It has been almost 3 months without news from us... Last time, we announced we would be taking some "free" time to take a few steps back and reflect on Gangs of Space. So... what did we figure out after all this?
One Flew Over the Indie's Nest
We (Erhune & Grouroux) know each other and have been working togther for almost 10 years now. We know fairly well that over long periods, our moods and wills have up and downs. So far, we had been able to manage this pretty well: when one of us was prone to doubt or depression, the other one was there to snap him out of it. But since a few months ago, this arrangement stopped working. Even though we were working a lot, we were unable to make any real progress. Seing this lack of progress, we stopped believing that we could make it, which made the problem even worse.
Imaging you're trying to swim across the ocean, and that right in the middle of it, you start doubt. You want to stop everything, because you're tired, because the end seems (and is) so far yet. But at this point, it's absurd to try to go back. You have to keep pushing forward.
Outside the most evident everyday-life issues ("How to afford food for today?"), the hardest in this 4-year adventure has always been this permanent fight against ourselves. The longer the project draws, the biggest the obstacles seem. The less energy we have, the more we need it. The less we want, and the more we need to... Step by step, every little block on the road seem a good pretext to abandon, like thristy men in the desert seeing mirages of water at every dune.
In order to advance, we have to remember our goal, and keep pushing forward, even when we feel we're going backward or turning around. We are not fighting against the external forces, we are fighting against ourselves, against all these limits we believe are impossible to surpass, against doubt and against this terrible word: "why"?
Why, why, why?...
Nobody forced us to do this. We chose this challenge ourselves. It was in ourselves for very long, you know, this kind of crazy idea you toy with and that you put back before going back to your "reasonable" life. Those impossible dreams, that you don't dare to reach because it means leaving the little comfort you've built around you.
In 2011, we were in Tokyo the day Earth shook, so strongly and so long that a giant wave marched on Japan and brought back with it dozens of thousands of lives. What if we died this day? Or the next day, from a stupid car accident? Or the next year, from a sudden illness? Wouldn't have regretted to not try to do something special with our lives, before it's too late?
The next weeks, we decided to quit our jobs, quit our old lives. We knew that a project like Gangs of Space wouldn't change the face of mankind, but that every day, when we looked at ourselves in the mirror, we wouldn't have any regret.
It took us all these months of break to remember our reasons, to remember why in spite of the doubts, we have to continue. The road ahead is still long, this wasn't our first "crisis" and this won't be our last, but one thing is sure: we regret nothing!
The Secret Project
So, in order to get Gangs of Space out of our heads for a while in order to break our infernal cycle of fear and doubt, we worked on a small project for a few weeks.
The name: MMOTG, for MMO Text Game.
This "small" MMO is played only in text mode, in Twitch's chat, and plays quite similarily as a table-top RPG, just with more playes involved We kept the feature set very simple.
After working on Gangs of Space for almost 4 years, it was very refreshing to work on a game which we could kept entirely in our heads and iterate upon quickly, and complete under a reasonable time frame.
We organized a small private beta with some pillars of the community of Gangs of Space. This test taught us many things about the game, which we started to improve in a slightly-different v2. But then a big blocking technical issue appeared, and we decided that it was better to turn the page on this project, and get back to Gangs of Space!
Back to GoS
So, for the past few weeks, we've been doing meeting after meeting to put the Gangs of Space project back under control. Our goal : find a plan that seems doable with our limited means, that fits what we initially wanted for the project, and that learns from all our past versions!
We have cut quite a lot of features that we introduced in v3 last Fall, and went back to something that's closer to our initial vision of "a nice cooperative MMO shmup" without all the 4X stuff that pushed itself into the project afterward.
Of course, 4 years to get back to the intial plan, some people will say that's a bit silly. But this time, we can design all those features from the parts that YOU, the players, have shown are the strengths of the game. And for the "advanced" features (like the Empire vs Empire), we will keep them under a simplified form, because they answer a need that we have identified along the way, and that still exist today.
