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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.