SES_joe

"Experimental Test 002: Terrain As A Resource" – August 11th, 2017

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Hola Astroneers! Experimental Test 002 is now imminent! This experimental build focuses on an entirely new gameplay mechanic, Terrain as a Resource!

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The goal here is two fold. We would love feedback on the concept, as well as any bugs related to T.A.R. Here is a form to file feedback as well as bugs with this new system. The dev build we are pushing out has some other bugs, including some that have been fixed in the main branch, so keep bug reporting to T.A.R only.

I will reiterate here: this build has some bugs. Will list some known issues below:

1. The death bug where your items seemingly spawn at your base is still present. Still need to go to your death location to retrieve items. 

2. Sounds (music, ambient, storms) are pretty bugged right now. This dev branch did not get all of the Wwise updates that Riley has been working on, because he is focusing on making sure the next main update is sorted. This will get fixed, but we didn't want to hold experimental longer to get his extensive fixes applied in time. 

3. Clients sometimes can unearth research chests and then they cannot interact with them. This will almost always result in an eminent crash. 

4. Some controller bugs when playing in multiplayer. This will be fixed shortly after release.

5. Clients having issues using the refinery. This will be fixed shortly after release.

To activate the experimental branch, right click on Astroneer in your Steam game library. Then navigate to Properties > Betas and choose experimental - latest untested builds in the dropdown. If the update doesn't happen right away, restart Steam.

Note: while this experimental build is only for Steam users, we are trying to find a solution to bring future experimental updates to Xbox and Windows 10.

Gameplay Changes

As the title indicates, terrain is now considered a resource! That means a few significant changes to the core gameplay loop.

Adding or flattening terrain requires terrain “ammo” in containers.

This will likely be a significant change for some people. You can no longer add terrain indefinitely, even when tethered to your base. Instead, you'll need a ready supply of collected sediment in order to add terrain to the environment. However, while flatten also requires a sediment supply during this test, we'll be updating it soon to both fill and deplete canisters depending on whether it is removing or adding terrain.

Deforming terrain no longer uses power

We've removed the power draw from deforming terrain. This means that while adding or flattening terrain now requires a Sediment supply, removing terrain is completely unrestricted, even if you are disconnected from your tether line. You'll no longer find yourself staring at your backpack's battery meter, waiting for it to slowly charge in order to continue deforming.

This change allows for you to think more strategically about your backpack power usage. In exchange for removing the terrain tool's power draw, we're adding more uses for power in the form of items and abilities that you'll use intermittently. We've started by having Augments draw power, but we'll be introducing lots more uses going forward. And we've also removed the backpack's "trickle" charge, so you'll have to pay more attention to your power supply when it's in use.

Terrain and Hydrazine are now stored in reusable Canisters

Every Astro will start with one reusable canister. Additional canisters can be printed from your backpack at the cost of 1 Resin. While deforming, terrain removed from the environment will fill up canisters attached to the backpack or terrain tool. If all canisters are full (or no canisters are attached), collected terrain is burned off and permanently destroyed.

New Items & Modules

Reusable Canister

Can hold either Sediment (terrain) or Hydrazine (with other resources to come later). Printable from backpack for 1 Resin. Not to be confused with the oxygen canister, which still costs one titanium.

Ammonium

The previous behavior of harvesting canisters full of Hydrazine directly from "fuel" crystals was not intended to be a long term solution. Mining these crystals in the wild will now provide Ammonium, an entirely new resource. Ammonium can be refined into Hydrazine at the new Refinery module. Left unrefined, Ammonium is stable and will not detonate when caught in an explosion.

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Sediment Processor Module

This new module allows you to filter out the trace resource deposits contained within collected sediment. The amount of resources produced depends on the rarity of the selected resource. For the purposes of this test, you'll be able to filter out Compound, Resin, Organic, Malachite, and Laterite.

To use the Sediment Processor Module, gather Sediment (Terrain) with your Terrain Tool into any available canister (empty, or partially filled with Sediment) attached to your Terrain Tool or Backpack. Then, transfer the collected Sediment by attaching canisters to the slot at the top of the Module's tank. Note that you can attach partially filled canisters, so long as they contain Sediment.

Once the Module's tank is completely filled, attach the desired resource to be filtered to the slot on the bottom-left. (If the resource can be filtered, an indicator hologram will appear on the Output slot on the bottom-right).

