Looking back on 2018, I'm really pleased with the progress on Dust Fleet. I didn't get it finished by the end of the year, despite my bold announcement in the last dev blog - sorry about that. I'll touch on reasons for the delay further into this update.
Missions and Custom Campaigns
This was a big announcement in the last dev blog, and I'm pleased to say that I've been able to seriously deliver on this one. While the JSON format remains, a whole front-end has been created to allow missions to be produced much more quickly. The centerpiece of this is the mission editor, which lets you specify events, victory conditions, commands, mission rewards and AI directives. It even includes error checking so you can be sure you've got all the basics in place. Building this took a good chunk out of the middle of the year, and is the main cause for the delay, but has paid off. It's now much quicker and easier to build missions. These editors will be shipping with the game, so anyone can add campaigns of their own, using the same tools as I use.
Additionally, a campaign selector has been added to the main game menu, so you can easily choose third-party campaigns.
As I began building missions, I wanted to add a ship that could act as a drop-off point for your mining ships. And here it is, the refinery.
I refitted the existing cruiser into two new designs - the heavy and light cruisers. The heavy cruiser is geared towards using heavy weaponry, and the light cruiser features a small hangar.
There's a lot more detail about these changes in this Twitter thread.
This would be a very long update if I covered all the new features, so here's a quick summary of some of the rest.
Bombers: new fighters that can specifically target hulls
Fighter management: players can now swap between a carrier's fighter types during a mission, as well as retiring and repairing existing squadrons.
Loadouts: Edit and save turret sets and apply them to new ships quickly.
Guard: Ships can now be set to follow and defend other ships.
Repair: Repair turrets can be fitted to any ship, and they can be set to passively or actively repair nearby damanged ships.
New weapons: Anti frigate, anti cruiser and rapid-fire missile launchers.
New damage and explosion FX: Ships with damaged hulls catch fire, and explosions have been improved to be more energetic and visually interesting.
Campaign save/load: Game progress can at last be saved and loaded in later! This is a key part of making the game actually long-term playable and testable, so very pleased to get this in.
Starmap is now turn-based: Keeping track of everything on the starmap in realtime was overwhelming for the player and not much fun. Now strategic moves are turn based, allowing the player thinking time, and allowing me to add quite a number of gameplay improvements. Note that this change doesn't apply to the in-game 3d battles, which are still realtime!
Campaign AI: In tandem with the turn-based change, there is now functioning AI at the campaign-level. It builds fleets and makes moves right alongside the player.
Usability improvements: Creating groups, double (and triple) clicking to select ships with the same hull and the same loadout. A small change but a huge increase in usability. I'm concentrating on a lot of these kinds of improvements so that the player feels as empowered as possible.
A more exciting wormhole animation: Okay, not vital to gameplay, but ships really make an entrance now!
With all these changes, the main gameplay elements are basically done. I'm now adding content such as missions and more ships, as well as continually improving the gameplay experience. With everything achieved in 2018, I'm delighted to say that at last, the bulk of the work is behind me. I'm not yet going to set another release target yet, but let's just say that I'd expect to be finished before the end of Q2 2019. Hmm. That did sort of sound like a target, didn't it?
Until next time, spacers!