What the game is
Wayward Terran Frontier draws from many genres for inspiration, and has a very large scope in terms of desired gameplay. I want to add fun new gameplay features the way dwarf fortress adds accurate simulations of things.
At its core, Wayward Terran Frontier aims to be a mix of a space trader, and an exploration based action RPG. Inside the procedurally generated galaxy there will be some core human worlds where players will enjoy a dynamic economy and NPC characters going about their daily lives that can be messed with or exploited for profit. However, outside of those core worlds players will find the galaxy plays more like an action RPG. As they explore players will find dynamic events which are similar to quests, they will find monsters to fight and bad guys to explode and most of all they will find loot.
The meta game can be played casually, or very hard-core depending on your preference. Players who stay near to civilization can enjoy short, low stress game sessions with constant character progress. Meanwhile players who venture out into the dark will find great rewards in exchange for great risk: the farther you travel the more dangerous space becomes, and you only get to keep what you find if you can bring it back home without dying.
This is an RPG first and foremost. Your character has been granted a budget to put towards a ship and a crew, and you start with a basic set of ship hulls and technologies unlocked. Your budget and unlocked technologies do not reset when you die, so you can always request to have your ship rebuilt from scratch if you are in empire space at an NPC station. Between deaths, your primary currency will be credits and data cores which can be gained and lost in trade, combat, and exploration. If you visit an NPC station credits can be used to upgrade your budget and data cores can be used to unlock technologies.
Characters and ships are mortal once they are spawned into the world, however their actions make permanent improvements that can be used the next time you spawn. Some players will trade their way to riches, upgrade their budget, buy technology, and trade even more. Others will search for loot in deep space, and once they find it they will desperately try to make it back to civilization where they can put their loot into storage. Both will eventually die and leave behind corpses for the next generation to pick through.
Wayward Terran frontier is full of different ship designs, and when you unlock a ship hull it will be ready to fly. However the game uses a tile based modular design system that lets you literally redesign the floor plan of your entire ship. This ties in with the combat system as well because a ship is no more than the sum of its tiles. Combat is tactical and dynamic allowing you to overwhelm your enemies with brute force or target specific subsystems and wait as they succumb to plasma fires and explosive decompression.
But why are you reading about it here? The client can be downloaded here: http://www.wtfrontier.com/?page_id=198 and it lets you play around with ship design and combat.
I aim to constantly expand and improve on the combat system by adding new modules and effects into the game which add to the overall utility. My most recent additions have been missiles and a new type of bullet that pierces through hulls instead of exploding on impact but I have lots of crazy plans for the future that I would like to implement such as repair drones, inertial dampers, mobile item fabricators, and guns that set people on fire.
Deep Crew Management
Since this is a game about exploration as much as it is about combat and trade, ship design needs to be deeper than “how many guns can I fit on this ship.” To that end, I want to make crew members grow impatient with long bouts in deep space unless they have the proper facilities to keep them comfortable during the voyage. Only a naive explorer takes a hardened warship on an expedition to explore deep space. Without a gym, a dining hall, proper restrooms, and other such comforts for the crew they will probably consider mutiny long before you have even left the edge of civilized space. You will have to consider your ship’s capabilities before you leave, or you can run into issues along the way, and that means not every ship you encounter in the world will be a warship.
A crew that doesn’t complain about pooping in buckets for 18 months will probably cost you a lot more than replacing that extra set of guns with a toilet.
Plans for the game economy
Stations and habited planets trade commodities at fluctuating prices, you can buy low and sell high, or you can raid NPC transports and steal their cargo (or their ships) By design, most commodities will be luxury goods, and NPC civilizations will simply consume them in return for credits, since NPCs like variety, a lot of credits can be made by transporting things from place to place. However the best profits will come from producing your own commodities. To that end I intend to eventually make a deep resources based economy with farming and player run factories. New trade good blueprints might also turn up as loot when exploring.
I really want Wayward Terran Frontier to be able to tell a story, but the main character has to be you, and not some pre-written character for you to live through. So I am designing my own dynamic events system to fill the game world with content and stories, and it will be your actions that determine how they play out.
The server knows all of the history of the universe, it knows all of the actors and all of their motivations, and its job is to make sure you are forced to deal with them. As you explore the procedural galaxy, the server will track the movements and interactions of real characters and real events, and it will use subtle tricks to steer trouble in your direction. When you confront the events, you will be encouraged to explore them. A dynamic clues system will give you just enough information to secure a reward by pursuing the story.
