issues that might come up during general gameplay, and if all goes well, we’ll deploy the fixes and open up gammas on Friday the 19th. (Update: we'd still like to take a few days to make sure everything is right and check out a few remaining bugs, so gammas will open next week.)

There are still a few kinks to iron out until then, but these are mainly just small bugs and balancing issues. Testing on the PTS will still go on too (you're welcome to join!), and here we would like to thank everyone who helped us with feedback, ideas, or bug reports!

What you need to know about the new gammas

The new gamma mechanics include a few big changes and a lot of small ones. For simplicity’s sake I’ll only talk about the important ones here, and those who are interested in the details can do so in the “Gamma revamp testing” forum topic, which is fairly comprehensive.

New islands, new layout

Initially we’ll start off with 6 gamma islands - 3 old, and 3 brand new ones. For the new islands we tried to make things interesting instead of following the “big chunk of land”-style, so we have some split landmasses and archipelago-style zones too. Additional islands will be introduced when we see that the demand arises, and we’ll also try to keep them varied and interesting. And although the teleport network for these 6 islands seems fairly symmetrical for now, this won’t be the case as we expand with additional ones, so don’t build strategies around this.

New gamma islands - red overlay means no build/no terraform areas

Reworked terraforming

Sky-high “terrain walls” were one of the big problems of old gammas. Although it was nice to see people getting creative, apart from the aesthetic issues it also allowed for near-impenetrable fortresses, which caused a lot of headaches for us and for you as well. No-bounds terraforming was a big issue, so we’re changing this now.

New terraforming panel

Terraforming has now a limit of how steep you can make the terrain. This limit is set between the slope capability of assault and mech class robots, which means that you can’t ever terraform anything where a light or assault bot wouldn’t be able to pass. Unfortunately we have to say goodbye to beacon-terraforming, however much you guys liked it, because we simply couldn’t make it work together with the slope limit (for now at least). So instead we made module terraforming more user friendly, by making terrain tile locking instant, and merging all the different types of terraforming charges into one charge, where you select the type of terraforming method from the new terraforming panel.

Network bandwidth limit

The second big issue that came up was that we didn’t impose any limits on the number of structures you can build. This not only caused balancing problems (numbers always win), but server and client performance issues too. To remedy this, all buildings connected to the network have a certain bandwidth usage and main terminals received a bandwidth cap.

Energy management changes

Like some of you, we have also made the observation that gamma colonies are too self-sufficient. Since reactors generated energy out of thin air, you could practically leave your base alone and it worked for an indefinite time, unless someone destroyed it.

Energy field

A big change here is that reactors won’t be generating energy on their own anymore. We’re introducing a new underground resource, which is not so much a mineral, but actually an energy field (that’s what we’re on Nia for, after all). These fields cannot be exploited by regular means; you need to place energy wells on them (a new building type), which will send the raw energy over your network into the reactors, which in turn will convert it to energy usable by all the buildings.

Like normal minerals, energy fields also deplete and respawn at random places all the time, so colony managers will need to check on them every few days and look for new energy sources to keep the colony powered.

Gamma highways

This has been requested for quite a long time now, and now they are here: buildable highway nodes, which will create a strip of speed boosting effect between them.

Walls and gates

Also a fairly big change is that now you’ll be able to lock and directly shoot deployable walls and all kinds of plants too.

Forcefield gate

We have also created a simple forcefield gate that you can place between wall tiles, and can be opened and closed with a simple click (if you have access, of course). Since this is not part of the gamma colony system, but a simple deployable field device, you'll also be able to use these on Beta islands.

The end of Steam Early Access

Our Early Access phase on Steam has been created with the aim to warn new players about possible server and connectivity issues while we were in the process of moving our servers. Meanwhile, the development of gamma took longer than expected, and since such a large system in the game can bring unexpected performance issues, we have chosen to wait with the closure of EA. But with that done, it will have served its intended purpose by a large margin, so it must come to an end.

So after gamma is released and seems stable, we will come out of Early Access and officially launch on Steam.

Of course this doesn’t really change anything - we will still continue development and regularly bring in new features and much needed changes.

What comes next

As laid out in a previous blog, first we’ll be doing a rework of the current highway and teleport networks, to speed up travelling in the game. The gamma patch actually includes a related change already, giving a flat speed increase to all robots.

Meanwhile we’re preparing a larger balance package for robots, with the aim of boosting smaller classes a bit, and changing some bonuses all around to make certain roles more distinct and logical.

Then we’ll move on to the long overdue second stage of the assignment revamp, bringing real variance to the PvE experience in the form of random assignments. NPC spawns have also become a bit of a mess due to all the balancing and mechanics changes over the years, so we are planning a big overhaul for them as well.

Later on we’ll still continue with improving the neglected PvE part of Perpetuum. The introduction of energy fields slowly starts to give sense for the actual backstory, and we have a few solid ideas already to make the collection of raw energy not just a gamma-only feature, but an interesting incentive that all players can participate in, from new to old.

That’s all for now, and I’ll try to make these reports a monthly thing, promised.

