Endless Sky

General discussion about anything related to Transcendence.
george moromisato
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Mon Sep 19, 2016 10:53 pm

Has anyone played Endless Sky? http://store.steampowered.com/app/404410/

If so, how does it compare to Transcendence? I'm looking for an honest assessment of what they do better than us (so that we can make Transcendence better!)

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digdug
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Tue Sep 20, 2016 12:59 am

I just finished playing Endless sky. I finished the main quest line and explored the entire galaxy map.

I can try to give you my impressions on several aspects of the game, I'll try to be as objective as I can.

ship HUD experience: the ship HUD is slick and minimalistic. it uses a lot of parts that are transparent and tries to avoid borders (the radar is round, ship armor/shield display has a silhouette that it is just a line) There is no weapon selection, besides missiles, all weapons will fire at the same time. The game tracks armor, shield, hyperspace fuel, electricity and heat. They are all narrow lines. When the player has a fleet, the HUD will display the ships status as a bunch of lines near each ship. Sometimes it's a bit confusing when the player has 15-20 ships and trying to see which one has low fuel or shields down.


rendering/animations: The game uses 1 single facing for the ships, pre-rendered and the game engine rotates that. Animated asteroids (and other animations, I suppose) have a fixed number of pre-rendered rotations. To have smooth rotations, the game uses floating point rotations, it interpolates 2 facings to get a smooth transition between them.
There is a nice explanation of this by the game author, btw.
+: incredibly smooth rotations, AI aiming is perfect at any distance (the player has autoaiming too)
-: the shadows on the ships won't change with rotations. Transcendence is definitely better for this. I have to admit that the ship models are really nice and shaded in a way that you won't realise too much that it's a fixed sprite that it's being rotated.

fighting: most of the foes that the player encounters are designed to be fought by a fleet, not a single ship. Fleet management is very important as a game mechanic and several buttons are dedicated/tweaked for that (hold fleet, attack target, group/scatter have 1 button each).
One interesting feature that is missing in Transcendence is ship boarding. Pirates can board your ship or other disabled ships and steal components and cargo. The player can board ships, and through a simple menu, fight and kill the other ships's crew and take the enemy ship (that requires extra crew to actually drive the other ship). This is actually great in mid/late game for making money instead of trading or doing missions.

trading: like in Elite or Frontier or Escape velocity or NAEV, the player loads up the cargo of his fleet with supplies (metals, plastic, luxury goods,...) and sells them to another planet or station. Prices are fixed. Every game will have the same prices, players have forums posts about the best/safest/highest-income routes.

missions: very similar to escape velocity or NAEV, every planet/station generates some missions on landing (I think). The classical ones are passenger transport and cargo delivery with higher reward than standard trading. (the incredible list of stuff that you can transport is highly amusing, from women shoes to 3d-printers to uranium to champagne). Later ingame, you get pirate hunting missions. It requires the player to jump in a few adjacent systems and find the pirate fleet to destroy.

systems map: the map is fixed, every game has the same map. During the main quest some map links will be disconnected and reconnected later or planets can change allegiance, but besides that, the map is static.
+: the system map can show locations of shipyards and outfitters. if a player needs a ramscoop, it's easy to just open the map, select ramscoop and all the planets that sells that will have a different color.
-: the game is definitely not roguelike, from this point of view. and roguelike is one of strong points of Transcendence, of course (and why I'm still playing it after 10 years).

ship components: while endless sky has hardpoints on ships, ship components can be installed in any amount up to the outfits tonnage limit of the ship. This allows some nifty tricks like cargo/outfit space converters and bed bunks, which are outfit/passenger-space converters. The hardpoints are important in ship battles, and while on a planet the player can drag and drop ship weapons on various hardpoints. (mostly turret hardpoints)
Ship managing boils down to trying to fit yet another weapon or cooling device on the ship for maximum firepower/efficiency. Transcendence uses slots, and players are instead forced to deal with the limited amount of slots for their ship, which makes Transcendence more tactical in my opinion.

I mentioned before hyperspace fuel, travelling between systems relies on hyperspace links (lines connecting systems), until the player get a jumpdrive. The jumpdrive allows to jump to nearby systems, even if not connected directly by lines.
There is a 3rd way to travel in Endless Sky: you can use a wormhole. a couple of systems in the game have a wormhole that connects to another galaxy area (and that would be unreachable by other means)

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JohnBWatson
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Tue Sep 20, 2016 3:19 am

george moromisato wrote:Has anyone played Endless Sky? http://store.steampowered.com/app/404410/

If so, how does it compare to Transcendence? I'm looking for an honest assessment of what they do better than us (so that we can make Transcendence better!)
I have - I saw it in our Steam reviews section. It's definitely interesting, with the universe feeling rewarding to explore and the aliens definitely coming across as 'alien'. That said, there are some notable tradeoffs.

