Module changes in DARK NEBULA

Equipping ships with Modules is the most important gameplay system in Hades' Star. All combat and economic activities on all star types heavily depend on Modules. The exact same activities can range from mind numbingly boring to extremely fun, depending on how well tweaked the involved Modules are. Without properly designed Modules, there's no progression, no strategy, no gameplay, and no Hades' Star. 

Given the importance of Modules, the Dark Nebula update will take the time to carefully review the role and place of every single module in the game. The goal will be to fix the current Module problems described in detail below. 

Before presenting the problems, a reminder on problems and solutions (if you've already read this section from a previous blog post, skip to Problem 1 below). 

The problems described here are set in stone. You may think that these are not problems worth fixing, or that they are not a problem at all. That's ok, but if you want to understand what changes are happening in the game, it's important to also understand what problems the changes are fixing, whether you agree with the problems or not. Being honest with what problems we are fixing up front allows the community to see where we are going and what we deem as valuable. It allows feedback to be focused, as feedback can now be framed towards whether a problem still exists or not, whether it became better than in live Hades' Star or worse. Having the problems we are fixing be non-negotiable also allows you to see early if the new game we are creating is for you, and save you frustration down the road.  

If you see a problem described in this or an upcoming blog post, it means we will be making an effort to fix it in Dark Nebula. That doesn't mean the problem list is complete. By identifying more problems via your feedback, you could allow us to expand the list of problems we are fixing. So if your feedback is "You said X is a problem, I don't think so", it will be ignored. If your feedback is "I also think Y is a big problem too", it will be considered.

The solutions described here are NOT set in stone. The solutions you see here (or the ones implemented so far in the Early Access build) are meant to address the identified problems. Most of them are not final, and will keep getting tweaked throughout Early Access. Your feedback here is extremely important: Are the changes addressing the problem effectively? If not, why not? What is the part of the problem that still remains, or what new problem has been created as a result of these changes? Your feedback will be far more useful if you focus on *problems* you see (ideally by playing the Early Access build), instead of proposing solutions. If you must propose a solution, please mention the exact problem it is fixing as well.

Problem 1. Many Modules break game functionality and/or are inefficient solutions to poorly balanced game systems

When Hades' Star was first released, there were just Yellow Stars and 5 Red Star levels. Over the years, very frequent, quickly made and careless updates introduced both new game systems and new Modules, with little regard for how those new systems interact with the old Modules. Not surprisingly, the end result is the current mess Hades' Star finds itself in. The Dark Nebula update intentionally takes all the time required to properly fix the problems, not just for its initial release, but for many many years of updates down the line. Simply put, until these problems are fixed, Hades' Star can get no more updates. Pushing updates ignoring the problems would compound the issues, making existing modes even more unplayable, and creating a completely nonsensical game that cannot sustain itself. 

A few key examples with problems in current Hades' Star modules: 

Time Warp 

Time Warp has single-handedly destroyed all intended gameplay in two major game modes: White Stars and Blue Stars. In White Stars, it is the biggest reason matches feel synchronous, and competitive players feel like they can't get a full night's sleep when they participate. In Blue Stars, the combination of Time Warp with many modules creates broken dominating techniques that don't give the other player any chance of counter. The ability of Time Warp to also affect Module cooldowns is also breaking a lot of things in Blue Stars, as it was never carefully balanced for all module types. 

In addition to breaking two entire game modes, Time Warp is terrible because it's also *required* for all ships, to make unbearable and badly designed underlying systems more manageable. Some of those badly designed systems include ship movement speed, combat resolution times, and Battleship repair times. To make those times more bearable, players naturally turn to installing Time Warp on all their ships, and also naturally freak out when they hear Time Warp is being removed. But the correct fix to a badly designed game system is to fix the game system itself, not introduce a module that is mandatory for all ships to make the game system slightly more bearable. This is exactly the approach Dark Nebula will be taking with this and other similar modules. When you see a Module being removed, it's always because the underlying system is being fixed so the module is no longer needed, or because the module had very limited use, was ignored by most players, and is being replaced by something more useful. 

