Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Space Engineers: Exploration & Call for “player created content”

One of the bigger features that we are going to release very soon is exploration (together with “super-large worlds” and “procedural asteroids” – more details in a future blog post).

We need your feedback and that’s why I am declassifying it prematurely :-)

Exploration


The exploration feature will add a practically infinite number of ships and stations to the game world, so there will always be something new to discover, explore, acquire and conquer. You can imagine it like this: you are traveling in some direction and there is an asteroid, so you decide to check it and see if there’s something in its tunnels, in its proximity or on its surface. Or you just fly through empty space and boom, a lost wreck shows near you. Exploration is an upgrade to how cargo ships work.

Because the game world will now contain millions of ships (of course, you will be able to observe and visit only a fraction of them), exploration had to be implemented in a CPU/RAM friendly way, so these ships will be inserted and removed to/from the game world as you get closer/further. In other words, only a fraction of all these millions of ships will be subject to physics simulation at any given moment.

This way, ships are procedurally spawned and don’t consume RAM. Only altered ships are stored persistently (e.g. damaging a ship, entering a cockpit, changing values in the terminal). You can fly for a long period of time and your RAM usage shouldn't change. Of course, if you spot a ship but don’t touch it, then fly away (it gets removed from the RAM), then fly back, exactly the same ship will get added at that location. You won’t notice any difference. For you, all ships will appear persistent.

Ships won’t have AI for now, maybe later. Some will have disabled reactors; some will be active with turrets waiting for you. Only cargo ships will be moving.

Call for “player created content”


Where to get all these ships and stations? 
  1. We could develop a procedural ship/station generator – this would require a lot of additional work and the result will never be as good as what creative humans can create
  2. We could hire dozens of designers who could design these ships (while not working on new scenarios/missions)
  3. We could use what the SE community has already created – more than 50,000 creations on Steam Workshop. We would browse all ships/stations/blueprints and decide which ones get included into Space Engineers

We like the third option the most and I hope you will too :-)

The Steam Subscriber Agreement allows us to include all workshop creations into our game, but since this may be a big thing for some people, we decided to ask what our community thinks. Please use this survey and help us decide. LINK

Everyone whose creation will be used in Space Engineers will get his name into the game credits.

What workshop works are we going to put into Space Engineers?
  • Small and large ships, asteroid outposts, hidden stations, mining operations, semi-automated drones, etc. 
  • Only performance friendly works
  • Only ships that are not using mods
  • No third-party intellectual property (e.g. no Star Wars ships)

The exploration feature will be highly moddable and you will be able to add your own ships, even those using mods (e.g. new blocks). This will work in multi-player as well.

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Thanks for helping us!

-- EDIT --

One week after the poll went live we have some results:

Thanks!

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.