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Ostranauts - spaceship management sim set in NEO Scavenger universe - now available on Early Access

Theodora

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Yeah, I bought it just now for the same reason agris. Really keen to see where this game can go with the right support and attention.
 

Infinitron

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Ostranauts is live! And after a bit of a rocky start, we're starting to see more stability. And importantly, players having fun.

In this video, Dan talks about where we are with development now, and where we'll be going next. As well as some long term expectations to have.
 

Kitchen Utensil

Guest
The art in this is so fucking ugly. How can you develop and test this game looking at these shit portraits all the time. There's also zero understanding of design and colors apparent throughout every part of the game. I get that this is an indy game, but holy shit.
 

Quilty

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Apr 11, 2008
Messages
2,406
The art in this is so fucking ugly. How can you develop and test this game looking at these shit portraits all the time. There's also zero understanding of design and colors apparent throughout every part of the game. I get that this is an indy game, but holy shit.

Some of the portraits really are derpy-looking, even ugly at times.
 

Hellraiser

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Danzig, Potato-Hitman Commonwealth
The art in this is so fucking ugly. How can you develop and test this game looking at these shit portraits all the time. There's also zero understanding of design and colors apparent throughout every part of the game. I get that this is an indy game, but holy shit.

Some of the portraits really are derpy-looking, even ugly at times.

Makes them standout more, although the question is if the ugly ones have a hidden uglyness stat that makes them worse at seduction.
 

Quilty

Magister
Joined
Apr 11, 2008
Messages
2,406
The art in this is so fucking ugly. How can you develop and test this game looking at these shit portraits all the time. There's also zero understanding of design and colors apparent throughout every part of the game. I get that this is an indy game, but holy shit.

Some of the portraits really are derpy-looking, even ugly at times.

Makes them standout more, although the question is if the ugly ones have a hidden uglyness stat that makes them worse at seduction.

True, and I don't know if their ugliness affects the stats. But some of the facial expressions, man, the slack mouth and rolling eyes... Oof.
 

Hellraiser

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Apr 22, 2007
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Danzig, Potato-Hitman Commonwealth
True, and I don't know if their ugliness affects the stats. But some of the facial expressions, man, the slack mouth and rolling eyes... Oof.

If you think about it spacers/belters would be fairly inbred. Also one could make a LP with a crew looking like retards, and just by pure coincidence give them names similar to some prominent codexian posters.
 

dcfedor

Blue Bottle Games
Developer
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Messages
111
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Seattle, WA, USA
Hey Folks!

First of all, I apologize for the rocky start. It can mainly be attributed to poor testing on our part. I think we (and even the external QA outfit we hired) were finally falling trap to our own familiarity with the game, and subconsciously sidestepping many of the bugs new players walked straight into.

That's on me. I should've tested more, extended pre-release closed beta, and probably a few other things to boot.

(On-boarding tutorial is rough, too. But hey, that's my brand!)

Secondly, thank you all so much for the kind words, and for having faith I'll get this sorted out. It means more than anything to me that folks trust me, even after missteps, to get things right in the end. Creating something players like me can enjoy and nerd-out with is one of the main reasons I do this.

Hopefully, a week and several patches hence, the game is starting to get out of your way so you can have fun doing what it promises: basically a space Lego set with functional parts, filled with semi-sentient (albeit wonky) action figures, all in the universe you came to love from NEO Scavenger. Plus, any excuse to hear more Josh Culler music doesn't go amiss!

Current status seems to be nearly stable. I'm aware of a few runaway temperature issues, some weird item placement bugs, and yeah, the tasking/jobbing/queuing system is going to require some love. But I'm starting to see 11hr save files, and some really ambitious experiments in ship design (plus some fun stories, to boot).

Almost ready to shift gears from stability fixes to a mix of quality of life and new features/content. Which I think is where we all want to be.

A few specific answers to questions:

How can Dan stand the art in this game? Easy. I like it! It's actually pretty spot-on for what I was aiming for. I guess my tastes are not universal, though.

Did it early release for money? Believe it or not, no. I'm not actually that bad for money right now. Not rich, either, but like I mention above, it was more of a blind spot. We thought it was more ready than it was.

Why isn't combat a "yes?" It basically is. I only couched it in "likely" because it'll be a while before we're there. A lot of systems need finishing before we start smashing them with fists and PDCs. (E.g. a wound paper doll, medical equipment, sensors, ammunition, etc.)

