May 8, 2015

Jordan Coombs

Star Command Galaxies Alpha 4 Released!

If you aren't already in the Alpha, you can join up today at our website!

There are so many new features in this Alpha that we are going to list them for you just so you have an idea of what we have been working on.

1. The Nav Map
If your ship and crew is the heart and soul of our game then navigation is the brains. Without the ability to go someplace, a starship management game isn't much fun. And a lot of things happen during travel: crew states are saved, new maps are loaded, old maps are unloaded and the persistence of the galaxy is established.  Your strategy is drawn based on proximity, access, routes, threats, allies and landmarks that can present advantages and disadvantages. Which brings us to...

2. Saves
In the world of Galaxies, we have laid the groundwork for a system of rival ships and races with their own tactics, strategies and goals. Each ship will have it's own Captain and be persistent in the universe. Right now you can damage an enemy ship, leave, come back and the ship will still be in existence, with its damage and crew saved and ready. What does this do? Well it's not much more work for us to give them memory and personalities so that they can try and undermine you, become allies or become your nemesis.

3. Conversations and Radial Menus
We now have the foundation to be able to speak with other characters in the universe. Soon, you will be able to hire, bargain, surrender, exploit and hundreds of other things. Through this same menu you can interact with the hundreds of objects in the game and do dozens of actions like attacking, hacking, healing and many other things.

4. Tactical Enemies
Enemies will now repair their ship, heal their crew, beam to your ship with goals, flee if they are in danger and strategically attack you. We still have a long way to go but, again, the groundwork has been laid for expanding our enemy AI into other tactics, races and strategies.

5. Missions
Our first test missions are simple tasks like collecting items or killing specific characters in the universe but this will lead to many more complex gameplay features like giving aid to allies, resupplying your colonies, attacking a mutual enemy, capturing rival captains and many more fun adventures all generated by the game and not written by our team. This will lead to more challenges and rewards as the game continues to grow.

6. Tons of Balance
The game is FAR from balanced, but there is quite a bit more in the newest version. Weapons, ship systems, food, energy and just about everything else has gotten a little bit of love. Overall, the game should have a much more "solid" feel.

7. More bug fixes than we can list
From shaders to crew logic to turrets and about a hundred other things, we have been hard at work fixing, adjusting and adding tons of little things to make the game more intuitive and fun.

So where do we go from here? The next update should see the return of planet exploration, new races, new weapons, new conversations and the start of our final system: loyalty. This is basically the whole point of the game - earning relationships with your crew, rival Captain's and other races through your actions (or inactions). This will be where you decide whether to stab your Midorian Captain friend in the back or help him against the surging Antorian empire. Where you can attack and crush and Avarian colony making room for your own or help resupply them and make them grow. This will be where the game really comes together and becomes a fully realized universe.

We're very excited about this release and what is to come. Tell us what you think on our Facebook page or at our Twitter account. Love to hear your thoughts!


March 17, 2015

Jordan Coombs

What's Next: Alpha 4

Greetings Star Commanders!

We are currently hard at work on our next release for Star Command Galaxies. Our focus this month is on exploration, discovery, interacting with other Captains and missions.

Where do you want to go today?

The first big addition will be our dynamic nav map. Every game will feature a new, randomly generated set of nav points for you to explore. Each of these landmarks will have their own strategies and goals - planets can be explored; asteroid belts present tactical challenges; nebulas will disable ship systems; black holes can destroy your ship; starbases will give you a hub for trade and missions. The goal is it to continue to add and polish landmarks in future updates.

The nav also features dynamic, real ships. Each of these ships continue to exist in the galaxy. They have their own goals and crews. If you attack one ship and they escape, you can pursue them and they will still be damaged. As further builds come out the capabilities, goals and tactics of enemy ships will continue to expand.

Speaking of ship tactics, you will also see an improvement in enemy behavior. Now enemies will work at consoles and their ship systems will be functioning (or not) as a result. Enemies will also repair and defend their ship in smart groups as well as repair their vessel from damage. Finally, enemies will be 1:1 during invasions and have specific goals. No more never ending spawns of aliens.