As we mentioned in the previous post, ever since the Steam launch we've been busy working on getting new hosting. Over the last week we've finally received all the paperwork and hardware accesses to start the process:

On June 16th (Monday), starting at 10:00 we'll start the migration from our old servers in Budapest to a large datacenter in Amsterdam operated by Internap.

Internap certainly has a track record in gaming hosting, so this will hopefully lower the on-terrain latency - Amsterdam is one of the major hubs of Transatlantic networking, so players from Europe and America should notice a much more stable connection. Internap also cooked up various solutions to continually adapt networks, so in short we're having high hopes for this.

Now, a few words about the migration itself: During the period of moving, which we estimate to be around 3-4 hours (but you know how it is), all services will be down - game, web, email, IRC, everything. Some of this delay is inevitable (DNS propagation) and services will come back asynchronously: we'll try to get the game back up as fast as we can - most services are already running and working fine, we just need to synchronize some files and databases.

It's probably your best bet to follow us on Twitter or Facebook to follow our migration progress.

Wish us luck.

It’s been a little more than a month since we’ve launched on Steam, and we’re closing in on 2 months past our payment model change, so it’s high time to do a quick assessment on where we stand, and where we’re going.

Fresh blood

The best news I can tell you is of course that our playerbase received a much needed boost, thanks to our parting with the subscription model, and the huge visibility that Steam provides.

We’ve hit the 600 mark with the online player count on a recent weekend and our average player count is roughly 5 times as before. Of course this is a tiny amount if you compare Perpetuum to other online games, but I have to remind you that we’re still in Early Access so people are wary to join. Also, as we have stated before, we’ve chosen the path of a slow growth instead of spiking it, so it’s all pretty much going according to our plans. We didn’t have any server issues that can be attributed to online player numbers so far either, which is another good sign.

I don’t have the freedom to tell you actual financial data, but it should be enough to say that after months (years?) of worrying about what to put on your plate tomorrow, it’s a liberating feeling to have that off of the list of things to worry about, and being able to just focus on making the game better.

A new home

We have already started to put those financials to good use, so beyond the company-issued Ferraris (by which we mean a second portion of ramen), we have found a brand new hosting location for our game servers.

As you probably know, the Perpetuum server cluster (if you can call 3 machines a cluster) is currently located in Budapest, Hungary. This is of course quite optimal for us, but very sub-optimal for most you, as we are hardly what you could call the center of the interwebs. My support ticket inbox is always full of reimbursement requests related to lag and disconnections, and most of those can be probably attributed to various network and routing issues.

So after doing the necessary research and inquiries, we have decided to move the servers to a prominent datacenter in Amsterdam. Though technically we’re not moving the machines themselves, but rather renting new ones on location, since we’re very fond of the idea of not having to send in Gargaj to switch a faulty HDD in our self-maintained hardware. To Amsterdam.

Without going into too much technical detail for now, compared to the current mixed-role 3-server configuration, the new setup will consist of 5 core machines: 1 server for handling player traffic (logins and zone jumps), 1 dedicated machine for the SQL database, and 3 dedicated machines for hosting the islands, split down between the 3 main factions.

Paperwork and technicalities are still in progress, but if things go as planned, you’ll be able to test the new servers within a month.

The near future

Let’s have a look at the things that we’ll be focusing on in the coming months. Some of these will be done in parallel, but the general order is something like this.

Gamma revamp

With the closing down of gamma islands a huge chunk of the game content has been temporarily removed, so this is our top priority right now of course - we know that you guys are preparing for the mother of all wars when gammas open up again. We are using our public test server to try out all the new mechanics and limitations that we need to implement to make it all work again.

We’re taking our time with this because obviously nobody wants another gamma wipe a year from now, and we are grateful to everyone who aids us with valuable feedback and actual testing. More info on the progress of this is coming soon to the relevant testing forum topic.

Quality-of-life improvements

Gargaj is on fire, and we have received an overwhelmingly positive feedback on the small QoL improvements like the autopilot, the storage search, and the many small UI-related changes. We’ll continue on this road, so you can definitely expect more of these.

Assignment system revamp - Stage 2

After Gamma is back up, we’ll jump right into doing some long-awaited PvE love: the revamp of the assignments. It’s been a while since we announced this, but better late than never.

As you might remember, the second stage is about making the assignments themselves random. We’ll be using an assignment template system where we only set what type of objectives you need to do, but the exact enemy you need to kill, or the item you need to acquire, or the mineral you need to mine will be all randomly selected from a pool of nearby locations, so your chances of seeing the exact same assignment twice will be quite low.

Not only that, but we’ll also seed the islands with many small assignment terminals that you’ll be able to use while on the terrain, so you can spare the long walks back and forth to the main terminals just to request or deliver an assignment.

Robot paint system

We have already deployed the foundations of the paint system in a recent patch (you probably noticed because most of the robots received a white color due to a bug).

The coloring system will be definitely not just some “pick a color and be done with it”-thing: we’ll have paint items that you can either gather or manufacture and then mix them together to get the final color for your robot; so basically fully integrate the painting frenzy into the industry and market economy.