Pressure suits don't accept O2 bottles. This one's actually a good example of a larger discussion. Basically, I want there to be crappy vs. good versions of stuff in the game, but I haven't yet had time to make them all. My usual approach is to make one or two representative items as a proof of concept, and when there's enough of the different things covered, I can come back and add more variety to existing things. So we may eventually see a pressure suit that accepts manual O2 refills, or some sort of cheaper EVA that requires you to hold the LSS in one hand, etc.

Ditto for things like the drill or laser torch. Maybe we get a single-head, manual screwdriver, and you have to carry 4 to cover all screw types? And the drill is like the lux version with swappable heads and works faster, etc.

Overall, probably not a lot here that will surprise followers of the NEO Scavenger Early Access arc. Sales permitting, it's going to be a year or two, and there's a lot we'd like to do during that. So with that in mind, thanks again all, and I'm off to do some bug fixing!
 

Taka-Haradin puolipeikko

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https://steamcommunity.com/games/1022980/announcements/detail/2789374424366799114
Ostranauts Patch v0.6.2.5 Available
Hey Folks!

Ostranauts v0.6.2.5 is now available on Steam, and your clients should be updating shortly.

While a few game-stopping bugs are fixed here, a lot of these are more subtle, or take a while to end the game. Plus, some quality of life changes.

Specifically:
  • Fixed a bug that could cause conditions to increment on save/load due to side effects accumulating each load.
  • Added ability to uninstall unpowered and damaged nav stations.
  • Added button to clear proximity alarm.
  • Fixed bug that caused AI to quit repairing after delivering supplies to target.
  • Fixed a bug that sometimes caused player ship to appear inside Ganymed 1036 after loading a save.
  • Fixed a bug that caused derelicts to drift far away from K-Leg after docking and undocking with them.
  • Fixed a bug that caused inventory items to become diagonal.
  • Fixed a bug that would cause social combat to be stuck with no choices if NPC failed to choose reply.
  • Fixed a bug that would cause social combat to be stuck with no choices if NPC died.
  • Fixed a bug that allowed social moves involving dead people.
  • Fixed a bug that would cause inventory tooltip to remain stuck after item under it was removed.
  • Fixed a bug that allowed player to glitch through closed doors.
  • Removed nav station course correction check task for now.


One of the big ones this patch is also the most subtle: side-effects were being reapplied each save/load cycle, which could cause all sorts of symptoms on characters as games got older. One of the most obvious cases was overheating being stuck on the captain, despite normal atmo temperature. Hopefully, with that fixed, we'll see fewer late-game deaths and other weirdness.

Also, you can now clear the proximity alarm! And uninstall nav stations and RCS thrusters while they're off!

AI will resume repairs after delivering items. Socializing should cause fewer soft-locks. And several other issues addressed.

As always, there's plenty more for us to fix, change, and add! And we'll be continuing in roughly that order. In the meantime, let us know if this patch helps you out, as well as if it reveals new problems!

Best,
Daniel Fedor
Founder, Blue Bottle Games, LLC
 

Infinitron

I post news
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https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/20...ous-space-game-but-i-think-its-going-to-work/

Ostranauts is a hugely ambitious space game, but I think it's going to work

90


“This is all just an excuse for me to build a universe, right?” says Daniel Fedor, as I settle in for an evening watching him play Ostranauts. And he’s serious. The sandboxy space sim, which hit early access on September 10th, and which is a sort-of sequel to acclaimed oddball RPG NEO Scavenger, has some properly deep worldbuilding. And I don’t mean deep as in “my D&D setting has a map I did myself, and religions to boot”. I mean deep as in “a spreadsheet just to track the product ranges and distribution networks of fifty-odd manufacturing brands”, which is just one of Fedor’s many design documents.

This depth of setting is the best thing about Ostranauts. As I said in my preview, it’s top-notch science fiction. The real deal, that you want to fly out and get lost in. But as I also said, the demo build was frustratingly obtuse to play. The more things you want to be possible in an open-ended game like this, the more scaffolding you have to build, and the history of early access sandbox games is littered with the wreckage of structures that were too rickety to hold the weight of play. If it wasn’t for the existence of NEO Scavenger to suggest otherwise, in fact, I’d fear Ostranauts would end up among them. But despite the odd alarming creak, it’s still standing after five years of work. And from the very top of that scaffolding, you can see the stars.

What is Ostranauts, then? It’s a game about making a life for yourself in a shitty future version of the solar system, where Earth has abruptly been cut off from its off-planet holdings. But Fedor can distil it a little more than that. “You’ve seen that episode of Firefly, Out Of Gas?” he says (it’s the episode where Nathan Fillion has flashbacks about acquiring his spaceship). “That’s the crux of this game for me. I wanted to relive that episode of ‘this is the ship I want; I see it in the junkyard; I’m gonna clean it up, patch it up, fly it, and find the right people for it. Then We’re all gonna have a blast, and there will be space drama.'”