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Hydrazine Refinery Module

The Refinery Module is the only way to convert Ammonium into refined Hydrazine. You can also still produce Hydrazine using the Fuel Condenser (but with a few changes which are covered below).

To use it, gather Ammonium from purple crystals found in the wild. Then, place Ammonium on an open Input slot on the bottom of the Module, along with an empty canister on a slot along the top. You can refine up to four nuggets of Ammonium at a time (provided you have a canister for each). Press the button, and the refinery will convert Ammonium into refined Hydrazine.

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Fuel Condenser

We've made some adjustments to the Fuel Condenser to make compatible with the introduction of resuable canisters, and to better balance it alongside the new Refinery. The Condeser still produces Hydrazine from power alone, but you'll now need to provide a Canister for it be stored in. Additionally, filling an empty canister now requires multiple full charges.

To minimize tedium, we're adding a 'Set It and Forget It" mode. Once the activation button is pressed, the Condenser will automatically re-activate each time its battery is charged until the attached canister has completely filled.

Aside from being a balance update, we're also using this change to potentially pave the way for automation systems going forward.

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TAKE THE EXPERIMENTAL 002 SURVEY HERE

Please be aware that this prototype and build are experimental, and unforseen bugs and behaviors will pop up. Also understand that saves in the experimental branch will most likely not carry over or be compatible with future experimental tests. Enjoy them at your own risk! If you want to see a live demo in action, you can check out this stream replay over on Youtube! Have fun and be sure to share your thoughts. We will have more details soon about our next experimental test, and some follow up questions sometime next week after everyone has gotten their hands dirty with this one. 

-joe

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Sooo can't wait to play it, by wait I mean right away, by right away I mean already downloading it, by already downloading it I mean actually playing it as I write this comment.

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Hola Astroneers! Experimental Test 002 is now eminent! 

Ooh 'eminent' eh? Not even pre-eminent? Maybe it's just imminent ;)

Edited by Grapplehoeker

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Interesting idea with "sediment"  Not sure about all the changes in this experimental version though.

OK, I've put a couple hours into this.  The terrain thing makes the game a tad too tedious now.  Tedious games are not fun.  I don't hate the idea, but it needs tweaking quite a bit.

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On 8/10/2017 at 7:22 PM, SES_joe said:

3. Clients sometimes can unearth research chests and then they cannot interact with them. This will almost always result in an eminent crash. 

 

8 hours ago, Grapplehoeker said:

Ooh 'eminent' eh? Not even pre-eminent? Maybe it's just imminent ;)

Nice catch but I think they missed one.

Edited by ElvanIV

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I guess now there is no need for keeping that huge notification about the lack of energy. It was disrupting my gameplay during all astro-night, because I have no power and my backpack battery wasn't refilling itself.

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Also - i think there is some inconsistency in the sediment managing. Terrain tool is using up sediment while flattening terrain even when it's not creating any new geometry.

 

Edited by gp.

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Thanks so much to the team for this experimental test, I figured I'd share my feedback here for discussion sake.

I love the concept of T.A.R., the ability to craft specific resources that you need in a pinch without having to venture out across long distances is a good option. This adds support for multiple play styles, as some people are builders while others are explorers.

The canister mechanics work pretty well, except if you have them attached to your terrain tool and try to load them into the sediment refinery - they're not detected, so you have to go to your inventory, tool, then move them from there. Ideally, if the game detects you have them on your tool and move them to the refinery, by shift clicking it should put them back where it found them, instead of back to inventory.

In regards to the hydrazine mechanics + canisters, I love it. It makes a lot of sense that you have to refine the raw material first + use a canister to store it, I wouldn't change anything there.

The fuel condenser taking longer also makes sense, in all honesty, it was far too easy to generate a ton of fuel without much effort once the building was researched. I like how it now takes longer and requires containers.

Lastly - power. I'm torn on the test implementation of power. Though I like being able to dig in an unlimited fashion, it just doesn't "feel" right to me. Anything that requires power, IE using a tool, should use power. That extends to the work light (though minimal), digging, filling, etc.

My recommendation would be to change the usage across the board, depending on the action, requiring more or less power.

Work light / digging / crafting - low power usage
Filling in - moderate power usage
Augment usage - high power usage

The power regeneration should be left as it, just like a real power pack or battery. If you use it up, you need to find a source to recharge it.

