Friends, it is time to prepare for our annual ritual, during which our wallets gain sentience, slink out of our closely guarded pockets and offer themselves as monetary sacrifice to the great lords of Bellevue in hopes of a plentiful digital Summer wherein we may joyfully reap the crops of electronic entertainment while overdosing on caffeinated drinks and dubstep.

Yes, it is our favorite vaporous vacation vendition, the Steam Summer Sale and this time we offer you a whopping 50% off on Perpetuum and all in-game items starting from June 11 to 22, both on Steam and on our website; a great opportunity to buy several copies of the game and thousands of credits to various members of your family, your pets, your dentist, your high school crush, your lawyer, your probation officer and Dave the Guy from Grocery Store on The Corner.

Perpetuum 3.6 release

One of the new field terminals

It's been a long and bumpy road, but we're finally there. Our truly random assignment system aka. Assignment system revamp Stage 2 will hit the live server on Monday the 15th of June, along with a healthy number of general updates and fixes.

Public testing of the patch has been going on for almost 2 weeks already, and those of you who have been following development saw almost daily updates and fixes. I'd like to take the opportunity here to thank everyone who participated in the testing - your feedback and bug reports helped us a lot in speeding up development, and certainly made this a better patch.

Testing will not stop though, since in this first patch we're only releasing the new assignment system for the three Alpha 1 islands: New Virginia, Attalica, and Daoden. As soon as we finish reworking the other islands, you'll be able to see and test them first on the test server.

The order of release will be Alpha 1 islands (in Monday's patch), then Alpha 2s, Beta 1s, and finally Beta 2s, the latter ones receiving assignments for the first time ever.

The testing forum topic can be found here, the first post of which also serves as preliminary patch notes.

We hope to welcome a bunch of new players during the weekend, and some of us devs will probably pop in to general chat too, so see you there!

The development of our new assignment system is approaching its final phase, so I wanted to give you an update and list a lot of things that the previous blogs missed. To recap, the first one explained the basic mechanics behind the new assignment template system, and the second one talked about the new assignment categories and the island reworks connected to the new system.

This one will be about the little things that make it all work together, but most importantly we’ll also have a look at how squad assignments work in the new system.

Field terminals

I’m happy to report that one of the larger features of this patch, field terminals are finally alive and working. When you get in range to them on the terrain the 3 buttons for storage, assignments, and equipping will show up.

A field terminal storage works pretty much like a private storage in a terminal - it permanently stores your items and only you can access them. The only difference is that this can be accessed from the terrain.

You can of course also request assignments from the terminal, which will hopefully drastically reduce the time you used to spend moving to and from terminals between assignments.

Finally, it allows you to equip your robot right there on the terrain. It uses the same equip window that you are used to, and you can equip items from both your cargo or the field terminal’s own storage too. There are of course certain limits to when you’re allowed to do this - having a PvP flag, being in combat, or having an activated module will all block usage.

Assignment NPCs

When we wanted you to kill something in the old system, we could only set the exact type of NPCs and the quantity that you had to destroy... anywhere. This had the consequence that we had to create artificial objective radiuses to make sure that you destroyed the NPCs at the location we wanted you to do it, and not 2 meters next to the assignment request location where it’s the most convenient. Ultimately this created a lot of problems when the NPCs wandered out of the objective area, and when you killed them outside, the objective wasn’t triggered.

The new system works very differently:

  • We don’t use the fixed NPC spawns anymore - NPCs are spawned by the assignment when you get there, basically as a hidden "reach position" objective.
  • It also allows us to spawn an NPC group that isn’t necessarily made up of a uniform type of robots.

UI improvements

This in turn made it necessary to explicitly mark the NPCs that are the targets of an objective. So now they conveniently have the objective letters on them, and similarly in the landmarks list as well. This way you’ll know exactly which ones are involved in your assignment even if there are other similar NPCs around.

Objective markers in action

We have also made the same improvement for building objectives, like item dispensers and switches. Hopefully this solves the occasional newbie confusion about clicking the objective letters which do nothing.

Assignment summary (concept image)

There is also a brand new assignment summary panel when you successfully complete one, listing all the rewards in detail. The picture of this panel indicates a few other changes which I’ll explain below.

The return teleport

As mentioned in the first blog, we’ll provide a return teleport option when completing an assignment with the aim of loading off your loot at a terminal or generally finishing an assignment-running session, without the need for boring walks.