Let's talk it out.

The next major addition are conversations. We have introduced a Sims style, radial menu to the crew. You can now tell jokes, talk about politics, engage in trade, hire crew members, take missions and interact with the world around you. Right now things like jokes won't do much besides improve (or offend) another character, but in future builds personalities will play a big role in conversations. During diplomatic missions one of your goals will be to match up similar personalities and impress Captains and their crew with your knowledge of their culture. Or you can just buy them off.

Welcome to Glooogon's House of Used Crap

Trade is our third major feature for this build, giving you the ability to begin acquire goods from vendors around the universe. You will now have to make choices about the type of ship you want - from generators, shields, weapons, nav consoles - the choice is yours.

Finally, we will be introducing missions. Missions will give players important, broad reaching goals to accomplish across the galaxy. Things like: delivering pizzas, collecting garbage and negotiating trade agreements between two vast empires. Accomplishing missions will improve relations with other Captains and, in turn, with their factions. Failing at missions will hurt your standing and broad reaching repercussions.

There are numerous other bug fixes, improvements and other surprises for you to discover.

You can expect Alpha 4 late next week!


February 27, 2015

Jordan Coombs

Star Command Galaxies Alpha 3: Battlestations!

If you aren't already in the Alpha, you can join up today at our new website!

Battlestations! Battlestations! And all that nautical stuff. The newest update for Star Command Galaxies out and the primary focus is, as you can probably tell, ship-to-ship combat.

Planets have been disabled because we broke a bunch of stuff with our new changes. We updated our super objects to support some new features like breakable external walls which, in turn, made things like the villages and antorian fortress look funky.

There are a ton of finicky things (including repair and heal) but this should start to plant a seed of where the combat is headed.

Our next focus is on bringing it all together. Navigation, desires with a purpose, planets to explore, resources to collect, enemies with their own intelligent goals and day to day activities. We are very excited about the momentum we have now. This update has the most "fun" of all of them and the next one should be even better.

Can't wait for you to play! Enjoy!


January 28, 2015

Jordan Coombs

Star Command Galaxies: Alpha 2 - "A Day in the Life"

NOTE: Alpha 2 is out now, but ONLY for WINDOWS. Our MAC version is crashing, so we will get that up when it is fixed. APOLOGIES!

If you aren't already in the Alpha, you can join up today at our new website!

THE BIG BUGS (lots of little ones as well): 
- After the 2nd or 3rd trip down to a planet the game can crash (memory load issue)
- Red thought bubbles will not disappear consistently
- Beds use state is buggy
- Characters will use objects in non-use spots
- Combat: Crew accuracy not being ignored (super bad shots right now)

We titled this update after the day to day actions that your crew takes during their adventures. In terms of development we wanted to establish the core "needs" of your crew before jumping into exploring the galaxy, battling alien vessels and visiting all the worlds of the Galaxies. We feel like it's coming along. You can watch the video above to watch a playthrough of the game and read below to find some more details about each of the new additions to Galaxies.

The first new feature you will notice is your crew needs. Crew now require food and sleep (energy) and, depending on how well those needs are being met, a crewmembers' respective mood will go up or down. Eventually there will be appropriate rewards and penalties applied for good and bad moods but for the time being there are no effects.

To be clear, Galaxies will not be a micro manage my crew game - and you can see this with the addition of automation. Crew will take care of their needs from sleeping to eating. The only time these things are a problem is when there is an absence of these resources. All your food get sucked out of the hull during your last battle? Now you have a problem. Bed's caught on fire and now you only have on left? Gonna have some grumpy crew on board.

The next level of each crew member is their "Desires." This represents their hopes, dreams and 
aspirations and are derived from their personalities. Desires will, in turn, guide the gameplay. The "missions" in Star Command Galaxies are the desires of other characters in the game - your crew, traders, other Captain's, villagers, Star Command admirals - you name it. Your goal is to fulfill these desires. Some may want you to visit a planet. Others may want you to capture the Captain of a trade ship. All of these things will be relayed to you in the form of a desire.

