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The Jovian System

Discussion in 'The Boar Studio' started by MF, Sep 22, 2020.

  1. MF The Boar Studio Patron Developer

    MF
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    I'm not ready to officially announce it yet, but it's time for a thread here on the Codex.

    While working on the expansion content for Titan Outpost, I was also prototyping two potential followup games. One of them is now well on track.

    The working title is The Jovian System, which it will probably keep, and it takes place in the same setting as Titan Outpost. You start out by escaping a disaster on one of the Galilean moons. You make it to an orbital space station designed for collecting resources and setting them on course for earth, but it's still under construction. All help from Earth is cut off because the resources have been diverted to the Titan Outpost mission. People in the Jovian System, which is closer to Earth and more populated than the Saturnian System, are forced to deal with their problems without outside help.

    The player can take advantage of the power vacuum to take control of the resources in the system, take it upon him or herself to help people in need and build a sustainable habitat, or turn the space station into a transfer ship and set course for Earth.

    Note: If you can't see the screenshots, your browser is blocking http embeds. Usually Chrome 81.

    Gameplay

    Interactions with NPCs and the environment will be roughly similar to Titan Outpost, except refined. Lapsing time will also be similar.

    Temperature will no longer be the main Sword of Damocles, but say hello to decompression, vacuum and lack of inertia.

    You're building a space ship instead of a base on a moon. This station/ship is mobile and you can move it into orbit around the four Gallilean moons and some of the smaller moons. You can also burn to a random altitude for exploration. Landing and taking off with a special lander/shuttle requires fuel depending on a moon’s gravity well and so does changing your velocity and orbit around Jupiter. Key difference is that your base and rover equivalents are now effectively the same thing.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Above is the spaceship construction interface. Obvious placeholder stuff in the menu and the stats aren't displayed in this part of the interface, but functionally this part of the game is almost done and so is a lot of the art. Quite similar to Titan Outpost base building. Notable differences are that rotation matters and you can't build at a 90 degree angle at every tile, there are specialized tiles for specialized modules and some modules can be upgraded. Upgrading usually adds something on the vertical axis. Solar panels are on the vertical axis, for example.

    [​IMG]
    This is a closeup of the ship with the construction bot (you can pilot it too). Haven't finished texturing the machine yet and part of that mesh has been cobbled together, but you get the idea.

    The Gailliean moons may get their own world map, or just have points of interest where you can land, I’m still unsure. Having worldmaps within world maps might be a bit too much. The main world map is the Jovian System itself. You can encounter other ships and stations along the way, and some satellites and orbital altitudes are claimed by certain factions. The world map gameplay is going to be ever so slightly like Sid Meier’s Pirates!, but with far less people and locations.

    [​IMG]
    The world map zoomed in on Io and Metis. Interface is far from finished, but travelling already works. Because the locations planned for the game orbit Jupiter on the same plane, the map mostly works in two dimensions. The moons are shown in line for testing purposes, but of course they all have their own orbital period.

    The key resources you have to manage will be polymers, which are much harder to acquire than on Titan, minerals, water and fuel. Fuel is ambiguous. Right now I’ve abstracted it to an aggregated resource unit. Power is mostly solar and can be increased by building more solar modules, acquiring special tech or experimenting with other methods of power generation. There is much more to the game than these two elements, but as I said above, the rest will be roughly similar in style to Titan Outpost. The negotiation system will be included as well, but it will be tweaked.


    Combat

    There is going to be low G/zero G isometric turn-based combat on a square grid. Low/zero gravity is the main hook of the combat system and there is a lot of potential for environmental hazards. The grid system is already in place. I was going for hexagons initially but ended up using squares because the math is simpler and I’m using JA2 as a reference.
    [​IMG]
    Grid system playground and test area using the Chinese suits from Titan Outpost.

    [​IMG]
    Grid system in an actual environment. Still WIP. I have some moon locations in various stages of completion, but I'll wait a bit before showing those. Yes, this looks like ass, it's far from finished.

