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What's around the corner?

We've been pretty silent on development for the last few months, and I wanted to take a moment to shed a little light on a few of the things you may see in the near future.

Several projects have been taking up development time, some of which are externally-related projects that are still secret, and others have been a critical "cleanup" and housekeeping of certain game related features. The process of building and releasing a game across so many platforms can be challenging, so some work to make the system more manageable was sorely needed. We also have some servers that require upgrades, and other chores that take up time, but don't directly impact the game in any visible way. We did a lot of this work over the past summer, and while some of this work is still on-going, at this point we're aiming to dig more deeply in gameplay-related changes.

So, without further ado, here are a few of those projects in the works (for the next few weeks):

New ships, new graphics assets. We're making changes to the engine to allow us to do a lot more dynamic creation of graphical assets, to better depict a particular enemy pirate clan, or allow a player to configure the "look" of their first constructed station. Our initial experimental implementations of this are the Vulture and the Trident, which have not yet debuted, but hopefully the "new" Vulture will be showing up in the near future.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this development is that we'll be able to create a lot of content procedurally, without increasing download size and even minimizing impact on client memory overhead. That's always been a big struggle for us.. the desire to add a lot of cool looking stuff, to give people more "unique" looking content, but without ending up at a 30GB download like other well-known MMOs.

Lots of bugfixes, some of them greater, others smaller. This spans the distance from gameplay that has had broken aspects for a long time, all the way to low-level architectural improvements to make current and future gameplay possible. A few examples: capship battle scalability, making AWACS radar work properly (a feature of player-capships that is important for the future), etc.

Long-requested feature implementations. Again, some bigger and some smaller, but even the smaller ones could have major ramifications to the universe. Example: fully persistent mines, no longer requiring the player to be present in the given sector. The mines will persist across sector restarts, be destructable by anyone, and will still impact the faction standing of a remote player in the same way as if the mine-laying player had been present for the "kill". Overall, we think mines will open up a lot of interesting tactical potential with minefields, and defense of conquerable assets, will also play into..

Expanding the very nature of weapons and armor. We recently added the ability to differentiate between damage types in weapons and armor. In other words, we can create ship variants that are well-armored against energy weapons, weak against explosions, but fairly tough against collision damage, or any combination thereof. We can make different classes of missiles that do energy damage, or mines that primarily do collision damage along with concussive force. This makes for a more powerful range of options for unique and interesting types of weapons, ships, and challenges. New NPCs could arise that require specific loadouts and tactics to take them down, and new tactics using overlapping fields of mines with different properties.

There's a lot more in the works than just these points, but I'm mentioning these features as I expect you'll see them begin to appear in production over the next few weeks. I don't want to over-promise and under-deliver, but be aware that we are still working on adding more capship stations, re-working the galaxy, economy and faction system, and other Big Stuff. This post isn't about those things, it's about the additions you might actually see This Month.

Now, there is always a certain amount of criticism, even in the face of evident development progress, that some of our choices of development may not be what the game needs the most. That's fair, I get it, and I even agree in many cases. But our allocation of time is based on maximum productivity, not just moving ahead on a linear timeline. If the developer required to do Important Feature X is busy working on a secret external project with a fixed timeline, then I'll allocate our remaining resources to do something smaller or less complicated in the interest of still moving ahead in the meantime. That's just competent project management. It sometimes results in features you didn't-want before the features you do-want, but that's a reality with the small size of our team and varied areas of expertise.

I hope you're all as excited as we are to see how these changes play out in our universe. As always, thanks for playing and supporting us. Take care.

- Guild Software, Inc.