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!