One Year in Early Access Update

It’s been a full year since Starcom: Unknown Space entered Early Access, so instead of the regular weekly update, I decided this was a good time to do another progress update.

First, overall I feel very good about the state of the game. While Betelgeuse (the first Early Access release) was solid, there were a number of design issues that needed addressing, primarily with exploration and guidance. Ganymede made significant improvements in the exploration aspect, but suffered from a number of areas where players would find themselves stuck with no clear path of progression. Icarus, the current build, has now been out for over a month and while there are still a few areas where players can get stuck, overall the mission system has gotten better at giving players the ability to progress the story.

Also, the amount of content in the game has expanded significantly. I’ll go into detail in a bit, but a first-time player of Betelgeuse took about 8 hours to consume the main content, while a first-time player of Icarus takes about 21.

Currently, I am focusing on late-game content. I have a goal of getting an ending to the story into the game with the next named update (Jupiter), even if it’s just a first draft. We’ll have to see how progress goes, that may turn out to be too optimistic. This may mean there’s a longer gap until the next opt-in build is available. This makes sense for another reason: when the game was 8 hours long, adding 2 hours of content to the game felt significant and a big reason for players to do another playthrough. As the game has gotten bigger, the same amount of content is a smaller percentage of the whole. (Eventually the game will reach a point where all new content is save-compatible and there will be less reason to hold builds to batch content, but we’re not there yet.)

Early Access Progress Stats

The following progression is to give players a rough sense of the amount of content that has been added since the start of Early Access. Anomalies are the number of 

different planetary and space anomalies the player may investigate. Mission logic elements are the smallest unit of “narrative” logic. Words are the total amount of on-screen text the player might see (and will eventually need localization). Median first-time playthrough is the total time first time players take to reach the end game anomaly– I don’t have this stat for every build:

Betelgeuse (Dec 2022, first Early Access version):
75 anomalies
1264 mission logic elements
25,000 words
Median first-time playthrough: 8 hours

Draconis (Jan 2023):
91 anomalies
1516 mission logic elements
29,000 words
Median first-time playthrough: 12 hours

Europa (Mar 2023):
111 possible anomalies
1839 mission logic elements
36,000 words

Fornax (May 2023):
120 possible anomalies
1990 mission logic elements
40,000 words

Ganymede (June 2023):
145 anomalies
2390 mission logic elements
48,000 words
Median first-time playthrough: 16 hours

Icarus (latest opt-in build):
179 anomalies
3339 mission logic elements
60,000 words
Median first-time playthrough: 21 hours

For comparison, Starcom: Nexus had ~195 anomalies and 65,000 words (it used a different mission logic system so the numbers are not comparable, but it had considerably less mission logic than Unknown Space does now).

I want to stress that I’m not too focused on numerical metrics of content like how many anomalies or planets, but I include them to give players a sense of overall progress.

Weekly Update

Every Friday I try to post an update of what I’ve worked on in the past week, included here:

  • Updated the default Icarus build to 15019, fixing a number of minor issues and adding experimental localization
  • Created some additional conversation options for Captain Dolson on the universe’s lore
  • Several additional anomalies
  • Continued work on the late-game story/missions

Thanks for reading and thanks for playing Starcom: Unknown Space!