Category: Empyrean Frontier

All units now have a “Shields” healthbar in addition to the regular healthbar. Damage is applied to shields first; once the shields for a particular unit have been completely depleted, it will begin taking hull damage (note that groups have separate shields for each ship, and the displayed shields and health bars are the sum of all current units in the group.) Unlike health, shields naturally recharge over time. Additionally, during the campaign player fleet units will start with 25% shields, while enemy units with start with 0/50/100% depending on the difficulty level.

The addition of shields changes the game’s balance by essentially doubling units’ max health resulting in higher survivability and longer battles. Some units (such as the bomb frigate) have had their health or damage changed to maintain game balance. In addition to the extra health, there is now an additional damage reduction effect that occurs when an attack fully depletes a unit’s shields.

When an attack depletes the shields to 0, the remaining damage will be applied to health after being multiplied by:

(1 – (pre-attack shield health / max shield health))

This damage calculation is primarily intended to re-balance anti-frigate weapons against fighters, since high damage anti-frigate projectiles will now always take 2 shots to destroy a fighter with full shields, while having little effect on their dps against targets with much higher health.

In addition, this update adds a new flagship module: the Shield Recharge Module. This module enables the player to use an ability that partially recharges the shields of all units in the target area. As a defensive ability, it can be very useful in keeping units alive during battles. The idea of “healing” abilities such as this is something I’m looking to expand upon in future updates, including new buildable combat units that have a similar role, either through passive effects or active abilities.

This update also included a lot of less visible changes. I implemented a new version of the units panel and the actions panel (that display the currently selected units and their abilities on the bottom bar.) Now, all the relevant icons will be shown in a scroll panel, that will allow the player to scroll up/down if a very large number of unit types are selected (the old version would only display a limited number of these icons before they started being hidden behind the minimap.) I also did some refactoring to bring more unit type data such as icons and descriptions into a single file. Not a visible change, but this makes it a lot easier to edit or add new kinds of units to the game. Finally, I managed to implement some moderate optimizations, so the game should run a bit faster, especially on skirmishes with some of the larger maps.

What’s Next:

In the future, as I add more flagship ability modules, I’m also designing an improved interface for accessing these abilities more easily. Right now the player needs to select the desired ability module by itself to see the ability button, so I’m working on a new series of panels that will display all the currently available ability buttons whenever the flagship is in play. This will probably be the next thing I’ll work on after finishing the 4th enemy subfaction/boss that I’m currently working on.

Campaign Changes:

This update adds a new mechanic to the Rogue Fleet campaign: Imperial Armadas. After a set number of turns in each zone, an imperial armada will appear at one of the earlier visited nodes. This idea should be familiar to players who have played games such as FTL. The armada is represented by a red circle, which expands every turn and turns any node within its radius into an imperial controlled node (changes color from gray or yellow to red and adds an orbiting fleet symbol to the affected nodes.)

Campaign Armada

These nodes contain several types of events featuring powerful enemy fleets, which cannot be avoided should the player end up in a node containing the armada. (The pool of node types for the campaign now contains 44 different mission possibilities, including the 3 different end of zone bosses.) Additionally, these nodes introduce a new feature, which I’ll also be adding to some of the more “ambush” like standard nodes as well, where the player’s fleet will be split and only a subset of units (which are chosen for the player by the game) will be present in the battle. This is useful for splitting a large fleet into more manageable unit counts for the battle, and it’s meant to be a punishing mechanic that the player will have to deal with.

I had originally intended for the campaign to exist without an obvious timer mechanic like the growing armada to force the player to move on to the next zone, but it just didn’t feel right. Previously the game had relied on only increasing enemy fleet sizes in order to provide a disincentive from spending too many turns in each zone, but due to the difficulties in balancing that growth rate (plus the addition in the previous updates of nodes with a limited unit count) the campaign tended to snowball into being either too easy or too hard depending on how well the players managed to grow their fleets. Although it isn’t the most original idea, the imperial armada seems to provide a clearer and fairer experience in recent playtesting.