So, we can now announce...
GoS v4 : back to the roots
Without going into the details for each and every feature. These details will be revealed in the upcoming articles and devstreams on our Twitch channel.
Ship progress and unique builds
That was a point that was pretty clear to everyone: since we're split the content of the game over 3 Tiers, there is a problem with the sense of progress in the game. The difficulty ramp works nicely for the enemies and the different map levels, but not really for the player's ship and equipment.
So, in order to keep up with our "arcade" principle (and unlike Diablo-like "grinding"), and since permadeath is a very important part of Gangs of Space that we want to keep, we have decided to make the player's ship progress in a rogue-like way similar to The Binding of Isaac or Risk of Rain.
We will add levelling over 10 levels which will hopefully smoothly bring players from Tier 1 content to Tier 3 content over 2~6 hours, depending on your skill and experience as a player.
Each time your ship will gain a level, you will be allowed to choose one subsystem among the 3 that will be randomly generated. These subsystems will improve the stats of your ship over a particular aspect: engines for some speed bonuses, computers for skills, etc. The subsystems that will be available for choice will be generated from the pool of subsystem templates that you will have unlocked on this ship class. Some very rare subsystems will even change the gameplay quite drastically (side cannons, dual shots...).
Each level 10 ship will then have a unique build that will be the sum of your strategic choices.
DNA and Credits
DNA will stop being a storable currency, but will become the experience points that will level your ship and/or your crews.
Medals will be renamed Credits and become the main currency in the game, that you can use to buy things from the (few) NPC vendors and trade with other players.
The subscription model seemed ideal to us to sustain a "slow" 4X MMO. But we've learned from all of you playing the game that the part that actually work very well in Gangs of Space is it's fast-paced cooperative action. We want to focus on this "immediately fun" aspect of the game, which is very unique and could potentially appeal to many many players. Thus, keeping the subscription is a bad incentive to us, since it makes us want to design a slow game.
We have thus decided to change our businedd model to a form of free-to-play that fits more with the fact-paced and accessible aspect ot the game, and the goal to gather a large player community around the game.
The new economic model will look pretty close to something you can already experience in MOBAs or a famous tank game
We are keeping the concept of Caps, which is a currency we've already given to people who pre-order the game. Nothing changes here, not even the concept of GoS Shares that we distribute in the Investor Pack. Caps will be exchangeable for other's players' Credits, in order to keep a non-punitive and interesting ingame economy.
Caps will be used to buy ship and inventory slots, to unlock the permanent access to ship classes or skins, this kind of things.
Let us say it clear and loud: Gangs of Space will NEVER be a pay-to-win game! We hate with a passion this kind of monetization that you commonly find in "Korean MMOs" and other mobile games. It goes against all our core values. But we feel going free-to-play is a very useful tool to meet a large public if it is done right, and we will try our best to join the Valve-s and the Riot-s of this world that manage to do it well.
On a last note, 2 important points:
- Players who have already pre-ordered the game keep and will get all that was promised to them. Their special ships will be either special skins, or special variations of some ship class. If anyone who pre-ordered the game feel betrayed by this change of business model, they can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do anything necessary to correct the situation!
- The game stays in "closed" alpha for now (accessible only via the waiting list, via pre-order, or via a invitation code from a friend or us). The business model will only be implemented starting from the beta, and more details will be given at this time on how to spend your Caps.
Access to ship classes
Gemeter and Astrolax will stay the 2 starting ship classes. You will be able to build them for free as much as you want.
The other ship classes will need to be unlocked (remember our old permit system? something along these lines...) and then bought in Credits each time you want a new ship.
It will also be possible to fully unlock a ship class by spending Caps one time. which will allow them unlimited free construction like the Gemeter and Astrolax classes.
In order to increase the depth of the action part, we will add a few new stats to items and enemies: 3 damage types with the corresponding resistances, and the ability for you or enemies to do critical hits.