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No I'm sorry, this terrain as a resource is ridiculous. Using the canisters to gather sediment should ONLY apply to the areas around a resource deposits. The deposits are comprised of clusters of resources and having another larger cluster of sediment surrounding that resource would be a great indicator of resource deposits when digging in random areas, kind of like a tattletale sign. Right now it is sheer luck to find deposits when digging in random spots.

The use of canisters should be a choice and not tied to the deform tool because at the moment, it is very painful to use of the deform tool to flatten or raise the terrain.

The team mentions something about some players dug themselves into a hole and ran out of power and died. Well you know what, that's too bad. They'll do it a few times then maybe learn to stop painting themselves into a corner.

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What I'm thinking about sediment in the future (and I have a feeling this is what Aaron had in mind probably):

1. Canisters keep track of the types of terrain being stored in them. 

2. The sediment can be filtered into a specific type of resource based on the type of terrain in the canisters. (Graphics of the sediment processor could be changed into multiple cylinders holding different colors of sediment, as soon as you fill one of the columns you can start it to get a resource, I think it's pointless to wait until you have enough material for 4, sometimes you are just missing a single resin or compound).

3. Terrain analyzer tells us what resource to expect from the sediment without the need to experiment with the sediment processor. The info could be added as floating text to canisters.

4. The deforming tool can work without using power because at some point we could get some really good augments and power will be used by those. That way, at the start you don't worry about power too much but as you put more add-ons on yourself, you start to have to worry about power generating arrays to power up all your infrastructure and improved tools.

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I really like the new T.A.R concept! It really changes the way how the game can be played! 

It is cool that digging does not require power which allows to easier explore the surrounding (e.g., digging paths up to mountains). Using sediment to build bridges (adding terrain) requires some more planning and a bit more engineering. 

I've dug a large cavern to get enough sediment to produce the resources needed. And it feels good, like real mining :). I can see a large potential in this idea. Imagine that you find some of this darker terrain deeper in the ground with these shiny particles in it which--potentially--will contain larger proportions of a certain resource: then you would start following these layers to filter out the resource you need. I really like this new way!

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I have played with the experimental version for a bit less than 2 hours. Overall, I like the idea of terrain as a resource aside from a few minor things:

1) Canisters could contain more sediment. Right now, it feels like they fill up too fast and empty too fast as well. It also feels like I am "wasting" good sediment if I am not carrying 5-6 empty canisters with me. I'm not sure what is worst: wasting good sediment or not having fewer free backpack slots.

2) Sediment processing. Those who have read the notes know they can't turn sediment into, say, titanium. Those who haven't, will think the game is broken if they can't as the interface isn't clear enough for those not in the know. Just think of how many people posting here don't read notes, multiply by the thousands more out there...

3) The deforming tool. Being able to dig forever, without worrying about power, feels OP. I understand too well the frustration of not being able to do anything at night and waiting for the power bar to fill up but it feels like the pendulum has gone too far the other way. I have no concrete idea what a happy medium would be.

4) E = mc2. Just the beginning of an idea here, what about a backpack unit (small Einstein Generator), not unlike the small generator, to convert sediment into power? It could recharge the backpack, vehicles, small/medium batteries, etc. As long as the mechanics don't get tedious, that could bring an interesting gameplay element: do I want to use sediment to create ressources or power?

I'll probably think of something else 10 seconds after I click "submit" but here it is for now.

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2 hours ago, reto said:

I really like the new T.A.R concept! It really changes the way how the game can be played! 

It is cool that digging does not require power which allows to easier explore the surrounding (e.g., digging paths up to mountains). Using sediment to build bridges (adding terrain) requires some more planning and a bit more engineering. 

I've dug a large cavern to get enough sediment to produce the resources needed. And it feels good, like real mining :). I can see a large potential in this idea. Imagine that you find some of this darker terrain deeper in the ground with these shiny particles in it which--potentially--will contain larger proportions of a certain resource: then you would start following these layers to filter out the resource you need. I really like this new way!

Nice Ideas there! I also like the new power changes, it makes it fun to dig tunnels.

It would be nice if there were more ways to store sediment as well, like a large tank you can place on a rover or truck!

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One quality of life fix i would make is when picking up canisters, have them auto equip to the terrain tool instead of the backback slots.

