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DarkSpace Development Blog

This Blog will be updated periodically with regards to the current development status of DarkSpace, and may occasionally just contain the mad, incoherent, views and ramblings of the Staff who work on DarkSpace. IE. is cheesecake or key-lime pie better?...

Author: Drafell

Contributor: BackSlash

DarkSpace News Update - Free Trial

Posted by Drafell Monday February 23 2009 at 1:34PM
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Palestar wishes to invite everyone to come and participate in the DarkSpace experience for two weeks, gratis. This is in addition to the 14 day game time coupon you will receive upon creating an account, and does not restrict your ability to continue playing in the limited mode after the free time expires.

It's easy - simply go to www.darkspace.net and complete the registration process, then download the latest client from one of our list of download mirrors, and you could be shortly blasting your way through hordes of space pirates, decimating the opposing factions in an attempt to gain universal dominance, helping to stem the invading tide of the dreaded Machine Intelligence, or simply whittling away your days attempting to construct the most awe inspiring orbital defense network known to man-(or alien)-kind.

Of course, the enemy has it's own plans, and will surely be hunting you like a dog throughout.

This offer expires 03/08/2009 at 20:00 CST.

We look forward to seeing you...

- The DarkSpace Development Team

 

DarkSpace Development Blog - Introduction

Posted by Drafell Sunday February 22 2009 at 10:14AM
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Hello Readers,


First, I would like to introduce myself to you all, and explain my role in the DarkSpace community.


Several years ago, I was idly rambling through cyberspace,looking for a new game to play, when I stumbled across an odd title called DarkSpace. Although not your classic MMO, something about it appealed to me, so I downloaded the client and got sucked into losing the next few months of my life.


The initial introduction was bleak. There didn't seem to be a great number of players, and I was a little confused to start with as to what exactly the aim of the game was. I was on the verge of quitting when a clan offered to teach me the ropes and learn the basics on how NOT to die. I realized that a small community did not automatically mean that a game has no future, and I soon became an avid supporter of the game, administering the DarkSpace arm of a clan fleet called the Shattered Star Confederation. Six months later I was asked if I would like to join the DarkSpace Moderation team - a group of player volunteers who help police the community, dealing with player queries and helping to prevent exploitation of the game system.


Naturally I said "Yes," and real life was postponed for another couple of years.


As time passed, I gradually took on more and more responsibility whilst seeing the game evolve through many variations, and just helping out where I could, or where I saw a need for assistance. Note that I have had no training, and no formal education with regards to community management or public relations. This is probably very apparent from my particular style of communication, and I have a tendency to ramble into totally unrelated topics, such as now...


As time passed, I started to get more and more into actual game development. I had an interest in music, and so made a few, somewhat questionable tracks (you have to admire anyone that can actually write and produce music. It is not as easy as it may look, or sound). I also developed an interest into graphics, and through playing a multitude of other games, I got interested in the concepts of game balance and design.


Eventually this coalesced into me and a friend (Jack) submitting a general balance proposal to the owner of the DarkSpace game and head of development, Richard Lyle, and despite having few coding or development skills between us, we were given access to the source code and development environment for the DarkSpace game. I was getting into LUA scripting, and had messed around with creating my own little DarkSpace themed HTML game, and somewhat cheekily stated that I would probably be able to learn C++ in a few weeks. Ignorance is bliss, and a few years on my "C" skills are still questionable, to say the least.


It took a few months for me to get familiar with the tools at hand, and before II was ready to make my first contributions. It was not long after I began my changes that I noticed some odd peculiarities, and uncovered a whole raft of bug's and issues. the most notorious would have to be a drive path issue, which was a legacy  from changing over from an old code administration model, and porting it to SVN. This had gone unnoticed for years before I joined the team and was the route cause of many common issues with the game during that period. Unmodified game assets were not affected by this issue. But given that I had already made close to a thousand edits before I worked out what was wrong, it turned out to be a major headache to fix requiring an inordinate amount of time.


Now, let me explain that DarkSpace is largely dependent on volunteer labour - an MMO is not cheap to run on any scale, and so none of the development team take any wages, which means we have to have real jobs to pay for that bothersome thing called life. Due to this necessity, it took a long time to get anywhere. I had to wait almost two years before I could see the first results of my labour, and it has been a constant learning process since then.


It is only since October 2008 that development for DarkSpace has really begun to kick off again. I have lost count of the number of internal revisions that we have been through since then, and we have had some close calls with serious bugs making it into the live versions, which is a sad by product of a limited testing base. Yet I believe we have prevailed and are creating something that is quite unique, and improving with each passing day.


I admit that DarkSpace is not for everyone. It is a very PvP-centric game, and we have been doing what  games like Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning like to call realm vs realm since 2001 (although in our case it is faction versus faction). I can only say that designing and implementing such game play concepts are not easy. The most difficult thing is imbuing each 'faction' with it's own individual play style and personality whilst maintaining a common set of game mechanics so that players wishing to switch factions will not be at a total loss as to what to do.