The (relative) good:
  • Other ships 'talk' and interact with the player on a level more in - depth than what Transcendence currently has. It's no more complicated than Freespace, but it's definitely an improvement that makes the universe feel more alive.
  • The fleet system is a lot more useful and functional than what we currently have. While Transcendence's combat is intended to be on a lower scale, there's still a lot that could do to be improved regarding our wingman system compared to the one in ES, particularly regarding orders and fleet management.
  • The missions' appearances feel more immersive and natural. While the basic missions are somewhat standard, the lack of much additional flavor text makes that more believable than some of the repeated missions we see in Transcendence. (The tradeoff there being that the repeated missions in Transcendence tend to be more unique) The apparent randomness of the non - repeated missions adds a lot of immersion and mystery to the game.

    I remember you saying in one of the streams that you had thought CSCs would not simply continue to give missions until the maximum rank is reached. Such a system would be a huge improvement to the way mission sets work, with some sort of timer, randomness, or other limiter giving the impression that missions aren't just being generated up whenever the player asks for one. Korolov already does this, basing the missions it will give you on the status of several variables(the ships it has, whether the fortress has been discovered), and that's a major reason why it impressed me so much when I first played through the game.
  • The universe is non-linear. Such a system might unbalance Transcendence's economy, given that battles almost always result in a profit for the player(an uncommon behavior for a roguelike), but would still be worth looking into. The idea of an adventure in which the player choosing to go one route instead of another resulted in some sort of consequence has definite potential.

    Imagine this: rather than Point Juno being a guaranteed part of the route the player will have to pass through to get to Heretic, there's a branch at Jiang's Star. Taking one side of the branch leads the player down the current route to Point Juno, while taking the other side of the branch brings the player through a different set of systems that have largely been abandoned by the Commonwealth Fleet as they consolidate around their last remaining stronghold, leaving the colonists in the region vulnerable to attacks from the local warlords and Bennin Xenophobes. Both the Point Juno branch and the additional branch eventually meet at the same system, but if the player makes too many jumps before reaching the key event (defending Point Juno in one branch, or defending Komorro Station in the other) of a chain, it fails, resulting in some sort of difference in the last few systems, such as the CW Fleet being in full retreat or the newly empowered Kobol Warlords becoming wealthier and more aggressive. In addition to adding more choice and variety to the game, new 'tricks' could be discovered, like using a Gem of Despair to reach both systems and benefit from an easier endgame as a result.
  • The economy seems more balanced. There aren't really many exploits, and risk/reward seems a lot more balanced. While this is much less forgiving to new players, it also keeps money relevant throughout the game rather than making it a non - issue once the player figures out how to game it. Toning down the effectiveness of trade routes that shouldn't logically be as profitable as they are(like carrying the products of a factory station to an Enclave that's right next to it) and establishing a clearer correlation between the amount of loot an enemy provides and the effort required to kill it would go a long way towards improving this.

The (relative) bad:
  • The combat falls victim to a flaw I've seen in many similar games, where the damage/health curve is massive and combat is thus heavily unbalanced. The effect of that is amplified by the presence of the all too common 'suicidal space pirates' that jump into heavily guarded capital systems armed with massive, expensive dreadnoughts that are promptly killed by the local military presence. They often kill the player in the process, presumably out of spite seeing as they hardly ever manage to loot anything. Attempts by the player to interact with disabled enemy ships are often thwarted by NPC ships, which make no distinction between an enemy that is an imminent threat to their safety and an enemy that you have disabled with the intention of boarding.

