Our latest expansion, Gamma Frontier has been out for a month now. According to your feedback, terraforming and colony mechanics are generally good, but there are some bits that need tweaking. Although the public test server helped us tremendously in solving bugs, the balancing aspect of the whole system is something that is still an ongoing effort.

Last Thursday we had a successful DEV - Player conference with selected representatives from major corporations, who shared their ideas and concerns on gamma mechanics. (There is a recording available here.) Although some of the issues have been already discussed on the forums before this, establishing the “big picture” with the people who had the most hands on experience with the system itself proved really productive.

This blog is meant to present our proposed solutions to the raised issues, separated into different sections regarding how long it would take to implement them, if you agree with them. So imagine an extra “would” beside all the changes listed here as you are still free to tell us how completely wrong we are, or iterate on the ideas.

Immediate changes (next patch)

Issue: Building on gamma is too expensive, needs to be more accessible.

  • Increase the manufacturing unit of construction blocks to 5. This means a manufacturing cycle will produce 5 blocks instead of one, so effectively this will also reduce its individual component cost, and thus, its price.
  • Halve the manufacturing time of construction blocks.
  • Since they are the most frequently used buildings, reduce the components in energy transmitters and energy backbones to 20% of the current amounts.
  • Remove infinite NPC-seeds for building foundations, so players can set their own price.

Issue: Terraforming is too expensive/slow.

  • Reduce the price of terraforming charges to 20% of their current value.
  • Restore the old terraforming cycle time bonuses to harvesting-specialized robots (5% per controlling extension level - 50% max reduction), by switching back their current defense-related bonuses. Increase the cycle time of terraforming modules by 15% to not make them too fast.

Issue: The risk of losing your whole gamma colony overnight is too high, and other issues connected to MPC defense.

  • Make every building able to enter emergency mode, except for command relays and turrets. This narrows down the risk of losing a base to the time frame when the owners are actually able to defend it.
  • Implement multi-phase emergency mode for main terminals only: this is somewhat similar to how beta outpost intrusions work. Depending on the technology level of the terminal, it has a counter of 3 to 5 times (for standard, advanced and hi-tech terminals respectively) when it can subsequently enter emergency mode. Every time the terminal goes into emergency mode, this counter decreases, and every time a phase passes without emergency (2 days), the counter increases. Once the counter reaches zero (ie. it enters the last possible emergency phase), the terminal becomes destroyable after the last emergency phase, like it is currently. Thus the worst case scenario (ie. not even one successful defense in between) for a standard main terminal would be 3 times 2 days (plus the set emergency offset time), so around 7-9 days.
  • Make newly built main terminals invulnerable for 72 hours, to make starting off on gamma less of a gamble (of course they can’t enter emergency phase either during this time).

Issue: The teleport construction range issue.

  • It seems that the consensus is that the increased range is a good idea, so we’ll stick to the 2000m no-build zone around gamma teleports, as that is the safe range where a fully boosted hi-tech turret can’t reach anymore. And we promise to discuss such features with you in the future before announcing them as an immediately incoming change.
  • Keep minerals from spawning in the no-build zone.

Issue: Gamma reimbursements required due to changes.

  • Reimburse the price difference of all purchased terraform ammo in proportion to the new market price.
  • Reimburse the price difference of all purchased construction blocks in proportion to the new market price.

Issue: Not enough to do / not enough rewards on gamma islands.

  • Double the number of normal military and industrial roaming NPC spawns on gamma.
  • Add an elite NPC into roaming spawns on gamma.
  • Remove level 1 artifacts from gamma, keep spawning only level 2 and 3. Make artifacts spawn only on passable terrain.

Issue: Too few NPC spawns in general, with emphasis on starter islands.

  • NPCs on Alpha 1 islands will only attack when attacked. This makes it possible to place more fixed spawns without interfering with mining, artifact hunting, transport and travelling. (Of course NPCs popping out of beacons and artifacts are not affected by this rule.)
  • Increase all normal (non-starred) distress beacons to 10 waves.

Issue: General changes to minerals.

  • Make epriton liquid again.
  • Although the cost of noralgis incubators has been already considerably reduced, and the mined amount per cycle has been doubled in the expansion, we plan to increase both the maximum harvesting cycles, and the additional cycles per growth phases in noralgis (exact figures to follow).

Short-term changes (~2 weeks)

Issue: General improvements to gamma.

