Closed Beta: First Reactions

This is my first blog update on Starcom: Unknown Space since the game’s announcement. In the meantime, I’ve been hard at work on… just about everything: features, bug fixes, content, marketing, etc. The biggest thing has been starting closed betas. (If you’re interested in participating, you can still sign-up on the sequel survey page.)

So far I’ve done two small-ish rounds of closed betas, getting feedback from a couple dozen players. Overall, I’m pleased to say that they are happy with the new game. I’ve tried keep the heart of the game the same, while creating a new story. There have been few game breaking bugs and most of the feedback has been either a) minor bugs that should be easy to fix, or b) features that haven’t been implemented yet. Generally, most of the systems and features seem pretty solid and polished.

Playtesters: Breaking stuff figuratively and literally.

Two issues that are bigger than minor bugs are:

  1. Several players commented that the opening of the game feels very much like the opening of Starcom: Nexus. This is something I’ve been conscious of– the first 20-30 minutes hit a lot of the same story beats because I think Nexus did a good job of introducing the core mechanics and putting the player in a new universe with a Starcom base. This sets up the kind of exploration/discovery story I want to tell and I think players want to experience. I’ll be paying close attention in subsequent beta rounds on whether players feel elements in Starcom: Unknown Space have too much in common with those in Nexus.
  2. Movement being too slow. Ship speed is one area that I’ve devoted a lot of attention to, both in Starcom: Nexus and Unknown Space. While players have a range of preferences, there is a range of speeds that feel good in combat. Players should start at the low end of that range, then be able to gradually progress toward the upper end depending on their tech and build choices. At the same time, space should feel large but exploration shouldn’t feel tedious. Apparently star systems had crept up in size from Nexus leading to star systems taking twice as long to explore. I’ve also changed the “void effect” formula (which allows for faster speeds when not near other objects). So I’m compactifying systems and tweaking ship speeds, but will need more playtesting on this.

But overall, the feedback I’ve received makes me feel that I’m on the right track to create a great game that keeps the best parts of Starcom: Nexus while giving a new experience. I plan to conduct several more rounds of closed betas before entering Early Access to get a wider range of opinions and to make sure the foundation is rock solid. I’m also trying to add some beta testers who haven’t played Starcom: Nexus. If you have any suggestions were to look, shoot me an email or leave a comment in the Steam discussion forum.

Next time I plan to talk about some of the new features in Starcom: Unknown Space. Until next time!