    Of course, Transcendence has a similar issue with unrealistic piracy(perhaps in the other direction - Corsair Is have yet to accomplish anything of consequence in any game I've played), but their ships are much more sensible and the loot system Transcendence uses makes it believable that they might actually *want* what's in your cargo hold, even if they make no attempt to acquire it.
  • It's largely the same experience every time around. The map, missions, etc. are always the same and there's not much choice to be made there. The game is long enough that this is okay, but replayability suffers as a result.
  • The weapons are all fairly similar, and fall within the standard for this sort of game. You've got the hitscan 'lance' - styled weapons, the bog - standard projectile guns, and the missiles. Transcendence definitely wins out here - even if it's harder to balance, almost every one of the huge array of weapons Transcendence has feels unlike the others, and that goes a long way. That said, this could be further improved by differentiating some of the more similar weapons, like the Makayev/NAMI howitzers and the four omnidirectional energy weapons, in order to discourage complacency and coax the player to try out the more unique guns.
  • It's not finished. Transcendence may not have Part II yet, but Part I is effectively complete and fully playable. The lack of different campaigns is somewhat confusing, considering the player's expectations.

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Wed Sep 21, 2016 9:06 pm

Gameplay
The game has three main modes:
Early: player has no money and is struggling to pay off their mortgage by trading or taking basic transport / cargo missions
Campaign: player starts working for one of the three human factions and earns money through a series of missions. There are a few short breaks for trading, but mostly the player is encouraged to play through the story. This part is intended for a player who still only has a single medium sized ship which gets upgraded throughout the campaign. However, I already had a fleet of the largest ships when I started which made most missions incredibly easy.
Exploration: player has enough money to buy a huge fleet and go exploring, find aliens and start their quest lines.

Career / ship choice
There are three basic ship types available (corresponding to the three starting ships): fighter, freighter, and passenger transport. Unlike Transcendence, trading and passenger transport are viable alternatives to attacking enemy ships. As a result the player feels like they have much more choice about how to play (fight, trade, passengers).

Of course there are balance issues, especially once the player finds an overpowered ship which is excellent at everything and is able to easily capture enemy ships (effectively all the equipment on ships is undamaged so capturing ships or taking equipment is massively more profitable than anything else in the mid/late game)

Trading
Is an area where Endless Sky is definitely better than Transcendence. There are only 10 trade goods: food, clothing, plastics etc. (+ garbage) but every system buys / sells them at different prices (like Elite) and the game includes a simple dynamic economy. Pirate attacks are, I think, more likely on freighters carrying cargo.

Trading is only really useful in the early game (no high-level trade goods). After that, trading missions are still worthwhile for a bit. They’re pretty straight forward: take X amount of good Y to system Z by time T, although it does use a random name for each of the goods (e.g. food might be apples, bananas etc)

Passenger Transport
At one level this doesn’t add anything to the game. A passenger is just a bit of cargo which takes a bunk rather than cargo space (although the bunk might take cargo space) so it’s just another Fedex quest. However, there are enough subtle differences and filler text (tourists, workers, migrants, pilgrimage, strike breakers) to give the illusion that passengers are not just another cargo type.

Factions
Factions react and will become hostile if you attack them enough, I think attacking pirates restores your reputation with other factions.

Missions
Although Endless Sky missions are actually a lot simpler than Transcendence it has a lot more generic missions available. Actually it pretty much only has one mission type: a Fed Ex quest with no scripting - go to system X (optionally carrying cargo / passenger or escorting ships), get attacked by something (sometimes you have to destroy the attackers), then land.

Improvements to Transcendence
More generic missions - Eternity Port has a few of these; however, the limit of one per station forces the player to move on while in Endless Sky it is the fact that low paying missions are no longer worthwhile (or the player gets bored). The mission board in my old mission framework worked a bit more like the Endless Sky approach. It could help to rewrite some more of the existing low level missions using MissionType so they're decoupled from specific station types and can be reused more.

Trading - this has probably been suggested several times before, but having a more complete trading system such as Elite / X / Endless Sky would give the player more choice how to play. You could do some simple things with the GlobalPriceAdjust functions e.g.
Pilgrims aren’t the best traders so get a flat 10% penalty to margins (they’re fanatics trying to reach the core), while mercenaries or trader characters would be better.
Basic prices adjustments based on local stations - e.g. ice-farm / hotel within 100 ls should give near zero profit, ice-farm / hotel in the same system should give a reduced profit unless there are lots of active enemy stations likely to disrupt trade etc.
It would be nice if prices responded to in game events e.g. destruction of stations, missions (weapons could be more expensive if a station is under theat from pirates)

Faction relations - In Transcendence the player can become friends with the Huari by attacking Sung. My Sovereign Reputation mod: https://github.com/gcabbage/TranscendenceMods
extends this so the player can become friends or enemies of any faction by attacking the faction or their allies / enemies.

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Wed Sep 21, 2016 11:28 pm

@giantcabbage: That's a very thorough analysis - there's a lot of stuff I didn't catch in my pass.

