Name Found: Lost Worlds

Developer Diary 10

Thanks to everyone who weighed in on the name change for our new Noble Armada PC game, whether it was on this blog, Facebook or via Twitter. There were lots of good thoughts, but “Lost Worlds” was clearly the winner. We will officially be promoting it as “Noble Armada: Lost Worlds. A Game of Broadsides and Boarding Actions in the Fading Suns Universe.”

For those of you who asked why we did not just call it “Noble Armada,” we want to save that name for a larger game that is more true to the full depth of the setting. We see this game as focusing overwhelmingly on the combat side (which is why I was leaning toward Fading Suns Tactics). Since “Noble Armada” is both the name of the miniatures game and the related IP, we want to save that title for game that encompasses everything we see in Noble Armada: exploration, trade, combat, character development, story development, careful ship and fleet upgrades, etc.

We’ve had a lot of fun developing “Fading Suns: Lost Worlds”, but it has nowhere near the budget to develop all these areas as fully as we would like. We are going to focus on combat in unexplored space, and thus the Lost Worlds tag fits well. Each clash leads to an isolated world for you to reunite with the rest of humanity. I hope to stream the most recent version of the game soon.

Thanks for all your input! No jokes about how FSLW really stands for Favorite Silly Last Words …

What’s in a Name?

Developer Diary 9

Our working title for the game has been Fading Suns: Noble Armada, but we’ve begun to have  few concerns about it. The main issue is that our friends at Ulisses Spiele are getting ready to launch the fourth edition of the Fading Suns rule book, and we don’t want searches for the games to confuse one for the other. The idea is for the games to support each other, not get in each other’s way.

We are also getting a number of questions as to whether this is another version of our older Emperor of the Fading Suns game. The idea with a variety of different games set in the same universe has always been to shine lights on different aspects of the setting. EFS took the broad perspective, with you leading one of the most powerful factions in the Known Worlds along its rise to power. The Fading Suns RPG went the exact opposite route, exploring individual stories after the Emperor Wars ended.

Noble Armada is a combination of the two. You are a noble, commanding at least one starship and its battle-ready marines and crew. You venture to enemy space and lost solar systems, seeking to expand your house’s power and your own wealth. They are grand stories, but not on the grand scale of EFS.

Thus we have decided to change the name to make it clearer what the game is about. We don’t want to call it purely “Noble Armada,” as we began a PC game of that title back in the late 90s and want to revive it someday. Here are our top four titles.

  1. Noble Armada Tactics
  2. Noble Armada: Fleet Tactics
  3. Noble Armada: Lost Worlds
  4. Noble Armada: Broadsides and Boarding Actions

Which do you prefer?

Rechargeable Resources in FSNA

Developer Diary 8

Some games have a plethora of resources – wood, ore, money, population, time, hit points, mana, etc – that influence what actions a player can take. We used this to great effect in some of our previous games, like Merchant Prince and Emperor of the Fading Suns. I really liked having Reputation, Nobles and Singularities as resources.

The Noble Armada miniatures game only has a few – shields, crew, marines, thrust and so on. We have expanded this a bit for the Noble Armada PC game, and this generated a great discussion in the “Realistic Movement” developer diary.

In the PC game, we incorporated a recharging mechanism for guns, shields and thrusters. Guns have a certain number of shots before the crew has to recharge them. Powerful attacks temporarily knock down defensive shields and crews have to work frantically to get them reset. Thrusters use their battery power and take time to recharge. Here is a gameplay video demonstrating that:

We have a number of rationales for the limits on these resources. Recharging is a core thematic element for the whole Fading Suns universe, with scarcity being a reality. Players never feel that they have all the resources they would like. In the roleplaying game, gamemasters can use the characters’ inability to recharge shields and weapons as a way to drive tension. Even recovering psychic and theurgic energy requires rest that characters may not get.

In the roleplaying game, we made an early decision not to track fuel and gasoline. Instead, spaceships use fusion engines and batteries. In the time of the Fading Suns, the people who rely on these power sources barely understand what their ancestors created. Thus previous ships may not have had these thrust problems, but the ones in the game are the patched-up hand-me-downs of their ancestors, inferior to what once existed. As a result, gamemasters can limit player movement as necessary, and players can go to heroic extremes to push the engines beyond their capacity.

In the PC game, we don’t have a gamemaster who can build tension in the same way, but the player’s efforts to stay alive while shields and guns recharge captures some of that. As her crew gains experience, they recharge the batteries faster … unless they start getting killed.

The next Developer Diary will address some of those resources that do not recharge – like crew killed in action. What games have you played with rechargeable resources?

Wooden Ships and Laser Beams: Combat in FSNA

Developer Diary 7

Combat is central to the player experience in FSNA. We knew that we wanted to emphasize what was most fun in the miniatures game – careful maneuvering for devastating broadsides.

At the same time, we wanted to take advantage of the PC platform – creating a more visceral, fast-paced experience. Transitioning from turn-based play to real-time allowed us to make combat faster and more frantic. Instead of carefully lining up each shot, choosing a target with care, players race into range. They fire their maneuver jets to twirl around in a deadly dance that protects their damaged sides and brings their full gun arrays to bear.

In some ways, the PC game more closely aligns with the “reality” of the Fading Suns universe. In many ways, the miniatures game more closely followed naval combat in the Age of Sails. Captains engaged in tense, deadly ballets at sea. They struggled to use their wind to bring their frigate’s main guns to bear before their enemies did the same.

The PC game follows the same basic idea but at high speed, befitting spaceships capable of flying at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour and firing lasers back and forth. At these velocities, one mistake can make all the difference between victory and ignominious defeat.

Upcoming developer diaries will continue to analyze the FSNA combat system. What RTS strategy game do you think had a good combat system?