  • Terraform suppression building: slows terraforming in a certain radius for everyone. Owners can easily turn it on and off if they want to make changes to the terrain, but it can slow down offensive terraforming when active.
  • MPC Aura buildings: basically a copy of outpost auras. Place down a building and select an aura it should provide for the owner corporation’s members on the island.
  • Turret priority setting: set up a priority list for turrets that controls which classes of robots they should attack first.
  • Make turrets return fire when attacked, regardless of relation settings.

Issue: Just stuff we've been working on.

  • Spark teleport: this has been announced way back, but now I’m happy to tell you that this feature is close to complete. What’s it good for? You can place down teleport targets in any terminal or outpost you are, and you can teleport your spark back to it from any other terminal in the world, for a certain fee. This means that you can’t bring any robots or items with you, it’s only your bare spark. The feature should make market, production, and remote (corporation) storage management much easier and faster.
  • Private transport assignments: place items into a secured container that only you can open, set a pickup and a destination terminal, add a reward and a collateral amount, and let other players do the transport for you. This was obviously possible so far too and is nothing new, but creating a framework and adding safety rules to it should make it actually a viable mechanic.

Mid-term changes (~1 month)

Issue: Not enough rewards on gamma / Give more meaning to colixum.

  • Completely new tier of modules using colixum.
  • New robot variants using current chassis, with colixum-based components. (Manufacturing still possible anywhere for both.)

So again, this is only what we propose. The list doesn’t include bugfixes, as those are obviously things that need to be done and don’t need player feedback. It’s also not meant to be a complete and final solution to all the problems mentioned - there is always room for improvement.

Now it’s your turn to tell us if we missed something important, changes where you would take a different approach, or even if you simply agree with all this. In order to keep the relevant discussion in one place, please post your opinions and ideas in this forum topic. If we reach a general consensus, the changes in the immediate section could be deployed already in the next patch, expected early next week.

Gamma Frontier

Finally the day has come, when we unleash what we essentially consider as almost a rewrite of the game (considering there's barely anything left untouched in it), and open the Gamma Frontier. This has been a frankly unreasonable amount of work, but having seen some of the things already built on the test servers, I feel it was already well worth it.

A big big BIG thank you and massive respect goes to anyone who gave the test server a shot and systematically uncovered our occasional mishaps through numbers and lines of code; we hope the final product lives up to your expectations. (And if you didn't join the test server, now you know who to blame.)

The massive list of changes and upgrades are available here, the help pages are available here, and a fairly accurate representation of the dev-team can be found here.

And now, it's your turn: Last one on Gamma is a rotten Arkhe!

Welcome to the third and final instalment of our blog series showcasing the upcoming Player-Built Settlements (PBS) system. This part will tell you about the new island layout, the various building types and their purpose, and the concept of control and assimilation. If you haven’t read the first two parts, it’s highly recommended to do so, in order to better understand the things I’m about to explain here. The first part about terraforming is here, and the second one about building and planning is here.

24 new islands to explore and live on

There’s been a lot of speculation going on on the forums about how many new islands there will (or should) be. Some said an absolute minimum of 12, some argued we shouldn’t stop under a few hundred :)

The new teleport network layout

While we’d love to have the latter number in the future, for now we have settled for 24 new terraformable gamma islands. We feel that this should provide ample space for our current and anticipated playerbase without creating a vacuum. Of course we’ll be ready to add even more islands in the near future if the demand arises.

We’re not only adding new islands, we’re also revamping the entire connection network of the current alpha and beta ones. Some of you have voiced your concerns, and we also feel that the current teleport network is so dense that it makes the world feel rather small. Being able to jump quickly from one end to the other also renders any kind of long-range transport routes near obsolete. The same is true for living on beta islands, with the main trading hubs (currently the alpha terminals) being just a few minutes away.

The basic concept and the reasons for the the new layout:

  • Less complex teleport network: can’t reach “anything from anywhere”, gives individual islands more importance and makes them more unique.
  • Breaking up the Alpha 1 triangle: factions get more meaning, and the trading of faction-specific items should be more induced (this will be complemented by further industrial changes, details in the next blog).
  • Inserting Alpha 2 between Alpha 1 and Beta islands: this is intended to give Alpha 2’s a middleground role between the starting haven Alpha and the total hell that are the Betas. Alpha2’s have higher level NPCs, and those venturing there should already be aware of the dangers that Betas hold.
  • Strategic variance in Gamma island connections: we have both relatively easily reachable islands with many entry points, and hard to reach “hinterland” islands with more defendable entries. We’re very curious which ones will be more craved for, and how they will be used.
  • No island with only one entry point by design.

