Stardock owns Star Control and is planning an "XCOM-like" reboot


#1024

I’ve been posting images from Mars in this thread I think for awhile so I thought I’d give you guys a look at how much that has progressed.

Now, I know this will come as a shock to every QT3 reader here but…sometimes…Stardock games aren’t as well polished as they could be. You might even say that they’ve been approached a bit…as engineering projects rather than games – as in, as soon as they reach “spec” they are released.

Because Star Control is an RPG (a Spaaaaaccceeee RPG) we had to rethink the whole way we develop games because unlike strategy games, which, in theory, should be “just as good” if they have X’s and O’s, RPGs involve a lot of immersion.

At some point I’m going to post about how my opinion on hiring writers changed over the course of the project because as someone who considered themselves a competent writer, it really wasn’t until this project that I really came to appreciate the the vast difference between competent and spectacular writing (partially because games are notorious for their bad writing).

No individual at Stardock has put in more hours on this game over the past 5 years than our leader writer, Chris Bucholz (Cracked columnist in his spare time).

So having “finished” the engine awhile ago, all this time to polish and iterate on the story and immersion has been pretty eye opening.

BTW, you can add Star Control to your Steam wish list here.


#1025

This week’s dev diary talks about how we created a variety of planets so that every world you explore feels unique and exciting. :)

https://www.stardock.com/games/article/489787/star-control-origins-prelude-2-of-13---so-many-planets


#1026

Another dev journal out today!

What does the “Freedom to Fail” philosophy mean? We don’t force you to follow a linear path in Star Control: Origins and you’re free to do crazy stuff - you’re just not free from consequences. ;)


#1027

I like having a lose-game state as a reality. I put plenty of hours into FTL and its ilk, for instance. Yet I have to admit I’m of a slightly mixed mind when it comes to some other stuff. In 2, if you didn’t make it to different regions by a certain star date, various races would be closed off forever.

On one hand, this minor frustration pushed me to replay and helped me appreciate the living aspect of the game universe. On the other hand, perhaps the dynamic was more an artifact of its time. I’m 25 years older than I was back then and I’m certainly better equipped to handle bumps in the road. Yet this is also the age of Steam backlogs, and if I’m missing anything that adds engagement then I might move on for a time.

Of course, that’s far from the end of the world; I have more games than I could ever realistically play and I cycle back to great games regardless. But I’m not the only customer, and I worry about word of mouth hurting the game’s success and therefore chances of expansions/DLC/great user mods.


#1028

I don’t have a problem with fail states personally, quite the opposite! I like stakes. But, given that the game also, as the journal mentions, doesn’t hold the player’s hand and is nonlinear, I guess I get a little concerned that this could make a perfect storm of circumstances to get a person into a bad situation that they didn’t see themselves steering into necessarily.

I think of something like the old Sierra point’n’click adventure games, King’s Quest for example. It was completely possible to take an action, or fail to take an action early on in the game that could totally screw you. Later on in the game, you’d be in what they call a ‘walking dead’ state: you could not win the game, but you had no way of knowing that at the time you made the decision. You’ll find out when you hit the fail state, but then you’d better hope you had a save from before the bad decision or you’re starting all over.

I know Star Control isn’t that kind of game, plus game design has obviously moved leaps and bounds beyond that kind of thing, I’m just hoping that a bad decision is something that could be reasonably recognized by the player as a bad decision and possibly even something that could be recovered from, at higher cost. I don’t know, just thinking out loud here.


#1029

I get where a lot of people are coming from when they mention a dislike for failstates. For me personally, this is one thing I miss a lot from older games.

I feel like in the attempt to reduce frustration and failstates, many modern games end up in a place where I feel like my choices don’t really matter. I mean, okay, maybe it alters the story a bit, but they ultimately don’t matter, at least in the way that I approach games. While this is tangentially moving to another genre, it was one of my problems with Diablo 3. I totally get the appeal of unlimited do-overs and never worrying about making a wrong choice! It’s effortlessly convenient, it allows for you to play through and complete the game and move on to something else – and you never have to worry you’re making a bad choice. Some people love that, but it’s anathema to me in an interactive media. I’m someone who really likes to dive deep into games and the lack of consequence of choice just makes all the games start tasting like unflavored microwave popcorn. It’s something to do, but it’s not a very enjoyable or filling experience for me.

If you want me to pay attention and care about choices, I have to have something to care about. If my choice results in alienating a race of aliens that could provide crucial support for the climax of the game, then I’m going to care. If I know I’m on a themepark ride where I can’t really go off course, then I get into the click-click-click “Okay, yeah, blah blah blah. Let’s get back to the game” mentality.


#1030

New week so we have a new dev journal from Brad out today! :)

Have you ever wanted to create your own stories and play them out in a video game? Now you can, with Star Control: Origins’ Adventure Studio!


