Friday, April 4, 2014

First-year anniversary of Space Engineers Development

Introduction

This month we have reached the first-year anniversary of the development of Space Engineers. You can think of it this way: a year ago, there was no Space Engineers. Not even a prototype. We only had the vision of how the game should look in 12 months.

Today, we have this :-)
Numbers represent “simultaneous players”

The development started in 4/2013; the game was announced in 9/2013 and released in 10/2013.

Advice

From the beginning we knew that we want to release the game as soon as possible:
  • Validation of the idea – it’s better to develop additional features based on real feedback from the players than just on our own assumptions
  • Morale boost – seeing how people play your game is priceless

We knew that in 7 months we couldn’t implement all of the features we wanted. So we looked at the project plan, picked what we assumed were the core features (physics, creative mode building, character animations, etc.) and focused entirely on them. All other non-essential features or features that could be implemented later were pushed to the “post-release” period.

Here are some good pieces of advice for managing an experimental game development project:
  • Time-estimates are irrelevant – even if they are correct, you may later decide to spend more time on a feature. Or a completely new idea/direction worth pursuing may arise
  • Every day you know more about your game than you knew yesterday, a week ago, a month ago – therefore, today’s decisions are more valuable
  • You can always add or remove features, but never alter the milestone/deadline! Obviously, don’t compromise on quality
  • Start by implementing the most important features first - every time you are going to work on something ask yourself:
    • Is this really the most important thing I should be doing at this moment?
    • Isn’t there something more important?
    • Is this the most effective utilization of my time?
    • Isn’t there something which takes less time to develop but has higher benefit for players? (ROI for players)
    • If I work on this thing now, won’t I later regret that I didn’t do some other thing instead?
  • You won’t be able to implement 100% of what you want. Start with the most important tasks and you may never get to do the less important stuff. If you change the order, you will end up having the unimportant stuff but not the important stuff.
  • Deciding on which features won’t be implemented at all is equally important as deciding on what features will be implemented. If I don’t do one thing, I just gained some free time that I can spend on something else.

We were not expecting that we will miss deadlines or that something will halt the development completely, but for the worst-case scenario we assumed: if we had to stop the development at any moment (for whatever reason), we wanted to have a game that’s as finished as possible and preferably in a playable state.

Early on we decided to do public relations with 100% focus on community and not rely on the press (which is what many indie developers do). These were our principles:
  • Do things that are good for players
  • Do things that make players happy: today, tomorrow and in the long-term
  • Don’t push the game via press or advertising; If the game doesn’t get picked-up by the community naturally (word of mouth), then it’s probably not a good game and there’s no reason to force it

Interesting facts

Our working name was “Sandbox”. It was not until the last month that we finally went for “Space Engineers”.

In the initial prototyping phase, we didn’t plan the deformable and breaking physics. We implemented it almost as a byproduct of the volumetric design. The story here is that I asked Ondrej if he can do it, he said yes, and in a few days he showed the first working prototype - with deformable skeleton, meshes, splitting ships in half, etc.

We planned to have post-release updates every 2-4 weeks. But the day after the release we made our first little update and it felt so good that we immediately wanted to make another one. The decision for regular Thursday updates was a no-brainer. Yeah, we are update junkies :-)

Time-lapse through the first 7 months

April 2013
Grid system in its infancy – everything is static
Still using Miner Wars 2081 code base

Prototyping block-based volumetric concepts in 3ds Max.
Trying to maintain believable scale for astronaut, small ship and large ship

May 2013
First prototype of creative mode building mechanics (LMB to add, RMB to delete)

Large and small blocks
Ships can fly - however they don’t use thrusters to fly and mass
is not calculated dynamically

Our first “astronaut” – we are adding movement animations and jetpack flight

June 2013
Decided on Havok physics
Destruction and deformation mechanics are implemented
Basic block-types are in game

Prototyping “manual mode” building (now it’s called “survival mode”)

July 2013
Preparing the game for the announcement video

Improving everything we need to look good in the announcement video

Concept art of the engineers – blue parts represent fabric parts, grey represents leather,
yellow is reflexive/emissive material

We didn’t like this concept for the helmet – it doesn’t have a NASA-look and
is very militaristic
This concept is better, we just need to lower the headlights – otherwise the
silhouette looks like Mickey Mouse
This is it! Space Engineer in its glory!
High poly model



Development of Space Engineers: From an idea to Early Access in 7 months

The following video was recorded in 11/2013 at a Game Developer Session held in Prague. I had a presentation about “how we got from an idea to Early Access in 7 months”.

English subtitles included (you have to enable it in Youtube).



Presentation slides are available for download:

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Please keep posting your feedback and suggestions to the comments section below. I can’t reply to every comment, but I can assure you that I try to read as much as possible and your comments will influence how Space Engineers develops.

