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Game News Colony Ship RPG Update #3: Development Timetable, Systems Changes

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Tags: Colony Ship RPG; Iron Tower Studios; Vault Dweller

Vault Dweller has published a new and very important update for his Colony Ship RPG. First of all, it includes a development timetable, indicating a final release date of late 2020. Yes, you read that right. Second, there's a comprehensive list of the ways in which the game's systems will differ from Age of Decadence's, revealing for the first time that it's going to use a learn-by-use skill improvement system, among other things. You should really read the entire update, but here are a few of those things:

Feats & Character Levels

Your characters will gain levels using experience points from quests. When you level up, you’ll select feats, unlocking or improving your abilities. The feats will be an important aspect of character development (i.e. they won’t give you minor bonuses but help you develop your characters along specific paths: lone wolf vs squad leader, offense vs defense, gunslinger vs sprayer or gadgeteer, melee vs ranged, which will go beyond which skill to develop, etc) and make as much of a difference as the skills levels.

I want the skills to determine your chance of success with certain tasks and the feats to define what you can do and how you can use these skills to maximum advantage. For example, not every guy with points in Pistol is a gunslinger, not every guy who travels alone is a Jeremiah Johnson when it comes to survival, etc. Basically, the feats will define your character much more than your skills.

Skills & Learn by Using


You will not gain XP for killing, talking, sneaking, picking locks, using computers, fixing mechanical things and such. You will not increase your skills manually. Instead your skills will be increased automatically based on their use.

Why?
  • One of the most common complaints about AoD was meta-gaming, yet the problem wasn’t on the design end but on the player’s end. Basically, it was driven by the player’s desire to get more content in the course of one game. As that content required stats and skills, it forced some players to metagame, either to spread skill points in the most optimum manner or to hoard points and use them like currency to buy extra content. The ‘increase by use’ system eliminates this meta-gaming aspect as now there are no skill points to hoard or distribute. The content you get will be determined by your actions and choices (including which skills to use as your primary and secondary groups).
  • The main problem with a party-based, skill-based (as of opposite to class-based) setup is that even with a 3-man party you can easily cover all skills you want to have. You’ll have a fighter/talker, fighter/thief, fighter/fixer, which is something we’d like to avoid. The ‘increase by use’ system solves this problem in the most natural and logical way possible. Your abilities reflect what you do, not how (usually arbitrary) you distribute your skill points.
  • It reinforces the party-based design I talked about in the previous update. If you let one of the party members do all the repair work while you concentrate on other areas, losing this party member would hit you hard and you’d have to make sure (via choices made during quests) that he/she would stay with you no matter what.
  • It rewards consistent gameplay. Let’s say you need to deal with a gang that stands between you and that door over there. If you kill them, everyone’s combat skills will improve a bit. If you talk your way through, only your dialogue skills will go up.
  • We’re well aware of the possible exploits and want to reassure you that skill use will be a somewhat limited resource (no respawning enemies, silly things like greeting every NPC to increase your speech skills, spamming activities to max skills in 30 min, using faster weapons to level up skills faster, etc). Instead of counting how many times you did something, we’ll assign a certain value (let’s call it learning points) to each activity (attacking, killing, fixing, sneaking, convincing, lying, etc). So killing a tough enemy or repairing a reactor will net you more points than killing a weakling or fixing a toaster. Basically, it will work the same way as XP but go directly toward raising a skill that did all the work.
Gadgets

Ranged combat will be dull if everyone just stands there, firing their weapons and dodging bullets. It needs cover but we don’t want to place cover everywhere, which means we need gadgets to make your own cover (among other things):
  • Depletable energy shield (absorbs x damage)
  • Reality distortion field (THC penalty against you)
  • Optical illusion a-la Total Recall (chance that enemies will target the illusion)
  • Cloaking field aka Stealth Boy
  • Stasis field (holds enemy, no damage can be dealt)
  • Brainwave Disruptor (don’t leave your home without Psychic Nullifier)
Basically, gadgets will be the CSG’s alchemy. Expect 10-12 gadgets with 3-4 upgrade levels.
That's a lot of cool stuff. Time to start waiting.
 

vonAchdorf

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indicating a final release date of late 2020. Yes, you read that right.