    The character system is going to be the same, with added skills relevant to combat. I’m experimenting with that right now and I’m leaning towards only having one or two combat skills. Interaction with the environment is going to do most of the heavy lifting. Think of the outdoor fight scenes in the 1981 Outland movie with Sean Connery, where decompression is more dangerous than anything else. I’m not sure how this will hold up in early playtesting, but stuff like tethering and newtonian physics open up really cool possibilities. You use AP to start moving, but you will keep moving if you don’t use AP to stop, etc.

    I played a concept version on paper with a friend, but the third dimension was hard to convey in tabletop and we got carried away with number crunching. We did feel like it would be fun as CRPG combat. Fortunately I'm almost at the stage where I can implement some rules in the engine. I'll post the progress and let you know more about the system as it starts to take shape.

    You can gather companions just like in Titan Outpost, and there will be more opportunities to bring them along with you, including fights.

    Story

    The stakes are lower than Titan Outpost. You're not deciding the fate of the solar system, just your neck of the woods. Become king shit of an independent Jupiter, bring everyone back into the fold, or bail and get back to civilization.

    Right now it’s not a sequel to TO but takes place around the same time, just about 640 million kilometres closer to the sun. I might move it a few years further into the future and turn it into an actual sequel, but I’d have to pick a canonical ending for TO and I have other ideas for that.

    The narrative is a bit more free form, although I'll still be telling a story. You will have factions, some which are also present in Titan Outpost, with some depth to them that you can align your interests with or vice versa, but you won’t have one predetermined goal and you are in charge of your own 'faction' as soon as you start playing.

    If it evolves in such a way that I can’t fit it within the setting, I have no qualms about cutting it loose from Titan Outpost in terms of story altogether. I like the idea of them being tied together and I really enjoy expanding upon the world building, which is going fine so far, but I’m not married to the concept.

    How to fund development?

    I'm gonna call Microsoft. :lol:

    Jokes aside, I funded Titan Outpost out of pocket with money I had saved up. I no longer have that luxury. By funding, I mean paying for my living expenses to be able to devote the time. The additional costs, like my Unity subscription, a few purchased assets, some commissions, etc. were minor compared to the insane amount of hours I put in.

    Ideally, Titan Outpost sales would fund this next game, which may very well happen, but I’m not counting on that carrying development all the way through. Titan Outpost has sold 614 copies as of today. That’s not terrible for a niche title like this, but it’s also nowhere near enough to financially justify years of working pretty much full time on it, let alone set up a budget for a sequel.

    There are still about 5000 people who’ve wishlisted TO on Steam, so there’s plenty of room for the sales to grow, although probably not at full price. I'm still busy getting the word out. Most publications don't appear interested but word of mouth seems to be spreading. Huge thanks to everyone who's doing that, and while I'm at it, thanks to everyone who helped refine Titan Outpost with feedback.

    I really enjoyed working on Titan Outpost. Players who liked the game responded really well to it and reading some of those positive reviews made having no spare time for a couple of years worth it.

    I knew I wanted to develop more games and I’ve always had plenty of ideas, but during development, every now and then a week would go by where I didn't sleep pretty much at all. That's something I can manage quite well for short bursts, but it’s not healthy or sustainable. I apply the same relentless monomanic fervor to everything I do, but something like recording an album only takes a couple of months. This was a different beast. I will get into that zone, it's just who I am, but I will need to step away every now and then.

    My plan was to wrap up Titan Outpost and focus more on other activities for a while and get back to gamedev when the season was over. Of course, it’s 2020 and there is no live music season.

    I was about to consider getting a freelance corporate IT gig or something for a while, when Titan Outpost sales spiked in March. Quarantaine caused a spike in sales all across the board on Steam. Devoting more time to development longer term was possible again. I spent the rest of spring and summer working on the expansion content and more fixes and improvements for TO, as well as prototyping this new game.

    Sales are still trickling in, and as long as that’s enough to pay my bills, I’m working on this next game full time. I'm a First Worldian, but I’m pretty damn frugal and 35 copies a month is all I need to sell. Last month was a little under that, this month looks like it’s going to be right on the mark.