A few things I'd like to second:

- More 'generic' missions. I covered this in my post, but not as eloquently. Stations like habitats, Startons, and mining colonies could do to have a set of missions that can be reused without breaking immersion, possibly involving less of a focus on combat. For example, a Starton or mining colony could ask the player to ship some cargo to another station in another system, assist a freighter under attack by local hostiles, or hunt down a smuggler.

- More advanced trading system. It'd be hugely beneficial to the game's balance if we introduced some basic price adjustments based on the stations in the current system. I could probably code something like this up when I get the free time.

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Thu Sep 22, 2016 12:04 am

In my opinion they are two different genres and that contributes to how the games are different.
Endless Sky is a galaxy trader game, there is an open world with non-linear goals and the main goal is to make increasing amounts of money by finding new ways of getting it out of the systems.
Transcendence is a roguelike, there is a procedural generated set of levels that while they can be revisited can also be completed forcing the player deeper towards the ultimate goal.

Endless Sky is rather good at what it does, but overall I prefer the implementations of various mechanics in Transcendence.
- Combat is just plain better in Transcendence. Endless Sky suffers here from a simplistic set of weapon types, very basic damage mechanics, a comparatively smaller system size, and less direct control of craft.
- I actually prefer the trade system in Transcendence, the way different groups want different items along with item variety make trading both a learning experience and a bit more interesting that hauling generic or randomly made commodities. The limits on how much can be traded also fit with the overall mechanics to move you further as time goes on.
- Story wise I cannot really comment as I have not really tried that part of Endless Sky, and that is mostly because my one attempt to do so bounced hard as a result of the combat system.
- Ship customization is a bit of a wash. Endless Sky lets you change ships and build fleets in the base game, but between the Playership Drones mod and the ship customization Transcendence handles this. The issue I have with Endless Sky is that most of the parts are just shuffling numbers around with some new functions, and there are just so many small increments and changes to min/max that I find it too fiddly. Transcendence has some of the same, but many of the armors/shields/devices have unique or interesting functions.

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Fri Sep 23, 2016 8:41 pm

Full disclosure: I haven't played Endless Sky yet. I also do ship art, and the aesthetics of ships matters a lot to me. My feelings on this subject are highly subjective and based on aesthetics and opinion. It is in no way meant to suggest an authoritative or objective stance on the matter or the game on its own.

I heard some cool things about it in terms of gameplay
The graphical style.. turned me off though. The ships in EV-Nova felt better and more 'alive' than these, on a level comparable with Transcendence (though there is definitely a give and take on a ship by ship bases. EVN has some ships I feel that are above what transcendence offers (including what I offer, but I can't beat it without using too much memory and still having 120 facings), and some that are below as well). The ones in endless sky feel watered down and "soulless", and its why I never got around to actually playing it, even though I should, if just for educational purposes. Heck, even though some of the SPAZ ships felt too toony with the game's overall aesthetic style for my personal tastes, they still have more personality than the majority of these.
Because I could not get 'engaged' in the ships, I failed to get engaged in the game enough to even try it.
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Sat Sep 24, 2016 4:38 pm

I don't think anyone mentioned yet that it's open source. GPLv3 though.

I'll leave this here just in case someone wants to dive into the code.

https://github.com/endless-sky

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digdug
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Sun Sep 25, 2016 12:05 am

Blitz wrote:I don't think anyone mentioned yet that it's open source. GPLv3 though.

I'll leave this here just in case someone wants to dive into the code.

https://github.com/endless-sky
ah , yes ! I skimmed through the code thinking of taking ideas and trying to rewrite portions into TLisp, but as an amateur, I couldn't decipher the C++. :( :(

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Wed Sep 28, 2016 3:20 pm

Wolfy wrote:Because I could not get 'engaged' in the ships, I failed to get engaged in the game enough to even try it.
I agree that at the beginning of the game, Endless sky looks a bit dull compared to Transcendence awesome diversity in 3d models.

However it makes up for it later by the end of the game.
This is from my own gameplay:
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Wed Oct 26, 2016 7:08 am

Now that I've played this game, thanks to this post: There's one thing I haven't seen mentioned yet that I prefer in Endless Sky to Transcendence.