We also intend to create an unlock mechanism for opening the new islands, so they won’t be available from the get-go, and we’d also like to provide certain exploration rewards for the first pioneers. We’re still looking at our options on how exactly this will work, so I’ll get back to you with the details as soon as it’s settled.

The structure network planner

The structure network management and planning interface

I have already shown you a crude concept of the network planner in the previous post, and before I start with the explaining of various building types, I’d like to show you our progress on it. As you can see, it all happens on a new tab in the world map window, and it’s available when you’re inside a terminal or out on the terrain, too. One grid cell in the planner is equivalent to one tile on the terrain, so buildings are shown accurately as they occupy an area.

Types of buildings are mainly identified by their icons and their size, but there is also the optional name-tag, and you can even rename any of them. You can also select an individual building to bring up an information panel with all its parameters and settings. We have a number of connection types between buildings (energy, control, booster, etc.), each of them having a specific shape and color for easy overview.

Building plans are displayed just like completed buildings, but in purple color. There are various options to help you in planning your network, the proper connection distances and validating the terrain where you intend to deploy a building. As said, it’s a fairly complex system and I could go on forever but I’d rather continue with the rest of the features. You’ll be able to read all about the details in the game guide and test it yourself :)

Building types

As you already know, the basic concept of PBS is a network of interconnected buildings. There are a number of building types, each of them having a special role within a structure network. In this section I will tell you a few details about each of them, and I hope this will help you get the big picture on the whole system. There is one important fact to remember while looking at the list: structure networks are limited by the number of connection slots of each building in the network, and by the balance of generated and consumed energy. Note that names can still change and some of the more specialized buildings may not make it into the first PBS patch.

Main terminal

The central hub of your network, everything starts and ends with it. You can dock into it, equip your robots and store items, just like in any other NPC terminal. It doesn’t need any upkeep or energy to work - once built, it will stay there until someone destroys or deconstructs it. (Oh yes, it will be possible to deconstruct your buildings.) The main terminal comes in three different sizes, varying in number of connection slots, amount of HP, and physical size.

Another important role of the main terminal is that it provides ownership, or in other words, broadcasts control to all its connected buildings, which in turn further broadcast it to their connections and so on. If a building loses the chained control link with your network, it stops providing whatever its role is and you won’t be able to change its parameters until you regain control of it. More importantly, it’ll become open prey for an enemy network to “assimilate” it.

Control tower

Like the name suggests, control towers broadcast control, and they can do this through relatively large distances. They can be used to create watchposts or mining outposts far from the core of your network and your main terminal. Control towers themselves do not need energy to operate, however they don’t transfer it either, so you need to build a reactor at your outposts too, in order to operate the surrounding buildings.

Control towers also function as defensive bastions, which I will explain further in the control and defense section.



Reactors provide the necessary energy for your buildings to operate. They work very similar to a robot’s accumulator, but since they’re much bigger, they are also much slower regarding recharge (think days here). Like robot accumulators, they also have their peak recharge potential at 50%. However, a deployed reactor starts with 0 energy, thus the recharge starts out very slow, and if you connect many consumers to it at this point, it will never “kick in”.

There is also a quicker but more costly way of generating energy in your reactor: by fueling it with certain commodities, like vitricyl or prilumium. You can use this method if your reactor or reactors can’t provide the necessary amount of energy for your network, or if you want to kickstart a newly built reactor. Reactors can also be fed from other reactors, so if you already have a working energy network (with the necessary surplus energy), starting a new reactor should be easier too.

Energy transfer nodes

These little nodes are used to transfer energy from the reactors to all of the consumer buildings. They have a certain cycle time for this, so energy propagation through the network takes some time. There is also a little bit of energy loss when it goes through them, so taking energy via a long chain of nodes will “leak” a small but notable amount on its own.

Energy transfer nodes come in two sizes: the large one can transfer large amounts of energy per cycle, and they have bigger connection ranges (can be linked together from further away), but have only a few connection slots. These are intended for your main energy lines, the “backbone” so to say. Then there are the small transfer nodes, which are pretty much the opposite: small throughput, small connection ranges, but more connection slots. These will be your endpoint distributors.