Balance is also something that is often underestimated, and made even more difficult in our case as we do not have an artificial skill system and due to our focus on PvP; after all, killing other players is much more fun than farming mindless AI for hours on end. Nothing in DarkSpace is dependent on the roll of a die, except with the recent addition of of Enhancements which are a type of loot drop in DarkSpace. If you shoot at an enemy, you are not guaranteed to hit as your target can simply dodge your weapons fire. Trying to draw a correlation between actual player skill, and whether something is 'overpowered' is not easy. Is a given ship 'overpowered' entirely due to the players using that vessel being unusually skilled, or is it indicative of a real issue with the design?


Despite spreadsheets being able to give general indications, a lot of fine tuning comes down to intuition, and trying to understand what effect giving a 1% damage increase to a certain weapon type will have on the construction (crafting) aspects of the game. It may seem unrelated, but even such 'minor' changes can subtly shift the game balance in a direction you do not wish to go. Will it impact the introduction of the game for new players, and de-emphasize other important aspects?


I have to say that creating game balance is like trying to walk a tight rope with elephants bouncing on each end of your pole, whilst blindfolded.


Anyway, time to wrap up and back to the original point of this post...


My name is Robert Kelford, 29 years old, and otherwise known as Drafell or Mr Black, DarkSpace Community Administrator, DarkSpace Developer, and all number of other pseudo roles, and I approve this message.


*cough*


Over and out.

 P.S. Sad Kitty Story :-(

DarkSpace Development News - Version 1.509E - 2009-02-18

Posted by Drafell Sunday February 22 2009 at 9:05AM
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With the latest update to DarkSpace, there are a few significant tweaks and changes that have been implemented.

The most significant to users in terms of game play will be the reduction in "Resources Lost" on ship destruction. To explain: whenever a ship a player is piloting is destroyed, the value of that ship is added to their game profile as the "Resources Lost" stat, which in turn is deducted from their prestige (experience) calculation as a negative modifier.

Reducing the amount of "Resources Lost" applied to a players profile therefore decreases the prestige penalty whenever you die. Prior to this update, players piloting smaller ships were losing a much higher proportion of their prestige value for each death than was intended, and this was causing a significant barrier for new players in terms of actual prestige gain.

Players piloting Cruiser class ships and above were also losing slightly more prestige per death than we were happy with and in turn this was felt to be discouraging PvP, although we still need to maintain a significant penalty for each death in order to encourage the use of the smaller class vessels for experienced players. So although the same 75% reduction has been applied to these ships, the basic spawn cost of these hull types has also been scaled up as we feel is appropriate. Overall, the death penalty is lower, but only by 10-20% for stations, and scaling to 75% for destroyer class ships and lower.

We have also reworked torpedo damage values, which will bring them back into line with the primary cannon weapons. In terms of average DPS versus static targets, torpedoes now do around 15% more damage compared to primary cannons, although damage per volley is between 2-3x more than primary cannons.

You will also find that weapons on smaller ships should be more efficient than their larger counterparts in terms of real-term damage output, although they still do less damage per individual volley. This makes fleets of smaller ships much more effective than before, as a group of scouts with the equivalent weapon capacity of a dreadnought will actually be able to out damage the dreadnought and avoid most of its weapons fire, although individual ships will not be much of a threat.

As always, we hope these changes help everyone to have more fun.

Enjoy.

- The Development Team

P.S. The full list of changes can be found in the Development Log, as usual.

DarkSpace Development Blog - Friday, 30 January 2009

Posted by Drafell Sunday February 22 2009 at 9:00AM
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Written by Jack
Friday, 30 January 2009 20:59

So, as you might of noticed (or not) we just pushed beta to release, but the heading "synchronization fixes" in the dev log leaves a lot to be desired. But rest assured, we've gone over quite a bit of code and removed some old calls and functions that not only weren't needed anymore, but have been causing some very naughty things to happen in the game. There was also quite a major bug that was causing NULL data to be removed from the client (which shouldn't happen unless required, its not needed), this would cause objects in the game to change order in the client, and bork future updates to that item. This has been fixed.

Along with various synchronization fixes (yay!), we've also tweaked the ELF beam slightly. Unfortunate for K'Luth, but fortunate for the Humans, the ELF Beam has had its "Unloading Weapons" effect removed. This was never hugely intended, but was left in purely 'because'. Since the re-tweak, we've factored in ELF's energy drain potential, and it was causing double the energy loss, and the enemy ship to be disabled for long periods of time if the enemy pilot was skilled enough to abuse it. Rest assured, if ELF feels too weak, we'll tweak it until its sitting as close to being a fine weapon as possible.

Also, pilots who find themselves flying close to Energy Entities will now discover that their energy doesn't instantly drop out. This should ease some of the tension of battle when one of these pesky buggers appears.

That's all for now!

Original article posted on the DarkSpace Community Website

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