There's no friendly fire. Weapons fire just passes through any of what we might call 'green' ships, but hits any 'red' ships.*

I never really thought about this until I noticed it wasn't there in Endless Sky, and maybe this is part of the simpler combat E.I.G. criticized, but:
  • I have never enjoyed trying to avoid shooting friendly stuff in Transcendence.
  • It makes escort missions harder.
  • It causes something else I don't like; the "one stray shot hits me and I must kill you" behavior of certain supposedly 'green' factions. (which stay green even while they're shooting at you, which causes problems with targeting and other things**) In Endless Sky, if you shoot at a 'green' it will turn 'red' immediately, but that's because it can't happen accidentally.
  • It gives certain weapons an advantage over others. Even the tutorial admits this; giving you a SmartCannon for your first escort mission to prevent collateral damage. Not that all weapons should be the same, of course, but I don't think this should be one of the differentiating factors. Without friendly fire, the SmartCannon's tracking would still be an advantage.
*I guess blue and light orange (their system) works just as well as a friendly/hostile indicator as green and red do, while being better for colorblind players. I only noticed this while writing this post, but maybe this is another answer. Transcendence still doesn't have a colorblind mode, does it?

**if I'm not careful, this post will turn into some kind of off-topic rant about a recent incident in which three Molotoks destroyed an entire Starton, and how there are at least four different ways it could have been less immersion-breaking
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JohnBWatson
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Wed Oct 26, 2016 1:40 pm

Cimanyd wrote:Now that I've played this game, thanks to this post: There's one thing I haven't seen mentioned yet that I prefer in Endless Sky to Transcendence.

There's no friendly fire. Weapons fire just passes through any of what we might call 'green' ships, but hits any 'red' ships.*
You have to target them specifically to hit them.

Also, I've played some more. A few things I've noticed:

There are secret systems

Once you get the jump drive, there are new systems that you have access to. New factions, too. Secret gates, shortcuts, and systems, especially if procedurally generated, would add a lot of depth and replayability to Transcendence. For example, there could be randomly generated 'enclaves' for some factions, dead end strings with 1 - 3 systems occupied by larger than average quantities of their stations, few to no friendlies, and perhaps something that they might find valuable, like ore - filled asteroids for the Ranx, or rare +soul items for the Penitent.

Some more on the combat system

There are quite a few interesting mechanics here that would be both easy to implement in Transcendence and very beneficial to gameplay.

Kiting

Kiting is handled interestingly. The particle cannon is the longest ranged non - ammo weapon in the game, serving a role similar to howitzers in Transcendence. However, it isn't nearly as dominating, for several reasons listed below. Kiting is treated less as something that we hope the player doesn't notice, and more as a strategy with its own advantages and disadvantages.
  • Ammo weapons have longer ranges. This is excellent balance, as it means that no ship can always attack with impunity. You must either risk running out of ammunition before your target is destroyed(while defending against the enemy's own ammo weapons), or bear the enemy's missiles long enough to get into range. The fact that slower ammo weapons tend to deal more damage and hit at longer ranges adds an additional layer of balance. These would all be exceedingly desirable balance changes for Transcendence.
  • The AI doesn't just tolerate being kited. Ships will attempt to land or gate out of the system once their shields go down. If Capital ships were to try to run once their internal HP is exposed(or something equivalent, in the event of a rework), players would have to plan for this and attack in earnest once the target starts to flee, rather than relying on an AI that lines up their shots for them.
  • Factions have force mixtures that allow them to counter various tactics, and they use them. While some ships are vulnerable to kiting, others are not, and the latter will often show up to assist the former. This would be harder to implement in Transcendence than other solutions, but letting capital ships and stations send out a "distress call" when being attacked from beyond weapon range that other stations in the system can respond to by sending or calling in some ships to help would imitate this fairly well while adding quite a bit of depth to the gameplay and remaining simple enough to code.
  • The carrier system is much improved. Rather than having to hard code carrier mechanics for every ship that is supposed to deploy fighters(which, I'll admit, does have its own advantages), one system is used, and fighters are launched on their own to engage fleeing enemies or deter attacks from beyond weapon range. Two balance improvements also exist: the fighters launched by a ship are of similar total combat capability to itself, and can be relied upon to live about as long as it does, and the speed of these fighters can be relied upon to exceed that of the gunships and capital ships that may be trying to avoid them. Launching fighters isn't of much benefit if a Wolfen can outrun them just as easily as it can the ship that deployed them. 'Interceptor' craft like the Corsair, Wind Slaver, and Sandstorm could generally use a significant speed buff.
  • Auto aiming and 360 degree rotation make fixed weapons easier to use, and turreted weapons have much shorter range than fixed ones on average. Not only does this make fixed angle dogfighting weapons worth using, it gives people a reason to use them over their turreted counterparts. This makes running from an enemy while shooting them with a turret gun less excessively powerful.