Standard facilities

Basic main terminals don’t include any industrial facilities, you have to get the DLC for them. What this means is that you need to build the factory, the prototyping facility, the refinery and all the other individual facilities, and connect them to your terminal; only then will they appear in its facility menu. The trick here, of course, is that the main terminal has a limited number of inward connections.

Facility upgrades

Facilities have low efficiency on their own, but luckily we have facility upgrades to boost just that. Naturally, the increased energy consumption will not make it as easy as it sounds.

Special facilities

We’ll introduce two brand new facilities, which will only be available to be built on gamma islands. One is the Calibration complex, which will let you combine calibration templates of an item to get a higher efficiency CT. The other is the Decoder forge, and as you can probably guess, it will combine lower level decoders to provide you with a higher level one.

Defensive turrets

Your trusty watchdogs when you’re not home. They hit hard, and they hit far. In their current implementation they work with pure energy, but later on we might convert them to ammo-consuming beasts too, so you can chose your damage type.

There are three basic types: EM turrets have the highest dps, missile turrets have very long range and have the highest burst damage, and laser turrets are the most accurate at the cost of damage.

Mining tower

Mining tower

The name may be deceiving, as it’s not something that does the work while you’re not there. Instead, it works as an aura to allow you to exploit a new type of mineral, available only on gamma islands. This new mineral will be used to manufacture higher tier buildings.


Provides a masking aura for the robots in its range, making them harder to detect for other robots. Has no effect on buildings.

Repair nodes

These can be connected to any building and they will automatically start repairing any damage done to them, provided they have enough energy to do so.

Booster nodes

Currently, booster nodes can have either of the following functions: reduce the cycle time of turrets, increase the range of turrets, or increase the armor resistance of any building. Once you have a working booster node, you can simply select which one of those functions they should provide, and you can change this any time later on too.

As said, not all of these may make it in the first round, and we still have more ideas, for example solar panels which generate energy depending on the time of day.

Control, defense and capture

As I mentioned above at the main terminal details, control linking is a very important aspect of holding your network together. If you build parts of your network in a way that they depend on a single junction point, it will easily become a weak spot that you’ll have a hard time defending, even if you surround it with turrets of doom. When you lose such a junction point, you risk losing control of entire parts of your network, together with any connected defensive buildings, so redundancy will be pivotal in planning a solid network.

It’s not just a matter of losing control, but you may even find that the neighboring network snatched away your buildings. Such assimilation operations will be entirely possible: if there are any “orphaned” buildings in the connection range of your own network, which noone has control over, you can simply connect them to one of your buildings and they will start working for you.

Of course, losing parts of your network is one thing, but losing your main terminal with all your assets in it can be disastrous. Thinking about various defense mechanisms that allow you to get some sleep while not worrying to lose your main terminal made me write this post on the forums. While the idea of making the main terminal invulnerable as long as any other building is connected to it sounded good at first, it also made us realize that it makes a capture mechanism near impossible. If you have to destroy everything first in order to break control, there won’t be anything left to capture. This is especially true for the expensive high-efficiency facilities, which are connected directly to the main terminal, with no way to break control other than destroying the terminal itself.

We also tried to avoid any timer mechanisms, but in the end there is no way we can control the number of players attacking a base, and there needs to be some kind of solid attack window that you can count on as a defender.

So the final concept of the main terminal defense mechanism looks like this: as I mentioned above, control towers function as bastions, which means if at least one control tower is connected to it, the main terminal is invulnerable.

Once there are no control towers connected to the main terminal, you can start shooting it. When its armor reaches 50%, its emergency shielding activates, and once again it becomes invulnerable. This state lasts for 3 days, plus an optional 0-24 hours that the owner can set before it gets into emergency state. This makes sure that the defenders can set their own time of day when the terminal comes out of its emergency state, and becomes vulnerable. Once an emergency phase ends, it cannot be activated for 4 hours - that’s the window when the attackers can finish it off. The time when the emergency period ends can be scanned the same way you can scan for outpost intrusion times.

The combination of these two mechanisms should make sure that a lone terminal can’t be lost overnight, but it also makes sure that complex networks with many control towers and extensive defense systems will be much harder to take down, and then some more.

It's the little things

Besides giving you the possibility of building your own empire, we're also trying to add in some little extras that will make you stand out, and let you feel home. One of these things is that every corporation will be able to set a signature color, and this will be used for all the owned buildings' tint stripes, as well as the terminal inside background color.

