Countdown Commence

Hi everyone, and welcome to the last update of 2014.

Not only is this the last update of 2014, it’s the last update before the full release of our parent product Elite Dangerous. For this update I thought I would do something a little different and showcase the home system designed specifically for the RPG and named by top pledger Truls Bjorvik.

First, a progress update. The run up to Christmas is always a busy one for the project and for real life stuff too, so the writing tends to suffer a bit (as I learned last year) as my time is devoted to planning, buying and collecting various gifts and other things that make Christmas the boundless joy that it is. Please read the previous paragraph with a reasonable amount of sarcasm.

I’m not a big fan of the festive season, it has to be said. It’s for the kids. All I know is that the tasks that need to be fulfilled have been a distraction I don’t need. Despite all that, some work has been done, including some unexpected reworking that came out of the live sessions played with the Lave Radio guys and the “Anniversary Crew” as I call them.

The big thing that has come from the playtesting I’ve been doing online as well as by myself at home has been that there are several elements of the game that are overly complex and don’t fit well into the online sessions. One of those is the use of nine basic vital statistics. It always worried me that there were nine basic stats – that seemed to be a lot, and some of them just had that feel of being put in there to make up the numbers. Playtesting highlighted that some of them were overused whilst some were never used at all. Nociception was one of the latter, there just in case someone was in pain – isn’t that a bit TOO specific?

So I embarked on a couple of days worth of reworking for the Vital Stats to make the system more flexible and, well, simpler whilst still retaining the same core idea. Whilst I was at it, I found that a slight refocus of the Aptitudes concept worked really well with the concept of concentrating the statistics – my original idea for the Aptitudes was that they would tie directly into the vital stats, but it was an unworkable idea with nine stats to worry about. Reducing the stats made that idea possible again, meaning that the stats could be supplemented with related Aptitudes that were closely linked to the character’s abilities rather than learned skills.

The upshot of all that thinking and working stuff out is that there is a new base Vital Statistic system that uses three stat values instead of 9 – the Game Development Forum pledgers have been made aware of the proposal and as part of their pledge have been given a detailed outline of the concept and have the opportunity to try it out and change or criticise as they see fit. So far, oddly, they have remained ominously quiet (and haven’t even downloaded the concept document). Hopefully their mention in this update might remind them they have the opportunity to be at the bleeding edge of RPG development. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So what are the new stat names? They are BODY, MIND and SENSES. The more I type that without having to look them all up, the more happy I am. ๐Ÿ™‚

Another aspect of the game that was highlighted as needing work was the body armour allocation and damage tracking. I’ve redesigned the way the Record Sheet records armour values and locations. The trouble is that this has pushed a complete redesign of the character sheet, resulting in the vehicle record information needing to be farmed out to another separate sheet.

The new armour record and vital statistics proposal were tested for the first time on Saturday with the Anniversary Crew (James “OneVigor” Vigor, Dan “Fantastic Publishing” Grubb, Anthony “Elite Archives” Olver and Ben “Lave Radio Broadcaster” Moss-Woodward) with what I think was a fair success. It was easier for me as a GM to allocate which stat was needed for a task and, unlike the 9-stat system, there was never a time where there wasn’t a stat that didn’t cover the task at hand. It also seemed to flow better with the group and I think that it made the remote management of stats and rolls a lot smoother. It also makes it much easier to roll up NPCs.

THe two main areas of the game that have been worked on this last month (when I’m not at launch events) have been the space travel and technology descriptions and the ship equipment lists. This also means that some of the ship information has had to be changed. This all knocks on to a lot of rewriting and reworking of concepts for the ship and vehicle rules. I’ll be honest, I’m still not happy with the complexity of the vehicle rules – they seem to be growing more complex by the day. The last two days, for example, have involved a detailed look at power allocation in Elite Dangerous to see if the model can be emulated in Elite Encounters. At the moment the power points in the vehicle and ship rules are arbitrarily decided based on the size of the ship (it’s a formula based on the hull size). It’s not perfect, and a look at the Elite Dangerous “Power Plant” specifications shows that it’s just not good enough. The power plant and power distribution systems work together to determine how much power the ship has, and that has, to some extent, been reflected in the EE rules. It’s missing a key point, however, and that’s the flexibility that Elite Dangerous has in its power plant stats. 3 key stats contain information about how much power a power plant has: class, rating and integrity. These combine to give a power rating and a cost for the unit. The EE method doesn’t come close to representing that, and it’s just not good enough.

The new vehicle record sheet design is actually providing a great method to work these problems out: making it easy to read on the sheet is important, and it can graphically represent how the systems work together. So at the moment that’s the focus on the design: using the vehicle record sheet to integrate the Elite Dangerous equipment mechanics into the EE system. And so far it’s working much better than the Excel spreadsheet of algorithms that have gone into the working out of completely arbitrary values. Go figure.

So, as promised, a look at the Morten-Marte system. Up until this point Morten-Marte has only existed inside my installation of SpaceEngine – now, with the release of the Elite Dangerous Gamma, Morten-Marte can now be travelled to in one’s trusty Cobra Mk III!

And there it is – the first look at the name “Morten-Marte” in the game. Truls Bjorvik asked me to name the system after his two children, Morten and Marte. An awesome way to immortalise your family and something I’m proud to have been a part of.

The orange dwarf, listed in the system’s description as “Morten-Marte-A” is called simply “Morten” by the inhabitants of the system. The smaller white dwarf star (Morten-Marte-B) is named “Marte”. The colonists tell their children fairy tales that Morten and Marte are naughty gods who chase each other across the stars.

Sometimes Marte gets scared and hides. The two stars are in orbit of each other, and they complete a full revolution around each other in only a few hours. This gives the inhabitants of the system’s planet a very interesting daytime sky.

The system’s only planet, Cullen, is home to a sparse population spread across a wide area of the main continent. Even with a relatively low population, multiple governments have begun to form, including a communist-styled nation and one based on a civilian meritocratic ideal.

Snowdon station serves as a hub for trade and diplomacy there, as various factions try to entice the governments of this relatively unstable system over to one side or the other.

To The End

Well, that’s it for this update. The last thing I want to note is a follow-up to my post last time about being interviewed for Rock Paper Shotgun at the Elite Dangerous Launch Event. The podcast is now up and I’m proud to reveal that my soundbite was one of the ones used! You can find the podcast here – my spot is quite near the end.

How can I forget! The Anniversary Crew played another session of the RPG this weekend. If you keep an eye on the OneVigor YouTube feed over the next few days, I’m sure James will be getting the vlog of the session up there once it’s done. 

In other game news, check out the latest Limit Theory update over at Josh Parnell’s website. The progress on the Limit Theory game is nothing short of spectacular. It’s going to be a great game, rivalling even Elite Dangerous for its breathtaking visuals, made all the more amazing by knowing that Josh has designed and built this game on his own. Astounding work. Josh is building a single-player offline game, so if you’re one of the few who have been disappointed by the lack of offline play in Elite Dangerous, then I can recommend LT as a good replacement. Either that of get your offline jollies with Elite Encounters when it’s released! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Until next year, RPG Fans. All the best for the festive season and see you in 2015.