It’s taken five years, so far, just to get Ostranauts to early access. Fedor has a publisher now in Modern Wolf, which is helping progress. But for much of that time he was flying solo, with occasional support from contractors. As a result, Ostranauts is as shallow in some areas as it is deep in others. In the hour and a half that I watch Fedor play, we see pretty much all the main things the game can do at this point in its life.

We create a character, fly out to a “boneyard” full of derelict spaceships, spruce one up, and fly it back to K-leg, the Nigerian-owned planetoid base that serves as Ostraunauts’ current starting area. We don’t hire any crew in the end, as I run out of time, but Fedor says that’s OK – while crew are fun to interact with, they’re not yet implemented to the point where they save more labour than they create.

This is a running theme in our conversation. Every couple of minutes, I see the tantalising tail-end of a feature which it transpires is going to do some really interesting things, but isn’t doing too much at present. K-leg, for example, is one of a pretty small number of visitable-on-foot locations in Ostranauts’ solar system. There’s an amazing character creation system that’s an entire text-based RPG in itself, where you generate your character’s entire life story via a diegetic résumé-generation kiosk – but there’s only enough content fed into it to support a few potential branches right now.




This was such a satisfying process to watch.
And so on, and so on. But if this all sounds dismissive, it’s not meant to. This is early-early-access, for a start. And while there’s an argument to be made that Ostranauts was launched a little too early, then it’s the equivalent of a premature whale baby: not quite fully formed, but still bloody massive. Even though many elements are still just nubs, there’s a lot of exploring to be done. I spent ages, for example, just looking at the navigation console on Fedor’s spaceship, which displayed (in a magnificently Weyland-Yutanian, retro-futurist fashion) the orbit of every single natural and man-made body in the entire solar system.

There are loads of the bastards. Fedor says the decision to put all of them in seemed like a good idea, “until the moment where I looked up a full list of Jupiter’s moons.” But there they all are, careening around the Big Man himself like a swarm of pissheads in dodgems. One day, they’ll all have bases to be visited, trade hubs to haggle at, and entire populations of characters to make friends and enemies among. Making this possible won’t involve the eternity of labour it initially threatened to, as Fedor is committed to using a certain amount of procedural generation for base layouts, ship traffic and the like. But it’s still a big effort, and at the moment, only K-leg and its environs are really practical as areas of activity for your fledgling space scoundrel.




Many, many spinny rocks.

Suddenly, an alarm starts blaring on the ship, and Fedor has our captain scurry back to the navigation console. “We’ve been stood still talking so long,” Fedor explains, as a red triangle flashes on the map of local space, “the cops have gotten suspicious”.

The rozzers have sent a ship to check us out, and I ask if it’s possible to board it and steal it. Not yet, is the answer, as physical combat isn’t implemented. But at some point, definitely. Along with bribery, dropping the name of a local big cheese to get you off the hook, or even appealing on a personal level, because your generated backstory means you once shared a prison cell with the cop in question.

I’ve been around the block enough with early access games to know an “anything is possible!” pipe dream when I see one, but it doesn’t feel like the case with Ostranauts. As the detailed survival mechanics of NEO Scavenger showed, Fedor believes in fidelity when he simulates things. I have no doubt that he will get round to implementing a great deal of the features we talk about, and in many cases the infrastructure is already in place. It’s just a question of the time it’ll take…




Character creation can see you make enemies and friends, and pick up all sorts of unusual circumstances.

I get the sense it’s quite frustrating. And it would be hard enough, if Fedor was just working on one game. But Ostranauts feels more like a compilation of games, all working together. Some are arguably minigames, like the initially baffling reactor control panels, or the docking alignments when boarding with derelicts or stations. Others are very much maxigames, like the aforementioned character generation system, or the spaceship piloting, or the “social combat” system that takes the place of regular NPC conversations. Imagine a sort of menu-based game with card game mechanics, based on Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs, and you’ll be a fifth of the way there. It’s weird, and a bit broken in places, but it’s fascinating.

I suppose the “main” game is a sort of top-down RPG, where you move your captain around to interact with things and talk to people. But you can interact with so much that you could reasonably describe it as a so-called immersive sim. And since you can build your own spaceships to any design of your liking, it’s arguably a construction game too. Oh, and once you’ve got a crew as well, it becomes something like The Sims, but crossed with a party-based RPG, and also a colony management game like RimWorld. Oh, and it all gives off massive Space Station 13 energy, too.