What happens when you fulfill a desire? Two things - first the character's mood goes up. But, more importantly, you earn loyalty. Loyalty is one of the primary metrics for victory. The more loyal your crew the more you will be able to accomplish in the galaxy since spreading your Captain's desires is dependant a loyalty. Ignoring your crew's desires? You might have a mutiny on your hands. Kill a Captain instead of capturing them for Star Command? There could be repercussions with one of your officers trying to take over your command.

Loyalty will continue to expand in the upcoming updates and become more and more central to victory for the player.

Toilets, TV's, beds - all these things and more are now available for your crew to meet their needs and waste their time to help pass the hours of staying on a starship. We have also added object animations! Awesome!

The biggest change (and what you will hopefully see the least of) is on our crew action and cursor manager system. For you, the player, the result will be filters when you commit to actions like repair and heal. But overall the game is way more stable and, for us, ready for some serious implementation of features. Our cursor manager was a huge undertaking and has cleared the way for ship combat, crew conversations, fixing some SCIENCE bugs and lots of other advanced features that just couldn't be completed until the foundation was ready.

Teleporters are two fold. First, they are just simply easier to use than the previous build - which was somewhat unintuitive. Secondly, teleporters have the groundwork for implementation of ship systems (shields, weapons, engines, etc). A ship system won't work until a crew is working at the proper console and, in turn, that console will drain power from your master generator. What that means is we can quickly add things like lasers that drain every time you use them, bars that draw from your food resource, shields that can be destroyed and repaired - basically every core system we need for ship combat.

You also have a brand new ship so that you can see your cargo hold full of food, your kitchen area, crew quarters and other areas that give you more of a window into the experience of running a ship.


The Captain is also in, although not with any real functionality. Eventually you will be able to "craft" desires to spread to your crew and other NPC's around the galaxy, use exclusive Captain equipment and some other surprises.


Along with the new cursor manager mentioned above we have revised map generation. Our map generator was creating many erroneous game objects compromising the stability of the game. This has been much improved. We will continue to refine asset loading and unloading along with game object generation, but for now you should see a pronounced improvement in overall game stability.


Inventory has been removed while we reimagine it. Our initial implementation of inventories existing in the game world was good on paper but not as intuitive as we had hoped. Rather than continuing to try and polish the way your characters use that inventory system we have taken it back to the drawing board. It will likely be a much more traditional "item in a box" system so you can quickly see what your character is carrying.


Because of all the cursor state manager changes we had to push the SCIENCE update off a bit until the SCIENCE cursor states are all revised to match the new system. We are hoping to get SCIENCE revised and out sometime in the next two weeks.

Hope you all enjoy the new update. This update is huge for us as we have a very solid, stable foundation to quickly add content. We still have some big things to tackle like the fact that we are currently topping out Unity's memory management with our asset textures and we will have to address that sooner rather than later, but for now we feel really good about where the game is heading. Tell us what you think!



December 30, 2014

Jordan Coombs

Upcoming: Improving Your Crew's Day

The improved interface addressing some of our larger issues

Greetings Star Commanders!

Hope you all have had a wonderful Holiday season and that you are ready for the New Year.

We have been back at work this week after a very successful Alpha 1 launch. We are very excited to have our kickstarters and fans playing the game and are looking forward to updating and improving the experience - which is exactly what we are talking about today. If you haven't gotten into the alpha you can right now at!

The focus for our next update, which comes out in January, is crew interaction. Right now a lot of features in our game are pretty much done but not quite. For example:

  • Power is in but not connected to the GUI and some objects.
  • Food and Energy are draining but not really causing you harm
  • Using objects works but is very clunky
  • Teleporting exists but is finicky
  • Tooltips tell you a bit but not enough
  • It's not entirely clear what it is that you're supposed to do!
All of these items and more are on our list of things to do.

But the primary focus is on fixing and improving how you interact with your crew, how they give you feedback and how they interact with the world.

Desires, for example, should be a strong guiding force for what you are "supposed to do." If your crew member is hungry, tired, wants more light or wants to explore a planet this should be clear to you, the player.