Formation Move Improvements:

This update also adds a new type of move order with a new hotkey. Once the player has organized their fleet into the desired formation, they can now tell all selected units to move at the same speed in formation to the target area, as shown in the demonstration video below:

This tool should be useful for maintaining formations (preventing the fastest units from pushing their way to the front, for example.) The default hotkey combination for this is Ctrl + Alt combined with clicking the right mouse button. The player can also hold down the right mouse button and drag the cursor to rotate the formation.

Campaign Battle Result Screen:

This update also adds 2 additional tabs to the battle results screen that is displayed after the player completes any node event during the campaign. The first tab shows all units lost during the battle, while the second displays an animated chart showing the experience gained by each unit, and whether any of them have increased in rank. Additionally, each unit’s current veterancy rank (if it is greater than 0) is now displayed in all fleet scroll panels in the campaign menu.

Experience Gains

Bug Fixes:

Most of these updates have involved some kind of bug fixing, as is to be expected of a game in development. The most notable fix in this update is to prevent a crash that occurred when the player completed a mission and returned to the campaign menu, only while certain screen recording software such as Fraps was running. This update should solve that problem for those wishing to make video recordings of their gameplay during the campaign. Other notable changes include better text scaling for aspect ratios wider than 16:9 and fixing a bug where the AI wasn’t as aggressive as it should have been during planetary battles from the solar system skirmish.

What’s Next:

The Corporate Zones:

The Union campaign will be divided into 3 different Zone types: the Frontier Zones, which are populated mostly by pirate factions, the Corporate Zones (which are predictably full of corporate factions,) and the core Imperial Zone.

For the most part, the corporate zones and factions will be similar to the already implemented pirates. One key difference is that Corporate factions will primarily use the Empire’s units and structures (as opposed to pirates who use the Union’s unit types.) Additionally, as the player gets farther into the campaign, I plan to emphasize missions that involve more base building, although simple tactical fleet battles will still be possible.

Additional Campaign Factions:

The Corporate Zone will have its own set of factions, much like the pirate factions. I’m currently working on 2 additional pirate factions, and I’ll likely end up with about the same (5 total) corporate factions for the campaign, each with a character portrait, a series of mission nodes, and a unique flagship and/or special flagship modules.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/586920

The latest update adds 2 new buildings for the empire faction: Outposts, and Power Transmitter modules. This update also adds 4 new missions to the campaign and a number of engine optimizations for better performance and stability.

Outposts:

outpost

A Command Center builds a new module on a nearby Outpost.

The Outpost is a new building module that allows the imperial player to build cheaper expansion stations. Outposts act as a central hub for other building modules, just like the Command Center, however they are unable to construct modules by themselves. Instead, when a module is built, any player owned Command Center will be able to construct modules remotely off of any outpost. This makes outposts useful as hubs for resource gathering bases or defensive fortifications.

Power Transmitters:

The second new building is a space station module known as the Power Transmitter. These modules work in collaboration with the Outpost to provide power to remote bases. When a player builds a power transmitter at a base, any excess power generated at that base can instead be sent to any Outposts owned by the same player. With power transmitters, the empire player no longer has to build vulnerable reactors at forward bases, but can instead concentrate their reactors at a safer location and just build defensive turrets or other modules at their outposts.

outposts

A Command Center provides power for several remote outposts.

 

outposts

An unpowered outpost is now vulnerable to attack.

New Missions:

4 new missions have been added to the campaign, including 2 that introduce the player to the new outposts and power transmitter modules.

 

Optimizations:

I’ve completed a bunch of new optimizations to the game engine, which gives a significant performance boost in many situations.