They plan to more than double their development speed? Will the game have less content or are they estimating time savings with UE and their experience from AoD?
 
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We are working full time on game dev now, plus more experience with a better development plan.
"Engine familiarity and systems/tools porting IF using Unreal 4"

What does this 'if' mean? You guys not considering sticking with Torque are you?
 

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Sounds great!

The changes to leveling skills by use is going to be huge. After a playthrough or two AoD really becomes a "hunt for the hidden content" game by cheesing stats and skills prerequisites. Curious if this will really fix the "problem" or not.

One of the most common complaints about AoD was meta-gaming, yet the problem wasn’t on the design end but on the player’s end. Basically, it was driven by the player’s desire to get more content in the course of one game.
Saying it was a player "problem" is a bit disingenuous. The game was designed that way, drove that gameplay, therefore it was a design problem. Players can't guess what level their skills need to be at to pass a certain check, therefore they needed to compensate, to plan, to hoard points. Can't blame a player for wanting to see the game's content.
 

Ismaul

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Also I can see a problem with the learn by using model: if you want to start developing a new skill at some point, while it's never been boosted before, you'll just try to use it and fail. Unless failure increases your skills, you won't be able to learn new skills and will have to stick with the skills you already developped from the beginning of the game.
 
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Unless failure increases your skills
Which it should. Isn't learning from failure some universal wisdom? Also it'd make sense for lower skill value to gain more points on use since there's more left to learn.

So it should balance out. Maybe. I don't know, I've always found increase-by-use to be in theory the best way to handle stat increases but nobody has done in a way that I found satisfactory.
 

Kem0sabe

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I dislike this skill and exp gaining system. Limiting exp gains to quests alone is way too limiting, adding another means to gain exp like underrail did with the Oddity system is much more enjoyable in my experience.
 
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I dislike this skill and exp gaining system. Limiting exp gains to quests alone is way too limiting, adding another means to gain exp like underrail did with the Oddity system is much more enjoyable in my experience.
It would be limiting in some games but not something made in VD's style. You're probably not steering any far from the calculated path in this game.

Oddity system has its issues too. Most people agree that one of the most annoying things in CRPGs is constantly checking containers for shit, then you go and make character development depend on that.
 

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Also I can see a problem with the learn by using model: if you want to start developing a new skill at some point, while it's never been boosted before, you'll just try to use it and fail. Unless failure increases your skills, you won't be able to learn new skills and will have to stick with the skills you already developped from the beginning of the game.

Failing will provide learning points, but only once, and deducted from future success. For example, fixing a generator provides 100 LP. You try, fail, get 40 points. Then you read some books on mechanics, level up, and when you fix it you get the remaining 60.

As Vince said before, the idea with this game is to go more "hybrid" than AoD, so we won't be extremely stingy with learning points. Combat will have a bigger role, and it's planned for you to be a fighter-talker or fighter-thief, etc. It won't be hard for you to reach a proficient level on many skills, but to master them yes, you'll have to place some effort. Plus different skills will have different learning tresholds, to balance their availability.
 
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It would be limiting in some games but not something made in VD's style. You're probably not steering any far from the calculated path in this game.
I thought this was going to be much more open ended?
It will, from what has been said so far. Just skeptical about how much more, considering those dudes committed 10 years of their lives to AoD, i'm not expecting a total paradigm change. It just sounds more open but within the same narrative style.
 

Kem0sabe

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Failing will provide learning points, but only once, and deducted from future success. For example, fixing a generator provides 100 LP. You try, fail, get 40 points. Then you read some books on mechanics, level up, and when you fix it you get the remaining 60.

As Vince said before, the idea with this game is to go more "hybrid" than AoD, so we won't be extremely stingy with learning points. Combat will have a bigger role, and it's planned for you to be a fighter-talker or fighter-thief, etc. It won't be hard for you to reach a proficient level on many skills, but to master them yes, you'll have to place some effort. Plus different skills will have different learning tresholds, to balance their availability.
Combat having a bigger role and not earning any exp for same combat, doesn't sound very fun.