#1031

The game has been in the hands of focus groups for a bit and the feedback we’re getting really shows where games are today.

A lot of younger players are used to a lot of hand-holding. I mean, a LOT of hand holding as in, they don’t want to read or listen to what characters say they just want to see where they’re supposed to go and go there with a pointer and dots taking them right there.

I’m more in the camp that that game shouldn’t lead you by the nose. It should give you the information but you decide what you are going to do next.

Spoilers


So for instance, you read your captain’s log but there currently isn’t some list of “DO THIS” with bread crumbs. It’s more of an automated system of what we used to do back in the classic RPG days (including Ultima) where we’d write this stuff down ourselves.

Curious to hear what you guys think.


#1032

I like the sound of the current system; even better if there’s a way I can add my own notes. My preference would be to keep doing what you’re doing and ignore the “hand holding” requests. I personally detest “dumbed down” games so I’m obviously biased.

It’s a tough choice for sales. Many “younger” players complain if you go one direction, everyone else complains if you go the other. Although, a lot of those same younger players will complain if your game costs more than a mobile game ;)

I remember when Dungeon Siege came out how it was jokingly referred to as “the screensaver” since it automated so much. By today’s standards, some of the hand-holding players would complain it does not automate enough.

Good luck with the game. I hope it doesn’t get “streamlined”.


#1033

I’m old school and like this approach. If you want me to pay attention to anything going on, then it needs to be something worth paying attention to. And I for one have no qualms with being “lost” for stretches of time. Finding my way is part of the fun, for me.

In 99% of all games today, I just slam my mouse button and get frustrated just wanting the NPCs to shut up. There’s nothing important there, they just need to STFU and spit out the pellet that tells me where to go for the next foozle.


#1034

A lot of games use voice overs for this. For instance, take Ghost Recon Wildlands. The only tutorials are about movement. After that it’s objective markers with voiceovers while you go there. The mission briefing is one sentence at best and the cutscenes are AFTER the action so as to give the play a pause.

Probably you are not going to have enemies chasing you back to base, but the voiceover narration adds story while the player is enroute. Tons of games do this now.

One could argue it’s more effecient and tighter that way.


#1035

Iirc you don’t have a Switch, but see if you can get your hands on (or maybe some footage of) Super Mario Odyssey. It has an assist mode that gives the player more health (and restores it after a time), resets them in the same spot (at the cost of a life) if they fall off a platform, and has arrows to guide you toward your next objective. More advanced players can turn it all off. Everybody wins.

Driving assists in racing games are another example. You might have separate controls for traction control, automatic braking, the racing line, etc.

For Star Control, you might have an optional beacon that points toward your next story objective, perhaps.


#1036

Giving people options to tailor the game experience is always good, but personally the whole point of games like this is the thrill of discovery - the feeling that you found something that wasn’t pointed out to you. The example notes you’ve shown are good, that’s the kind of thing I’d write down, although I’d have preferred to be the one to write it down. Perhaps as a compromise you could throw some clues out that don’t go into your log; non-essential gameplay elements such as secrets that you have to work harder to find. I always turn off objective markers, compass markers and breadcrumb trails in the options because I like to feel like I’m playing the game and not the developer. I was greatly disappointed by AC: Origins which, while otherwise a great game, made the navigational markers essential because there was no other way you’d ever find objectives except by stumbling upon them. (except for the papyrus scrolls which did exactly what I wanted; a clue and brief description, and then you were left to figure it out yourself)


#1037

I agree, the notes look great (I hadn’t looked that closely at the screenshot earlier). As you said, that’s just the sort of thing I’d have written down. This saves you the trouble, yet you still have to go find where stuff is.


#1038

It’s an interesting choice. While I like it, I think it’s a risk which might not be worth taking. I’d suggest defaulting to more breadcrumbs and offer options to remove them (either “veteran” or “explorer” modes or just a set of check boxes in a game options menu). Those who might want the breadcrumbs are less likely adjust any difficulty slider, after all, and therefore more likely to give a thumbs down after playing it a half hour.


#1039

It’s not an easy thing to just add a toggle to. Typically, a game is either designed with the breadcrumbs in mind or not. While you can easily add a toggle to turn these off, it doesn’t change the fact that the game was designed with the assumption that you would have them available to point you on your way.

If you’re going to support both, it needs to be done with that in mind from the start.


#1040

Oh, c’mon - They’ve got two whole months to rewrite the game. I could do that blindfolded. It wouldn’t compile let alone run, but still!


#1041

This looks exactly right to me. (Although I’m an old fogey who took notes about Ultima games, too.)


#1042

I think you risk alienating a good chunk of the potential audience without the breadcrumbs. Make them on by default but toggle-able off in the options.


#1043

I feel much the same way. It’s such a fine line. We want the writing itself to provide the clues and for the player to put it together. But at the same time, we understand that people are used to a lot more guidance.