Thanks!
Marek Rosa
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Warning: Space Engineers is still in development. Everything in the game is subject to change.
 

53 comments:

  1. Awesome game. I can't wait to see how it continues to evolve and grow in the years to come!

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  2. I bought Space Engineers as soon as it was released on steam, and I've loved every moment so far. the regular updates are always great, and me and the rest of the Jupiter Mining Company (JMC) eagerly await each one, so please keep up the good work, and thanks for an awesome game!

    some suggestions : It would be very useful to have a "deck plate" block, similar to the steel catwalk but without the vertical section.

    also, some sort of early warning system for meteor showers - long-range sensors perhaps? on a similar note, some kind of radar for ships and stations would be very useful, and opens up a whole new avenue of tech - radar jammers, decoy beacons, low radar-signature designs (the bigger and bulkier the ship, the larger the radar image)

    thanks again Marek and your team :)

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  3. Love this game! Very addictive and satisfying!

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  4. Great job and great service to parents who want their kids to be engineers when they grow-up and move the h*ll out of the house! lol

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  5. It's a very nice game! I love it!

    I suggested to the upcoming conveyer, add two more type if convery, on input and one output,

    Output after a drill means that only one way from the drill to cargo
    And input means that it only can get in to drill o cargo or anything like like that, this way will work at t-crossing conveyer if you want to control the way item moves

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  6. Could there be a game option that limits the view distance of beacons? I have noticed that ever since the "cargo ships" update that some servers can get cluttered with beacons. It seems that if someone interacts with a ship but does not turn off the beacon or capture it, the cargo ship continues on its course and the beacon stays in the map.

    I have seen beacons that were over 1 million km away so there is no way to get to the ships. Also, sometimes people will troll by changing cargo ship beacons to profane phrases, set the ship to max speed and send it on its way. Again, this prevents server admins from fixing the problem by making it impossible to reach the ships.

    I think a distance of 20 km would be plenty.

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    Replies
    1. Beacon distance bar had been great!

      btw we can remove flying junk . on my server i use this program to delete objekts and spawn New astroids . or remove :=)
      http://setoolbox.codeplex.com/releases/

      Delete
  7. Vaše hra je fakt parádní :) moc Vám fandím a přeju mnoho vývojářského úspěchu :)

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  8. I'm really amazed with how fast and effectively this game is being developed. I've spent over 100 hours in the game already, even before survival came out.

    Are you going to make it so that the automatic large ship/station turrets can shoot the meteors so that stations don't get damaged? A kind of defense system? That way the addition of weapons is not only for military use.

    Aaand, is there ever going to be a more efficient way to weld ship parts together? On realistic x1 it takes about 40 runs from cargo to assembly for a large reactor or a refinery and you can only carry enough steel plate to build about 5 light armor blocks or a single heavy armor block. It gets tedious quick.

    Maybe a welding and assembly attachment on a small ship equipped with a large cargo hold would solve this problem. Or maybe it wouldn't even weld the assembly together but instead bring all the resources to it ready to weld.

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  9. Stop telling what you are great, and so we know it :) do better possibility to fix a few items on the hot button and turn the already conveyor. And it is very possible peredvat lacking energy to control the structure through the engine.

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  10. Love that this game isn't just mindless entertainment, it actually promotes critical thinking. Everything I do is a bit of a science experiment. Excited to see where this game goes. Tons of potential to grow on this great foundation. Would like to see expanded multiplayer capability with larger "worlds" where distances between colonies are more substantial. Even though there seems to be some intent of divergence from militaristic themes in the game, I'd like to see some more weapons (space-type weapons even) and human conflict type components. This will echo reality when interaction between people may be hostile or friendly.

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  11. Loving every minute.
    Mike

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  12. The priority system of thought if invaluable. It supports the theory that with every update that is not the most needed/desired feature that week opinion goes down, while desired features keep opinion afloat or raise it. Your practically swimming upstream continually against community opinion.

    You can have a minor update and take a slight hit to the growing excitement of the game but have to make it up twice over with the next one. Two-three low priority updates in a row creates a death spiral that takes real community loyalty to stick with the game.

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  13. Just have to say, love this game. There are few things I love more than an open experience where I decide what I'm doing, and the challenge comes from where I am to getting where I want to be.

    There are still many things I hope for, like better rotors and more parts to work with, but, all in due time. Things are great so far. Thank you.

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  14. One of the very first games I ever played was the first Civilization game (I still have original box and diskette). And a moon colonizing game that I can't remember the name of. Anyway, point is that I've been playing games for a long time. This game is the first in a long while that has got me really, really excited. I built my first big ship and loved it. Keep up the great work!

