Some thoughts on early access, release dates, the big 1.0

July 21, 2014 in News

Hi guys,

Some of this post will be lifted from a reddit comment I made earlier today. But I felt it was important enough that I should give it a bit more visibility.

I wanted to talk a little bit about early access and how arbitrary both the term ‘finished game’ and the version number 1.0 are when talking about a game like Starbound.

We receive a lot of criticism about pushing back the date of the ‘finished’ version of the game and often people claim we’ve broken a promise by not delivering that finished version already. But what does finished mean here?

The context that’s missing here is that unlike many early access games, the game is already fully playable, and although it doesn’t have everything we want to put in it yet (which is what’s holding it back from a 1.0 release) I feel we could have released what we currently have AS 1.0, outside of early access.

The average amount of play time a Starbound player has built up is around 26 hours, with many players playing for well over 500 hours. (this does not include the launcher being open).

We’re all still trying to figure out just what early access is, at what stage games should go in and out of early access and what the expectations are. As Starbound stands, our sharing of our future plans aside, it could leave early access and be an entirely reasonable stand alone game. The huge number of hours people have poured into it is a testament to that, given that the games purpose is to provide entertainment. Early access for us is a means of showing people that this is a game we’re still working on, that their feedback is important to us and that there are going to be big changes. It absolutely doesn’t devalue what’s there. In fact many publications have chosen to review the game in it’s current state and given it great reviews.

And whilst I’m sorry that we haven’t yet put everything in the game that we’ve mentioned wanting to put into the game, I feel as a developer we’ve chosen to be really open and communicative and that means just talking without overly vetting what we say. Sometimes that means getting excited about a feature we want to put in but it takes a lot longer than we’d planned. Our having plans that haven’t been implemented yet also doesn’t take away from or devalue what is already there.

We’ve been criticised for not updating the game enough, especially as we said that we’d be putting out updates thick and fast. Along side that, we also warned that these updates would be buggy and broken because of the speed at which we were pushing them. We started updating the main game in this way but people quickly lost patience with small / constant / buggy updates and we took the time to move those updates to a new opt-in branch in steam. So the nightly updates *are* the thick and fast, buggy and broken updates we promised. They appear every single day. And the game on the main branch exists as a perfectly playable stand alone whilst we continue to work.

The way games are developed and sold has changed dramatically in recent years and the language we use to describe the state of a game is changing too. What does 1.0 or finished mean now?

1.0 used to be the version at which the game was released and sold. Finished was the point at which a game went on sale. By this old definition Starbound is technically finished. However we’ve obviously decided not to label the game 1.0 or finished. Yet the game is available to buy. So what does 1.0 mean now?

I feel 1.0 is an arbitrary release number and it’s down to us to decide what 1.0 means in the context of our game. If anything, 1.0 exists as a guide for the people that want to wait and play the game when it’s in a state that we are entirely happy with it.

We’ve chosen to keep upping the ante for 1.0, but that absolutely doesn’t mean that what’s available and playable right now is any less a game, any less enjoyable or any less worth the £9 we ask for it.




July 18th Progress – Performance!

July 18, 2014 in News

Hi guys,

So today the tile rendering changes were almost completed. (Just a few bugs left with platforms and pipes).

On a lot of computers you’ll see an absolutely huge performance increase because of this and we’d love to hear about how it works on yours.

So if you’re playing with the nightlies, please give it a go. It should come out some time tonight/tomorrow.

You can find out what FPS you’re getting by using the /debug command and the /togglelogmap command. You’ll see your current FPS displayed under render_fps there. If you want to see what your maximum fps is you can disable vsync via config to hit above 60.

As always, if the game is crashing on startup in the nightlies, just delete the universe and player directories (after backing them up) and delete starbound.config.

Hopefully the performance increase will be as huge as it’s been on our test machines!




July 17th – The challenges of making a microdungeon!

July 17, 2014 in Dev Blog

Hey folks! I’m afraid I don’t have anything terribly exciting to report today as I’ve continued chipping away at the same task I have been for the past week, which is making more cool stuff to find underground.

I must confess, it’s been a bit tricky working on underground content of this nature. These things can’t be terribly big and it’s not really possible to know what kind of terrain to expect around a given piece without manually painting it yourself, and doing so can cause a couple of distinct problems.