A crew member wants more light. When you don't make it happen, he gets mad.

Our central gameplay cycle revolves around keeping your crew healthy and happy. One of the primary complaints in Star Command mobile was the fact that your crew and ship were always ready for battle. You got into a skirmish then proceeded to healed your crew, repair your ship and then head for the next battle. 

In Galaxies the ship battles, visits to alien planets, diplomacy and trade all throw off the energy, hunger and desires of your crew. For example: visiting a Trilax ship will introduce new desires for your crew like Trilax art. Now, as Captain, it is up to you to decide who is ready to go on Away Team missions, who is the right person and what the consequences of that will be. You have to weigh that with who is tired, hungry, injured or afraid of alien worlds.

Focusing on your crew's mood/stress level will be very important. We will be introducing those elements in the next update so that it's much more clear what you have to do with the hours of the day in your crew's lives.

We will also introduce comfort objects - things that help your crew relax and get into a good mood. Plants, paintings, TV's will help your crew get some R&R after a costly battle or exploring the harsh environment of a lava planet.

More to come as we get closer and closer to release of Alpha 2. Tell us what you think and if you have any questions!


December 21, 2014

Jordan Coombs

What Makes a Great Tutorial

Greetings Star Commanders!

Star Command Galaxies Alpha 1 is out! You should check out our brand new website and join in if you haven't already.

One of the biggest questions we have received so far about the alpha is "What Do I Do?" It's almost like we forgot the tutorial. To be clear, we did not. So we want to talk about great tutorials and our approach to teaching the mechanics and strategies of Star Command Galaxies.

The Original Tutorial
Let's start by talking about one of the greatest game tutorials: Super Mario Brothers for the NES. This is been covered many times by many people and probably much better than us, but we will rehash some of the principal concepts.

Basically, the very first area in Mario teaches you all the mechanics of the game. It was designed to teach a new player that getting mushrooms was good, blocks could be hit, and jumping on gumbas wouldn't hurt you, by making these actions almost impossible to avoid. It's elegant, it's simple and most importantly it uses no text.

Super Mario Brothers designed by today's standards

Mario isn't the only game to have an awesome non-tutorial tutorial. We look at Sim City 4 quite often.

Sim City 4
Sim City 4 never told you "You have to build a power plant." You would get that message by zoning a neighborhood and watching it not grow. Eventually you would get a "No Power" icon. The same was true of water, garbage, employment and other game concepts. Yes, there were advisors to help you along the way, but primarily the game showed you that there were certain things that needed to be done before you could continue on. The system, by its nature, enabled you to explore and try new things through experimentation.

The Sims thinking thoughts
The Sims is also a big inspiration for us. Again, the game never says "This Guy Needs To Sleep" - it shows you icons, body language and other hints of what you need to do to keep your character alive and happy - how succeed at the game. This means that ANYONE can pick up the game - kids that can't read yet, people that don't speak english or even new gamers who aren't familiar with common gaming tutorials. It's elegant, it's simple and it's universal.

That is one tired crew
In Galaxies we have similar goals. At this point its very early and, frankly, not working at all but the overall goal is to let the game tell you how to play itself. Early you can't travel because you have no engine. You may build objects but they have no power. There is a sequence and we don't have to tell you "Build an Engine First" - it enables exploration and creative thinking. There is no "right" way to play the game, just some minimum requirements for you to continue on.

We want anyone to be able to pick up Galaxies. I personally have a 4 year old son and one of the more frustrating things I have experienced is his inability to play Star Command on mobile. It wasn't for a lack of trying. The game simply had too many unintuitive concepts that had to be explained through text - something he couldn't read. He didn't know why he had to assign crew, what the enemies were trying to do or what his goals were. All of these elements were delivered through text in hails and popups - not very elegant.

That's not to say we won't have any text. It's still very important to world building and finding out more information on a particular object or character. But with Galaxies it doesn't start with "read this to figure out what your supposed to do" - instead it is "play this and if you want to learn more you can."

Right now this is not working - we will freely concede that. But we won't bandaid it with a bunch of popups that would work but not really fix the core problem. Instead we will diagnose why players aren't understanding certain concepts and help the game explain those better. 

