Woo! A new build! Here’s what’s going on:

The long promised 0.6 build is still, uh, building. However, the game is stable enough for me to share and I figured you might like to see it. I don’t want this to be anyone’s first Captain Jameson experience since it’s a bit wonky incomplete, so I’ve listed it as a prerelease build at the bottom of the page. I figure this way I can share what I’m up to without breaking anyone’s brain. So what’s new? Let’s see…

Wormholes!

The main feature of 0.6, this is where most of my time has gone as I’ve bludgeoned this into the game and bludgeoned it further into a thousand different shapes. Wormholes allow you to travel from one sector to another, thereby expanding the Jameson world into a massive array of locations. My next focus, once all of this is squared away, will be to fill all of those locations with interesting stuff. Right now there is some interesting stuff, but I’d like to add a lot more. Wormholes have, as mentioned, been redesigned many times over the past year as I tried to find a system that really shined. The main problem I faced was that in finishing a sector the player would also build a super awesome ship, so if they then wandered off to a new sector they’d already be at the top of the power curve. I spent a long time pondering this, considering delevelling systems, infinite power curves (and the fun mathematics you have to deal with to make that work), and resigned myself to just destroying the player’s ship at the end of each sector. I knew from feedback right back on the original Captain Forever that people hated this, so I wasn’t happy about it at all. Meanwhile, some other games came out. Spelunky, The Binding of Isaac, and most of all FTL pushed forward the roguelikelike genre and made me rethink the idea of a 40 hour epic. I started to think that width of experience was much more important than length. So, instead of a single 40 hour epic, why not build a 4 hour epic that you can play 10 times? Or a 1 hour epic you might want to play 40 times? With this in mind, a single playthrough of a single sector of Captain Jameson was already a pretty good length. Unfortunately once you finished that sector you were pretty much done. I wanted people to explore a huge space, but there’s only so much room in a two dimensional disc. Here’s where wormholes crept back in.

I created small sectors that only cover ~20% of the game’s power curve, and allowed the player to keep all their progress as they travel through. The sectors branch to between one and four other sectors, which in turn branch, and so on. By the time you reach the end you’ve traveled roughly as far as in the old single sector model, however the total area that the game occupies, and therefore the total space you could explore, is roughly 500x as large. That’s pretty big!

Fullscreen

Finally Adobe realised that people would want to see a game in fullscreen and use their keyboard at the same time. Since this feature is now available in the flash web player I figured I should start using it. Unfortunately the interface for this is still a little wonky, so you have to click the game to give it focus before hitting enter, then click Allow to keep playing. The first time you enter fullscreen it’ll be at your desktop resolution, which might run a bit slowly for some people. Hit enter again (after clicking Allow) to try different resolutions if this is the case for you. Once I start distributing the game as a standalone application (rather than embedded in a web page) I should be able to clean this up a lot, since there won’t be so many issues with security restrictions. This’ll do for the moment though, and I’ll probably add a less wonky interface to the system menu later.

Autosave

You don’t have to return your ship to a garage anymore in order to keep it. Instead, the game autosaves periodically and after important events. Now you can just close your browser whenever you like, and open it up again to continue where you left off. Nifty.

Manual Docking

The telnet system was cool, but I watched a lot of playtesters nudge their ships up against stations in an attempt to dock with them. Rather than fight player expectation and try to force people into using a system they didn’t want or understand, I figured it best to just embrace the nudging. Now every station you can interact with has a little docking port, which you can ram into with any part of your ship. It’s not entirely elegant but it works.

Permadeath

Oooo! Banking and warehousing and all-round space squirreling seemed like a good idea, but in practice it just wasn’t fun. By taking these things out the player is now free to flit about in the present, which is a lot more enjoyable. Now when you die, all your progress is lost and you start back at the origin sector. At some point I’ll add stats and other metagame data that you can review and revisit, so that some memory of your doomed voyage remains. I’d also like to unlock things for subsequent playthroughs, so will have a think on that when it comes time to add more content.

VMEDS Mouse Input

Again, it’s good to meet player expectation. Now I need to add a button to bring back VMEDS while in flight.

Onboard NAV System

Since you can’t telnet to NAV stations anymore you’re going to get awfully lost! I did, anyway. That’s why I added an onboard NAV program which stitches together maps downloaded from NAV stations. You can bring this up any time in flight. What’s more, it can be used to export all your map data at once. It’s pretty cool. And a bit wonky. Again, I need to do some more work here.

