DevLog #3 – Back to Prototyping a Space Force Roguelike

Hello everyone!

A month ago, I released a pre-alpha build for my new game Comet Force. Today, let’s talk more about about the state of this project!

First, I want to thank everyone who gave the early version a try! Overall, I received only a few feedback, because I actually made very little promotion for this pre-alpha. The reason is that I was not fully happy with the current direction of the game at the time of the release. So I was not really motivated to push the visibility. But I think it was still interesting to get the build out there to reach a milestone and step back from development to reflect on the project. Meanwhile, I was able to work on updates for Destroy The Monoliths, including a new gamemode!

Back to Prototyping

With more hindsight, I was able to pinpoint what was bothering me in the current version of Comet Force. During prototyping, the game had more mechanics, like exploration, management or even mining. In the end, I stripped most of it to make it revolve almost only around fighting. I feel the project was heading very much towards a bullet heaven, for instance like Boneraiser Minions. This genre has its audience, but I’m not a huge fan of it. That’s not what I was aiming for, it didn’t fit my vision. I needed to make changes to the core mechanics. So I got back into prototyping!

Raising the Stakes for Troop Members losses

I didn’t like that only the leader of the troop was at risk during fights. I think it was lowering the stakes. Besides, some classes were far more powerful to use as troop members. This would lead to some weird strategic choices in my opinion. So I decided to make all members vulnerable to damage during fights. But they behave in automatic mode so this creates some frustration with unavoidable damage.

My initial try to address that was to experiment with a different type of fights, kind of hybrid between real-time and turn-based. But I wasn’t sold and quickly scrapped this idea.

Experimenting with a real-time grid based battle (scrapped in the end)

Another solution is to make members not die definitely but just be out for a while and eventually respawn. Either in the same fight like the party members in CrossCode, or for next fights, with maybe some penalty, like in Wildfrost. This is a good approach I think, but I decided to experiment one more thing: lean towards the RTS genre. The idea is that a member can die definitely, but this is expected at they are one among many, and you constantly have to replenish your troops. This is closer to The Unliving for instance.

Leading a large troop of space ships looks fun!

The latter is finally what I decided to go for. I think this feels very satisfying to play the leader of a troop and have many ships following you and fighting. One difference with The Unliving is that the fighting space in Comet Force has no obstacle, so I should be able to avoid the many pathfinding issues that got it mixed reviews on Steam.

Adding Building and Camp Management

While playing the pre-alpha, I noticed I was always picking the upgrades related to fighting. And I was ignoring those related to events. This was an issue, as the FTL-like events were supposed to be a big part of the game. I decided to scrap that and once again get inspiration from the RTS genre. Similarly to Thronefall, there are now some predefined buildings spots where you can place buildings. These allow to recruit new troop members, heal, get upgrades, increase the troop capacity, etc. The spots are on an outer circle not accessible during combat as the limits shrink when fighting an enemy wave.

Setting up a camp around the battle arena

So you have to decide how to spend your money to build your camp and manage your troop. This introduces more strategy, and I like this direction. I think Destroy The Monoliths was more on the action side, and I would like Comet Force to have a more balanced mix of action and strategy. However, I will have to introduce some elements to make it fit into the roguelike formula and avoid having players always build their camp the same way. I am thinking about adding a building upgrade system in the future to address that. Also, I could add some predefined building spots on the very edge of the arena (or even inside) to have some fighting turrets. So buildings could play a more direct role in combat too.

Buildings give possibilities to manage the leader and the troop

What is next?

Now that the game is back on track to fit a vision I really appreciate, the motivation has been more present. I am thus making really good progress on this project! My top priorities for the upcoming weeks are the two following:

  • Getting a Steam page up. It is important to have a store page early to share when communicating about the project, as it allows to start building wishlist counts. I need to update some info I had already filled in my draft, and add more missing. The tough part will be to edit a mini-trailer.
  • Releasing a new pre-alpha. I need to add a few more core features, and also do a lot of cleaning to remove or change old content no longer relevant. But I will get there, as I am very interested for your feedback. I will probably release this pre-alpha both on itch.io and Steam (as a playtest).

With the Steam page up and the new pre-alpha build out, I will then have more material to communicate about the game, get in touch with content creators, and start growing a community around the project.

The current capsule for the future Steam page!

It’s time to get back to work! As always, I will keep you updated about my progress, so thanks for reading this post, and see you next time for more news!

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