Teleport and highway network revamp

The topic of long walks is still one of our most discussed issues, and one of the many reasons behind it is the current haphazard teleport and highway system layout. Although we don’t plan to make groundbreaking changes to the teleport network itself, our basic concept for the change is that you should be able to travel between every teleport and terminal/outpost without stepping off of a highway, ever. If you’ve seen the Virtual Training Island, that should be a good indicator of our general direction with this, but we’ll try to even top that.

Balancing changes

DEV Alf is back from the dead too, so you can expect some balancing changes too. He has already jumped into a hot topic right now: the balance of signal detectors and electronic warfare in general.

Steam trading and market integration

This is something that we still need to do some research on, but I’m putting it here because we plan to do it sooner rather than later. As you probably know, several games have items that can be traded via the Steam economy already. The general idea is that first you would be able to trade ingame items via Steam, for example your Gropho Mk2 for some trading card or another Perpetuum originated item.

The ultimate goal however is that we’ll also hook up Perpetuum to the Steam community market, where you’ll be able to sell and buy ingame items for Steam wallet funds. We’re approaching this very carefully of course - it could be a large boost to the ingame economy, but things could also go wrong with it.

The not-so-near future

We’re quite aware that the graphics of the game are starting to look dated. Unfortunately the current engine architecture has also become dated, so this is not simply a question of putting in higher resolution textures and models. The engine requires a major rewrite for any significant upgrades.

Not to mention the GUI - one of the most frequent complaints we hear is about the small size of the ingame fonts. This is also something that’s very hard to fix currently, since the interface is pretty much hardcoded and not “stretchy”. Text with larger fonts would simply overflow outside of the UI elements, and we’d need to have a completely separate, differently sized interface for that to work - and we’d rather put that effort into a new and advanced interface engine that will work for all display sizes without compromise.

For these reasons we’ve been working on the foundations of a completely new client but as you might guess this is not a simple task. At this time we’re still pretty far from replacing our current client, but work towards this goal has been going on behind the scenes for the last year and a half now.

Our first goal here is to get basic functionality going (glorified chat client woo!), which would work as a proof of concept for the new interface engine. Once that’s satisfying enough, we’ll move on to the 3D engine itself. With the new interface tech we developed, the implementation of a new client should go a lot faster than before. Regarding a timeframe, we hope to have something to show later this year, at the very least a partially functional test of the new interface engine.

Conclusion

This year marks the 10th year of Perpetuum development, and after an admittedly quite awful last year - which no doubt you noticed as well - the Steam launch has been one of the most important things that happened to the game. We’re adamant on riding this wave and focusing on making a better gaming experience for everyone, which is an easy thing to say, and it’s equally easy to be sceptic about it, but here’s the thing: This project is important to us - and we’ll act accordingly.

LAUNCH CONFIRMED!

Cue "it's been a long road" and other emotional phrases, and you have probably heard about this by now, but:

Perpetuum will be officially released on Steam on the 23rd of April. (Yes, this year :)

Feel free to check out our store page - though there is not much to look at yet, but some discussions have already started there.

Perpetuum on Steam

Steam beta access

Those who already own the game are now able to link their Perpetuum and Steam accounts on our website and receive a free copy of the game on Steam. We have set up a new Account connections section under account management where you can do this.

Note that this is only a small gift for our loyal players and future purchases of Perpetuum on our website will not mean that you will also get a Steam key. Since Steam is not a requirement to access the game and will not give players any in-game benefits, we will still be offering Perpetuum through our own store as well.

For now Steam access is still in beta stage (earlier than Early Access), so there might still be some small bugs or things missing.

Gamma reset and testing

The most important information you need to know that the gamma reset will happen a day before the Steam launch, on April 22.

Since the last patch, the client includes the personal and corporation-level reimbursement selectors, where you can tell us the target terminal where you would like to have your gamma items transferred on the day of the reset. (More info in the patch notes.)

Meanwhile we’ve been working on the changes that justify the whole gamma reset in the first place, namely the terraform limitation and the colony building network restrictions. Both of these will be out on the public test server very soon, and we kindly urge you to break it in any way you can. We’re also putting down a mobile teleport next to the TM Alpha terminal on the test server which leads to the gamma test zone, so you won’t have to walk all the way unnecessarily. More info on the testing forum soon.

Depending on how testing and development of this goes, the best case scenario is that we don’t shut down gammas at all, but do the reset on the 22nd and you can immediately take it back with the improved mechanics in place. In case we encounter some serious issues during testing, we will still have the reset on the 22nd, but will close down gammas on the same day until we can deploy the changes.

Twitch intergration

One-click video streaming

Gameplay features always have priority, but Gargaj has been working on integrating Twitch's one-click video streaming into the client whenever he had some spare time, so this is also coming very soon. Complete with Twitch chat integration, Twitch account linking, and eye-twitching Perpetuum video stream overdose!

Also, some of you have asked our stand regarding video sharing and monetization, so we've put up a policy page on our website - see here.