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I'm a programmer making Starmancer. It's a Dwarf Fortress style space sim made in Unity. We've raised over $75k so far. AMA!

Mar 1st 2018 by starmancergame • 16 Questions • 91 Points

My short bio: My name is Tyler, and I've been making Starmancer for over 3 years. I'm making it with Victor, an artist from Sweden. We met over 6 years ago while working on a Minecraft mod and have been making games together ever since.

More personally: I was an Intelligent Analyst in the Army, I type in Dvork, and I have Celiac's disease (the pooping kind, not the "I'll still have croutons in my salad" kind)

My Proof:

I'm a mod of the Starmancer subreddit

Tweet about this AMA

Kickstarter Update

Q:

Is there a game design document in place, or are you making it up as you go along? If the former, how fleshed out is it? If the latter, how do you avoid going off on an tangent and losing sight of the goal?

PS. I'm glad Linux is being treated as a first class citizen for a change during a Kickstarter

A:

We use Asana to plan everything out. We specifically use Asana because it's free and it was available back in 2012.

Victor and I plan out what "big picture" elements we want to implement in a 3-month period. We roughly prioritize each month.

Every month, we plan out "small" elements, that will both reinforce the month goal and the quarter goal.

Every week, we specifically figure out which tasks we'll work on to implement the "small" elements.

Victor and I are always working on the same thing (within a few days of each other, at least).

We try to make everything as releasable as possible before moving on to something else.

We avoid planning out specifics until the last minute. Detailed long term planning isn't usually very helpful, because things change.

Our next monthly goals are:

  1. Design UI
  2. Implement Modding
  3. Implement Saving/Loading

(not everything fits into exactly 1 month goals)


Q:

1: What programming languages do you know?

2: What has been the biggest challenge so far for you in making the game?

3: Has the game lived up to your own expectations so far?

4: Any tips for programming? I'm 14 and I take it as a GCSE.

A:
  1. Honestly, most programming languages are the same. Syntax changes, but concepts are the same. I have the most experience with C, C++, C#, Java, and VB.

  2. Making a game is difficult. The most difficult thing for me is integrating new mechanics into the game in a way that keeps the entire experience fun. For example, we have food decay, but if the player isn't appropriately taught and given feedback, food decay will just be annoying.

  3. I'm proud of the game so far, but I do wish that development could be faster at times. Making a game takes a lot of time

  4. Programming is a skill, and like any skill, it gets better through use. If you want to get better at programming, program. Being smart might make it easier to program, but you don't need to be smart to be a good programmer. In fact, flexing your "genius" when programming will usually result in no one understanding what your code is supposed to do (including future-you)


Q:

I'm a backer, making a colonist. Just curious, but how long can we make the 'short' bio?

A:

Around 5 sentences. You can certainly make it longer, if you want (it would actually be funny if some colonists had elaborately long backstories).

We're going to paraphrase the actual words that you write, so that all bios have a consistent feel to them.

All of the key details will remain, but the specific words might change.

If the short bio is well written, we won't change any words.

We'll be sending out more specifics once the campaign is over.


Q:

Hello,

I'm a backer and already have a few hours with the creative demo. I have just a few questions:

  1. Of the rooms/objects currently in the build how many more (if any) do you plan to add on release. Are there plans for more rooms/objects post release.

  2. Is there any sort of campaign planned taking place over multiple missions? Or is it more the DF/Rimworld style of open sandbox with each playthrough having it's own unique randomly generated stories. Also is it the plan that the player will play until they are overwhelmed or more designed to allow the player to achieve their own goals.

  3. Save games plz

A:

Thanks for backing.

  1. We'll be adding more objects before release. We add new objects as needed when we work on new content. In the short term we'll be adding exercise machines and virtual reality machines.

  2. I would personally like to have roller coaster tycoon style missions (in addition to a sandbox mode). We also want to have victory conditions similar to Civilization. Things like, "terraform a planet", "kill all humans", "take over every other station". You will get a small pop-up when you "win", and can continue playing.

  3. Saving is coming. It's one of the first things that we'll be working on once the Kickstarter is finished.


Q:

what Minecraft mod was it? :P

A:

The Wastes

It was never finished. We started making our own little games in our spare time instead


Q:

(Programmer here) Can I help somehow? (for free of course) been following you on a while on twitter :)

A:

We really need help with making sure that the modding docs make sense and that the modding API is easy to understand.

We'll have more specifics on that around our Alpha launch (about 2 months after the end of the Kickstarter).

I want a complete outsiders perspective. It's impossible for me to determine if the modding API makes sense, because I wrote the entire thing.