 

 

Patch notes:

-added new building for the empire faction: Command Outpost

-added new building module for the empire faction: Microwave Transmitter

-Command Outposts are cheaper expansion hubs which provide building nodes for any Command Center from the same player

-Microwave Transmitters allow for sending excess power to any Command Outpost

-added 4 new campaign missions

-fixed potential exploit where the player could get extra resources by selling buildings while they were under construction (selling or cancelling building modules that are under construction now refunds the amount spent, minus any damage taken)

-repair bay moved to tech level 3

-harvesters can now be manually told to drop off  their current load of resources if the player orders them to target a refinery

-improved the accuracy and responsiveness of formation drawing system when making complex shapes

-in the Fire Hawks boss battle, the enemy fighters now deploy shields in the last stage of the mission to defend the flagship boss

-the main quest in each zone no longer has 2 “continue” screens

-weapons on building modules and all of their sub-weapons no longer spin or rotate towards nearby targets when in low power (this was an issue for Gatling turrets)

-modules that become unattached from a Command Center or Command Outpost are now always set to low power state

-lowPower now decreases build times of production buildings by 75% except for command centers, which are only reduced by 50%

-updated the 2nd tutorial campaign node to include a supply limit

-replaced the 6th tutorial campaign node with the new enemy outposts node

-improved collision detection behaviors for cruisers

-various engine optimizations for better performance and stability

 The latest update to Empyrean Frontier brings 2 big features: multi-grid maps and limited unit “strike force” missions. A new skirmish map mode with 2 new maps has been added. 5 new missions designed around these features have also been added to the campaign pool.

 

Multi-Grid Maps:

This Update adds a 3rd new skirmish mode, the Multi Grid Skirmish. In these maps, the playfield is divided into multiple separate grids, with wormholes connecting them. This is a game mode that players of games such as Sins of a Solar Empire will find somewhat familiar, and it allows for more diverse map design, when compared with single grid maps. From a game design perspective, the multiple grids create more discrete points of interest, which gives the player more obviously identifiable strategic goals.

 multiGrid1

multiGrid2

Wormholes in Empyrean Frontier, it should be noted, provide one-way travel (units enter the dark portal and exit from the light one) which means that jumping to a grid without a nearby exit portal is a greater risk, and that allows for additional opportunities to design interesting maps. This update adds 2 skirmish maps, one of which is also used in a campaign node, and you can look forward to additional skirmish maps and new campaign specific maps in the future.

 

Strike Force Missions:

Another big change in this update involves the campaign and what I’m unofficially calling “strike force” missions. These are campaign missions where players are only allowed to choose a select few units from their fleet for the mission. A new interface has been added to the campaign battle menu to allow the player to choose units and show the relative strength of the player’s forces and the enemy forces.

 supplyLimit1

 

These missions allow for more carefully crafted missions, and address some of the balance problems that arise when player fleets get too large. They also help soften the effects of mission failures, since players will not need to risk losing their entire fleet in each of these nodes. By limiting the number of starting units (and allowing the player to choose these units) these mission types allow for more strategic decisions, and allow for the addition of some of the mission types commonly seen in traditional RTS games, including the “commando” type missions, and base building missions. Two of the new missions added in this update involve the player being given or taking control of a base with their chosen strike force of units.

(Note: while “supply” values have been added to the campaign list, this will only affect how many units the player can bring in during these specific missions, there’s no change preventing the player from building as many units as they want in either campaign missions or skirmishes.)

This update adds one of the new abilities I’ve been working on: fighter shields. All fighter groups now have an ability that allows them to switch between combat mode (they move and attack normally) and shielded mode, where the fighters form a wall of directional force fields to absorb incoming attacks, but lose their ability to attack while the shields are active.

Fighter Shields

This ability gives the player some additional tactical options and makes fighters more useful in late game situations.

In the future, the shield ability will most likely be unlocked via 2 or more ranks of upgrades in the research panel. (during the campaign, it will also be possible to unlock specific techs in the main campaign screen, which will unlock that specific tech in any node in which the player fights a battle.)

