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!

Defensive walls are probably the most controversial feature in Perpetuum we have ever had so far. On one hand they are supposed to bring more sand into the sandbox and provide passive defense for whatever you want to defend. On the other hand, many of you have voiced your concerns that it also greatly hinders everyday small-scale PvP warfare, which is hurting the game on a global level.

The first introduction of walls went not without issues and we have learnt the hard way that too much freedom can be bad. Based on player feedback, the majority of you think there is still too much freedom regarding wall placement.

Initially we didn't want to restrict the building of walls to outpost owners, because we didn't want to shut out the rest of our players from using them. Nevertheless, it seems walls are primarily used for outpost and SAP defense, so we decided to reconsider that stance.

Wall placement belts around outposts

In our next patch (planned for March 9), we will restrict wall placement to a fixed belt area around outposts. It's a belt because the 1000m inner no-build limit from outposts still remains, but there will be an outer limit of 3000m as well. The picture on the right should help you imagine it better. As you can see, some of the teleports' no-build areas also take their share. (Update: the image has been modified to include SAP areas too - thanks for the notice Arga.)

Another change is that only the outpost's owning corporation can build walls, and only around the owned outpost. Of course in case of an ownership change, the old walls won't fall down, but only the new owner will be able to place new ones. Unfortunately this also has a negative effect, namely that allied corporations can't help you placing walls around your outpost until we do a proper alliance feature. (Contrary to popular belief, we didn't abandon or deny an alliance feature at all, we just didn't get around implementing one yet.)

It's important to note that currently deployed walls won't be affected in any way by this, as long as you keep repairing them, they will stay there. However you won't be able to place any new wall units outside of the allowed areas.

And lastly, to steer things back towards the next part of the PBS series: yes, you will be able to build walls around player-built bases as well, but only around a certain "occupation" area of your own buildings.

Commence cheering/grumbling.

Happy New Year everyone! We might have been a bit silent during the holidays, but now we’re back to developing with full force. In this blog I will talk about some of the upcoming features in January - we have quite a few new toys for your sandbox.

New player experience improvements

This one was promised for December, but didn’t quite make it, so we’re deploying it in our next patch, on Wednesday the 11th. The improvements consist of a brand new tutorial assignment line, which will now feature an initial general line, which unlocks a separate combat and industrial line. We’re also improving the level 0 assignments, which are meant to provide a stepping stone until you reach level 1s, or lose your first light robot and have to fall back to an Arkhe.

Improved NPC AI

Creating a perfect AI is no easy task, so we’re constantly experimenting with it in the hope to make our NPCs smarter than a jellyfish. This latest iteration will give them the ability to manage their own accumulator properly, and also make them more aware of line-of-sight issues. In practice this will mean that they won’t deplete their energy anymore by trying to shoot players hiding behind walls, and thus become easy prey for them. They also get a much improved pathfinding algorithm, so they will be less prone to getting stuck, and it will be even harder to shake them off. The changes will mostly affect higher ranked NPCs, as the lower ones are slow anyway or didn't have accumulator management issues.

Inter-island mobile teleports

These new deployable teleports will function just like the existing ones, the difference is that they can quickly move you and your squad to a fixed teleport tower on another island. They will have of course a higher price tag, and a distance limitation too, but if you need to quickly move troops to another island, they will probably come in very handy.

Deployed proximity probe

Proximity probes

These teleports would likely be a bit overpowered if there wouldn’t be a means to counter them, so to that end we’re introducing proximity probes. These probes can be deployed from your robot’s cargo to the terrain, and function a bit like remote security sensors. They will detect anyone coming near to them, and notify you with alerts on your world map and optionally via the event messaging system too, regardless where you are.

This system somewhat ties in to our upcoming territory control and player-built settlements (PBS) system, so it will be only usable within corporations, and with a limited number of assigned users per probe. Naturally you can also destroy enemy proximity probes, although they can only be detected from a very short distance. Last but not least, these probes are basically the first deployables that are fully persistent, meaning they will stay on the terrain forever, until they are destroyed.

Deployable walls

Also as an early herald of PBS, we’ll give you the possibility to build persistent walls for passive defense of your territory. The particularly interesting part of these walls is that they are using our existing plant-growth system: they pretty much work as if you would plant a noralgis-incubator. When deployed, they first start out as small flagstones, and the included tiny nanobots will slowly build them up to high columns, so they can block the way and provide cover.

Walls growing

Walls can be only deployed on beta islands outside a 1km distance from terminals and teleports to prevent unwanted pool closages, but other than that you’re pretty much free to build anything you want with them. (Somehow I feel I will regret saying this...)

Plasma bombs

Again, a new toy needs a fitting counter-toy too. Although you can tear down walls with your guns as well, it won’t be very efficient due to their relatively high hitpoints. So we thought it’s high time we brought in some WMDs.