The current plan is that the teleport option will be available for 5 minutes after successfully completing an assignment, for all members of your squad, and it will place you near a main terminal or outpost of your choice, on the same island. You won’t be able to select an outpost that you are not allowed to dock in, standard no-combat/no-PvP teleport usage limits apply, and furthermore you’ll also lose the option when you leave the island where you got it (which includes docking).

This is a very delicate issue because we neither want it to compete with mobile teleports, nor have an impact on beta island PvP, so extensive testing is needed here.

Improved objective mechanics

We have a new objective type which is basically a rework of the old and rightfully hated “scan this enemy with your chassis scanner”-task. The new mechanic doesn’t involve any modules - you simply need to complete a target lock on an NPC, which will "scan" it, and drop an intel item into a container that you can pick up. This is further improved by the objective marking feature that I mentioned above, so in the case of multiple scan objectives, once you "scanned" a target the objective letter will disappear, letting you easily keep track.

Kill objectives will track the actual destruction of the target, not the kill. This makes sure that even if someone else kills your assignment target for you, your objective will still progress. Assignment-related NPCs are also tagged upon spawning, so loot will always drop for the assignment owner.

All assignment-related items will now drop into a special container indicated with a blue icon, so you’ll easily find the required items even during a massacre. More importantly, since the NPCs will be specifically spawned by the assignment itself, you won’t see assignment-related items in random loot anymore.

Production objective mechanics have undergone a massive overhaul in order to make them work in random assignments. Mass production objectives and CTs used as an objective target will all scan through the whole assignment and properly include the items that you gather during the assignment as actual production components. Assignment CTs in the factory will wear off after the objective is completed and the production line will be automatically cleared, so you won’t have to extract the CT and deliver that too, which caused a lot of confusion in the old system.

Item dispensers are more intelligent now too: in the case of multiple items they will now try to give you as much as possible and hold on to the rest, instead of simply telling you that the whole batch won’t fit your cargo. This is important for higher level assignments where item quantities scale up to increase difficulty. There you’re supposed to use robots with large cargo holds, but it’s also possible to complete the transports in an Arkhe, if you’re willing to do multiple rounds between the supply and the delivery location. It’s even more important that this way multiple players in a squad can complete the objective in cooperation.

Assignments in squads

Squad assignments

Doing assignments in a squad has always been gimmicky at best, sometimes even detrimental. The new system allowed us to make some long overdue upgrades, hopefully to the point where you will want to do all of them with your friends.

  • No more “Request for squad” button. If you are in a squad, any assignment that you request will also show up for all your squadmates.
  • If an assignment is provided by another squad member, it will say so right before the assignment name, complete with the provider’s name.
  • Only the assignment provider can abort an assignment.
  • The assignment owner/provider has to be online and present in order to do it. Otherwise the assignment will be put on hold and no objectives can be completed as long as this is the case.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: everyone present and in the squad can contribute to any objective and complete any assignment that is shared through the squad. Objectives that require multiple kills or multiple items can be cooperated on freely.
  • We will have separate assignment categories that are designed to be done in a squad. (Though you will be able to solo them if you have the patience or need the challenge.)
  • NIC and relation rewards will be shared among any squad members present, but all item rewards will go to the assignment provider (this includes tokens).

Relation rewards

We would like to create a proper way of progression through assignment levels, since currently there isn’t much difference between going from level 1 to 2 or level 4 to 5. This is mainly due to the fixed way of giving out relation rewards, but in the new system it’s much easier to create reward scaling based on assignment levels.

As a result, your relation toward a particular megacorporation will progress faster on low assignment levels, but will gradually slow down as you go through the higher levels.

Relation rewards and penalties

We’ll also re-introduce relation penalties towards a competing NPC megacorporation when doing assignments. This will happen in a rock-paper-scissors method, so the 3 megacorporations will be paired up and an assignment will provide positive relations for one and negative relations for another. Due to this, the “Diplomacy” extension will return to provide a way to reduce negative relation hits.

Syndicate Supplies

As a final bullet point, I’d like to tell you that we do have plans on improving the offers in Syndicate Supplies along with the new assignment system.

