Dev Blog #003 February 15, 2022

Hey everyone, sorry for the delay on this blog update. I now have a baby girl so it's been a very busy time, but I am slowly getting back into work even if it's only a few hours a day.

So since the last update I've been doing a lot of work on the new features of the game, I've been posting these updates on the Discord so some of you may have already seen some of this as there is a backlog of things I've done that I haven't blogged about.

NPC chats and Dynamic missions

At every station in the galaxy there are contacts you can talk to, mostly you will be doing this for missions. Most contacts will have a mission available to you, these are broken down into 4 types:

Mining: These involve heading to a nearby sector and mining resources, the contact may ask you to get it from a certain sector, they also might want it delivered to someone else.
Salvage: Shipwrecks and other salvageable objects are scattered around debris fields, your contact will normally want you to find a certain item on a wreckage and return it. Or they might just want you to break the wreck down into raw resources to stop it falling into pirate hands.
Bounty: Some contacts will give you the location of a ship they want you to destroy, these target ships can be on their own or part of a fleet.
Suppression: If Pirate or Xeno activity is high, a contact might want you to help fight targets.

These missions are dynamic and generated depending on local factors, such as ore availability, local pirate levels, sector types, current events. They are not just 1 step, the missions can have multiple steps and can change during mission progress, for example you might get ambushed by pirates. I will be continuing development on these so there will be more types added in the future.

Along with these missions there are story/custom missions I have crafted that offer a richer narrative, something AQ1 was lacking.

To go along with the new mission system I needed a better way of interacting with contacts so I have developed a rich chat system ( see image ) that is used by all the contacts in the game. This enables you to talk about missions, negotiate rewards as well as asking for help with game features. The contacts are also aware of things going on around them, you can find out more information about local events, where things are happening, what trade items have a good price, where you can find resources nearby and other bits. I'm hoping this chat system is deep enough to allow for more personalisation in the future, with contacts knowing your reputation and having a personal standing with them.

Skins

Ship skins were a frequently requested feature for AQ1, but it wasn't something I had ever planned for, so for AQ2 I've worked on a whole new engine feature for skinning ships.
Ships can now have completely new patterns and color schemes applied to them, these will be offered as in game rewards as well as in app purchases.
Skins that are purchased can be used on any character on your account, they are not locked to a single character.
This is an example of a new cargo transport ship with a skin applied vs without.
Pirates and other NPCs will also make use of the skin system, highlighting their corporation colors.

Guns

Along with the skins the ships have had a big visual update, and although it is still work in progress it is looking a lot better. One new visual item are the turrets, ships will now show 3d models of their weaponry along with animations and better firing effects. Here you can see a ship with several cannons and missile launchers loaded.

Sector visuals

The general atmosphere of the game is getting a complete overhaul, sectors now have much better looking environments. Here you can see an asteroid field vs a debris field, the other sectors types are being worked on but you can expect the same upgrade for gas clouds, nebulas and others.

Tech stuff

Along with all the new features and improvements comes a lot of upgrades to the multiplayer game engine. Although the engine used in AQ1 had a lot of upgrades over the years it was still not fast enough to run the kind of battles I want for AQ2, so it has had a massive rework from the ground up and is now able to support fights with 10x as many ships while still using the same about of bandwidth as a normal AQ1 fight.

This is a shot from the Unity Editor, it shows 250 ships all fighting in a single area, the white circles are ships and you can just about see some swarm and pulse cannon fire. This fight ran on a Nexus 5X using 3G with no fps or lag issues.

But I wanted to push it more, so here is a screenshot of 1,100 ships all flying around with a few of them fighting. It looks like a mess, but it was a good test of the engine. This screenshot was running using the same amount of bandwidth as a big 3v3 fight in AQ1, but it's not a fair comparison as the ships here are not doing much fighting.
All these tests have been going really well and I've been making sure they can all run on mobile as well as PC, with the graphics scaling up and down based on the device.

Next

Life with the baby is getting more routine, so I will have another blog out as soon as I can on the new group based raids and fancy new corporation updates.

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