Red Star Life Extender

This one has single-handedly destroyed a lot of the intended experience in Red Stars, allowing teams of players to easily play as long as they like and turning what was intended to be a 10 minute experience into hours. The fact that it *literally* once also broke the game servers is just bonus. 

*If* there is a proper place for a module like Red Star Extender in Hades' Star, it needs to be in a completely new environment where a relatively short life increase gives a clear, well-designed and balanced benefit. Its use also needs to be properly limited - simply jumping in as many ships as you want and activating the module repeatedly from the gate, seeing the time going up with each click, could fit well in an clicker game but it does not belong in Hades' Star.


The addition of Sanctuary has eliminated a very promising (if balanced correctly) mechanic of risk/reward in Red Stars, but only for the players who need it the least (it's not available in the early game). Like many other crutch solutions, it was the wrong fix to early players complaining about a problem (in this case, ship replacement costs being too high). 

Genesis / Enrich

The Genesis/Enrich combo had a big part in breaking the Hydrogen economy, making it impossible to properly balance between casual and dedicated players. These Modules were created as a result of the early player community complaining there's not enough Hydrogen. Instead of taking the time to properly understand the problem and available solutions, these two unbalanced Modules allowed players to create almost unlimited Hydrogen over time, something that was never an intentional design decision. Dark Nebula takes extra time to address the monumental task of fixing the Hydrogen economy.

Problem 2. Most Modules are poorly balanced, making players avoid them completely

Many Modules in Hades' Star are so broken, that quite a few players think this is a puzzle game where you somehow have to guess the useless modules and avoid them. The symptoms of this very serious problem are clearly visible whenever a new player asks "Should I upgrade X?" and the community can usually answer correctly with an unconditional "Yes" or "No". If Modules were properly balanced, the correct answer would be "It depends (on your play style, on your tactics, on what star types you play most, on what other modules you can upgrade at that stage, etc)". The longevity and sustainability of Hades' Star depends on *all* modules being desirable by all players, and this is why we're putting a lot of effort in this area.

The wasted opportunity to make Hades' Star a game about creating interesting Module Loadouts is another symptom of this problem. The current live version of Hades' Star has found success *despite* its failure to offer compelling gameplay and interesting choices in module loadouts. Every Red Star level, especially high levels, has at most 3-4 viable loadouts (and even those are not really unique as they share many modules). The vast majority of players only uses those modules, because they are simply better than the alternatives. This makes for extremely boring and repetitive matches - both to play and to watch. 

The goal with the Dark Nebula update, and all updates after it, will be to introduce compelling gameplay and meaningful choices in module loadouts for all star types, in a careful way that does not interfere with the other elements of Hades' Star that make players come back daily. In practice, this means that regular Red Stars will still be quite repetitive and therefore accessible to players who do not like or want to bother with tactical choices and with giving too much thought to their loadouts. (For those players, an adjustment period where they learn the changes to their preferred modules will still be required). All other star types, including the new Dark Red Stars, will encourage and reward experimentation with different module loadouts. 

Problem 3. The early game Module experience is terrible 

The first hour, day and week in a player's experience in the game is obviously very important. Those timeframes are the game's opportunity to show a new player what lies ahead if they stick around for months and years. 

As far as Modules are concerned, Hades' Star does a very bad job of showing early players any potential. The tutorial encourages players to equip a new Weapon, which would be exciting if it wasn't the exact same weapon the Battleship already had, but with barely bigger numbers. It also asks them to equip a shield that becomes obsolete in exactly 3 days, basically telling players that this is a puzzle game where you have to somehow guess the useless Modules and avoid them. In early Red Star levels, a lot of new Modules become available, but most of them are completely useless at that stage (nobody needs Red Star Extender or Teleport in RS2). One of the early modules disables your own ship when activated (among other things), and that's actually one of the useful ones. For some reason, you are allowed to equip that module on your Miner. 

What a hugely wasted opportunity to show new players what the game can become, and encourage them to stay and find out. 

