We continue working on quests and mechanics, aiming to start beta-testing the first 3 locations in Dec and release on Early Access in March next year.
Now the AI can 'see' and open doors, which will make the game of hide n seek more fun, at least for the AI. We added the first non-human enemy – a turret. You probably saw one in the combat demo, but that was a lifeless 3D model. Now they have stats (for different types), animations (rotate and fire, take damage, etc), and combat behavior. The turrets use proper ammo (not the magical unlimited ammo), so the faster you kill one, the more ammo you'd loot. If it's a friendly turret, you can share your own ammo with it to make sure it won't run out of bullets too soon.
Since you're here for some screens, let's illustrate multiple solutions in combat-heavy scenarios and show our new turret. As you probably know, the starting town's conflict is between Jonas representing freedom, Deadwood-style, that some might call lawlessness and Braxton representing law & order that some might call gubment telling folks what to do and – to add insult to injury – charging tax for the privilege.
It won't be much of a spoiler to tell you that the conflict ends up in a shootout, but what if open assault isn't your style? Then (upon request) you'll be tasked with preventing the locals from coming to Jonas' aid while Braxton's forces do all the heavy lifting. So that's two very different options already but the design miracles don't stop there.
Once you go down that path you get 3 new options: diplomacy (which in turn branches into relying on Impersonate to con the local yokels and Persuasion to convince them that resistance is futile), combat (in case you change your mind and decide to fight after all), and a mix of thievery and jury-rigging. There's an old turret there that's been stripped for parts. You can explore the nearby area while you have time (Lockpick will help a lot here), find the parts and some ammo, and use your Computer skill to fix the targeting module.
Screenshots 1-6 demonstrate the various choices.
Role-playing means different things to different people. To us, it means handling quests and obstacles in a manner fitting your character. You can solve all your problems with violence, you can talk your way through the game, 'making friends and influencing people', or you can rely on stealth (and science) and have a lot of fun in the process.
One of the early quests tasks you with recruiting Lord's Mercy and her gang for Braxton (more on the conflict here link, written by Primordia's Mark Yohalem himself).
The (relatively) easy way is to convince Mercy to switch sides, but it requires skills like Persuasion and Streetwise. If you fail, you'd have to kill her to weaken Jonas, which will be a very hard fight as you'd have to fight the entire gang in their 'fort', where the negotiations take place. Obviously, if Mercy and her gang are a valuable ally in the upcoming fight for the control of the Pit, they need to be appropriately tough.
(Screenshot 1 - Mercy's 'fort')
(Screenshots 2-3 - If you decide to practice your manipulation skills. The disposition meter tracks the person's reaction and shows your progress toward helping people see things your way.)
Alternatively, you can sneak inside, assassinate Mercy and leave before anyone realizes what happened.
(Screenshots 4-6 - The assassination. You can climb up and take out the guard on that little balcony or go past the guard on the lower level. The alert bars above the guards' heads are temporary. For now, our focus was on the mechanics, not the interface and presentation. The good thing is that it seems to work well, so that's a foundation to build on.)
An overview of the mechanics:
1) Tiles - when you enter the stealth mode, all tiles around guards are automatically assigned detection values. If your sneaking ability (the skill and modifiers) is greater than the detection value, you remain undetected. Thus, green tiles are safe to walk on, red tiles means instant detection and combat, yellow means higher chance of detection (if you end your turn there, you'll be instantly detected at the beginning of the guard's turn).
The detection values are determined by the distance from the guards, which way they're facing, their Perception, and thermal vision gear, if any. High sneaking ability turns more tiles green and opens up more options.
2) Noise - each step and action (lockpicking, climbing, using computers, killing guards in stealth mode, etc) generates noise. Not a whole lot of noise to instantly alert the guards the moment you do something but enough to add up over time and raise the guards' suspicions. The higher the guards' Perception, the faster the alert bar is filled:
25-49: Suspicious (a warning to the player)
When a guard is alerted, he turns around towards the last noise generated, so if you are close he'll see you (meaning a lot of green tiles will instantly turn red). When a guard decides that it's time to investigate, he moves towards the last noise generated on his turn. If the meter reaches 100, he "interrupts" your turn and turns around immediately.
Each state past Unaware raises the difficulty of killing in stealth mode.
3) The higher your sneaking ability (skill, feats, gear) the longer you can stay undetected and the more you can do. To put it simply, if your quest goal is to steal an item from a chest nearby but there's another chest in a room down the hall, it will be relatively easy to get to the 'quest chest' but much harder to get to the optional chest (without starting a fight you may or may not be able to win). So specialization will definitely pay off.
You can reduce the noise you generate (Sneaking and feats like Ghost: -1 noise per tile, actions generate half the noise). Heavy boots and armor will increase the noise, so dress light and not get caught in your underwear.
4) Takedown aka instant killing – if your takedown value is equal to or higher than the guard's defensive rating (Con, Evasion, Alert level), you kill the guard. If it's lower, you do X points of damage (modified by different factors) as a consolation prize.
You can only use knifes and daggers for takedowns. If your favor clubs and axes, you can start a combat with the element of surprise on your side (think Sneak Attack).
"With row after row of gutted depots, the Armory stretches before you as a shell of what it once was. The mutineers hit it fast and hard, overrunning the surprised security forces and stripping it of supplies. Weapons and armor meant for the future colony flooded the Ship, turning the Mutiny into a full-fledged war. The Ship Authority held its own in the end, keeping control of the lower decks, but at a great cost that went far beyond the Armory's lost supplies.
Your destination lies ahead – a reinforced door flanked by twin auto-cannons drawing on a seemingly inexhaustible power supply. No one made it past during the Mutiny, and no one's made it past since. Like the proverbial flaming sword outside of Eden, it sits as a guardian, a symbol of ancient strength, and a promise of marvels beyond."
You get the access card from Tanner (as mentioned in the combat demo), so getting past the automated security on that floor will be easy. However, you'd have to get past the local thugs first. You can fight or talk your way through or simply sneak past them. Multiple quest solutions are one of the cornerstones of our design philosophy.
- The old dialogue box at the bottom of the screen wasn't big enough to fit all the text and PC options in more heated conversations, so we went with a vertical setup.
- We wanted to show the skills (you can see them leveling up while talking) but you'll be using all skills not just speech and there's no room to fit them all. Maybe something like index tabs on the side?
- In Colony Ship failures and successes modify the disposition, giving you a chance to recover from your mistakes.
- We updated the engine from 4.22 to 4.25.
- We implemented 'guest' mechanics when an NPC temporarily joins your party, bypassing the party limit. You control them in combat but don't have access to their inventories.
- We're working on the Pit's (the starting town) quests at the moment and it's going well. The quests should be fully scripted - meaning the Pit's fully playable - by the end of July (half of it is already playable and I don't mean the combat demo).
- The stealth system (the first prototype) should be ready by the end of the month as well. I'm sure it will go through several iterations (meaning it won't be done until the end of summer), but getting something playable is a very important step, if only for quest and level design.
- Speaking of quest design, we expanded the Pit yet again as we added more quests, so now the Pit consists of three areas: Mainstreet, Camptown, and the Outskirts.
- We replaced more animations, added different icons for gadget upgrade parts, redesigned the upgrade screen, and did a bunch of other minor improvements.