Q:

How much autonomy are you planning on giving colonists? Will we be able to directly command them to do specific tasks, or do you want our job as the player to do less micromanaging colonists and more creating an environment or policies that will influence the colonists to behave how we hope?

A:

We want the game to feel something like an ant farm, where you don't have to micromanage if you don't want to.

At the same time, we want players to be able to micromanage if they want to.

From a practical standpoint, it's unlikely that we can make the colonists smart enough to never need a bit of micromanaging (but that's our goal). Providing the player with some direct control will help to alleviate shortcomings in the colonist A.I.

But an important element of these games is when your colonists do something that they weren't supposed to do, and chaos ensues.

In general, our rule is that you give colonists commands, and it's up to them to obey.


Q:

Hey! Excited about your game!

Do you have an idea of how many colonists a player will be able to have at the same time? Any design choices you plan on making to increase that number?

How is combat going to work, is there a cover system, will there be abilities?

How does leaving your station work, can you set up away teams to go mine other asteroids? Can you watch it happen?

A:
  1. The only limit that we'll place on colonists is a technical one. You grow colonists in tanks and give them a consciousness from Earth, so there will reach a point where you can quickly get more colonists. The body creation will both take time and be costly, though.

  2. Combat right now uses a cover system, where colonists try to shoot at each other from behind objects (instead of standing in the open). Our long term plan is for the player to issue macro commands like "defend this spot", and for the colonists to automatically do it. We would like to avoid being able to directly control colonists.

  3. Colonists leave the station in ships and perform "rabbit hole" activities. These are similar to jobs in the The Sims. The player doesn't get to see where the colonists actually go.

There are 2 types of missions: Quests and Player-Created.

Quests are automatically created by factions (sort of like mission prompts in FTL)

Player created quests are currently:

  1. Mining
  2. Scavenge / Raid
  3. Explore
  4. Diplomatic

At any time, the player can create a mining mission to any valid target. The player then selects the ships and the crew.

Ships have unique stats as well. The current stats are:

  1. Attack Power
  2. Hull Durability
  3. Speed
  4. Crew Capacity
  5. Cargo Capacity

Missions can require any set of skills, including colonist skills. Exceeding the recommended skill level improves success. Being under the recommended skill level decreases success chance.


Q:

Thanks for the Info!

Will friendly NPC factions ever visit your station? Can players interact with these NPC's; Taverns, Inns, Entertainment?

A:

One of our plans after release is to add a feature where foreign colonists visit your station.

You'll be able to create a space tavern, repair port, or some sort of tourist resort.

For now, though, only traders will visit your station.


Q:
  1. Is the station you control in a faction or is it 'neutral'?
  2. Can you join a faction?
A:

You exist as your own entity, but you can join a faction.

Joining a faction will cause that faction to like you more and enemy factions to like you less.

The factions all have relationships with each other (they just have a numerical score from -100 to +100).

Whenever you do something positive to a faction, the other factions will either like you more or less.

Failing a mission will upset the owning faction, but it won't affect relations with other factions.

So only deliberate actions affect the broader factions.


Q:

Great, thank you.

Also, can you create a faction and run/manage it ?

A:

Managing factions isn't planned for release, it might be something that we can do after.

But we'd have to figure out what it means to manage a faction.


Q:

will my colonists die a brutal and gorey death sometimes? thinking alien dinner scene

A:

Yes


Q:

Mechanically are you inspired by Rimworld? It has sold really well despite never being on steam sale and has a thorough and active mod scene, is that something you want to have in your game?

A:

Rimworld has lots of mechanics that we want to have.

Things like character traits, job priorities, and the combat system are all features that we want to add to Starmancer.

But there's no way that we'll have all the features of Rimworld on launch. He's been making that game for years.


Q:

Which keyboard is your favorite? You mention "ergo" keyboard in your bio, do you have a specific one you cuddle every night?

A:

I'm currently using the ErgoDox Ez.

Is it worth it? Probably not.

But neither was the Obutto


Q:

Hey Loving the art and gifs ive seen so far, what was the insperation to the game?

A:

I read a Dwarf Fortress story, Boatmurdered, and fell in love with the stories.

I immediately wanted to make a game that would empower those stories.

I also prefer sci-fi over fantasy


Q:

Why did you and your team select Unity as opposed to other engines? Or writing your own engine from scratch?

A:

Unity provides a nice user interface for everyone on the team.

The artist can easily edit existing content, for example.

With custom engines, we'd either have to spend time creating a nice developer interface or we'd have to deal with very rudimentary file editing.