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  15. I discovered the game in Jan, and I'm still hypnotized by it, hungering everyday for new features and enjoying more and more the existing ones.
    BTW, the first futuristic and militaristic look of the engineer is not a problem. I think most people love the game because it's about Sci-Fi and battleship combats.

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  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    Replies
    1. Hi, the best would be to write your notes and illustrations to http://forums.keenswh.com so everyone can see it and discuss it. Thanks!

      Delete
  17. Great work from all the team, it just keeps getting better and better.

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  18. Been playing for awhile, I really like the direction your taking; focus on dedicated servers and some way to secure builds and have faction wars -- this game will blow up. The multiplayer experience is amazing.

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  19. Marek Rosa, I still think that for a survival mode to do story. I mean the opening theme - why was one cosmonaut in space. For example - the video clip of the accident merchant ships. The death of the research station from the asteroid.
    Those need to explain - why you need to survive and what we should aspire. For example cosmonaut knows that the ship from Earth arrives in 2 weeks.

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  20. I love the game. It keeps your mind working. I would really like to see multiplayer control of large ships. Take a look at the game artemis its a bridge command style game where several people help the ship function. Engineer, weapons,Pilot. ect.

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    Replies
    1. Would be pretty great to have more dedicated terminals in the game, sure sometimes it can be useful to access every single rotor, door, engine and whatever from a single place.
      But when all you need to do is open the garage door... That is some mayor information overload and inconvenient UI for the task.

      Delete
  21. It's been said before, but I want to add my own: I love this game.

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  22. Love the concept, I want more features.

    Hydraulics
    Gears
    Force Fields
    Sensors for doors linked to your ship
    Better weapons
    Hostile AI
    Friendly AI that give you missions
    Force Fields
    No Sounds in space but instead sounds of your ship and breathing
    More build parts
    Cockpit and rocket styles
    More Asteroids and less dead space
    Different locations to go to near planets
    Mining Saturn's Rings
    Mining Missions from the mining company with rewards

    I'm sure it's all been said before but I had to give my two cents.

    Love this game's concept and want MORE!

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  23. Hydraulics <----------- this.

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  24. Force Fields
    Hydraulics
    Sensors for doors linked to your ship
    Better weapons

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  25. cont from previous..

    Beam weapons.. but huge draw on reactors

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  26. Some good wish lists here. Remote control for warheads would be good. Radar, functional weapons on the large ships. Personally I would like some furniture and breathable atmosphere for the buildings I make on the various stations. Also some handrails for the stairs because otherwise you have to find other ways to block them off which uses a lot of space. Some AI companions would be good even if they just stand around and don't move much, but movement code for NPCs is not mysterious and can be made to make them have daily routines without too much bother... that would be good! I have myself added some NPCs to a couple of games including Skyrim which had the basic movement code in them and allowed me to give them routines.

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    Replies
    1. Construction and repair bots perhaps (A crew for your ship so to speak)

      Delete
  27. Hi,
    A bit of automation would be nice ie. Device grouping and key binding so I can turn groups of lights or drills on and off at a key stroke instead of opening a control panel and clicking 20 different things.
    Also
    - Get the Conveyors working please.
    - Small ship gravity generators( trust me I found a need)
    - Ice and water as another mineral/fuel/food
    - Power storage Device
    - Ship parts need to be affected by gravity.
    - Force Fields or deflector fields would be nice but should be expensive to run, power hungry.
    - Reactor limitations(before it fails or explodes)

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  28. Hi, thx for you job it's a amazing game :)
    I have a " small " isue in game : when many Interior lights are placed, the first of them continue to illuminate but no longer has the "luminous halo" effect. BUT, when reloading the game, all become again normal for a few minutes.
    Here is the configuration:
    Core I5 3210m
    Nvidia GT650M with latest drivers
    Ram 8GB PC12800
    (MSI Laptop)
    Game 64bits
    If you need more information, I am available

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  29. Marek: You and the entire Keen development crew have done an outstanding job on Space Engineers, and even though it's in early alpha, it's a quality game that plenty of people play and enjoy. I can't wait to see what will be put into the game next. Keep up the great work!

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    Replies
    1. You guys have done an amazing job with this game in a short period of time. I'm going to loose a lot of sleep playing it.

      A control to turn just thrusters off
      Pressurized environment where the astronaut could take his suite off with character customization.
      Add random pirate attacks.
      Fixed the error with landing gear collisions
      Procedural generated maps with more randomly generated resources to go looking for.
      Planets to colonize

      Delete
  30. Awesome job keep up the good work and please, whatever you do don't let development fade into nothing like it did with miner wars 2081. I look forward to what the future holds for this title as its potential is great.

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  31. Use Lua for the programming language, it's ment for things like this.

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  32. good articel guys.. i like this :)

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  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  34. i really like about this blog,so cool

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