Each ship will obtain up to 2 crews during its levelling plase. The base stats of these crews will be low, but after your ship reaches max level, they will be the ones to absorb the DNA you collect in order to gain levels and unlock interesting synergies.
A number of achievements will allow you to unlock much game content, such as: new ship classes, new skins, new ship subsystems... Every time you will level a new ship, you will probably discover new possibilites!
Reorganization of the Universe
The prodecural generation for the Universe will be removed, along with it's dynamic aspect. Instead, the access to conquest systems will be streamlined into a much simpler system, with "unlimited" conquest maps of each difficulty level available at any time.
Note that even if the shape of the Universe will be "fixed", the map themselves will continue to be prodecurally generated!
Empire vs Empire
Ah.... Good ol' Empire vs Empire. This was THE new thing from Gangs of Space v3. And it is still very important to us, since this is the feature that will define high-level play (and thus the goal of the game). The only problem with it is.... that it's crazy complex to design and implement. If we want to release the game before 2050, we need to do something about it. We have thus decided to stip the feature to it's core.
And the core is: an Empire need to control the 7 Pillars of the Universe to win the current session.
So... we are removing the dynamic universe with all its conquest maps, we are removing the planets and their evolution, we are removing the EvE armies and their attack waves. We keep the Pillars. The Gangs will gain Conquest Points by conquering sectors in the generic unlimited conquest maps, and spend these points to open a Gate to a specific Pillar. The players of this Empire then have a limited time to take control of the Pillar. If they succeed, this Empire takes control of the Pillar, and will be protected for X hours. Its difficulty level will also increase, ensuring that the other Empire will have a harder time conquering it. The Pillar will also confer a global bonus to all the players of the Empire which control it.
When all Pillars are controlled by a single Empire, this Empire is crowed as victor, and a new session will start. The players will keep all their ships and items, but the Gangs will loose their Conquest Points (and of course their Pillars if they had one) and be shuffled among the Empires.
Gang Bases won't be buildable any longer, but will be given as rewards to Gangs who own a Pillar when their Empire win the session. Each new victory will evolve the Base.
Maps use to be rated from "1 skull" to "7 skulls" for the most difficult ones. We will align that scale more closely to the ships' and items' scale, over 3 Tiers. T1 to T3 maps will allow you to level your ship from level 1 to 10 and drop enough loot to equip yourself. There will be T3+ maps reserved for organized Gangs and players not afraid to loose their ships. And then X1 (X for eXtra), X2, X3... without any limit, for the Pillars and other special areas.
We are keeping the current system more or less. Your ship will need to be level 4 to equip T2 items, and level 7 to equip T3 items. In T3+ or Xn maps, you will drop Tier 3 items with a higher and higher potential quality.
On the other hand, we are removing for now all consumable items, and all resources. (We have a few ideas for those, but they will have to wait until after release.)
Conquest and Contracts
When you play solo/co-op, levelling your ship or just playing around with friends, you will play in maps that work pretty similarly from our old "combat maps": when the conquest of all sectors is over, the map is locked and a big boss appears.
In addition to this, you will always have a contract given to you that will give you an simple additional objective: "kill x enemies" or "conquer x sectors". Fullfilling these contracts will give you Credits and DNA.
Objective number one: content!
This isn't really a new feature, but it's the reason for most of our choices: simplify complex things so that we can finally take some time to work on the game content itself. New playable ship classes, new enemy types, new items... We will finally take the time do create them!
When can we play this?
So, now, the question that everyone that read up to this point will ask: when will be the next test session?
Seing the amount of work ahead of us, it is quite difficult to say. So far, we think it won't be until the beginning 2016 at the earliest.
But we can already invite you to the DevTalk #10 that will take place on Sunday, August 23 at 12:00 GMT on our Twitch channel. This time, we will probably spend most of our time answering everyone's questions, so if you want more info or if you have something on your mind, please come and we will do our best to answer you!
Thank you for putting up with us and our crazy dreams! Together we can make the best MMO!