A great example is refrigerators. Right now it simply isn't intuitive to go pick up food pellets, put them in the fridge and then go the kitchen to eat. Telling you to do this wouldn't fix to core problem.

So please bear with us while we try to make the game intuitive instead of putting in temporary or just bad fixes.

Tell us what you find to be unintuitive or what you would improve on that's already in game. Or point us to great tutorials you have used in the past. We read every comment, forum post, tweet and facebook post you send - so join in the conversation!

Next: Food, Energy, Social, Stress!


December 4, 2014

Jordan Coombs

The Mobile Marketplace Has An Integrity Problem

We just received an e-mail that we wanted to share and discuss with our community. This is the tail end of it:

I offer many services concerning your app, if you are interested feel free to contact me. 
1. App Store Ratings & Reviews :Ratings/Reviews Price 
50 ratings and 10 reviews - 99 USD 
75 ratings and 15 reviews - 149 USD 
100 ratings and 25 reviews - 199 USD 
125 ratings and 30 reviews - 249 USD 
150 ratings and 35 reviews - 299 USD 

The premise is paying some fixed amount to receive reviews and ratings for your mobile title - and receive these types of offers almost daily. We have never used these services and we never will. But it does speak to a larger problem: integrity.

The ability to essentially purchase buzz for your game is nothing new, but on the mobile marketplace your rating and reviews are absolutely critical to success. And, to make a baseball analogy, paid reviews are the equivalent of steroids. It's not cheating because it's not illegal but it makes everything you see in the store suspect.

For mobile it has become increasingly a strange world that has nothing to do with "games" as we would classify them. Products built from the ground up to entertain and challenge players. This is just no longer the case. Larger companies build games from the ground up to be money producing machines not based on the merits of the gameplay but on the model of the challenge. IAP aren't inherently bad (there are many great examples of freemium games) but the culture on mobile is always suspect. There is no integrity.

Popularity can be purchased. Reviews and ratings can be fixed. Games sell one model then quickly pull the rug out to reveal much less genuine intentions. None of this is new - but it is becoming increasingly discouraging.

That is not to say this is limited to mobile. This is something that the game culture as a whole is wrestling with as well. GamerGate is all about the integrity of the reviews we are given. Can we trust the numerous sites, blogs and youtubers to give us honest evaluations of our favorite hobby?

One of the things that makes this complex is the rise of indie games. The front page of Steam at any given moment is more than 50% indie titles - which is great. But it also makes it extremely difficult to figure out what is worth the investment. The most interesting element about the state of gaming is that most players don't even play the games they purchase. It's not longer about "can I get it?" - it's about your most valuable asset: time.

And this is why integrity is so important. There are hundreds of titles released and we all only have so much time. Gamers want those amazing experiences: building your first hole in the ground to escape the night in Minecraft; using a uber-medic combo to push your team and the cart to a victory in Team Fortress; getting the shit scared out of you for the first time in Amnesia. Our time is valuable and we want to pour it into the titles that give us the most return on our time investment.

The mobile market place has a serious problem with this right now and the business model isn't helping. The most heartbreaking thing about the whole environment is that could have been the next great mobile platform. Better than the 3DS, more adopted than the PSP and more accessible to indie developers than any other system before. Instead we have a system where discoverability is extremely difficult, reviews are always suspect and a games place on the top 10 chart can simply be purchased instead of earned. That is to say nothing of the copycat of mechanics that, frankly, were well established and refined in the late 90's.

Don't mistake this as us ejecting from mobile development - nothing could be further from the truth. But as gamers and developers we have concerns. We love the potential of the platform and don't really have answers to some of these larger problems. Maybe with time the market will mature and begin to self-regulate itself - who knows.

If there is one silver lining it's the community itself: gamers overall tend to be extremely reasonable, passionate people that really just enjoy having fun. It's rarely about ego, social standing or any other existential facet that can plague other hobbies. We have utter faith that the community will find a way to make things "right" and bring the integrity of gaming back.

That's all. End of rant.