    All in all, I’ve learned a lot from Titan Outpost, Unity 2020 is a lot easier to work with and so is Blender 2.8. I have a working engine framework to expand upon, so I think I can get this game to Early Access in two years in a much better state than TO was on release if I work full time. If not, it’s anybody’s guess. I have plenty of marketable skills, so don't worry, I won't starve, but development would definitely take longer ;)

    Alternatively, I could set up a Patreon or something, but I’ve always had reservations about such things. The same goes for Kickstarter and crowdfunding in general. Then again, if I get enough moolah, maybe I can even get some help on board.


    Show Spoiler

    The other prototype was a far-future sequel, influenced by Forbidden Planet, where the singularity evolves to be a machine capable of manifesting the thoughts of people hooked up to it. It is slowly breaking down. On the surface it’s a high magic fantasy setting that has lost almost all its magic. The magic is actually the singularity manifesting thoughts, like the Kryll machine in Forbidden Planet. Instead of the Kryll dying, however, the machine is losing power. The main stat for the PC of that game is going to be imagination and in the few areas where the machine still works, anything goes. I like the concept because I can thematically throw in everything including the kitchen sink, like Heroes of Might & Magic but with a rationale. I also have some ideas about high concept imagination-based roleplaying. But I couldn’t build upon Titan Outpost for this idea, so I put it away for now.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2020
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  2. ERYFKRAD Barbarian Patron

    ERYFKRAD
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    Strap Yourselves In Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    :takemymoney:
    :takemymoney:
    :takemymoney:
     
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  3. AdolfSatan Magister

    AdolfSatan
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    Totally psyched for this, love the whole idea :bounce:

    KS usually requires a (hefty) previous investment in marketing in order to be successful. Patreon implies pretty much no risk but the reward might be way less than ideal (I'll chime in with a couple of buck if you do one tho).
    If there's only one thing one may ask, please to reconsider UI design and functionality for this one rather than importing TO's; I thought it was its weakest part.
     
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  4. MF The Boar Studio Patron Developer

    MF
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    Agreed, I'll give it some thought. Thanks for the vote of confidence!

    The UI transplant is temporary so I have something to work with. I'll redo the UI and make sure to prioritize heuristics this time.

    It already has the improvements of TO 1.2. I'm using a text renderer with kerning support this time, so that's a plus. I'm mostly having a hard time moving away from the color scheme, but I probably should.
     
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  5. Thac0 JRPG ambassador Patron

    Thac0
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    I love the idea that you build a spacestation this time!
    But don't you run into problems with hving enough locations to visit? A realistic space station is not exactly nimble, and while being on the surface gave you access to a lot of methane lakes/crash sites as adventure locations I can see some problems doing the same thing in outer space or Jupiters Orbit.

    Having combat will definitly make this easier to market.
    I would personally hate to see a system like Age of Decadence however, where the game is balanced around dedicated combat only and non combat only builds. If a game has a combat system as one of it's main selling points every build should be able to at least somewhat interact with it.

    Also 650 sales seems so incredibly low. I guess I still have to write a positive Steam review to give the algorithm a little kick. If only anyone would know how the dang algorithm operates...
     
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  6. MF The Boar Studio Patron Developer

    MF
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    Thanks!
    It's 1970's retro sci-fi. It is alluded to in Titan Outpost that the diaspora of humanity to the inner solar system started in the late 20th century, and even though the Outer solar system is very much frontier territory, Jupiter is close enough so that there is plenty of activity. Realistically, humanity will probably strip-mine the meteoroid asteroid belt and Ceres before establishing any kind of permanent presence near Jupiter, and nothing in that system is as unique as Titan, with the possible exception of Europa's subsurface oceans, but let's call it artistic license. Jupiter is a more compelling backdrop than the asteroid belt, at least for me. Io is essentially a lava biome in gaming terms. How could I resist?

    The four Galliean moons will provide plenty of opportunities for interesting and varied locations. Europa, for example, has science stations because they found evidence of microbiological life in the oceans decades ago and are still looking for the source, with frustrated scientists who have seen their budgets shrink and their hope for finding it dwindling.