First, it can drastically decrease the ability for any given microdungeon to appear, as it tends to result in increasingly larger pieces. The smaller a microdungeon is, the higher its success rate of it spawning. The other problem is chiefly that manually carving out the surrounding terrain to form the kind of shapes you want can be really time-consuming, and that clashes with the objective of pumping the underground full of as many of these things as possible. As a result, I tend to keep the shaping of terrain around these things fairly minimal.

For now, I’ll be continuing to work as I have until I’m needed on the progression stuff again. Allow me to leave you with a sample of one of the many Avian microdungeons I designed today.

Surprise Guest Incoming

Most microdungeons won’t be as easy to spot as this one. ;)
Until next time guys!

July 16th Progress

July 16, 2014 in News

A lot of work has gone in to the gate system today. We’ve been designing exactly how it should look and producing mockups. Most of the art here is George’s but I wanted to show you what we had so far.

It’ll likely change a bit by the time it’s finished.



Click for full sized gif!

July 15 – Everything changed when the tile rendering system attacked

July 15, 2014 in Dev Blog, News

As you’ve heard from metadept and omni, I’ve been working on a *complete* rewrite of the tile rendering engine.  The old code was a nightmare of huge repeated hard coded blocks of logic, had long standing bugs, was *dog* slow, and was actually 3 systems running in parallel (one for regular materials, one for platforms, and one for neighbor based tiles like pipes).  I’m nearly finished now with a brand new system, replacing the old complicated set of systems with one simple(r) rule based system that is about a 10th the size in terms of lines of code.

Even though the new renderer is running the new tile neighbor rules system for every single tile every single frame, the fullscreen cpu usage of starbound has actually gone *down* by about 30%*.  The next step is to add caching of chunks into the system so that the geometry for each chunk is re-used for future frames if the chunk has not changed (the system was designed from the start with this in mind).  This should further reduce the cpu usage *dramatically*.

This isn’t committed quite yet, as there are some small missing graphical features which would freak the artists out like not color shifting the materials properly and messed up preview tiles.  Once those small issues are fixed, and caching is added, it can be committed to master.  I’m hoping I can finish this up by early tomorrow, and I should have some better performance numbers then.

(*) The 30% figure is partially due to the new tile rendering system and partially due to some other related changes which also improve perf, it’s hard to tease out which is which.

HALFWAY by Robotality!

July 15, 2014 in News

Happy Tuesday, guys! I’ve got some more exciting publishing news– last one for a bit, actually, but it’s exciting stuff!


Halfway is a turn-based strategy RPG taking place a few hundred years into the future. Humanity has branched out and begun to colonise new worlds and until now, they were alone.

In Halfway, you take control of a small team of survivors faced with a violent invasion onboard the colonial vessel Goliath. As their leader, you will guide them through the dark and cramped corridors of the ship in an effort to reclaim control of your ship.

If you have any hope of surviving, you’ll need to fight for your life, face your fears and outsmart the enemy!

Halfway will be released on Steam and Humble Store next Tuesday, 22 July 2014 for Windows, Mac and Linux with modding support in the form of a campaign editor coming out soon after release. The game will cost $12.99/£9.99 with a -10% launch discount. Go check out their new website and participate in discussion over on their new forums. :)

Key Features

  • Tactical turn-based battles are at the core of Halfway. Use cover, position, equipment and skills to your advantage in your battles.
  • Unique characters: Your team is formed of unique characters you pick up along the way. Each one of them brings their own story, skills and experiences to the journey.
  • Find yourself in the middle of an engrossing story-line. Step by step you’ll uncover the mysterious events that took place and what it means for you and all of humanity.
  • Mod support coming soon! Map and campaign editor soon to be released.

