Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Space Engineers – development progress and retail release

A few words and clarifications about the retail release

This blog post begins with the same words I used in my Space Engineers for Xbox One post: let me assure you that the retail release of Space Engineers in US/EU/AU stores has no effect on our development plan, priorities or the game you are playing and following right now.

To put it simply: the retail release is just another distribution channel, just like Steam, GMG, Humble Store, etc. Our mission is to bring Space Engineers to as many people as possible, which is beneficial to everyone: bigger community equals more modders, content, ideas and friends. We took this decision so that we could enable new players to buy the game. There is still a large number of people, especially in Europe, who are not purchasing products online for various reasons (don’t want to use credit cards, etc). We knew from the beginning that this decision contains a big risk, since the actual profit that we will get from selling in retails is much lower than the one from online distribution, but we wanted to give the chance to these players to play our game. Also, if we speak about money, more sales mean larger budgets, more developers and more features. This is a total win-win situation.

We treat this retail release as “experimental” – our game is probably one of the first early access games launched in retail stores. Customers are not used to this and the entire thing can backfire. But someone has to try this approach. On the other side, I believe that the distributors made sure that the information about early access is communicated to customers properly (through a label on the box or an educated retail clerk). We all know that hiding this fact or lying about it wouldn’t be an option – even if someone tries that in the future, the consequences would be brutal.

Regarding the extra content that we added, as you know video game retailers don’t have the same advantages and flexibility as digital stores, so we wanted to support them as much as we could by differentiating the product compared to the online version. The digital extra content (soundtrack, digital art) will also be available for everyone later in the future (there are some technical reasons why we don't want to include them in the digital version right now). Retail customers don’t get any in-game content that’s not available in the Steam version as well. It’s still exactly the same game. They get some extra physical items and our older games, but the higher package price justifies this.

The talks with retail publishers started almost a year ago (when they noticed Space Engineers in the top seller lists). It took some time to finish the deal and prepare the packages. Retail release has nothing to do with the current “temporary feature freeze” stage.

This is an “experimental” early access retail release, that’s why we treat it as a limited edition –we don’t want to end up with a crazy number of boxes in stores in case this thing doesn't work.

More info about the retail release: http://www.spaceengineersgame.com/space-engineers-retail-release-announcement.html

Development progress and future plans 

I also want to give you some more info about the development progress and our future plans, since the feature-freeze period has just started and some players might be worrying about it. As I have already informed you in my previous blog-post, Space Engineers has entered into a temporary bug fixing and stabilization period. This doesn't mean that all bugs will be fixed within the first weeks, neither that there won’t be any bugs in the future. Our team is doing its best to have everything done as soon as possible so we can start focusing again on implementing new features. 

Moreover, the retail release doesn't mean that the development of Space Engineers has stopped or that it has reached beta. The game is far from finished; there are still major features in development: in-game programming, projector and 3D printing, scenarios, properly textured models, polishing and optimizations… we will give you more info about other planned features later in the future.

Thanks for reading this and don’t forget: we are here to make the best game possible - for YOU!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Level design & Stabilization period

A few months back we realized that Space Engineers had already almost all of the core features we originally planned to implement and that now would be a good time to start adding game scenarios -- something that will give players goals to achieve; something that will make Space Engineers more of a game and not just a creative sandbox.

We think that the best way to accomplish this is to create a set of interactive scenarios (levels, missions, etc.). We knew we couldn't do this alongside our other priorities, so we decided to start looking for people whose only job would be designing, prototyping and testing these scenarios.
We decided to hire level designers.

For these reasons, we launched a creation contest (where you can win NVIDIA graphic cards) and a job ad for level designers. Anyone can apply but relocation to Prague is required. I hope we will find some great new colleagues who will help us add new scenarios to Space Engineers.

The creation contest has another benefit for Space Engineers as well - if enough people apply, we will get a lot of material and ideas to choose from when implementing official scenarios in Space Engineers.

The second thing I wanted to talk about is that we started to reduce the amount of new features and now we are more focused on bug fixing and stabilization of things that are already in the game.

This doesn't mean we have reached BETA or anything like that. It only means that there's  plenty of development time in front of us and it’s better for the community that the game be in a more stable state while we keep developing it.

The first stage of this stabilization period starts now and it means that we will split our focus 50/50 between new features and bug fixing. After a few weeks, once all work-in-progress features are implemented, we will focus 100% on bug fixing. This will be a feature freeze phase when we won’t add any new feature. This will allow us to focus only on bug fixing, testing and scooping forums for bug reports. We don’t plan to include any special performance optimizations in this stage (because that could lead to new bugs), except performance issues that happen due to bugs.

Thank you for reading this.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Programming is coming to Space Engineers

Programming is making its way into Space Engineers. The first version will come this Thursday (September 18th, 2014).

You will have four different ways to "program in Space Engineers":
  • Modding API – This will be the first one. It’s not for everyone, because it will require modding the game. Some programming experience will be required. It will allow you to alter the game by writing C# scripts that have access to in-game objects (at first, only some type of objects will be accessible, but we will keep opening up the interface). These scripts will be shared through Steam Workshop and the game will insure they will run in a safe sandboxed environment (scripts won’t be able to access your local files, send packets over your network, launch applications, etc.). Example scenarios:
    • Dedicated server log: player will know what happened on his dedicated server while he was offline (ships destroyed, players logged in/out, ore harvested, etc.)
    • Robots! (with AI, sensors, logic, behavior)
    • Mission script, large ship fights, search and rescue, etc.
    • New custom weapons
    • Scripted ship spawning
    • Modifying existing blocks (e.g. refinery priority)
    • And more
  • Programmable blocks and HUD – I wrote about this in my previous blog post. It will come in a few weeks after the modding API. The main difference between programmable blocks/HUD and the modding API is that the former happens inside the game world. You will have access only to functions that would be available to an astronaut in-game. We will try to make it user-friendly and easy to use. You will be able to program robots and machinery, but you won’t be able to use this to script a mission or alter the game.
  • Modding API (total access) – this will be an extension of the modding API and all safety restrictions will be lifted (no sandboxed environment). You will be able to write DLL files that can access in-game objects and essentially do whatever you want. These scripts/DLLs won’t be shared on Steam Workshop (it would be too risky).
  • Interactive blocks – this idea came to us after we’ve noticed how you are using sensors and pistons. Some of you were able to create drones that track objects, logic gates, timed lights and other interactive works. The best part is that there was no text-based programming involved. We want to widen your options and we plan to add some new interactive blocks (“timer” block was the first one).

I believe that adding programming to Space Engineers will trigger a flood of creations, the possibilities are infinite. I am already looking forward to see what you will create (I already have an addiction to watching your Youtube videos, Steam Workshop worlds and mods, Reddit…).