    As for moving the station around, that depends on how you as a player choose to build it. You can go for maximum expansion, housing more people and self-sustainability, which will increase your total bulk to a level where it would take a lot of fuel to move all the time, or you can go for a nimble spaceship with just a propulsion module and barebones arrangement, and be more dependent on what you acquire along the way.

    Building your ship to meet the specifications for a safe journey to Earth is one of the win conditions. You won't be able to construct something so bulky that you're essentially stuck in the current design, though. You can only build 16 tiles in each direction lateral to the ship, for example.

    Moving to a higher altitude of Jupiter's orbit generally takes twice as much fuel as moving into the gravity well does. Taking the ship any closer to Jupiter than Io is risky and I'll probably limit that to converting the shuttle as a runabout or something. Metis and Thebe are planned locations, but moving a large object in and out of those orbits without ridiculous energy expenditure is a level of ludonarrative dissonance I'm not entirely comfortable with. I don't want to gimp players that love building, so it's something I'll have to balance in early playtesting.

    The character system is still going to be TO's PICA, with a few additions and changes. The combat skill pool is going to be much shallower than AoD so I'm not going to balance it around dedicated builds. My philosophy is that the majority of quests or conflicts should have a resolution or path for every skill and I'm all about various levels of fail-states and non-binary outcomes, with the occasional death thrown in.

    Some content will be gated to particular builds to reward replayability, but I prefer replayability to be driven by branching and non-linearity first, and the character system second. I'll probably decrease the branching as compared to TO, however. Having ten endings and 370 ending slide permutations is one thing, but having so much of the reactivity happen within the game world was almost impossible to get right. I can get more consistent reactivity with less branching. Having more insular communities and a more open faction system and less of a 'plans-within-plans' plot is really going to help with that.

    That 'd be swell. Positive reviews seem to help a lot. I think the algorithm isn't too bad. It completely stopped feeding the game to anyone when the early negative reviews about bugs appeared, and the game only picked up a little bit of steam -pun intended- after the aggregate rating became positive.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2020
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  7. V_K Arcane

    V_K
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    You could do a minor weekend sale, like at 15% discount - then all the wishlisters will get a notification and you might get an uptick in sales.
     
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  8. The Wall Dumbfuck! Dumbfuck

    The Wall
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    Very intrigued with everything you're doing. Hugely enjoyed Titan Outpost and whole: what if fabulously optimistic NASA's predictions from 70s about space colonization actually became true. Love the hard sci-fi theme and esthetics

    Now, let's talk about money. I'm convinced that what you lack right now to propel your dev design and dreams to Steam's upcoming releases list is money, Lebowski! Not small loan of million dollars much, mind you, but some reasonable, let's sayyy 20-30-50k $. To just kickstart whole process. In other words: you need Kickstart, friend. Many indies, now well-paid Microsoft employees, went that route. It's good route to take but you need to get there prepared with some sort of demo, prior forums and smaller game sites marketing and well-written game pitch. Kickstarter money would increase size and food variaty of your rations and development speed to: FULL!

    Do Patreon in meantime. Every $ is welcome, if there are girls online making fortune selling their bath water, I don't see why you should be financially shy. Count me among your first Patreons/Kickstarter backers
    :takemymoney:
     
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  9. Sranchammer Arcane

    Sranchammer
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    I'm Ridin' with Biden I'm Ridin' with Biden
    Thought this would actually be about Jupiter.

    Fuck yall
     
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  10. rusty_shackleford Arcane

    rusty_shackleford
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    Did Microsoft offer to buy you out yet?
     
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  11. Tyranicon A Memory of Eternity Developer

    Tyranicon
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    Best of luck to you. I love this kind of game, even if I don't really have time to play them anymore.

    That's just the indiedev market for you. Unless you have a shit ton of marketing $$$, streaming potential (fucking garbage trend) or some really polished visuals, you get ignored. If your game is legitimately good, eventually word of mouth will help a bit. 650 sales actually isn't that bad considering the price point and the release date. Pretty decent reviews too.
     
