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!

The October status report brought a general preview about an incoming balance package that affects almost all robots in the game.

After some public testing, forum feedback, collecting tears, and more number juggling, we now present you the final details.

The main goals of this balancing package are:

  • Boost light and assault robots considerably.
  • More diverse robot bonuses, but they generally provide less value increase. This also lessens the gap between high-level veteran players and less fortunate newbies.
  • Push robots more towards their intended roles.

Colorful spreadsheets coming up.

We're also introducing 3 new extensions under the Robot control category:

  • Combat robot specialist - Required extension for all combat robots, and controls the combat role bonuses.
  • Industrial robot specialist - Required extension for all industrial robots, and controls the industrial role bonuses.
  • Hi-tech robot specialist - Required extension for all Mk2 robots, and controls the special Mk2 bonuses.

The combat and industrial robot specialist extensions are becoming starter extensions, thus every existing character will receive these two on level 1 during the patch.

Additional notes

  • The effect of the mass gain of light robots may not be clear for everyone: increased base mass for robots lessens the speed reduction effect of equipped modules.
  • We cleaned up some parameters of prototype robots, this means either slight increases or reductions. Compared to normal robots, light/assault prototypes now have +5 CPU/reactor and +10 sensor strength, while mechs/heavy mechs have +10 CPU/reactor/sensor strength.
  • Mk2 robots retain their special extra bonuses (so they still have one additional bonus compared to standard bots), but these are now controlled by a new extension.
  • The Baphomet loses its lone missile slot, as a consequence we'll remove all modules and ammo from this slot in all existing Baphomets and place them back into the same storage during the patch.
  • Although the Waspish gains a second small/medium mixed missile slot to bring it in line with the other two assaults, to make it look badass these have to be on its sides. So instead the top/back slot will lose the medium fitting and as such we'll also remove any equipped module from this slot during the patch.
  • Do note that assaults received a considerable reactor boost to make room for those medium modules.

The patch itself will be deployed to the live server today at 14:00 CET/server time. We'll be also performing some server and database maintenance, so the estimated downtime will be about 2 hours.

ps. This isn't the monthly report, that's still coming.

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.