January 2011

Distant Star: 1.3

25 January 2011

I just released the 1.3 update to Distant Star to Apple. The big thing in this update, of course, is the re-worked tutorial & help system — but if you’re an old hand at the game (and, by now, there’s quite a few of those!) you won’t be disappointed, either.

Immediate feedback on what a technology does, <em>before</em> you research it...

In addition to the tutorial goodness, 1.3 brings another new race, the mechanical Apparat. The Apparat are a robotic race, which is reflected in their available ship types; they start the game with much of the Industry tech tree already researched, making them a formidable foe early on. Unfortunately, being robots they’re not terribly creative — so they’re slower to research new technologies than the other races; on the upside, they don’t need to breath, giving them an easier time when terraforming systems.

The research screen functions a little differently, too. Instead of tapping a technology to start researching it, now tapping merely selects, displaying a tooltip with more information about the selected technology. There’s a [Start] button down in the bottom right, which I think makes a little more sense.

Damaged ships now repair (slowly!) while in orbit over friendly systems; you can speed up the repair rate by researching in the Industry tree. Oh, and armor/shield status is displayed in the Fleet Management screen, so you can check to see which ships are healthy and which are in need of repair without having to throw your ships into combat. I’ve also polished several of the textures used throughout the game; it’s not much, but the whole thing should look a little shinier, somehow.

Hope you enjoy!


Distant Star: Fixes & Fidgets

23 January 2011

By far the most common complaint I've received about Distant Star is the inability to zoom out/in on the map. I can't argue with that -- it's a pretty obvious thing to be able to do, and certainly a feature that I've meant to include since the beginning. Unfortunately, it's taking me rather longer than I expected to get it working to my satisfaction. The experimental branch of the game has pinch zooming, but something about it just doesn't sit right with me. It's a little too finicky, a little to sensitive. So I'm still working on that.

A new race, the Apparat, and a friendlier setup screen.

That aside, it's been way too long since my last update to Distant Star, so I tabled (temporarily!) the map zooming project and spent the weekend grooming a less adventurous patch. This update brings a couple of critical bugfixes; in particular, tapping a [Ships Complete] notification should no longer cause an instant crash. I've also added a new race and made some modifications to the habitability system -- each race now has a preferred habitability rating, so we you should see more competition between players of the same race, which I think makes sense. Humans all want to live on relatively Earthlike planets, right?

Non-annoying help system is not annoying.

The other big thing in this update is a major revision to the tutorial/help system. That sounds unexciting, I know, but I've noticed that Distant Star, like every other 4x game in existence, is pretty off-putting to new players. Lots of people seem to find the tutorial annoying, so I'm streamlining it by moving as much as possible into more unobtrusive, tooltip-style popups. Once the update drops, anytime you see a [?] icon you can tap it to get instant information about game systems, interface elements, whatever. This system is literally everywhere in the game; I've also added popups to the research screen, so you can get more information about what a particular technology does before you research it.

I still need a few days to go through and test everything, so I'll let you folks know when I push the update to Apple. Shouldn't be too long!