Furthermore, what is an empire good for if you can't show it off? From the beginnings already, we really wanted to show territories in some way. Now with PBS, the occupied area of buildings finally provides a way to actually make your territory visible on the world map. We're aware that this is not something everyone would like, since it obviously gives away some strategic information, even though no individual buildings will be visible, just a colored "blob" (which also uses the color mentioned above). So this feature will be optional, CEOs can decide whether they want to show off or not.

We need your help

By now you should probably have a rough idea of the sheer complexity of this system. Since we are still merely a group of 10 people, it would be pretty much impossible for us to test it on our own. The outcome would most likely be an unbalanced patch, crawling of nasty bugs.

We have already set up a separate test server and as soon as we are finished with all the features, you’ll be able to come and fiddle with terraforming, planning and building before we deploy it to the live server. How and when exactly this will happen will be announced soon, stay tuned.

Well, I think that’s about it regarding the basics of PBS. Of course I’ll try to answer any questions, and I’m sure you have a few of those.

In the next blog I will tell you the tale of how we turned the industry upside down, to the extent that we probably should call it Industry 2.0.

I love cliffhangers.

Hello everyone, we’re back with the second part of the Player-Built Settlements show, please take your seats. In the first part we have taken a look at how you can terraform a suitable place for your buildings. This time we’ll see how the building process itself looks like and how you will be able to plan a network of interconnected structures. Please note that some of the details discussed here can still change as we are closing to completion and start the testing process.

Acquiring buildings

The basic line of standard Syndicate-issued buildings will be available directly from the market. However, the Syndicate will also provide the option to relieve itself from the tedious task of manufacturing these buildings, so every corporation will be able to acquire the knowledge to manufacture them on their own as well. This will be achievable via new special kernels, available from Syndicate Supplies for either assignment tokens, or special artifact items. (These artifacts will be available throughout all islands.)

Later on we’ll also introduce higher tier buildings, but manufacturing those will need a new type of mineral, available only on gamma islands - more on this in an upcoming industry-themed blog.

Starting a settlement

Large player-buildable main terminal

PBS will work in a network system, and every one of them will have to start with a central control node, the main terminal. All other buildings will have to be connected to the main terminal via an energy link or a control (~ownership) link - more on this a bit later.

So let’s say you have the building blueprint item for your first gamma terminal in your cargo. You pick a nice spot on one of the gamma islands, and start to terraform the area to be suitable for building (if necessary). To save you from insanity, buildings won’t require perfectly even areas for building; small slopes below a certain threshold will work too.

There will be a few no-build areas, e.g. around teleports, but currently we have no other limits planned for placing main terminals. The only limit regarding them is that one corporation can only have one active main terminal per island. The activation/deactivation and unattended defense mechanisms (the usual timezone issues) are still being worked out, but our aim is to prevent multi-headed dragons, i.e. redundant networks that are very hard to destroy, while still allowing relatively easy upgrading of your central terminal.

The building process

Once you’ve found the right place for your main terminal, you simply deploy the blueprint item from your cargo. This will place a kind of holographic version of the building onto the tile you’re standing on, and at the same time, push you and everyone else out of its construction radius. (Construction radius is an outline area around all buildings, and no two can overlap each other. This prevents building very dense and impenetrable settlements.)

After the blueprint is out anyone can start building it, this is not limited to the owner corporation’s members. Construction is done with building modules equipped on their robots, which use building charges available from the market, but they are also manufacturable (this part is still heavily under discussion). Any number of Agents can help in the completion, the goal is to reach a certain number of building cycles until it’s finished.

When the building is complete, it’s still offline and it has to be brought online to be operational, and this is something only the owners can do. The main terminal is a special building in this regard, because it can be activated on its own. However all other buildings will need to be connected to the main terminal before they can be brought online.

The main terminal

In case it’s not evident for everyone, I must stress that you can enter a player-built main terminal just like any other NPC terminal. So once your terminal is finished and online, you can hop in, store your stuff, or equip your robot. The available base facilities include private and corporation storages with all their features, robot equipment, the market, and robot insurance. All other facilities like the factory or the repairshop need to be built as separate structures and connected to the main terminal.

The reactor

However, nothing works without energy (the only exception being the main terminal), so the next thing you want to build will be a reactor. This is a separate building, but you can’t just place it anywhere. Apart from the terraforming requirements, all your buildings need to be in the control range of another owned building, and for your second building this means the main terminal. (Well, that’s only half true: you can place your buildings anywhere, but you won’t be able to connect and activate them if they are not in range.)