Fleeing

It's interesting how fleeing works in Endless Sky. Without a SCRAM drive, you must be almost completely stable in order to jump out of the system. Thus, the only two ways to escape an encounter are to outrun them until they can't catch you in time to prevent you from jumping, and to jump while hoping that their recoil - inflicting weapons can't disrupt your jump in time. Transcendence is similar, in a sense - either all but guarantee your escape with a jumpdrive, run for the gate, or flee from the enemy until they either give up or can no longer stop you if you try to run for one of the gates.


Different systems, and persistent fleets

Various pirate, merchant, and navy fleets appear to persist across systems. If you run away from a pirate or raider, they may follow you into the next system. This introduces an interesting parallel to Transcendence - enemies will often flee into places where they really shouldn't be, getting themselves killed. It's a very complex mechanic, and very hard to do well. It's cool to notice, but it also presents a good argument as to why Transcendence doesn't implement this feature. Might be worth canonizing the mod where pursuing ships chase the player across systems, though, at least for the ones that show up because you blew up their home.

Looting

Rather than looting wrecks, Endless Sky loot comes almost exclusively from disabled ships. While you can grab a few thousand credits worth of cargo from a several million credit fleet that you destroy, you have to disable a ship to steal its outfits or attempt to capture it. This complicates things quite a bit, but it's also a stellar balancing factor - Navy ships will just pound their enemies into space - dust, so you can't become a trillionaire by hanging around warzones and looting the massive piles of wrecks. The less - than - brilliant planning by pirates and warring factions in ES presents and excellent stress test for this system, and it holds up.

Transcendence can solve this problem easily enough - just have factions handle the loot they create. Pirates should loot the things they kill and take it to their stations, to leave the system on the next convoy out. Militaries may want to confiscate any weapons in the wreckage, or just destroy the wrecks to keep the area around their bases clean so that future enemies can't take advantage of the clutter. Civilian stations already take care of this. Alternatively, looter NPCs could show up at the scene of major NPC - on - NPC fights, and the player could have to outrun them or kill them to get a chance at any loot he didn't earn.

The economy

There are some interesting issues with the economy in both games, and comparing them could be a good way to find means of improving Transcendence's economy. In Transcendence, most money comes from killing enemy ships and stations, with occasional boosts from lucrative trade routes(which don't replenish after being used once) and destroyed friendly stations left behind by hostile factions. In ES, combat makes the best money in the endgame, and is the only way to build up enough money for the post-game content, but early game money making can come from many different routes, including trading, various missions, and going around searching for campaign missions.

While Transcendence's economy is set up to be finite(lasting as long as it takes to get out of the system, with the player presumably not showing up again for extended periods) and ES's is set up to last forever(as it should in an open world game), there are comparisons to make. In ES, trade routes typically carry profit margins of up to 10 percent, whereas Transcendence trade routes carry ~50% profit margins on average. This is very generous when they show up in the same system, and toning profit margins down when a trade route can be performed within one system is probably a good idea.

For trade routes across multiple systems, the profit margin seems about right. Unlike in ES, you can't see what's coming up. While cargo bays are rather generous with the extra cargo space they provide, cargo space is still quite precious, so the risk implicit in buying a lot of cargo should carry reward. A wrench in the works here shows up when you start playing like you would in ES, scouting out trade routes ahead of time and then making use of all of them, carrying out multiple trips if necessary. This does away with the risk factor implicit in trading, and makes the larger cargo holds of freighters much less useful - what's the difference between 100 and 200 kg of cargo if you can just make two trips? I'm not sure how I'd solve this, but it's worth looking at. Try playing a freighter in a no backtracking run and see how different trading feels, if you've never tried that sort of thing. The trade system is much more interesting that way.

One possible fix for trading in Transcendence would be to have stations be more aggressive when you're carrying lots of valuable items, sending more patrols after you and even deploying their guards if you get close enough to their sphere of influence, but this has its own set of issues. What happens if the player just clears out the systems beforehand? Could the profits of trade routes take the risk of piracy across all systems within them into account? That might be interesting.