One of the plans includes an iteration of the lovely boxes you got to know as AIDs. The new items are called Requisition slips, they would be purchased with faction tokens, and in principle they would work the same way like AIDs, but limited to certain item tiers and categories, in order to not make it all that random. Say, a "T3 Pelistal weapon requisition slip", which would give you a randomly chosen pelistal weapon from tiers 1 to 3. Or an "ICS Officer requisition slip" which would include T4+ items, but the purchase of which would also be tied to a minimum relation towards ICS.

Closing

Well this post got a lot longer than I thought, but I hope you can see that we worked on a lot of stuff. Unfortunately some things that need to be done only come up once you’re in the middle of doing the features, even when you laid down the concept and designs beforehand. And then you think "we need this to make it right", while trying to avoid a serious feature-creep. So this might delay things a bit into April, but we really want to make this as good as we can, as it will be a pivotal part of the PvE experience.

About a year ago we were approached by a production assistant representing MGM Studios, asking for permission to use some footage from Perpetuum in an upcoming movie. According to them it was supposed to be the favorite game of the main character, used in two different scenes. Some extra visibility is always good, even if it's just some obscure indie movie - we thought back then. So we provided some high quality gameplay videos and didn't hear back since.

Well, imagine our surprise today.

The movie is called "Max", and it seems to be a full-fledged Hollywood movie, a good one even. The trailer has been released today - look for a stompy Gropho at the 29 second mark. Obviously the movie is not about our game and it probably only gets a few seconds of screen time, but needless to say we're very proud! :)

ps. Meanwhile the new assignment system is shaping up nicely, expect a new blog about it in the next few days.

Devs reporting in - hope you all had a good start of the new year. We took some time off during the holidays, but we’ve been back to developing the new assignment system since a few weeks now.

This is a continuation of the previous blog, so if you haven’t read that, I recommend to do so before you go on.

New assignment categories

Currently we have 3 main assignment categories: combat, industrial, and transport. (Plus training and “special” assignments, but those are not really common.)

A lot of you have voiced your frustration about sometimes having to shoot in industrial assignments, or searching for artifacts in transport assignments. We’d like to clean this up, so when you request an assignment from a category, you will know exactly what kind of tasks you can expect and what objectives will most certainly not show up. Furthermore, we want you to be able to stay out on the field and complete assignment after assignment, and reduce the time spent on logistics and refitting. To this end, we’re splitting up these categories into a few more specific ones.

Thus far we couldn’t really do this, because most of the time we would have been left with 1 or 2 assignments in a category, and that can’t really make up a random pool. But now with the new template system we don’t need to worry about that anymore, since even with only one template in a category we should have enough randomness.

So below you’ll find the new list of categories and what they can contain. I have also included the type of robot that the assignment category is meant for, and the method on how the category will scale through the difficulty levels.

Combat

Straight-out killing, sometimes combined with looting specific items and their delivery. Nothing else, no artifacting or toying with distress beacons.

  • Recommended robot: combat bots
  • Level scaling: We have created a point-based system for ranking all our NPCs based on difficulty. We’ll use it to spawn the appropriate type and number of enemies that you should encounter for the requested assignment level.

Mining, Harvesting

Mining and harvesting will be two separate categories. Although the new field terminals let you refit your robot, it’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll always have the needed modules in them (or in your cargo), if they would be in the same category and a harvesting assignment would come up after a mining one.

Another important thing to note here is that we'll give up the assignment-specialized mineral variants - they cause confusion for a lot of players anyway. So assignments will ask you to gather normal minerals, but now you'll have to deliver those too instead of keeping them.

  • Recommended robot: miners or harvesters, respectively
  • Level scaling: similarly to NPCs, the system also ranks minerals based on their availability on the island. So low assignment levels will ask you for a few units of an abundant mineral, and high levels may require lots of rare ones.

Transport

Pick up stuff and drop it off, simple.

  • Recommended robot: haulers
  • Level scaling: Higher levels may require larger volumes to carry, which requires robots with large cargohold, or multiple delivery rounds.

Prospecting

Includes scanning for minerals and non-combat artifacts, so the only thing you need here is a geoscanner and multiple types of ammo for it.

  • Recommended robot: anything that’s fast
  • Level scaling: In the case of minerals it’s the same as with mining, and for artifacts we’ll play with the “pop range”.

Hazardous exploration

This means searching for guarded artifacts or artifacts that will spawn enemies. In either case, you’ll need weapons and a geoscanner for this one.