 

This update brings a lot of bugs I have run into here are a few bugs I ran into:

  • Sound issues
    • I can hear other astronauts anywhere when they point at things.
    • Storm audio that constantly plays even after the storm is gone (had to reboot game to fix)
    • Underground plant audio loops even after plants are dead
    • I don't hear any sounds when harvesting resources. 
  • Game play issues
    • Rover controls are still pretty messed up, sometimes it goes backwards when you are looking forwards and pressing W
    • Rovers keep driving themselves when the other person has crashed / disconnected
    • Lots of crashes when not the host
    • Tethers spaz out when being placed (not game host)
    • Every time I reboot the game I have to set my screen resolution again back to 1920x1080
  • Lighting issues
    • Sometimes the game is extremely bright then it flashes to dark. Happens a lot underground
Edited by Austin

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One small tweak I'd like to see is a closer 1 to 1 ratio on digging and placing terrain.  It feels like a 2 dig to 1 place ratio right now.  That's not good, and takes away from game play IMHO.

I do like the small changes to driving rovers.  Seems more intuitive.

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8 hours ago, Chris Augustin said:

I love the concept of T.A.R., the ability to craft specific resources that you need in a pinch without having to venture out across long distances is a good option. This adds support for multiple play styles, as some people are builders while others are explorers.

I haven't had the opportunity to try out the experimental test myself yet, but it is nice to read that they put in back a proper replacement for hydrazine trading. Because options for different play styles are a good thing to have.

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6 hours ago, Eoghan said:

I have played with the experimental version for a bit less than 2 hours. Overall, I like the idea of terrain as a resource aside from a few minor things:

1) Canisters could contain more sediment. Right now, it feels like they fill up too fast and empty too fast as well. It also feels like I am "wasting" good sediment if I am not carrying 5-6 empty canisters with me. I'm not sure what is worst: wasting good sediment or not having fewer free backpack slots.

OK, after another hour playing, wasting good sediment no longer feels as bad and now I can live with only 3 or 4 containers in my backpack.  :$

But I still wish they didn't deplete so fast.

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6 hours ago, Marck said:

I haven't had the opportunity to try out the experimental test myself yet, but it is nice to read that they put in back a proper replacement for hydrazine trading. Because options for different play styles are a good thing to have.

That's been my basic concern for a long time.  Make the game "dial-able"  Allow players to choose the level of as much as possible before starting the game.  How much resources, how much adversity, how much etc etc etc...  Is this a "sandbox" game or not????  Come on System Era, love your players!   ALL OF THEM!

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41 minutes ago, Nargg said:

Allow players to choose the level of as much as possible before starting the game.  How much resources, how much adversity, how much etc etc etc...

I agree, but the icing on the cake would be to have such adjustability not just as a set of options in some menu but as part of the actual game. That's why I suggested a "Control Station" module as a possible way to implement this:

However, the solution in this experimental test where you basically can trade for arbitrary resources with a combination of sediment filter and trade module is better, because it is more integrated into the game. I guess that's the difference between the skills of an actual game designer and of a fan with some ideas.;)

Edited by Marck

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I find I have to do a LOT of digging to fill up that sediment refinery. I think the reward ratio ought to be a little better.

I"d like to see a larger backpack to go with TAR, for obvious reasons.

As much as I like power-free digging, it does feel odd.  Maybe digging should consume a tiny bit of power?

And frankly, I was fine with the trickle-charge on the backpack.  The Voyageur (and other) satellites are powered by an on-board nuclear source ("RTG" -  radioisotope thermoelectric generator) that lasts for decades.

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5 hours ago, spinlock_1977 said:

As much as I like power-free digging, it does feel odd.  Maybe digging should consume a tiny bit of power?

And frankly, I was fine with the trickle-charge on the backpack.  The Voyageur (and other) satellites are powered by an on-board nuclear source ("RTG" -  radioisotope thermoelectric generator) that lasts for decades.

 

I've not been able to play the experimental build yet as I'm out of town, hopefully I will tomorrow though :D, but based on the comments here I've got a few thoughts: 

While I appreciate the trickle charge that an RTG can produce, maybe we shouldn't have one in our pack (because potentially lethal radiation; Matt Damon was lucky haha). I totally would support an astronium powered base structure RTG though. Would be an awesome end game thing. But, I digress.

The new power management sounds really cool. Does backpack printing cost power? It totally should if it doesn't already. 