New Voice Synth

If you’ve played Captain Foraxian EX then you’ve already heard this in action. If not, you probably should! Captain Foraxian EX is a bonus downloadable shmup available to all Captain Forever supporters. Unfortunately it’s Windows only. Sorry about that. Anyhow, it uses the new synth tech I wrote for Jameson. This tech is based on the old Speak & Spell toy, and effectively tries to recreate the acoustic mechanisms of the human voice. It’s not great at it, but it sounds lovely. It also allows me to muck about with its parameters in realtime, so now every pilot in Captain Jameson has their own voice, and each time they speak it comes out a little differently. At the moment I’m still using the old robospeech data, so it’s not as expressive or human as in Foraxian EX, but later in production I’ll record a heap of speech and add it to the game. Oh, another benefit of this synth is that the speech files are tiny. Like, around 5% the size of an equivalent MP3. So I can fit a lot in there.

Anyhow, why are you reading this? You have a game to play!

<3 Farbs


28 Comments » for Captain Jameson 0.6 prerelease
  1. Ron says:

    Yay!

    Have you looked into the latest web stuff? Any upcoming projects to test the waters?

  2. Jiggens says:

    AWW YISS, news post of the year!

  3. Jiggens says:

    Double post – going to miss space squirelling, but when I think about it I just spent a whole lot of time juggling parts into storage, going back and forth and not actually playing the game. This is probably for the best.

  4. tmu says:

    Awesome <3

  5. Farbs says:

    Hey Ron! Do you mean html5 etc? If so I’m holding back ’till someone convinces me they’ve solved all the issues with audio support and browser compatibility stupidness. My guess is Haxe will sort all this out, and I’m spending more and more time with Haxe these days. It’s really great.

  6. Chris K says:

    I’m curious, have you included any kind of system for getting telemetry data from people playing Captain Jameson? Since there are so many systems interacting in the game, it would probably be valuable to know how people are playing the game when you’re considering changing something.

    Of course I do remember you have the means to record playtesters, so that’s probably more helpful than simple telemetry would be in many cases anyway.

    Anyway, I’m loving this new version. The only thing I’m not liking is that I’m not quite sure what triggers an autosave, so I’ve been activating a new station before ending every session. It’s only slightly annoying, but I do wish it was made clear what triggers an autosave. Even some kind of onscreen notification that one has taken place might be helpful

  7. Farbs says:

    @Chris – Hi! I’m not running any instrumentation on Jameson at the moment, other than regular web usage type stuff. I agree it probably would be interesting to see how people are playing, but really until the early game is cleaned up and made more accessible I think I’d just see most people drop in the first couple of minutes. I might look into this more later.

    Calling this system “autosave” may have been a mistake on my part. The game saves several different layers of data whenever relevant, so if you spend or earn credits, change your ship, take damage etc then the game saves that data immediately. The only data that isn’t saved immediately is stuff like ship location, which is instead just saved frequently (every couple of seconds). The idea is that you can just shut the browser tab whenever you like and not lose any noticeable progress. I wonder if I could call it something other than “autosave” in order to communicate that.

  8. NIN3 says:

    Liiks really interesting, I cant wait to get my copy, hopefully the sale doesn’t suddenly end before my prepaid card gives me back my preauth money.

    Will there ever be a downloadable version of the game, for when you don’t have an internet connection?

  9. Farbs says:

    Cheers! I keep forgetting to check whether the sale is still profitable, so it will probably continue for quite some time. Once the game is finished I’d like to make it downloadable.

  10. NIN3 says:

    Well thats too bad, I wount be purchasing your game. Turns out my card is ~11 cents short after currency conversion. Guess I will just have to continue to play Captain Forever :C

    One day I will get to play this game. One day…..

  11. Chris K says:

    Maybe you should call it “Continuous Save” or something. Or just say “It works kinda like Minecraft”

    Anyway, it’s definitely good to know that I don’t have to worry about whether or not my progress has been saved

  12. 3735928559 says:

    Oh boy I’ve been excited for this update!
    While it’s great to finally have the new sectors to whiz around in, instead of just sandbox shenanigans style goofing around, I am a bit glum about the change in the voice synth. One of the things I personally took in from the game was the sensation of being stranded, isolated from virtually any humanity, which is emphasized by both the robotic, inhuman voice, and the fact that you can’t talk back at all, which I would consider a bit more emotional or exciting if we could create our own personality with little radio messages! I should probably post on the forums about that.

    Oh, and I’m still a little iffy about the pilot ship change, but I do understand the direction-facing indication, even if it means no more little heart.

  13. Ryan says:

    Awesome, glad to see the changes

  14. Robert K says:

    Docking improved. Awesome
    Fullscreen. Awesome
    Onboard nav system which is about 2 – 3 times better than the old system, which was already a nice system that fit the game well. Friggin awesome.
    Vmeds mouse input. Nice update.
    Wormholes. Good direction, less flying through endless space, more feeling somewhat goal orientated while still keeping the universe open. Would love to be able to fly back through them tho.