  • Recommended robot: combat bot
  • Level scaling: NPC difficulty and artifact pop range, as explained above

Production

Transport objectives combined with reverse engineering or mass production. Only available in main terminals and outposts.

  • Recommended robot: haulers
  • Level scaling: item volumes

Complex production

A complete industrial process, which may include everything from raw material gathering to the final mass production and delivery, with transporting the intermediate products in between.

  • Recommended robot: miners and haulers
  • Level scaling: raw material rarity and item volumes

Reward calculation

Due to the randomness of assignments, the old method of simply giving a NIC value to the templates wouldn’t work. There are a lot of factors that would make some assignments not worth doing and others overly lucrative if we did that.

So in the new system we’re assigning the base rewards to individual objectives, and apply a few situational multipliers to them. And this is where the system really comes together, since we have a lot of variables that we can work with: NPC rankings, mineral rarity, quantities, item volumes - we can even calculate the distance between objectives and assign a reward to that. In the end all these will be summed and result in the final assignment reward.

This calculation method also allows us to show you where you stand with the rewards while you’re doing the assignment, and update it in real time - this should give a nice additional feeling of progress.

Island reworks

You already got a little taste of the island rework process in the last patch, where we included a search function for the world map - and trust me, you'll need it.

Since we’ll need to place a lot of field terminals and new objective buildings on the islands, we’ll use this opportunity to do the promised teleport and highway network revamp, and be done with all the island changes in one go.

The governing ideas behind the reconfiguration are as follows:

  • Make traveling between islands and terminals as painless as possible, but not instantaneous - traveling should be fast, but you should still have the feeling that you went to another part of the world.
  • Try to give the currently deserted outposts more exposure by leading the main transport routes through them.

Below is a reconfiguration concept for the island of New Virginia. Exact teleport positions could still change, but I hope the general idea is apparent:

Teleport and highway network reconfiguration concept of New Virginia - click for a larger version

A final note here: once the rework is done, we’ll consider reverting the speed boost change for robots, or at least slow them down a bit - we’re open to your feedback.

Current status

The programming part is more or less complete, we have a working field terminal which gives us a random assignment, and we can complete it. What’s still left is the configuration/content work where we need to create the various templates and fill up the islands with field terminals and objectives, and assign a reward value to everything.

In order to bring you the new features as fast as possible we are planning a staggered release of the reworked islands, starting with Alphas. This means that once we’re done with filling up Alpha 1 islands with the new assignment templates, random objectives, field terminals, and reconfigured teleports, we’ll deploy them to the test server and shortly after that to the live server. Fortunately the islands are (mostly) isolated regarding all the changes, and the random templates can also work alongside the old assignments, so it shouldn’t be a problem to have “new content islands” and “old content islands” coexist for a while.

When that will happen mostly depends on how fast we can fill up the islands with content, but we hope to release the first batch towards the end of February. Of course once we’re done with the first islands it will be easier to predict how long the next ones will take.

Closing

We know that quite a few of you are still having connectivity issues. While there isn’t really any news on this at this time, know that we are handling this issue as a priority, and we’re considering all possibilities to resolve it - after all, any new feature is useless if you just can’t play at all.

ICE & Winter Sale

We’ve been thinking quite a lot about whether we should bring back ICE, and if so, in what form. Based on the forums, most of you would like to have it back too, so we finally decided that the most straightforward thing to do of course is to make it give credits.

I.C.E.

For those of you not familiar with ICE (now called Instant Credit Extender instead of Integration Cycle Extender, hooray for multipurpose acronyms!): it’s an item that you can purchase for real money (costs the same as a 2400 credit pack), which gives you an ingame ICE item that can be traded on the market. If you activate it ingame, it gives 2400 credits to your account. The trick is of course that those who don’t want or can’t spend real money on credits but have the NIC to spend can this way obtain credits too.

Some of you have also suggested that there should be smaller credit packs too, because sometimes a pack of 2400 credits can be too much if you just want to downgrade a few extensions. So starting today, we’ll also offer tiny packs of 200 Perpetuum Credits. If this is received well and ICE also works out, we’ll consider doing a smaller version of ICE too, providing 200 credits. And not just because then we can have vanilla ICE and ICE (ice) baby.

To celebrate the return of ICE and of course the Holidays, we’ll have a Winter sale along with the Steam Holiday sale, where the base game and all credit products (including ICE) will be 33% off.

