August Development Update
We want to focus this backer update not on individual pieces of content, but on the studio, our teams, and what each of our teams is working on. Our hope is that this will give backers deeper insight into where we are in terms of progress on our development goals. First, we need to break down a bit of how our dev team is structured.
The Phoenix Point overall development team is split into 6 main sub-teams:
The Game Design Team: responsible for the overall workings of the game. Building the core loops, making sure they’re fun, deciding how in-game mechanics work and how the game functions as a whole, right down to individual skills and items.
The Level Design Team: works on all of the different tactical maps in Phoenix Point, as well as optimizing the procedural generation of map elements, to ensure they’re fun and fair while still providing a challenge.
The User Interface Team: designs and implements all of the icons, buttons, text boxes, menus and generally all of the on-screen player feedback across the entire game. UI designers’ skills go across art, programming, and design.
The Tactical Team: works on the tactical combat side of Phoenix Point. This includes the artists working on the aesthetic look of the maps and of the soldiers, as well as a team of programmers putting it all together.
The Geoscape Team: much like the tactical team, the Geoscape team works on the strategic element of the game. This includes designing all of the encounters between factions, world generation, mission generation and base management.
The Quality Assurance Team: plays a lot of Phoenix Point, helps track down and squish bugs, ensures the game is optimized properly, and generally represents the consumer experience to the design team as best as possible.
What have we been working on?
Lately, the game design team has been working on balancing the tactical game. This includes adjusting the numbers for damage and hit points on both player and enemy characters. In general, health pools will be much larger but damage will also be much greater. This gives a more nuanced approach to receiving small amounts of damage multiple times, or one large blast, which dovetails well with Phoenix Point’s ballistics system involving multiple shots each time a player fires.
Enemy AI (Artificial Intelligence) is another priority for the design team. Enemies will now be more likely to make use of cover, break lines of sight and attempt to flank your team.
While it won’t be in the upcoming backer build, the design team is also working hard on a tutorial for players of various skill levels that will go into the final build of Phoenix Point.
Almost all of the maps in Phoenix Point are procedurally generated. This means each map is dynamically assembled from a number of pre-designed building blocks and placed in accordance with certain rules. The level designers are responsible for making those building blocks and the rules, too.
Most recently, the level designers have been working on the maps for alien bases. This includes making the layouts more varied and interesting while reducing the number of places that your squad can feel stuck or cornered.
The first pass on the Synedrion maps has been completed. These are some of the last map types to be added to the game. They still need some work after testing and balancing.
The UI has had a complete overhaul with many elements being completely redesigned and polished. There’s still work remaining, but the Geoscape UI is ready to go in.
We have also added a character info panel to the tactical UI, showing the stats and combat status of each soldier in the tactical game.
Right now, the UI team is working on presenting various different status effects (poisoned, burning, bleeding, etc.), along with a combat log, and refined damage prediction model.
The tactical team is working on improving the camera, both overhead and tactical. The goal is to avoid camera angles which block important elements from view and help the camera keep track of the action particularly during the enemy phase and furious firefights.
We’ve also updated the deployment system, which is a subsystem that places both player and enemy forces on the map at the start of the battle. Up to this point, enemies tended to be clustered at the outset of missions, and that should be resolved now. In addition the revised deployment system should reduce the player’s chance of encountering a large number of enemies on the very first turn — except in specific circumstances. Further, most deployments should now see the player’s operatives within fairly easy reach of cover on their first turn, too.
In addition to the above, the team has worked hard on fixing bugs and optimizing, as well as refining the implementation of the Free Aim system.
The Mist is no longer just an expanding circle, but spreads across the map organically, faster over the oceans, slowing as it reaches the coastline.
The team is also doing a ton of work on base management, improving the interface for equipment management, among other things.
We’ve also put in a brand new enemy type, but we’ll keep this under wraps for now; it may or may not make it into Backer Build 5 this September.
The quality assurance team is working hard to ensure that Backer Build 5 is stable and will work well for a variety of user configurations. They are also providing valuable feedback to each of the other development teams regarding usability, helping the other teams ensure their improvements are actually improvements and not just creating different problems.
The Weeks Ahead
Most of the content that we anticipate for Backer Build 5 is already in our development build at this stage, but we’re working hard over the next few weeks to tie everything together. Within the next week or two we will enter “content lock”. This is a soft cut-off point where no new content can be added to the current build, unless vitally required. All efforts then go into polishing and bug hunting before the build is released.
The teams have some specific areas of focus in the coming weeks. While some of this is for Backer Build 5, other teams will also be working on the final game release in December.
The level design team will continue to work on the Synedrion plots to get them perfected. The UI and Geoscape teams are also going to be putting work into the tutorial, as this is a vitally important element of the game.
Art teams are working on the various cosmetic options for your soldiers, such as different face options, hairstyles and clothing variations.
The writers are adding in the text for the tech trees, the diplomatic events on the Geoscape and the Phoenixpedia.
The sound department is working on SFX for the game and preparing to have the soldier barks recorded by voice actors (though Backer Build 5 will have placeholder barks). John Broomhall continues to work on the soundtrack.
We’ll provide more of these updates in future to keep you apprised of where we are with development. For now, we thank you all for your patience. You’ve been amazing and supportive and we appreciate that. We know you’ve been waiting a while and are all eager to get your hands on the finished game, we can’t wait to deliver something really fantastic.