Perhaps a work light should require there to be power but consume it so slowly that it's barely noticeable. After all, LEDs take practically nothing to power. Could even have it consume no power at all, and simple work as long as there is power in the pack, like the helmet lights. If that were the case they should also require the presence of power but consume none attached to a base or a rover as well. 

I like the idea of canisters holding a good amount of sediment; some have commented that they want them to hold more, ie fill and deplete more slowly. This would be a quality of life kind of thing, I think. A 1:1 ratio of filling and emptying is also very important imo. 

I liked the idea of burning sediment in a generator to get power (it's innovative and cool) but I dunno how that would affect game balance. Kinda just adds busy work to get free power. May as well go back to the trickle charge and cut out the extra steps. Plus we already have the organic generator. 

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It's definitely added a new element to it, I have to agree with what some have said about that it doesn't use power any more, I still think it should as well, it's a device that's doing work so it should be using something. That is actually one of the elements that I liked, managing power, in one of the vlogs it mentioned you were trying to overcome the problem that at night time you couldn't get any power, but there are ways around this, there's the spots of power on the terrain to suck up or there's the power nodes that I could rush off to and grab a few bundles of power then head back and load up. I enjoyed overcoming the obstacles that were there regarding managing energy. If I run out of sediment, I just need to grab some from the wall beside me. When I used to find lithium in crashed satellites, there used to be an argument inside my head as to what to use save them for... small battery or medium battery; now they really have just one purpose. 

I am hoping that you'll find a different avenue to show that you've run out of empty canisters rather than showing that you're just burning off excess soil, excuse my concern for the environmental welfare of the planets that the astroneers inhabit :P But if that's the case and soil can be burnt off, could be used as another resource for the generators?

I really like what you've done with the implementation of the ammonium for the hydrazine. Currently the game is using a copy of the refiner for the hydrazine system, that spurts a flame out the top. I still really liked the animation of the old hydrazine condenser. 

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1 hour ago, GoldenOuroboros said:

one of the vlogs it mentioned you were trying to overcome the problem that at night time you couldn't get any power

Yes, lack of power is usually only a problem at the beginning of the game for some and besides if you can't dig without power or use any of the modules then do something else. An option would be to go out exploring with your rover or perhaps bring up artifacts to the surface for research next day.

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After playing few more hours on the current devel I have to agree as well with the comments above. Unlimited power is a bit too much.However, if you wanna build some cool stuff you really have to harvest lots and lots of sediment (as flattening/extending terrain costs quite a lot of it) wherefore the unlimited power is somehow necessary. I would suggest something similar:

  • Harvesting sediment should use little bit of power, maybe half of what is used in the current version
  • Flattening/adding terrain requires the same amount of energy, and .. (important)
  • ... adding terrain and harvesting terrain should be more in balance (in terms of sediment gain/usage as mentioned few times).
  • Balance might include: requires less volume to fill the tank once (as it now needs power again) and you don't have to create these massive massive holes as at the moment, even if I like it :). Maybe increase the harvest/fill rate by a factor of 1.5 or so).
  • I've also noticed that "flattening terrain, even if flattening only removes terrain" costs a lot of sediment. If possible that should fill up your sediment tank as well rather than using the resource from the tanks attached to you.

I was also thinking a bit about the mechanics. The devs talked about it in the last VLOG that they are currently thinking of how to harvest different types of sediment (maybe filling up the tank in a "sandwich" kind of style). One idea could be the following:

  • Harvesting different types of sediment fills you tank with different colors (sandwich style).
  • When putting it into the sediment filter, the filter fills with the same proportion of sediments.
  • The filter (keeping the system of placing a "copy and paste" resource; or use an interface similar to the trading platform) then shows you how many nuggets of a certain resource can be filtered out of a certain sediment mixture. E.g., ...
  • ... you pick up a lot of "non value" sediments: gives you 4 compounds, or ...
  • ... you bring back some more of "type B" the filter tells you that you could either produce 1 compound only, or (you decide which type should be filtered) 2 nuggets of malachite as the terrain "type B" contains quite a lot of this special type.
  • The filter is only allowed to filter the type you specify. So if you bring a fancy mixture you might be able to do 2 compounds, or 3 resin, or 2 malachite. But you have to decide which one you need and which one you'll "dump" (unused and kind of getting lost). Adds another element of planning.

But I think this is the perfect way to go!

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