We will be softening the current expansion limitations by adding new features ‘Independent Colonies’ and ‘Space Docks’. Independent Colonies will enable you to continue colonizing and capturing planets without increasing the number of colonies you have to manage at one time (Leaders are appointed to run the colony on your behalf). Space Docks will enable you to continue producing ships and fleets without having them count against your fleet limits. Fleets can be docked and undocked as needed (fleet space permitting).
In this post we’re going to preview the features planned for softening expansion limits. The current expansion limitation mechanics have been a hot topic in the community since they were introduced a year ago in the ‘Alpha 3’ galaxy.
These features are heavily influenced by the many great player discussions and ideas we’ve seen. But before we get to them, let’s take a quick look at the background of expansion in Outscape.
Alpha 2 – the Pain of Unlimited Expansion
Up to and including Alpha 2, there were no mechanics dedicated to limiting expansion, other than the rate at which you could accumulate credits and resources. Players were able to colonize as many planets as they could find, and build such a ridiculous number of fleets that they were also used to draw territory borders!
Managing 100+ planets became incredibly time consuming and wasn’t fun. But many players grew to that size just to keep up with other players. And ordering around 1,000’s of fleets wasn’t feasible either. Plus, the performance implications and associated server costs of having so many moving fleets per player meant that single galaxies couldn’t scale in a sustainable manner.
Alpha 3 – Soft Limits on Expansion Introduced
Alpha 3 introduced the limitation mechanics in place today: corruption, happiness, and fleet control centers for organic civilizations, and hard limits for the Syntis tied to technology.
While the community generally agreed the need for constraints on expansion, these new mechanics raised concerns not long after they were released:
- Managing fleets is frustrating when the fleet cap has been reached e.g. you can’t split a ship from a fleet without merging or recycling another fleet first
- Shipyards remain idle until fleet space opens up e.g. a fleet was destroyed in battle or recycled
- Micromanaging corruption and happiness: each new colony increases corruption/unhappiness on each existing colony, which can destabilize already optimized planets causing them to need player attention
- But most significantly: when an empire has reached the limit of planets it can support gameplay becomes limited. There’s either no point capturing another player’s planet or it’s not even possible. No one player can dominate because expansion comes to an end.
Softening Expansion Limits
Since Alpha 3 we’ve dialled down corruption and increased the Syntis planet caps so players avoid running into the above issues with expansion for longer. We were also looking into how to address those issues during that time. Including how to enable players to continue to expand, but without bringing back the past problems of unlimited expansion.
For planets, we’re going to add ‘Independent Colonies’, and for fleets, ‘Space Docks’, which we’ll go over in the following sections.
Once independent colonies have been introduced there will be two types of colony: Controlled and Independent. Controlled colonies are the colonies you’re already used to: colonies you control directly and are affected by your colony limit/corruption.
Independent colonies will be a new type of colony that enables you to continue your expansion through colonizing and capturing new colonies, but without having them affect your colony limits or having to manage those colonies (an AI ‘leader’ will do so on your behalf).
- Independent colonies will still be a part of your empire (controlled by an AI leader)
- For Syntis, they won’t count towards your colony limits, and for organic civs, they won’t be affected by your corruption level nor contribute to it
- You’ll be able to see them on the map and view them, but not manage the construction queues, population etc. (they won’t provide you with scanner coverage)
- They won’t contribute tax to your empire and will probably have their own credit balance generated from taxation to spend on construction
- Your fleets will be able to collect resources from them
- Colonies can be switched between ‘Controlled’ and ‘Independent’ status (but there will need to be controls/penalties involved to prevent players from frequently toggling)
Assigning a Colony Independent Status
To assign a colony Independent status, a leader needs to be appointed, but before a leader can be appointed, they need to be hired. Leaders are hired and managed from a global screen:
- Leaders and their attributes are randomly generated
- A leader’s attributes can be positive or negative e.g. +20% bonus to troop power, -10% happiness penalty
- Leaders gain experience which boosts their positive attributes
- Leaders can die and need to be replaced
- Each day, 3 different leaders are randomly generated and can be hired or not
- To hire a leader just click the button for the leader you want to hire
A global management screen displays all leaders that have been hired. Leaders can be fired or reassigned to another colony.
Assigning a Leader
Leaders are assigned to a colony from the planet management screen. The planet receives Independent status when a leader is selected and assigned.
The leader of an Independent colony can be viewed from planet management. The leader can be removed and replaced to maintain Independent status, or removed and the colony reverted to Controlled status.
Please note: the images above are early mockups and the wording and designs used are not final. Should we stick with the term Leader or go with something else? e.g. Chief Executive. Let us know on the forum!
More Functionality from Galaxy Overview
One thing independent colonies won’t do is help with the micromanagement of dealing with corruption across your controlled planets. To help with that, we will add the ability to adjust a colony’s tax rate from galaxy overview. Auto colony development could also be expanded to enable more granular control over happiness and taxation management.
Space docks were proposed some time ago and have proven popular within the community since. We liked the idea too, and thought space docks would be a great way to help address the issues discussed earlier in this post around hard fleet limits (when the current fleet cap is reached, managing fleets is frustrating and shipbuilding has to pause until space opens up again).
Here’s a brief summary of how space docks will work:
- A space dock is a structure you can build for any of your colonized planets
- Shipyards will also have an integrated space dock
- A planet can have more than one space dock
- Fleets that are docked will not count towards your fleet limit
- When launching a fleet from a dock there will be a small countdown before it’s available in orbit
Space docks will make fleet management easier and enable you to continue building ships (rather than having to wait for ships to be destroyed in battle or recycled to be able to queue up a new shipbuild to replace them). They will also enable you to keep fleets safer from other fleets attacking them and add more tactical depth to the game.
We still need to finalize the details e.g. should another player’s fleet in orbit be able to see the ships in the dock by default, should the dock owner be able to research tech to block visibility of its contents etc.
The first version of space docks will be as simple as possible, a place to store fleets so that they don’t count against your fleet limit. But more features and options could be added in subsequent versions in line with your feedback.
When will these new features be ready?
Work will start on these new features later this month and the first related patch should drop in the New Year. Space docks should come first and independent colonies will follow after (probably split across more than one patch).
We’re excited to start work on these new features and look forward to delivering them to you. What we’ve outlined here is only the first step. Once we’ve pushed out the first versions of these features we’ll need you to help us refine and improve these new mechanics.
If you have any questions or feedback on the topics discussed here please share them with us on the forum.
New Patch on the Way
A new patch is on its way and we’re expecting to have it ready for you before the end of next week. The highlight of this patch will be the new Play with Friends feature. Also included will be a setting to disable boosted warp by default and several bug fixes. Full details will be included in the patch notes.
Play with Friends
We mentioned in a previous post that we were looking at enabling players to start together or for one player to be able to donate a planet to another player as their starting position. The new play with friends feature is the result.
You’ll be able to reserve one of your planets for a friend and pass them a code (you’ll be able to reserve additional planets for other friends). They’ll then be able to activate that code from the game lobby to join you in the game by spawning on to that planet.
We’re aware of player concerns around alt accounts, but players are already able to spawn into a galaxy near each other if they join at the same time.
On the other hand, normal players tend to play for a bit before deciding whether to encourage a friend to join them. By the time the friend joins, they could end up nowhere near each other. This feature will help both players get more enjoyment out of the game by being able to play near each other even if they don’t start playing at the same time.
Play with Friends is another step towards full alliances and something that we hope will encourage players to bring other players into the game. Full details will be included in the patch notes.
Thanks everyone, we’ll see you again in the week 🙂
– The Outscape dev team