Shield Energy Leeching:

Currently, the shield ability will not only recharge over time, but fighter groups whose shields have been drained will actively leech energy from other nearby fighter groups. This means that having multiple shielded fighter groups in the same area will help support any fighter group that is actually taking enemy fire, this is a great benefit, even if the enemy is focusing their fire on just one group. This is a pretty useful ability, and in the future it will probably be unlocked by the highest rank of the fighter shielding tech. As with many things in early access, balance changes may also be made as needed.

What’s Next:

For the next big update I’ll be working on improving some of the ship models, including the fighter models for both factions. I’ll also continue to add more campaign scenarios, (which will be a part of most updates.) A little further down the line, I’ll be updating the interfaces for handling unit abilities and the research menu, as the current versions aren’t up to the task of managing an increasing number of abilities and campaign-specific techs.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/586920

Flagship

Flagships are my solution to the problem of blending an RTS game with a tactical rogue-lite campaign. During the campaign, the player commands a fleet of ships and fights battles against enemy fleets or bases. The problem I’ve realized with the old version of the game is that it was difficult to mix the tactical fleet battles with RTS style base building in a satisfying way; either the player could just ignore base building, or full base building would allow the player to build up a massive army in each node, making the starting fleet insignificant. My solution to this balance problem is the Flagship, a modified version of the Interstellar Union’s Command Ship that can be upgraded with specific modules between battles.

Flagship Modules

Flagships can be upgraded with their own weapons, but also with refineries for gathering resources and shipyards for producing units, however they are much more limited than the traditional base building methods. For one, flagships can only be upgraded between battles with modules that the player finds or buys during the campaign. This makes them play more of a supporting role in battles and adds an extra dimension of progression to the campaign. For a rogue-lite campaign, this progression is especially important, as the player needs to be offered new and exciting upgrades for their fleet throughout the campaign. Additionally, the fact that flagships have limited room for modules means both that the player will have to make strategic decisions on which modules to equip, and that we can add some exceptionally powerful and interesting modules without completely imbalancing the game.

Abilities:

Speed Boost Ability

One of the main roles of flagships going forward, is to support the player’s fleet rather than fighting directly. Empyrean Frontier is an RTS game, so the primary focus is on commanding an army of units rather than a single powerful flagship. To this end, the flagship will have a variety of “Ability Modules” that each enable a specific targetable ability that will buff friendly units or provide some other kind of support ability (debuffing enemy units, calling in reinforcements, creating environmental effects, etc.) These abilities should be a good way to give the player a satisfying felling of progression during the campaign, unlocking powerful and fun abilities. The limited availability of these abilities (each ability has an associated energy cost for the flagship) is also intended to make their use more of a strategic decision.

The first of these abilities is the relatively simple Speed Boost, pictured above. To use this ability, the player chooses a target area and all friendly units within the effect radius gain a temporary speed buff, which is illustrated with a new icon that appears around all affected units.

What’s Next:

Right now, I’m working on Steam integration for the coming Early Access launch, but I can also talk a bit about the next big planned feature: Bosses.

In addition to adding many new modules for the player to use, one of the interesting possibilities that the flagship system allows for is the idea of enemy bosses. These would be extremely powerful enemy flagships with their own unique modules and abilities, using scripted attack behavior. Players will have to use their entire fleet to defeat one of these bosses, and you can expect bosses to have telegraphed attacks which the player can avoid, similar to an RPG boss. The current plan is for each of the game’s factions (there will be a variety of new pirate and corporate factions) to have their own unique flagship, which fits that faction’s combat style. At the end of a campaign zone, the player will be pitted against whichever faction they have the most negative relationship with. If the player successfully defeats the enemy boss, they will gain access to a new flagship type for future campaigns.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/586920

https://galdorstudios.itch.io/empyrean-frontier

The campaign for Empyrean Frontier follows a fleet of persistent units as it moves across the known galaxy. At each node, the player will encounter some kind of random event and be presented with several dialogue options, often leading to a tactical RTS battle with an enemy fleet. Sometimes these battles will lead to a full base building skirmish against the enemy AI.