The control links will generally also mean an energy link at the same time, but since the reactor is the building which is generating the energy in the first place, it will only need a simple control link.

Planning your empire

So now you have a main terminal, and a connected reactor, generating energy (not for free, mind you). This is when things will start to become complicated and the need emerges for some delicate planning.

Mockup of PBS planner and maintenance window

Granted, planning and maintaining an extensive network of buildings just by walking around it on the terrain would be a tad difficult, so we’ll introduce a new schematic map into the world map window, intended specifically for this task. The picture you see on the right is a crude mock-up of how the layout will look like, the final design will be of course much prettier.

The left main area is where the planning will happen. Not only that, but here you will be able to connect your buildings and watch over their health and energy levels as well.

The planning process itself will be somewhat like a puzzle (in the better sense of the word). You grab a building plan on the right, and drag it onto the grid. The grid represents ground tiles, so when you place a building plan, it will snap to this grid. When you’re satisfied with its position, you will need to finalize the plan, which will check whether it’s a suitable location regarding terrain, construction radius and all that stuff. At the same time it also places a marker onto the terrain, so you will know where to deploy what building blueprint. This way you will be able to make plans for an extensive network of structures before even laying a brick, and your crew can work towards your goals using the terrain markers.

Advanced networking

Example of a PBS network

The picture on the right is something DEV Alf has thrown together for your amusement. To be able to understand it, you have to know that every type of building will have a fixed number of inward and outgoing connection slots. A connection can be anything: a simple control or energy link, but it can also mean a functional link, like in the case of facilities connected to the main terminal. The important thing here is that all types of connections are using the same limits, and it will be up to you how you play them in order to have a logical and working network.

Since every building has limited connection slots, and because the area around the main terminal will soon become crammed, you will eventually need to use energy transmitter nodes. These buildings function like hubs: they broadcast both control and energy, but they too have limited connection slots. You'll even be able to set the energy priority for each node, so in case there is an energy shortage (because, say, someone destroyed one of your reactors), your critical buildings can remain operational. Our aim here is to provide you with basic building blocks and use your imagination and creativity to create extensive and efficient connection networks.

The picture also shows various other types of buildings, which I’m sure you’re eager to hear about, but unfortunately you’ll need to stick it out until the next part :) In that one we’ll have a look at all the building types you can create (even some never before heard facilities), and I’ll also try to explain why it will be good for you to own a gamma base in the first place.

Until then, let your anger or approving thoughts roam free in the comments or the forums.

Many of you might have already heard bits and pieces about Player-Built Settlements, or PBS in short. As the name suggests, it’s our system which will allow players to create their own settlements, a place that they build with their own hands, shape to their own needs, and where they can really feel at home - basically a system which takes our sandbox to a whole new level. It’s a fairly complex system and we’ve been working on all the details for quite some time now. Today I’m happy to tell you that we have arrived at a point where we are confident enough to share our ideas with you.

Due to its complexity, this will be a series of blogs, likely at least a three-parter. We’ll start with terraforming, an essential feature and a prerequisite to building structures. Later on we’ll also take a closer look at the basic rules to building, and the various types of structures.

Gamma islands

Shaping the ground to your liking should be a fun thing to do, but I’m sure you understand we have to set up some limits. The current alpha (and to some extent, beta) islands have too many interconnected systems which could be easily disrupted if we would allow you to create hills and holes wherever you like. Since the world of Perpetuum feels still rather small, the most efficient and future-proof solution is to create new landmasses with their own set of rules. So before I dig into terraforming, let’s have a look at gamma islands.

When creating the concept of new islands, one of the main conditions we set for ourselves is that their time to completion needs to be improved considerably. Although even our current islands have been all started by procedural heightmap generation (which can be done in a very short time), in order for them to be ready and usable they needed a lot of manual work.

Terraformers, meet your canvas

With gamma islands, in many ways we have it a bit easier: we don’t have to worry about passability, since you are supposed to work on roads and paths with terraforming. We don’t really need to place decorational buildings either, that will be your job too. However, there is still the issue of mineral distribution and NPCs.

Currently all the mineral fields are hand-painted and fixed by location. This wouldn’t really work on a terraformable island, because they could easily get out of reach or be blocked by buildings. I think we have already hinted that random mineral fields are on our todo, and some of you have also suggested it on the forums. We already have a working version of it and it seems to work pretty well.