Regarding profit through combat, Transcendence doesn't have ship capturing as a mechanic, meaning most profits from combat are made from looting equipment. In ES, price is heavily weighted towards hulls, with equipment costs being significant but far lower in the grand scheme of things. In addition, wrecks with loot in them disappear when the player lands or leaves, meaning nothing the player can't carry can be brought back to sell. This leads to much easier balancing for profits made from combat - the player can't pick clean an entire fleet of ships. As hated as they are, looter NPCs serve a purpose here - unless enemies were to use special equipment that costs far less than what's buyable in stores(which might be considered tacky), the player's profit from winning a level - appropriate fight are going to be enormous. This is part of the reason why the economy goes out the window towards the endgame - a single moderately large fight with anything in the region yields enough credits/Rin to buy pretty much anything you'd want.

An interesting solution to the above problem is to have enemy factions rely on intelligently used groups of individually weaker ships, taking advantage of the price curve to balance profits. One ship with level 5 parts costs as much as a group of ships with level 3 parts, but they can present equal threat to the player if used intelligently. It's also a lot more fun for the player, as a well thought out squadron of ships means that the AI doesn't need to do quite as much thinking to create an interesting fight as it would if it were in charge of one more powerful ship.

Edit: Just a heads up, you're not done when you finish
Spoiler: spoiler
. ES has a part II similar in theme to that of Transcendence, and you'll find it if you explore. It involves a lot of waiting around, though.

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Fri Nov 18, 2016 10:23 am

digdug wrote: fighting: most of the foes that the player encounters are designed to be fought by a fleet, not a single ship. Fleet management is very important as a game mechanic and several buttons are dedicated/tweaked for that (hold fleet, attack target, group/scatter have 1 button each).
This is the one thing that really turned me off ES.
I utterly loathe that kind of micromanagement, and once I got to the stage where flying a fleet rather than a ship was mandatory for any kind of progress I quickly got fed up with the hassle and packed in the game.
(It's the same reason I avoid wingmen and autons in T.)

The game itself is pretty fun once you get the hang of how the various mechanics work. But in my case the way it is designed meant that it had a definite lifetime that effectively ends the game well before the actual end.

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Mon Nov 21, 2016 10:22 pm

Some thoughts after playing Endless Sky for weeks:

Transcendence is a dungeon crawl in space. It is like Diablo (more so than Nethack) with some elements of Star Control 2. In the current part 1 adventures, you take your ship down the stargate stairs down to where the worst evil lives, kill it, then escape. In Eternity Port, you have the ascent of climbing out from Luminous back to Eternity Port.

Endless Sky is an Ultima-like sandbox in space. It reminds me of the earlier Ultima games, where much of the challenge is money grinding until you can afford enough high-powered ships and outfits to survive random pirates and any enemies the plot wants to throw at you, if you trigger it.

When starting a new game in Endless Sky, you apply for a loan that puts you in debt, and you get enough money to buy one of three starter ships: shuttle, small freighter, or small combat interceptor. After you buy your ship, you trigger an introduction mission to help you learn game basics.

Unlike Transcendence (and other games), combat during the early game is beyond frustrating, and the combat interceptor you can start as (Sparrow) is a trap choice. By frustrating, I mean that the weakest pirate ship is the same interceptor you can start as, and they can appear in greater number or in bigger ships. Combat, at least early in the game, is very basic and short-ranged, and all of the starter ships are relatively clumsy. Winning a fight is a matter of having better firepower and defenses than the enemy. Much later in the game, you can afford better hardware that makes your ship(s) faster and stronger, and may gain access to special items that allow more options. (Then, after endgame, you can rob a normally friendly yet powerful alien faction of the one weapon much stronger than everything else, equip your fleet with them, then stomp everything even faster.)

The best bet to survive early game is to trade commodities and ferry passengers, while avoiding combat at all costs. After grinding enough credits to pay off your debt and afford some better ships, you can finally engage in some combat and not die horribly. Because of this, the freighter is the optimal starter choice, allowing you to make money more quickly and getting out of debt.

Weapons for much of the game are very basic and can be divided into three major categories, short-ranged hitscan beam, energy bullets, and limited but long-ranged missiles. Much later, you can find special weapons that do special things such a flamethrower that does a bunch of heat damage, ion cannons that drain energy, homing missile weapon that is weak but unlimited and long-ranged, disruptor beam that can penetrate shields, and a minelayer that drops a cluster of bombs. All of the special weapons aside from the flamethrower are alien-made, and found relatively late in the game.

Endless Sky is designed for fleets. It will not be long before you acquire multiple ships and upgrade to a bigger ship that requires crew. When that time comes, you need to pay for crew salaries.