After each successful battle, players will gain ore to repair their ships or credits to purchase new ones at the neutral space stations placed throughout the map. In order to defeat the tougher enemy fleets at the end of the campaign, the player will need to grow their fleet and preserve their existing units.

Headline Banner

The campaign shares some of the same mechanics that solar system skirmishes have (a persistent fleet of units that travel from one battle to the next) but here it is in a more structured form, with a turn based component in the campaign map.

Headline Banner

Headline Banner

The alpha version of the game including the campaign is available at itch.io which will grant access to a Steam key once the game arrives on Steam (we have already successfully passed Steam Greenlight.)
 

http://www.galdorstudios.com/

Now that the last of the main game modes have been implemented, I’ll be able to focus on smaller, more frequent updates adding more content. I’m currently working on adding more event types to the campaign, as well as a unit veterancy system.

Headline Banner

Empyrean Frontier has finally made its way onto Steam Greenlight. The game has come a long way since the previous pre-alpha demos and I’m glad to announce the greenlight campaign, an alpha trailer, and a new demo.

The new demo includes a full tutorial and 2 skirmish maps that are playable as the Empire faction (the Union is unlocked in the full Alpha release.) Since the last pre-alpha demo, the game has seen a long list of improvements, including engine and graphical improvements, a better GUI, and greatly improved enemy AI.

Empyrean Frontier Alpha Demo

The game is also available for alpha purchase through itch.io and the official website. The full game includes additional content (play as both factions, solar system conquest mode, and additional maps) and will grant access to all future updates and a Steam key if/when the game arrives on Steam.

 

http://www.galdorstudios.com/

Below is a list of current and planned features for the game.

 

Current Features:

 

Two Unique Playable Factions

Intuitive Control Scheme

  • Draw custom formations
  • Full featured RTS Interface

Intelligent AI

  • AI Strategically reacts to player actions
  • Tactical AI formations
  • No resource or vision cheats

Command Massive Fleets

  • Battle with hundreds of ships
  • 16+ unit types
  • Base building
  • Superweapons

Conquer an Empire

  • Fight for territory in a real time campaign

 

Alpha Roadmap

 

Game Features:

    • Unit Upgrades
    • Unit Veterancy
    • Random Map Generator

(also more preset maps with support for more players)

    • Additional Unit types

advanced fighter groups, more building modules, and maybe hero units

    • Additional Unit Abilities

a few units already have active or passive effects, but I intend to add more, as well as a better GUI for displaying passive abilities (tractor beams for example already apply a firing rate debuff, but the interface doesn’t notify the player)

Game Modes:

    • “Quick Start” System Skirmish

solar system skirmishes where each player starts already in control of a preset territory

    • Procedural Campaign

longer campaign similar to Solar System skirmishes but the player takes a single fleet through a series of procedurally generated missions

    • Story Campaign

traditional RTS campaign with scripted missions (might be cut in favor of Procedural Campaign)

    • Arcade

extra game modes such as tower defense, tug of war, wave defense, and others (possibly with a level editor)

Engine Features:

    • Save/Load Games
    • Rebindable Hotkeys
    • Improved Effects

better explosions, particles, engine trail effects

    • More Destruction Animations

larger units will have more detailed destruction effects

    • Improved Movement/Pathfinding
    • Overall Graphical Improvements
    • AI Improvements

the easy/normal skirmish AI are in a pretty good state, but there are a few extra features I’d like to add for hard AI, as well as improving the solar system skirmish AI

In Empyrean Frontier, each faction has the ability to build a superweapon in the very late stages of the game. The Interstellar Union’s superweapon takes the form of a gigantic missile capable of dealing massive area of effect damage and breaking through even the strongest fortifications.

 

Like the Empire’s Super Laser, the Super Missile has two different attack modes to choose from. The Cluster Missile deals area of effect damage over a single large area of space, while the FTL Missile deals higher damage along a single line.