SOCIAL KOMBAT! *90s trance music begins to play*

It’s a lot. And I won’t lie: when I played the demo, I felt lost in it all. Part of that was the good kind of lost: I had to adapt quickly to thinking in Kelvin, for example, because that’s the temperature unit Fedor’s space people use, and that’s that. “if I had to learn celsius when I moved from the US to Canada,” he jokes, “then you have to learn Kelvin if you’re going to space.” At the same time, however, I felt the bad kind of lost, due to a baffling UI that seemed to want to keep features hidden, and then demanded a merciless amount of busywork from my mouse hand once they were uncovered.

Fedor is well aware of this, and is now working full time to fix quality of life issues. It’s working, too. Despite a rocky launch, the reception Ostranauts has been getting on Steam is more favourable now than it was even a week ago. But while Fedor wants people to, y’know, enjoy playing his game, he’s still got space on the brain. “I can’t wait to get out of bugs and stability stuff,” he says, “and back into crafting”. And despite my complaints about the demo, I almost wish he’d skip all the usability stuff and just build more universe, even if it’s a bit janky.

“That’s the other reason I became a game developer”, he confesses, bookending the admission this post opened on, as we discuss the research that fed into Ostranauts’ generation of spaceship serial numbers. “It’s so I’ve got an excuse to look this sort of stuff up, and find a use for it”. As far as I’m concerned, that’s about as noble a goal as you could hope for. Give Ostranauts a go.
 

Theodora

Arcane
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These are hard times for a lot of people, and most of us are having to make compromises. Neo Scavenger was enough to make me feel comfortable pushing $12 or whatever it was to him. If only this world were full of people producing games on par with NS, it would be an embarrassment of riches.

Yeah, I think a lot of people fail to appreciate this. Too much false equivocation between AAA shit and indies in their heads.

Pronoun.

Yeah, we're done here.

Grow up.
 

dcfedor

Blue Bottle Games
Developer
Joined
Mar 11, 2012
Messages
111
Location
Seattle, WA, USA
Re: proc vs. hand-crafted content, I picture it looking something like:

Hand Crafted:
  • Ship and station layout templates. (E.g. a @2059 Ryokka TU-77a Salvage Tug has a defined layout)
  • Solar System bodies (e.g. Ganymed 1036, Mars, Luna, etc.)
  • Major station locations (e.g. K-Leg always on Ganymed 1036, Tharsis Landing always on Mars)
  • Possibly some significant, named NPCs (e.g. celebrities, AIs, leaders)
  • Possibly some CYOA-style encounters or events
Procedural:
  • Player's starting contacts
  • NPC locations (and eventually, where they travel to during the game)
  • Instances of ship and station templates (e.g. damage, loot, occupants)
  • Events (e.g. ex-lover in trouble, solar activity, rival frames player with local authorities, blockade at a port)
  • Traffic (NPCs going places within stations and via ships)
  • Other points of interest (e.g. an abandoned station or satellite, derelicts, etc.)
A lot like NEO Scavenger in some ways. Though one of my bigger goals this time around was to avoid having to write lots of bespoke dialogue. Though many folks enjoyed the CYOA encounters, it was a lot of work for very little replayability.

Since combat in NEO Scavenger was widely received well, I thought I'd try to abstract social relations using a similar system.
 
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Sounds like a good mix. I wouldn't discount CYOA encounters though. Just make sure they have big consequences, so that every time player discovers one, they would feel special. And it's better if the same ones don't repeat in playthrough, if it wouldn't make real-life sense. Do you plan players to be able to mod in their own CYOAs eventually?
 

Van-d-all

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CYOAs are weird in multi playthrough game. It's fun the first time you encounter one, but with consecutive gameplays they become reward farms. Look at Stellaris - despite having enormous amount of scripted events, after some time it's just skimming through answer buttons. Analogically, ATM even Ostranauts has this career event, when "Hack them" just yields ~3k credits every time and I don't even remember what was it about.
 

kirin

Learned
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Sep 17, 2018
Messages
105
Procedural:
  • Player's starting contacts
  • NPC locations (and eventually, where they travel to during the game)
  • Instances of ship and station templates (e.g. damage, loot, occupants)
  • Events (e.g. ex-lover in trouble, solar activity, rival frames player with local authorities, blockade at a port)
  • Traffic (NPCs going places within stations and via ships)
  • Other points of interest (e.g. an abandoned station or satellite, derelicts, etc.)

Would be great to hear more about what is planned for the dynamic sim aspects going on here under the hood. e.g. why are particular NPCs going to certain places, what happens if they do or don't, why are certain events occurring at certain times. Like the example of the rival framing the player, how is that intended to come together?
 

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