    Banking and warehousing removal. :(.

    When you first came up with the bank and warehouse saving features, I was like, oh wow, awesome – continuity. Unfortunately I ended up using the banks and the warehouses once or twice to try them out, then never again because they were tedious. Please don’t take them away! The problems with them for me was the implementation, not the idea.

    Banks:
    The problem with the banks for me was that you had to go to a specific location to get your money – imagine if, to spend your money at a store, you had to take a trip to your trusty banking company “A-Bank”‘s city store where your money was deposited, and then take the trip back to the place where you want to spend it, all the while frustrated inside that they don’t just let you take the money out from the “A-Bank” next door to the shop.

    Suggestion: Banked account is shared across all banks.

    Warehouses:
    The interface was tedious – imagine if you had to build your ship the same way you deposit items into a warehouse. If you’ve got time and care about some random guys opinion, maybe even stop reading and open up 0.5, rearrange your ship quickly, and then try deposit and retrieve a configuration quickly. You’ll see what I mean.

    Suggestion: in flight click and drag interface – warehouse becomes a station with a grid of spaces, you can see what’s occupying them, and to use the station instead of docking you click and drag to and from the slots. Also when you attach an item so you don’t have to have too huge a station, it could shrink visibly so it fits.

    Something a bit less crap looking than this ^_^: http://i.imgur.com/RgBHVsM.jpg

    Still love the game without it, just means I’m never going to have as much freedom to play the game the way I hoped I would when you first introduced banks n warehouses, to first earn my credits/saved up parts, then run off into battle weapons armed with no fear of my last 3 hours worth of gameplay going kerplat, get into some crazy fights on my current ship, get blown up in a freak AHHH OFFSCREEN LASERS accident, and go running to my stored funds/parts to make a new one, with a little bit of friendly harvesting of the locals to replenish my stocks before I charge off into battle again.

    Which brings me to my second to last bit: would it be possible to have factories able to produce an array of parts, based off reusable blueprints which have to be acquired in some other part of the game?

    Oh and last but not least. Thank you for auto save Farbs, excellent feature :D.

  15. Farbs says:

    Whoa, megafeedback! Thanks Robert.

    Re Banks and Warehouses:
    I removed banks because the new wormholey format is about independent play attempts, rather than building up between games. You’ll notice that after death all the stations reset too. Without that continuity across games the banks and warehouses are much less useful. I, uh, don’t actually recall whether I removed warehouses or not. I thought I left them in as a kind of treasure chest.

  16. gerardatjob says:

    Hey Farbs! Nice job here, but I have 1 question : any android port on the way!? Or perhaps Steam greenlight?
    Can’t wait for final version :-)

  17. Kolya says:

    Fullscreen and autosave! Excellent updates. However after playing this version for a bit I feel it has lost a lot of atmosphere/immersion somehow? Like telnetting to the nav points gave me a real sense of space. When there was no nav point I felt so alone and vulnerable. And the joy of finding one!

    And docking by ramming into a station may be faster and easier and all that. But before you were really docking on to a space station. Of course that’s no easy thing and requires some back and forth handshaking with the station. It had some imaginative depth. Now it’s BAM, I’m here! Because that’s good for gameplay, okay. But it’s detrimental for the atmosphere.

    I’m not gonna talk much about the wormholes, because that seems very much WIP, being the graceless yet another small station and there you are, that it is. I guess the real work wasn’t spent on the wormholes but the concept of space behind it. So let’s talk about that. In Jameson 0.5 I could fly for minutes on end and then suffocate out here in the perimeter where there are no stars. That was tough. But it never held me back.

    Now space is 500x as large. But why is it then that I can’t fly more than a minute anymore without hitting someone’s reprieve? And go and kill another guardian with my much too weak weak ship, because he’s got no AI.
    There’s no sense of isolation and exploration anymore when you can’t go anywhere in a straight line without finding a habitable oxygen bubble. This used to be so much harder (and better, because I like isolation in games). How come when space got so much bigger?

  18. Minlo says:

    Hey guys, might seem like a stupid question, but how can I play the pre release? I click on the You have a game to play! button it takes me to http://www.captainforever.com/captainjameson.php and i can only play 0.5.1 builds on there?
    Anyone help, would be greatly appreciated!
    <3

  19. Farbs says:

    It’s linked at the bottom of the page, to differentiate it from the regular builds.
    Enjoy!