There was one interesting question regarding random mineral field placement - should it consider unreachable areas, or should we leave it to the players to terraform their way to the new fields? The latter sounds fun at first, but with time as players skim down hills to get to the precious fields, it would likely induce completely flat islands, which is... undesirable. It could also get a little frustrating if you already get the third epriton field in a row on top of Mount Doom. So, the current version of the mineral field generator neatly looks for passable areas and avoids tiles blocked by buildings as well. We think terraforming by strategic, construction or decorational purposes will give you enough work as they are.

An important thing to note here is that we will introduce random mineral fields not only to gamma islands, but to every existing island as well. Of course this will have the unfortunate effect that your current geoscan results will become obsolete, but we feel this will make the miners’ life much more interesting, and give geoscanning a real function. I’ll do a separate blog about this and other impending major industrial changes after the PBS series.

So, that should cover the mineral question, but what about NPCs?

As you can imagine, due to the ever-changing terrain, fixed spawn points would not be feasible. Even our current fixed-path roaming caravans could run into problems. This left us with the solution to have only completely free roaming NPCs on gamma islands, so Agents can experience the real wilderness there. Of course the spawn generator will have to check for passable and large enough areas so they don’t get trapped, but that’s pretty much the only limit for them.

In the end, random mineral fields and completely free NPC spawns should take off a lot of tedious configuration work from our shoulders, since we only have to set the type and amount of minerals on the island, the type and number of NPC spawns, and the island is pretty much a go.

Diggin’ up Nia

Now that we have covered where you can terraform, it’s time to see how you can do that.

The game has supported terraforming from the very beginnings, but so far it has only been a privilege to us devs. One issue that we had up until now was that terrain texture cover had to be regenerated after every modification of the terrain heightmap, in order to have rocky textures on steep walls, grass on plains and so on. This texture mask was then stored in a special bitmap, which had to be patched out to the live client. Even if we only modified one tile, we had to update the whole island’s map, so whenever you saw 100+ MB patches, it usually meant that we updated these maps.

But now that DEV BoyC is working on the complete revamp of our terrain-engine, he could come up with a solution that allows for real time updating of terrain textures based on slope and elevation. This means that when you start to raise a mountain, the ground texture will gradually change from grassy to rocky, all in real time. Not to mention that we can scrap those old island texture masks too, and that means less memory usage, smaller patches, and a smaller datafile.

The terraforming process itself will happen with help of a terraforming module of course, which will use different kinds of charges, depending on what you want to achieve. The basic raise/lower charges are self-explanatory, these will simply pull up or push down the targeted area by a fixed height value. Then there is the leveling charge, which tries to pull the surrounding tiles to the targeted tile’s level, within a small radius. Finally we have the smoothing charge, which can turn sharp edges and spikes into smooth ground, and also works on a small radius.

Terraforming charge types and their effects

The terraforming module will also check for plants in the area, and will first try to kill them before modifying the ground. This however will be a very slow process (and a waste of terraforming charges), so plant bombs or “manual gardening” will still retain their importance.

Due to various position updating issues we had to make a rule which will not allow terraforming if anyone is within a 1-tile border of the terraformed tile or area (“safe area”). Unfortunately this rule (and some other factors) does not really make this kind of terraforming suitable for group efforts, and is only intended for smaller fixes or touch-ups here and there.

However we have plans for another, team terraforming feature. We’re still working out the details of this one, but the basic idea is that a player could use the same terraforming brushes like we devs can to create a kind of holographic terrain blueprint. Then, terraforming beacons need to be deployed inside that area, and a team of terraformers can start charging the beacons using special modules from outside the area. In effect, the terraforming beacons will start to “pull” the affected area towards the form of the blueprint.

There will be a few global limitations to terraforming, even on gamma islands. First and foremost, there will be a few predefined non-terraformable areas, which will generally mean the vicinity of fixed teleports. We don’t want anyone to get trapped on the other side, or allow to shut off complete islands from the rest of the world. Another important rule is that you won’t be able to modify the shoreline of islands. And lastly, there will be limits to how high or low you can dig, and the maximum steepness you can achieve.

In our next episode

Well, that’s pretty much all there is to the basics of terraforming. We’re still working on some of the details, and we’re of course eager to get some feedback from you as well. In the next part we’ll have a look at the basic rules of building structures and how you can connect them to each other.