Module Tweaks during Early Access

A big focus of the ongoing Dark Nebula Early Access is to fix the above problems, and make Modules feel more powerful and rewarding. There are many changes already in the Early Access build. The thing to keep in mind is that these changes are not final - we are experimenting with a lot of new modules and not all of these new modules will make it into the game. The Module tweaks will take a lot of time, and will happen in parallel with major game modes also being redesigned and tweaked. 

Here are some changes we will be doing in Early Access that are more likely to make it into the final game: 

Time Warp deleted

As described above, the removal of Time Warp will allow us to properly re-design all game modes and have complete control of player experience. For example, ship speeds are greatly increased on many game modes for all players, without the need to have a separate module installed. 

Our goal with deleted modules such as Time Warp will be to have a replacement Module in similar category/functionality, so that player progress in the old module can be directly transferred to the new one. 

Sanctuary deleted

The Dark Nebula update will remove Sanctuary completely, without replacing it with any other module, since the cost to unlock and equip it was minimal, and its functionality is largely replaced with other gameplay features (i.e. ships jump away before being destroyed in most star types, not counting Supernovas). 

Support Modules Renamed to Combat, can only be equipped on Battleships

The Support Module slot is being removed from Miners and Transports. Those ship types will only be able to equip modules specifically designed for them. Support Modules will be renamed to Combat, and can only be installed on Battleships.

Many of the Support Modules didn't make sense to ever be on a Transport or Miner anyway. This is a serious problem. The game is tricking players into wasting mental and actual resources to see i.e. if Fortify could ever make sense on a Miner for tricking Cerberus ships, when in fact such a scenario was never properly designed, tested or balanced. This change instantly fixes this, and clearly communicates to players what Modules are truly useful for creating loadouts for each particular ship.

Players relied on the Support slot on Miners/Transports for very specific modules. Some of them (like Time Warp/Sanctuary) are no longer applicable in Dark Nebula. Other previously useful support Modules such as Teleport, Stealth, Rockets/Drones etc. are either not needed (because the environment in which they are operating is changing), not suitable (because certain combat modules will only be balanced for Battleship use), or will be replaced with similar functionality Transport/Miner-specific modules. This will allow us to better control the experience in all star types, and properly balance desirable loadouts per ship type. 

Many modules will be changing the Red Star level they are awarded at

This is to ensure a consistent module experience, especially in the early Red Star levels. Every Module should be exciting to unlock and provide some value in at least one game mode immediately, even at level 1.

New modules being added 

We will be experimenting with a lot of new Modules in Dark Nebula, some of which will make it into the final version. The high level goals for these Modules are the following: 

- To better support diverse loadouts and interesting gameplay in all star types. Especially for PvP modes, having more Weapon/Shield/Combat loadout options would make those star types far more exciting to play. We want to make Modules that are fun both to play with, and against other players (i.e. powerful Modules that also have powerful counters). 

- To provide a more exciting progression through all the available Red Star levels. We want to avoid the current situation where certain Red Star levels unlock mostly useless modules, or even no modules at all. Reaching a new Red Star level should always be an exciting time, and the new Modules at that level should be a big part of this. 

- To support the evolving economy, including Hydrogen (there will be a lot of experimentation with Yellow and Red star mining modules) and Credits (base shipment payouts and different shipment bonus modules will be re-evaluated, with potential for new modules as well). 

Providing Module Feedback

The simplest and most useful feedback you can give while playing Dark Nebula, for any available module, is this: Would you want to upgrade this Module to the maximum level? If not, why? 

After you identify that module, the best thing to do is move on and test the next module, assuming you want to give the best feedback possible. The vast majority of players are stuck in the "single loadout" mindset and never change modules or really test anything. Extremely valuable modules such as Alpha Shield were never touched in the first week of Early Access, until the values came up artificially to force people to notice the module. Increasing the values to unreasonable levels to force people to test a module is one way to get the module noticed and tested, but it's also very time consuming and will invalidate a lot of the testing when values come back to reasonable values. So if you can, try to take initiative in testing modules nobody else is testing. It will help the update and is your best chance to personally affect the update. 

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