Tuesday, February 8, 2022

The future of Hades' Star

In a few weeks, it will be 5 years since Hades’ Star launched. During that time, we’ve had 3 million players creating an account. Collectively, all these players have discovered over 30 million stars. There are thousands of players that are still active more than 4 years after they first downloaded the game. Far more important than any numbers is the quality of the community that has formed around the game: welcoming to new players and helpful, without aggressive and abusive elements found in other online games that have competitive elements.

I have no doubt these qualities of the game will allow it to thrive for many more years in the future.

Up until now, we’ve been improving the game with updates small and big, and this will continue in the future. But after 5 years of development, the time feels right to try something bigger than any update we’ve done before. The upcoming DARK NEBULA update, which we announced late last year, will feel more like an expansion pack than a regular update. It will bring a lot more content for existing star types, a new star type, a visual refresh for some game objects and parts of the interface, and new features means to strengthen the core economic and combat activities in the game. It will also attempt to address problems that exist in these core activities.

This post is an attempt to describe these problems and discuss ways we’ll be involving the community in solving them together as DARK NEBULA goes through development.

 

The 3 design pillars of Hades’ Star

This post from 2016 describes the 3 design pillars Hades’ Star has been built on. It will always be relevant to how we develop the game. Please go and read it, it’s quite small:

http://blog.hadesstar.com/2016/08/the-three-design-pillars-of-hades-star.html

How has each of the pillars been met during the game’s 5 years of life, and how can each pillar be improved? Here are my thoughts.

 

Exploration and progression

If I had to pick, I’d say economic progression is probably the feature that Hades’ Star owes all its success so far to. Whether you like doing shipments or not, there are *a lot* of meaningful choices to make for many months and years that affect how your Empire improves over time on economy, technology and fleet strength. We realize how important this progression is to the game. The goal for future updates will be to ensure all players have meaningful progression choices, no matter how long they’ve been playing. As more players reach very high levels, expect to see early game progression become faster. This is by design: allowing new players to progress faster is very beneficial to the overall game health for games like ours where the average population has been playing for a very long time and is fairly high level.

What about space exploration, the other part of this pillar?

Exploring new sectors in your home Yellow Star can be a magical experience, especially in the first month of the game. I remember personally feeling that sense of magic in early builds of the game in 2016, even though I obviously had a pretty good idea how things work under the hood. After the early game, some of the magic may still remain in smaller doses when first visiting a new Red Star level, or on the first White Star. But it’s pretty safe to say that on a game that lasts for years, the space exploration magic is gone fairly quickly for all players. More could be done to retain it. In the DARK NEBULA update, we are experimenting with more dynamic star setups and introducing better reasons to visit other player’s Yellow Stars.

 

Diplomacy

Interacting with other people has helped Hades’ Star create a strong community over the years. As we go forward, we’ll keep focusing on truly social features. Expect to see improvements in how people can track their friendships with other players across the Hades Galaxy, and in how the game actively guides people towards healthy, active Corporations.

I believe there’s a big area for improvement in social play by making the Hades Galaxy feel more open world. Hades’ Star is a already a full MMO game. In theory, any player can visit any other player’s system. There are no shards or other virtual separation in the game. We plan to focus on using this powerful technical feature to make the galaxy feel more open via design choices that encourage people to explore and participate in other player’s star systems. But we also realize this has to be done carefully to feel right, and will take time. Some experimentation on this will happen during development of DARK NEBULA, and expect to see it become a bigger focus in the years ahead.

 

Strategy

Strategic and tactical choices in Hades’ Star fall under two categories:

a)       Economy strategy, mainly through Yellow Star optimization and collecting resources in other star types.

b)      Combat strategy, as found in other star types

A huge part of both strategy types are the numerous Modules you unlock in the game. There are a lot of Module combinations to equip your ships, depending on what you want them to accomplish. But by far the biggest problem in the game right now is that not all of those combinations are equally viable, especially for combat. Worse, many combinations are not even interesting. The community understandably has come up with rules to warn new players to stay away from upgrading certain modules because they are pretty much useless in the end game.