This was one of the massive issues with PoE for me, it had a lot of combat with little to no reward beyond the joy of playing a horrible combat system and poorly designed encounters.

Unless you guys suddenly discover the holy grail of combat systems and manage to design the only combat system to not suck since kotc with cool encounters design to boot, I very much want some exp to go with the chicken.
 

Elhoim

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Combat having a bigger role and not earning any exp for same combat, doesn't sound very fun.

You will be increasing your combat skills by using them, so you will be granted LP for combat, so it's definitely not like PoE. There IS character advancement due to fighting.

Not sure about adding XP on top of the LP gain. I prefer it to be granted on quest completition, plus reaching some particular areas on exploration (kinda like "open ended" quests).
 

Vault Dweller

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"Engine familiarity and systems/tools porting IF using Unreal 4"

What does this 'if' mean? You guys not considering sticking with Torque are you?
It's still an unknown factor. I assume that we won't run into any real issues with Unreal 4 but I don't know for sure. Until we transfer all systems into Unreal 4 and see how much extra work the engine would require I won't be able to say for sure that that's the engine we'll be using.

Saying it was a player "problem" is a bit disingenuous. The game was designed that way, drove that gameplay, therefore it was a design problem. Players can't guess what level their skills need to be at to pass a certain check, therefore they needed to compensate, to plan, to hoard points. Can't blame a player for wanting to see the game's content.
The way I see it, the moment you lock some content, some players will start meta-gaming to get it because it's their nature (and I'm not saying it's some kind of personality flaw). So if it's indeed a design problem, the only way to fix is to drop all checks and let everyone go anywhere they please.

Also I can see a problem with the learn by using model: if you want to start developing a new skill at some point, while it's never been boosted before, you'll just try to use it and fail. Unless failure increases your skills, you won't be able to learn new skills and will have to stick with the skills you already developped from the beginning of the game.
It IS an issue but there are several ways to handle it: learning books, party members with good non-combat skills who'd cost you an arm and a leg (not talking about money), etc.

It would be limiting in some games but not something made in VD's style. You're probably not steering any far from the calculated path in this game.
I thought this was going to be much more open ended?
It will, from what has been said so far. Just skeptical about how much more, considering those dudes committed 10 years of their lives to AoD, i'm not expecting a total paradigm change. It just sounds more open but within the same narrative style.
Yes. We want to make a better game by improving the core design not departing from it.

Combat having a bigger role and not earning any exp for same combat, doesn't sound very fun.
Your combat skills will increase in combat.
 

cruelio

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NO

ANYTHING BUT SKILLS INCREASING BY USE

I DON'T WANT TO HIT A MUD CRAB FOR 20 MINUTES TO RAISE MY OFFENSE AND THEN LET A MUD CRAB BEAT ME FOR 20 MINUTES TO RAISE MY DEFENSE

FUCK OFF WITH THE WORST SKILL SYSTEM OF RPGS EVER
 

Elhoim

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NO

ANYTHING BUT SKILLS INCREASING BY USE

I DON'T WANT TO HIT A MUD CRAB FOR 20 MINUTES TO RAISE MY OFFENSE AND THEN LET A MUD CRAB BEAT ME FOR 20 MINUTES TO RAISE MY DEFENSE

FUCK OFF WITH THE WORST SKILL SYSTEM OF RPGS EVER

Offense increases are based on enemy HP, not hits. So taking all its HP in one hit or in 100 will give the same training. There's no "defense" skill. It's very different to the way implemented in TES.
 

Ismaul

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Also I can see a problem with the learn by using model: if you want to start developing a new skill at some point, while it's never been boosted before, you'll just try to use it and fail. Unless failure increases your skills, you won't be able to learn new skills and will have to stick with the skills you already developped from the beginning of the game.

Failing will provide learning points, but only once, and deducted from future success. For example, fixing a generator provides 100 LP. You try, fail, get 40 points. Then you read some books on mechanics, level up, and when you fix it you get the remaining 60.
That sounds interesting. Good to know you've thought about this.