  20. Hey there Farbs,
    So I just figured out how to play the prerelease version….
    I like it a lot, especially the autosave (or continuous save).
    However, I would like to say that I have a few small issues with some game elements:
    Wormholes: great, I love them, but I hate using them because going through means I can never go back, so if I go through, it feels too much like I just lost everything I just did in that sector.
    Also, the first time I played, I got in trouble because I built a ship with all alpha parts which was good enough to beat any beta guardian and some charlie guardians, so I kept going till I ended up in a sector with only delta enemies and couldn’t really do much except run away till I suffocated.
    Size and nav stations: The first sector has tons of nav stations and I could get a nice clear picture of the whole sector, but later, nav stations became few and far between and stations seemed to grow farther apart too, so the only thing I had to follow was the SOS indicator, which didn’t inform me that the next station was too far away and I couldn’t reach it with my ships speed and oxygen level. The new map system becomes pretty useless if there are no nav stations around.
    Hot rocks: Hot rocks scare me, not sure why because they don’t seem to do much damage and they don’t move so I can avoid them easily, but I really freak out whenever I see them and the little flare effect things that they emit (awesome effect, but scary). This build seems to have hot rocks all over the place, almost more than regular asteroids.
    Apartments: I spent a long time trying to figure out what apartment stations are for, I decided they have no purpose yet since you can’t dock with them, maybe a WIP or just meant to be junk? Sometimes I feel a bit disappointed when I defeat a guardian and find that I liberated apartment stations….

    However, the new NAV system is cool. The autosave feature is cool, but I spent a long time on my first playthrough liberating as many stations as I could in search of a docking station…. Also, the in-game information in the menu hasn’t been updated and still says you need a docking station.
    I like the wormholes, just want to be able to go back.
    I am happy about the removal of the banking and warehouse stations (actually, warehouse stations are still in there), I never used those stations anyway cause I never planned on getting killed :)

    That’s all I got to say for now, looking forward to the next release!

  21. Also noticed an annoying bug. Although click in VMEDs is helpful, especially for NAV and upgrade/repair stations, if I use it to click the close button, sometimes part of my ship gets disconnected on exit, forcing me to reconstruct like half of my ship from scratch.

  22. Captian BMW says:

    Any progress on the game :P?

  23. captain captain says:

    nice update, but wormholes need to be 2 way

    and also you need to give us something for beating guardians, more than just a new station. give us a scavenge, upgrade our ship to the level of the guardian, three parts above our current level, ANYTHING

  24. WILL says:

    FARBS!!!!!!!!

    Desperately waiting for the next update.

    Suggestions –

    Shipyard – Save your ship for a price. Auto saves are nice, but death is still BAD. A shipyard can save your vessel up to that Shipyard level. Accessible to redeem at any of the same level. You pay to save, not pay to pickup.

    Banks – Bring back banks, make the $ available across all similar level banks. Charging an ATM fee if you must.

    Fixes – 0.6 – Third warp world. There is an asteroid field in the middle of a large base. No Guardian is there. There needs to be some ships to shoot so loot can be purchased so we can survive the following warps. A few more Nav buoys would be nice too.

    Let me know if you need any help testing!!!!!!

  25. Flannel Top says:

    Hey Farbs!

    I just wanted to say that there are at least two of us who are eagerly awaiting the next version of Captain Jameson! I check the site ever 2-6ish weeks. Obviously there hasn’t been much for a very long time, but there have been so many other amazing games to play in the meantime! Project Zomboid, Neo Scavenger, Dungeons of Dredmor, Starbound, etc.

    So all I’m sayin’ is. THANK YOU FOR ALL THE HARD WORK!!!! Please take your time, this community seems very laid back in comparison to the drama that used to ensue over Project Zomboid differences in opinion over what makes a realistic zombie survival game between programmers and forum posters…

    I still heartily recommend Captain Jameson to a variety of skill game players I meet!

  26. Capt. BMW says:

    Please post an update on the progress so we know that you aren’t dead.

  27. Farbs says:

    I live!

    Card Hunter is still eating most of my time, however I’m talking with some people about a Captain Forever reboot, which would be cool. There’s nothing locked in or ready to announce yet, so it may fall through, but at present it looks good.

    I’ve also been trying to make wormhole decisions better decisions, so rather than traveling to a wormhole to discover what sort of sector lies beyond, then having to decide whether to press ahead or slog your way over to another wormhole to see what it offers, I think the decision would be better presented via a VMEDS menu where you viewed all the available wormhole exits, compared them, and chose one from the outset.

  28. Andrew says:

    I’m glad you’re still thinking about Captain Forever. I’ve been dying for a new update. One thing I wish, was that there was a better way of saving the game and continuing. Ideally I should be able to stop playing at one computer and continue playing at another, and if I don’t keep browser history or cookies, my save file shouldn’t be deleted. I like the old method of giving us a super long URL, but I can see how larger save files would mean unrealistically large URLS. Anyways, keep up the good work. I really look forward to the next release.

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