Cluster Missile:

When cluster missile mode is activated, the super missile loads 24 smaller rockets onto the front of the main missile and accelerates towards the target area. Once the missile reaches the target, the main rocket self-destructs and the cluster missiles split off and explode over a large area of space.

Cluster Missile

FTL Missile:

The second superweapon setting functions much like the empire’s super laser, dealing heavy damage in a straight line. When this mode is activated, the missile accelerates to light speed, annihilating anything in it’s path, even large moons.

FTL Missile

My goal in designing the new superweapon was to create a weapon that was different enough to distinguish itself from the existing superlaser while fulfilling roughly the same role in the game. The Union’s cluster missile and the superlaser’s wide beam mode are both intended to be used against large groups of enemy units, although they differ in how they apply their damage. The superlaser can technically achieve a larger area of effect if units are lined up and it’s more difficult to dodge, however, the cluster missile’s damage is concentrated over a single large area, making it more useful in actual gameplay for destroying a single clump of units. The secondary modes for each of the superweapons (FTL missile / concentrated laser beam) are essentially the same ability, just with different visual effects. Since this ability is the only way to destroy colonized moons, and given the importance of those moons in the lategame, I figured the fairest way was to give both factions the same tool.

Thanks for reading, and remember there’s still a couple days left to vote for Indie of the Year so check out some of the images and videos, or the early demo, I’d love to have your support if you like the game.

Indie of the Year Awards

IndieDB: http://www.indiedb.com/games/empyrean-frontier/news/new-super-weapon

Since the last update I’ve been working mainly on finishing up the majority of the ships and building modules for the second playable faction, the Interstellar Union. This faction shares some of the same unit types as the first faction, the Empire, but also has some key differences. In the game’s lore, the Union is a nomadic faction occupying a number of star systems on the outskirts of the Empire’s more developed territory. Instead of building space stations around a central command center, the union uses the Command Ship, a more mobile vessel that has a limited number of upgrade nodes on which to build modules such as shipyards and refineries.

Union faction ships

To allow for faster expansion, union players start the game with a command ship that comes equipped with a Capital Shipyard module, which allows the construction of additional command ships, as well as slow moving defense platforms and, at higher tech levels it can produce various combat cruisers.

Defense Platforms

Some of the new ships closely resemble those found in the other faction’s arsenal, with minor differences. (For instance, the union’s green “shotgun” lasers send out roughly the same number of bolts per minute as the empire’s Gatling lasers, meaning they both fulfill the anti-fighter role.) When designing the ships, I did also try to keep some similarities in the overall shape of ships that fill the same combat role. For instance, the anti-fighter frigates are both tall and thin, tractor beam frigates are round, and anti-frigate frigates are longer, like a traditional ship. The reasoning behind this is that setting a distinct “look” for each type of unit should make it easier for the player to differentiate ships in battle and plan for the correct unit composition.

Union and Imperial frigates

(In addition to pushing or pulling enemy ships, tractor beams now also apply a debuff to enemy units, reducing their speed and rate of fire, making them useful in weakening and focusing down valuable enemy ships.)

Cruiser battle

All cruisers can be customized with a variety of upgradable weapon modules. The main cruisers in each faction have 8-10 weapon slots and special front and rear nodes for utility modules. The union however, has 2 extra cruisers; the artillery cruiser, which comes equipped with a long range missile launcher, and the drone cruiser, a fast attack ship that releases a swarm of destructive drones at short range. Each of these smaller cruisers has a single upgrade node that can be used to specialize in the ship’s primary attack (a range increase for the artillery cruiser, and a speed boost for the short ranged drone cruiser) or the player might choose to add a secondary weapon for the ship to fulfill a more general role. Hopefully this choice in upgrades will provide for interesting strategic decisions and allow a variety of playstyles.

Light Cruisers in action

I intend to start a Greenlight campaign soon, but for now I still have some polishing to do as well as improvements to the AI, and I’m also finishing up the superweapon for the new faction.

IndieDB: http://www.indiedb.com/games/empyrean-frontier/news/faction-overview