To give an example, as you travel between systems you may receive a distress signal from a neutral ship being attacked by raiders. The ship is being attacked because it has stolen a valuable data archive containing the location of some loot. As a player, you will make your own choice of what to do, you can save the ship and you may be rewarded with the data, or you can take the data archive by boarding them, or you can wait for the raiders to take the archive and follow them to the loot. The story happens if you interact with it or not, and nothing prevents other players from stealing the loot before you can find it. The only thing the server does to twist the odds in your favor is to make sure the ship comes within your sensor range. The server also tracks your interaction with its puppets, and once you have the data archive for yourself you may find that the raiders have started coming after you. You may fight them off or hide from them and lose them in a nebula, that’s up to you, but once you get to the hidden cache part of your reward will be learning the lore behind both the raiders and the loot.
Types of dynamic events I would like to have:
- find and recover abandoned ships
- find and explore abandoned space stations and structures
- make server-wide first contact with new NPC factions
- be raided by pirates
- bump into NPC explorers with loot worth raiding
- being attacked by aliens is always fun
- discover the sites of ancient battles
- raid boss style encounters that require a team of people to take down
- explore large interactive super-structures with multi-part puzzle elements
- secret events so epic they will change the landscape of entire servers once activated
We want ships to be specialized at the top tier for specific roles based on how you like to play. Those roles were introduced and are taking shape in the previous two content releases, and they are: gun ships, missile ships, drone carriers, and beam weapon ships. Add into that mix some defensive build choices around evasion, armor, shields, or point defense, and you get a lot of potential build targets for players to choose from. The idea is not for one choice to be better or worse, but to be choices and optional alternatives. Choices should be based on preferred play style, and options are valuable when attempting to overcome specific challenges.
Up until now, we have still been implementing the base module types, with beam alchemy and drones making their first real appearance with the most recent patch and point defense AI being a fairly recent addition. Some of those systems feel like they are in a pretty good place, and others feel like they really need to be fleshed out more with some modules that offer interesting synergies.
Missiles, for instance, are really easy to add to any design, but if you want factories you need to optimize your entire design around them, often at the exclusion of other weapon systems. That puts missiles close to where we want them except then turrets require no supporting modules, so a player can have a missile build and then also add turrets with no drawbacks. That doesn't feel like designing for a target, or building a ship for a role, it just feels like throwing modules into a blob.
In order to improve the amount of player self-expression you can get out of the design system, we want to supplement existing modules with supporting modules and module synergies as well as module trade-offs in the future. We also have some future plans to rework the mastery system in a way which might make individual ships feel more customizable.
I can assure you that if tweaking and optimizing ship designs is your cup of tea, we want to diversify your options in the future. I'm also open to suggestions for creative module additions. Though the effort to make a module is much greater than the effort to suggest one, so I can't promise any individual suggestion will be implemented.
Zero Falls is supposed to be just that: a game about exploring content. The problem is the quantity and accesability of the content. Right now, I see 2 very large areas of potential improvement: features and improvements to the dynamic economy, and better use of procedural content and mods.
To start with the economy was sort of implemented and then ignored, but never really fleshed out. It seems like a great candidate for a future overhaul that could include a lot more player interaction. As it is right now you find a good trade route, run it one or two times, and you are done earning credits forever. That's way unbalanced, it prevents most players from even realizing that the economy is dynamic at all, and it provides no incentives to do the types of activities we originally envisioned when making an economy.
The entire idea behind the economy was supposed to be that players who were interested in economic manipulation would use piracy, blockades, and cargo hauling to turn things in their favor. I think there is still a lot of opportunity to make that into something that actually happens in Zero Falls, and I'm willing to dedicate a future content patch to looking into it. I don't have an ETA for when just yet.
On the topic of procedural generation, well we need more of it and I am currently doing some research into that very subject. I have lots of ideas, but I don't want to commit to them in writing just yet. However one thing I will say, is that I encourage the use of workshop mods even in a fresh play-through of the game. If people are having problems with workshop mods, or if the existing workshop mods are in need of new features, I'd like to hear about it. I would love to expand on any system that allows custom 3rd party content.
I aspire to make the game as data-driven as possible, and I like simple tools. The ship engine is built around .PNG images, and if you pick apart your save files you will quickly find that you can edit them in any image editor. I hope to make this a trend for all aspects of the game and the server. Likewise, the client is designed to stream content back and forth so that no patching is needed to play on a server with custom artwork.
My hope is that with a single client, players will be able to connect to a multitude of completely different servers with different ships, modules, rule sets and perhaps even mechanics.
The forums are, and will remain a very good place to nag me about modding tools that you would like to have, and I do listen.
Who is developing it?
I am coding it all myself and I am doing some of the art as well. I have contracted for artwork and sound and found that the quality of work was much higher that way so now I mostly focus on code and site maintenance. I still don’t update the site often enough.
Sound: Bombadeer Studios Chris Kukla
Technical artist: Jan Orszulik
Old version Art: Josh Hano Kahlief Steele