Once deployed and activated, plasma bombs will unleash the biggest boom you’ve ever seen so far on Nia. Their main role is to wipe an area clean of walls and plants, but they will also deal substantial damage to anyone foolish enough to stand around when they go off. In theory it’s possible to use them in battle too, but their relatively long activation time provides for ample getaway time, and it’s pretty easy to shoot them down too, so utilization there might be a bit more tricky.

We are having a lot of fun with them on the devserver, so we made a (not too realistic) video too (warning: profanity inside).

So to summarize, the new assignments and the improved NPC AI will be a part of the patch on Wednesday. The proximity probe and the new teleport will come shortly after that, followed by the walls&bombs package, likely inside a two-week timeframe from now.

Meanwhile we’re finalizing the concept of the terraforming and player-built settlements system, so a blog about that will pop up soonish, too.

So, Intrusion 2.0 has been out for a little more than a week now and we’re happy to see the pew-pew it generates on the beta islands. Like every complex system it’s not perfect, so we’re performing small modifications based on your feedback over the coming weeks. We also intend to give both attackers and defenders a few additional strategic tools and features - more on this in a separate blog post soon.

Meanwhile, we’re working on the foundations of the player-built structures system, but we don’t want to leave you without new features and content for the rest of the year, so let’s have a look what we have in store for you in December.

The Scarab

I know most of you are waiting for this, so I won’t tease you any longer. As announced in our last newsletter, a new freighter-type robot is about to make its entry into the world of Nia. Its name is Scarab, and it’s the first member of a new robot class we call gliders.

The common feature of gliders is that they are hovering above the ground, which means they have excellent slope capabilities, and resistance against demobilization. They are also relatively big, which in turn means they make excellent targets too... We have plans for heavy and light glider classes, both in combat and industrial roles as well.

Scarab concept art
Scarab - work in progress model

The Scarab specifically is a heavy industrial glider, designed to transport huge amounts of cargo, a whopping 720 units. The bad news is that in order to keep it levitating, it has to have a pretty thin framework and light armoring, so it will be quite vulnerable. It does have 2 universal chassis slots that you can fill with medium weapons too, but heavy escorts are recommended. For support modules you’ll have 4 head slots and 1 leg slot to play with.

As for required extensions, you will need some higher levels in Advanced robot control and Industrial robot control, as well as the new Glider control extension, specific to the new class.

While we plan to have an Mk2 version of it, like for all robots in the game, that one will be only introduced a bit later.

Syndicate Supplies

Have you ever wanted to do a suitable assignment but got turned off by the reward bullets that you don’t use anyway? I know I did.

At first we wanted to give you an option to select your reward items before you accept the assignment, but that felt kinda limiting as well. So we decided to give you complete freedom by adding some universal faction tokens as assignment rewards, which you can exchange for things you really need.

The place where you can do the exchange will be a new base facility called Syndicate Supplies (formerly known as EC-shop). At the start it will offer the well-known advanced ammo types (which have become a bit of a rarity by now) for assignment tokens, but later on we will also include many more items purchasable for Energy Credits (yeah it’s coming a long way), or a combination of currencies. Just to be absolutely clear, this is not a microtransaction store, it uses new ingame currencies which you can gather by various activities.

New robot animations

You saw what we did to the Arkhe, now our animators are close to wrapping up the next bigger package. The 3 light combat robots and the 3 light EW-robots will get the same treatment soon, and will be sporting much better looking walking and running animations.

Beginner assignment improvements

During the past months we have replaced all level 1-2-3 assignments with better and more interesting ones, but before we move on to level 4 and up, we have to take a step back and have a look at the start of the game.

While the general feedback on the 10-part tutorial assignment line has been mostly positive, it is starting to get a bit outdated. The plan is to split it into two branches, one combat and one industrial-oriented, and include some newly introduced objectives, like artifact scanning, distress beacons and manufacturing. Players will be able to complete both branches, one with a combat light bot reward at the end, and the other with an industrial one. Our intention is to give everyone the opportunity to decide which path they want to take (it can be both too!), and to show them all the activities they can do in the game.

We’re also revamping the level 0 assignments; we know they are a pretty bad grind between the end of the tutorial and the start of the level 1 assignments. They will also make sure that you have some more interesting objectives to do than killing drones over and over, if you accidentally lose your first tutorial light bot and have only an Arkhe available.

DEV Alf is also brewing some NPC spawn balancing changes and some new modules and new weapon ammo types using cycle time modification, but the details still a bit hazy, so more on those a bit later :)

Christmas is coming too, so we plan to have some smaller PvE events, and we're starting to pick up some strange artifact signals again, too. Nothing fancy though, we know most of you have better things to do at that time than sitting in front of a computer. Or do you?

Anyways, questions and comments are more than welcome, as always!