When a module has no serious use case in the game, I see that as a high priority problem that must be fixed in one of two ways: Tweak its numbers or functionality to make it useable, or delete it from the game and replace it with something new. Because of the relatively high number of modules in Hades’ Star that have this problem, this process will take time. But now you know what the end goal is. Making all modules desirable (at least in certain niche situations) will make the game significantly better overall. It will increase the range of tactics both you and your opponents have available. And it will make strategic options over WHAT to upgrade much more meaningful.

Making more of the existing modules desireable, and introducing many new modules (as DARK NEBULA will do), can sound scary to people worried about how long it will take to unlock everything at a good level. Like everything else in progression, the rate for upgrading technology will be revisited in upcoming updates.

 

Sanctuary

The most popular module in the game deserves its own chapter. Sanctuary was introduced pretty early after the game launched, as a response to people losing significant progress after their entire fleet was wiped in Red Stars. It was a poor solution to a serious problem. Since then, many parts of the game have been designed around this module, and a vast majority of players have learned to rely on it. For those reasons, the module cannot be removed for the game.

Still, I want to explore ways to reward players who don’t use Sanctuary in Red Stars. With added risk, I believe Red Stars can become way more exciting for certain players. The ones who don’t want to risk their own resources may still be interested to spectate other people’s sanctuary-free matches, especially if there’s serious skill involved.

 

DARK NEBULA and Early Access

As I mentioned above, we want to involve the community with future development. Hades' Star: DARK NEBULA will be a new app, going in Early Access in Google Play later this year. The existence of a new app can cause confusion, so to be clear, there is only one Hades' Star universe. The progress you've made over the years will stay intact in both the existing Hades' Star app, and the new DARK NEBULA app when it launches. Progress in the DARK NEBULA Early Access will eventually be wiped, but the permanent progress you make in Hades' Star will also carry over to the final DARK NEBULA app when it fully launches. Both apps will be available for free. Having two apps allows us to try things we weren't able to do before, such as alternate visuals that may be more appealing to new players, without affecting the experience of old players. Gameplay and non visual features will stay in sync between the two apps.

By participating in the Early Access, you will be able to see our ideas for addressing the above problems, as well as the new content that’s coming. You will also be able to offer your feedback on any of the changes, and see how the game changes until its final release. Stay tuned, more information on the Early Access will be coming next few months.

- Andreas

9 comments:

  1. Очень интересно, жду с нетерпением

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  2. Been playing since 2017! I love that you are going back to the three design pillar post - that's the Holy Bible of HS and is the reason it's become such a great game! :-D

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  3. Very much appreciated!!! I only have chess and HS one my phone. Just the best!

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  4. Cant wait for early access , Hope you will make some sort of Rewarding system for those flying sancless , maybe more CR and/or Arts/Hy etc or other sort of benefits :D
    Btw i would redesign Stealth, so BS using it become Truly Invisible(in White Stars only for other Team) for the Duration. This would change Tactics and its usability in Blue Star/White Star

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  5. Please make something viable to buy that douse not effect game mechanics. Would love for you to be bale to hire another developer!
    Seasonal skin €5
    Custom sound €10 "pew pew"
    Starbase €10 (Can hold pre configured builds for easy purchase)

    As you play the game you would love to contribute a bit more...and get a small token for it. :-)

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  6. "As more players reach very high levels, expect to see early game progression become faster. This is by design: allowing new players to progress faster is very beneficial to the overall game health for games like ours where the average population has been playing for a very long time and is fairly high level."

    So we dedicated lots of time and effort reaching high level, and the newcomers are going to reach the same in essentially an easy mode? Not fair.

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  7. Nice! hS is the only game I've been playing for a long time, can't wait to see what DN will bring.

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  8. It would be a nice addition to have a friends list, since some people are in different corps. In addition to a fruends list, an update to red stars as well. Which will allow a third scan option to invite friends to rs with you, your Corp or public; I would imagine the notification of a scanning could show up in that person's star system chat.
    Any ideas on this?

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