The New PvE - Random Assignments

So, let’s start this. I’ll tell you in advance that this will be a big change that not only affects assignments but general gameplay too, so one blog won’t be enough. But we have to begin somewhere.

Just to get you up to speed, the second stage of our assignment system revamp is about making the assignments themselves random, meaning that you still choose the type of the assignment, but the exact objectives and locations are generated randomly when you request it.

Currently there is a big problem with the number of available assignments at a specific location. Although we have over 500 hand-crafted assignments, this number gets so diluted due to all the terminals, levels, and assignment types, that we are sometimes left with only 4-5 assignments in the final random pool. And that means a lot of repetition.

The main advantage of having a random assignment system is two-fold:

  • For you, it provides for a varied gameplay experience, providing just an ample amount of uncertainty, without stumbling into the exact same assignments over and over.
  • For us, it frees up a lot of content development power. A properly done template system allows us to simply add a new objective to the pool, and the system will automatically include it in all future assignment assembly requests, exponentially increasing the number of possible assignments.

The assignment template system

Assembling an assignment from a template

So in the new system, instead of creating specific assignments with specific objectives, we only create assignment template schemes. This means that we only set the type of objectives, like “destroy N number of X type NPC”, not specific NPCs, numbers, or locations. Of course we still have to create a number of different templates for all types of assignments (combat, industrial, transport, etc.), but this can’t be compared to the man hours we need to create fixed assignments.

Due to the generative nature of this template system, we can also easily create relations between the number and difficulty of the tasks that get included in the assignment, and the rewards that you’ll get for them. Naturally, this makes balancing changes a lot easier too: a simple reward multiplier that is based on the request location zone can easily add an additional risk reward for beta assignments, while still using the same templates as alpha islands.

Sidenote: There is a certain room for randomness in templates too, but the objectives usually build upon each other and their order must be logical, so that would need a lot of rules which ultimately might not even pay off compared to fixed templates. Even with fixed templates there are a lot of pitfalls that we have to address, like linking together loot and dropoff objectives so they provide and request the same random item.

Another complaint that keeps popping up about assignments is that the walking time to get to and from an assignment is a lot of times longer that the actual time it takes to complete it. The new system employs a combination of various new mechanics to fight this.

For one, when you request a new assignment, the objectives from the random pool will be picked by considering a distance limit from the request location. To be more precise, the first objective will consider the distance from the request location, the second objective from the first objective, and so on. Assignments basically become a daisy chain of objective locations that randomly send you around the world, but with reasonable walking times between them.

Picking assignment objectives on the island using a distance limit - click for a larger version

Assignment terminals

Another new feature that we’re planning are called assignment terminals. These are small buildings scattered around islands that (as their main role) function as assignment request and delivery points. (We are calling them kiosks internally, this is what you see on the diagrams.)

The advantage of these small terminals is that it doesn’t matter if you have wandered too far off from a main terminal, you’ll always have a small assignment terminal nearby where you can request a new assignment, without having to break the action too much.

And finally, there is the idea of providing a teleport home option at these assignment terminals. This would be only offered for a fixed time after you completed an assignment, to give you the possibility of loading off your loot at the main terminal or generally finishing an assignment-running session.

Even more uses

The above are generally meant to make doing assignments more dynamic, but we also plan to give these terminals more, important roles, and these will affect gameplay in general.

  • They will function as persistent, private storage facilities on the terrain. You can drop anything from your cargo into them and they will keep them indefinitely and securely. Assignments will also use them to provide any starting or reward items.
  • They will also make you able to re-equip your robot while on the terrain, using either modules from their storage or from your cargo. This function will probably have the largest impact on the way you play Perpetuum.

So as you can see we have a large part of it worked out, but there are still a few things hanging in the air, mostly related to specific objective types and how they can work together with the template system.

NPC spawns in general are also slated for a revamp that would make us able to create real mixed spawns that work together as a single group, and to solve the orange spawn/red spawn/kiting/AI issues, but that’s already for another time.

Closing Notes

We’re also trying to work out why some of you experience serious lag and disconnects and others not. Unfortunately we’re still tapping in the dark since we can’t reproduce it either, and it’s hard to fix something if you don’t know the cause (assuming that it is a problem with our server). Some internal measurement tools are in the works, which could possibly find their way into the live client as well.

On behalf of the Dev team, we wish you Happy Holidays!