Halfway was developed by Robotality- an independent game development studio founded at the beginning of 2013 and consisting of two brothers, Simon and Stefan Bachmann. They’ve worked together for the last year and a half to produce a fantastic (and gorgeous!) strategy game. Check out the launch trailer:

More information:

Halfway Website
Robotality Blog
@Robotality on Twitter

Halfway on Steam


July 14 – Works in Progress

July 15, 2014 in Dev Blog

Today’s been a typically busy Monday so we didn’t get around to making any flashy GIFs, but here are a few highlights of the day’s development:

  • I’ve been fixing bugs with flying monster behavior, working with kyren to make some big improvements to the Lua entity queries, and playing around with skill balance for small monsters
  • Kyren is continuing her rework and optimization of the tile rendering system
  • OmnipotentEntity is updating and improving the status effect and character status system
  • Supernorn added some new, more military-styled human armors
  • Armagon added more microdungeons to improve underground variety
  • GeorgeV is still working on some major progression-related art that I probably shouldn’t spoil
  • …lots of other bits that I’m sure I’m forgetting. Good night, everyone!

EDIT: Didn’t see Omni’s post when I wrote this so there’s some overlap, but better two posts than none I suppose!

July 14 – Random bits and pieces

July 14, 2014 in Dev Blog

Friday and today I spent most of the day conceptualizing and designing a major change to how Stats and StatusEffects are handled, to make them simplier, data-driven, and lua-capable. I sent it to the other coders for review before I start replacing our current system.

I’ve been kind of out of the loop with most of what’s happening with the rest of the team as a result. Reading through the commit logs, it looks like kyren was doing some cleanup and optimization around how entity lookup queries are handled. Likely as a short brain break because it looks like she’s still tackling TileRendering. It looks like Armagon is adding a bunch of interesting microdungeons for Apex inhabited worlds. And it looks like community member Kawa’s patch to make human hair accessories match undy color was accepted and pushed by Metadept (Thanks Kawa!) And a few other things.

July 11 – Big Birds

July 11, 2014 in Dev Blog

Greetings from London! I’m here in the office for a few weeks, so Tiy and I have been talking a lot about our plans for monsters and making more big changes. Many players seem to be having trouble with the current monsters, especially at the very beginning of the game or when beaming down to new planets, so we’ve been reworking the difficulty to provide a smoother ramp up into the game. One component of this will be changes to the spawning system to prevent monsters from clustering around the beam down point and to make their levels scale more with biome depth. Another component involves changes to the monster types and how they relate.

Small monster variants are going to be weaker, more common, and have a very limited selection of attacks (no projectile attacks, for example). Large monster variants will be rarer and stronger, with more special attacks and abilities. We may also try returning to the ‘family’ concept for monsters, where small and large variants correspond to each other directly, possibly even advancing from the smaller variants to their larger counterparts under certain conditions. I’ve gone through and made the existing biped and quadruped types consistently named and structured to facilitate this change, and I’m working on changing the spawning changes as well.

The main thing I did, however, was implement the large flying monsters that we’ve just finished the art for! Similar to the ground monster types, these are much larger, stronger, and rarer than their small brethren, and we’ve removed projectile attacks from the small flyers to compensate. Here’s one example to show just how much bigger and more detailed they are:

Have a great weekend, everyone!

July 10th Update

July 11, 2014 in Dev Blog

Hey guys! Looks like nobody stepped up to write the update today! Allow me to remedy that situation. :)

Afraid I can’t get too in-depth on what everybody else was doing, as I was mostly continuing with the work I described on Tuesday. I did however spend some time helping folks out with their tasks, so I’ll give you a quick summary of what I know!

– George has been working on a whole bunch of stuff. He’s updated a number of our outpost objects to look even slicker than before, as well as some really cool stuff related to the spoiler-laden post written by Tiy yesterday. If you want the progression kept a surprise, I don’t recommend reading it!

– Kyren has continued to work hard on our new tile rendering code. To my non-coder brain it looks incredibly complex, but by the time she’s finished, the game’s performance overall should be markedly better, which is always nice!

– Metadept continued his excellent work with the monsters. Now once a monster goes aggressive, they will remain aggressive unless you trigger them into a fleeing state (which not every monster will be smart/cowardly enough to do).

I’m afraid I don’t know what everybody else was working on, as I tend to get pretty absorbed in my own stuff. It’s not much, but here’s a small sample of the kind of things you can expect to start finding deep underground. We want to add some entirely unique, non-racial stuff too, but for now, this is what I’ve got to show.

A single scientist, deep underground?

I’m always open to any feedback, positive or negative. What kind of things would you like to find deep underground?

Until next time!