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  12. Thac0 JRPG ambassador Patron

    Thac0
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    If that is the norm then old school music cd selling tactics might legitimatley be usefull. Going out and sticking ad stickers of your game on street lamps.
    Show Spoiler
    :happytrollboy:


    It just seems so wild to me. So if you are producing indie games, you are literally always producing at a loss, and merely hope to build yourself a name or get a random streaming breakout success?
    Hats off to the indies then. So much work for so little reward.
     
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  13. Tyranicon A Memory of Eternity Developer

    Tyranicon
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    Indiedevs do it for a lot of reasons. Some are hobbyists, some just want dev experience before moving onto bigger things. Some have decades of experience, lots of funding and poached a team of talented people from their old studio. At the end of the day, most indies do it for the hope for producing that elusive runaway hit. Nobody has a clear formula for success. Not even AAA devs.

    There was some recent report about how over 80% of games on Steam make less than $5k in their first week, which is basically fuck all if you're running a business, much less supporting yourself and others.
     
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  14. Alphons Savant

    Alphons
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    Haven't heard about Titan Outpost before stumbling on this thread.

    Already couple hours beyond the refund window and really liking it. Thanks a lot!
     
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  15. MF The Boar Studio Patron Developer

    MF
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    Thanks! After digging into it for a bit, I figure the time and marketing clout required to set up a Kickstarter campaign and actually make it work would be better spent working on the game. I would need to have a slice of the game ready to show off and I'm not there yet. The 'vertical slice' approach to development doesn't work for me.

    Also, you need to really focus on a campaign to make it work, and since I'm the only person working on development, it would bring actual progress to a dead stop. Jeff Vogel gets away with low effort campaigns, but he has a pretty sizable fanbase. I will set up a Patreon or something similar when I start setting up an online presence for the game. Right now I've put up a quick splash page for The Boar studio so I can tie everything together somewhere.

    Yeah, it's doing alright, all things considered. Shot myself in the foot with the state in which it was released. Gaming press has been pretty much ignoring my attempts at reaching out. Titan Outpost has only had coverage from gamingonlinux.com, Space Game Junkie and the codex. A few Streamers here and there. I have yet to contact a few people on my list, but hawking stuff has never been my strong suit.

    I wonder how media outlets like IGN work, by the way. I never pay attention to them and they're alien to me. I have no idea what their purpose is or how they stay in business. If I had to guess they're just advertising platforms. All of their content seems promotion-driven.

    I've done my fair share of guerilla marketing in music, but selling physical copies of music is dead as a doornail. I did a short theater tour with my vinyl EP in 2016 that did pretty well, but we sold more shirts, coffee mugs and wristbands than we did CDs. Doing corporate gigs and weddings is the main engine on that train. Anyway, I digress. I don't think those tactics in the physical realm would work for a game, which is something you buy and enjoy from the comfort of your own home. Especially something as far from mainstream appeal as this. There have been no sales from my local area.

    For the chicks! Right? I mean. Wait.

    By the way, it seems a lot of embedded images all across the Codex forums no longer appear. Hotlinking is enabled on my hosting end for those screenshots, so I'm not sure what's going on there.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2020
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  16. Tavernking Don't believe his lies Patron Shitposter Developer

    Tavernking
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    Looking forward to hearing more about the combat system / weapons
     
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  17. LESS T_T Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    LESS T_T
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    :necro:

    I see you



     
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  18. Black Angel Arcane

    Black Angel
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    Can we commence some organ-harvesting in this game? Would love to see an Ugandan Warlord review your game, while a spiffing Bri'ish demonstrates how your game is perfectly balanced with no exploits
     
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  19. MF The Boar Studio Patron Developer

    MF
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    Wasn't planning on it, but I enjoy those reviews as much as anyone.
    Show Spoiler
    While writing this reply I came up with a scenario where that would work within the setting and now I'm enthusiastic about it. It will be a one-off event, though.
     
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