Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Stars of the Hades Galaxy: Yellow Stars

Note: This post describes features under development which may change or get cut. The usual disclaimers apply

Hades' Star is a game about a mysterious, distant galaxy. Players join with the goal of exploring this galaxy and growing their empire, while also interacting with other players. There are many kinds of interactions we want to experiment with, especially between groups of human players. Breaking down the galaxy in stars of different types is a way to allow such different interactions. Each different star type a player will encounter has different rules. Some stars might encourage single player exploration, some might encourage co-operation between players to achieve specific goals, and some might allow players to fight other players. Initially the game will offer a small number of star types,  but we plan to implement more via regular updates. Player feedback will be one of the factors that guide what new star types we will implement, and when. 

This initial post on stars presents the Yellow Star: the most common type that all players immediately have access to.

Yellow star: Single player progression with optional cooperation with other players

Yellow stars are abundant, found mostly in the outskirts of the galaxy. Every time a new player joins the game, they are assigned their own unique Yellow star system. Yellow stars contain multiple habitable planets, and are a great opportunity to set up a stable base of operations to help fund further expeditions deeper into the galaxy.

Initially most of the yellow star system is unexplored, giving its owner player the goal of fully exploring it and expanding to it during the next weeks or months. 

As with all other star systems, we want to offer a seamless sense of scale: The game allows quickly transitioning from a full zoomed out, strategic view...

...all the way down to individual planets the player may have colonized.  

Even though Hades' Star is a massively multiplayer game, we still want to allow players to interact with other people at their own pace. We want to avoid forced interactions, especially interactions with strangers which often feel very hostile initially, regardless of the designer's intentions. 

The yellow star allows us to accomplish that. Each yellow star is owned by a human player. That owner has full control over what other players (if any) can access that system, and when. After a few days of getting their bearings in the system and setting up initial infrastructure, players will have the option to construct a space station that can be linked to another player's yellow star. This optional linking will create a two way star gate that allows each player to send a limited number of ships to the other system, with the intention of helping the other player achieve their goals in their star. It is mainly expected that people who know and trust each other (perhaps friends from other online games or in real life) will establish this link. 

If a player chooses not to link their yellow star to other player(s) in this way, then their yellow star will basically behave like a single player game. They will still need to work over the next weeks to unlock new sectors, build fleets and infrastructure, and push back the AI race of hostile ships that also has a presence in their system. Our goal is to also make that single player experience interesting. Even though the game will always be an online experience meant to promote meaningful interactions between players, the yellow star can optionally become a player's own little corner of the galaxy that they can manage any way they want without outside intervention.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A disclaimer: Talking about features under development

The purpose of this blog is to share some of the development of Hades' Star with future players of the game. My hope is that openly sharing this information can help everyone see early on whether the game is for them, and to solicit important feedback that can further guide development.

As is always the case, features under development can change substantially or get cancelled. This is a normal and expected part of development: Very often, things that sound great on paper break down when they are play tested. It's also especially true in online games, where getting the best out of a feature relies on human players not deviating too much from a specific range of behaviors. Human players have the habit of surprising naive designers like me who think they can design human behavior on paper. In practice, I believe any non trivial feature that relies on human interaction in a massively online game has to be playtested with a good number of players before it's called done.

For these reasons, sharing features under development with players is risky. It's easy to be misunderstood and be accused of promising things that are never delivered. It's a risk we are willing to take in order to have a closer, more meaningful relationship with our players. When features do change and are cancelled, we'll do our best to explain why.