Saying it was a player "problem" is a bit disingenuous. The game was designed that way, drove that gameplay, therefore it was a design problem. Players can't guess what level their skills need to be at to pass a certain check, therefore they needed to compensate, to plan, to hoard points. Can't blame a player for wanting to see the game's content.
The way I see it, the moment you lock some content, some players will start meta-gaming to get it because it's their nature (and I'm not saying it's some kind of personality flaw). So if it's indeed a design problem, the only way to fix is to drop all checks and let everyone go anywhere they please.
First, just to say I really liked AoD and the "hunt for lore" gameplay through replays.

But I see the meta-gaming "problem" very differently. Some hack 'n slash games are all about the character build meta-game, but the one that you could say is problematic is of a different type. It's not like you say a "get all the content" meta-game; that meta-game settles in for replays, and that was fun and that's the point of replays afterall, to find content you missed, alternative paths. Those meta-games are intended, part of the game.

The meta-game that is a design "problem" and could be improved upon is more of a "I have an archetype I want to be able to roleplay but what stats do I need?" meta-game. Skill points in AoD are limited, and that makes it so the player has to anticipate (predict if he can't assess in-game) what skill ranks he needs to be able to effectively play his chosen archetype/character concept. But because skill ranks are rather abstract, it is very hard to anticipate what rank is required for a certain challenge, you don't know if your Persuasion 6 Streetwise 5 will be good enough to live up to your charachter's archetype, or if you would've instead been better with Streetwise 6 Persuasion 5. Knowning that would mean having the designer's knowledge or having already played the game through this path. So yeah players meta-game, but it's because of the abstractness of the system, which makes players unable to assess the challenge they face, and therefore look for ways to gain control, such as skill hoarding (which I've done, and would've rather not). This is lessened in games with less stingy skill point availability, because players've got spare points to cover character build "mistakes".

That is what could be improved upon from the AoD design, IMO. But that doesn't mean you need to give too much skill points. And I think there are ways to compensate for this without going to the extreme of dropping skill checks or content gating like you say, since it's not the content-hunting meta-game that's problematic. Rather, it's the incertainty of what a skill of rank X means in the game, that makes it harder to build a roleplaying character like the player envisions. It's the disconnect between player knowledge and designer knowledge that has to be compensated with a way for the player to assess challenges (which is why we have things like monster levels), or with a way for the player to gain a small edge to compensate for a character build that's almost good enough to face the challenge.

Fallout did the last part with drugs that could temporarily boost your stats/skills. I previously suggested a "Skill pool" like the Effort pool from Torment, from which you spend points in checks to choose which paths open for your character (or in other words boost a skill). If your skill is lower than required, maybe you can compensate by spending more points from your pool, so that allows for some flexibility in character builds, while still having mechanical consequences for choices (you now have less points in your pool and can't compensate for other weaknesses). And that is just one option among others (and poorly formulated and underdeveloped at that).

Learning skills by usage is another way, and it might just do the trick. Guess we'll all see.
 
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Xzylvador

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QFT.

The whole metagaming requirement is AoD's biggest issue imho.
I'm glad VD picked it up as being a problem... But too bad he's still utterly convinced of his own infallibility and immediately points to the player as the problem instead of admitting there might be a flaw in his design...
One can only hope posts like Ismaul's make him see reason.


As Vince said before, the idea with this game is to go more "hybrid" than AoD, so we won't be extremely stingy with learning points. Combat will have a bigger role, and it's planned for you to be a fighter-talker or fighter-thief, etc. It won't be hard for you to reach a proficient level on many skills, but to master them yes, you'll have to place some effort. Plus different skills will have different learning tresholds, to balance their availability.
If one part of the hybridization is pretty much mandatory, it's not -really- a hybrid character, is it?
If you give twice the amount of skill points but it's already pretty much determined that half of those must be allocated to <combat skill X> in order to have a playable character, the player still only has the original amount to spend on creating his own original character and still has the 'must build exactly this way or fail' metagaming problem.
Okay, good thing that everyone will be able to have some fun in combat; but that's really beside the issue.
 

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