Trading is very basic. You buy low and sell high. It is generally easy to make some profit trading commodities. However, it is merely a way to maintain your fleet and pay bills. Barring additional income from special sources, you need to trade as much as possible to keep the cash flowing and pay the bills.

Currently, the most profitable activity is combat, specifically plundering equipment from disabled enemy ships and selling them. You can also board and capture enemy ships, but if you take casualties (which is highly likely unless you use illegal nerve gas, which result in severe fines when you get caught), you must pay exhorbitant death benefits that nearly wipe out any profit. Capturing ships is usually reserved for enemy ships with few crew (or no crew for drones) or unique and powerful ships such as the Arfecta (overpowered endgame alien ship). The rewards from plundering are so great that the next version to be released will feature depreciation that will severely reduce profits.

Credits is the galactic currency used by human and alien alike. However, most alien hardware is superior and much more costly than human stuff. This seems to be a deliberate design choice that I can understand.

Things I liked about Endless Sky:
  • No aiming blind spots. Transcendence needs more than 120 facings!
  • The plot, after you find it, is long and involved, and it branches in case of the human civil war.
  • At least two aliens species have significant factions, much like humans, instead of being a uniform planet of hats. Some factions are friendly, others are hostile warmongers (and few cancelled each other out in a civil war but left war machines behind to continue the fighting).
  • Epic fleet battles. You do not see this much early in the game, but much later, you will attain a big fleet, and the enemy can throw many powerful ships at you... and sometimes at each other.
  • Demanding tribute from planets in human space. When you get strong enough, you can demand tribute from planets (who become hostile if they were not already), destroy their defense fleet, then not only they let you land on their hostile planets freely with no bribes required, but they also pay you a modest sum every day! After you dominate close to a hundred planets, you will get enough tribute money to help pay your crew and not need to trade so much. (Sadly, you cannot demand tribute from aliens, they just laugh off your attempt as a joke.)
What I disliked:
  • Early game combat is suicidal. Your starter ship is hopelessly outgunned and outmatched. Occasionally, after entering another system, pirates greet you by destroying your ship before you can act. Better save often. This changes later.
  • Trading. You almost need to get into a routine of looking up commodity prices of your destination, buy the most profitable, travel, sell all at destination. Repeat. If you tire of this and do not want to trade, you will steadily lose money every day to bills and crew salary (unless you get tribute income and/or plunder often to offset).
  • You cannot switch flagships while in space.
  • Only the ship you control can plunder and/or board ships.
  • Because of the above two limitations, around early-midgame, when you can afford it, your flagship will become the (ugly asymmetical) Bactrian and stay that way until the end (of the available content). It is the most expensive and powerful human ship that can do everything, much like the Battlestar Galactica, at least in human space. Later, its combat power does not keep up with progressively stronger (and more expensive) alien ships, but you need its cargo and crew capacity to plunder ships effectively, and plundering is the most profitable activity by far. None of the stronger alien ships (so far) have as much overall capacity as the Bactrian.
  • Because you need to control the Bactrian to plunder and board ships, you will eventually need your fleet to do nearly all of the fighting. Starting by midgame, you are basically forced to be a minionmancer if you want to play optimally. If you want to pick a powerful warship to pilot and blast things at the front line, you will lack the cargo space to plunder much or lack the crew capacity to board enemy ships effectively.
  • Target selection is painful. You can select closest hostile, or next ship. There is no cycle hostile targets only, and no dedicated clear target key. Here, Transcendence is better.
  • You cannot command your ships to guard anyone other than yourself. This hurts when you want them to guard something weaker than yourself.
  • Outfitting! As you access progressively stronger items, it becomes a real chore to find the optimal configuration for each of your ships. I have spend hours crunching numbers in my head and managing my items to make sure have enough space, enough energy to fire my weapons long enough, and not too much heat to cripple my ships - all of them!
  • Fighters are generally not worth bothering. Even when you amass enough to kill things, either they blast things with short-ranged beams and many die, or they pepper everything with long-range missiles, and you need to spend about a million credits to reload ammo. Either way, it gets expensive.
  • Much of the best content is unlocked by completing plot events. This does not seem so bad except that it might be very easy to make one bad choice (or combat mission gone horribly wrong), and mission failure blocks further progress permanently.
  • Plot: You must choose a side in the civil war in human space (only one side, the Free Worlds, is finished) and complete the plot in human space before you can access plot in alien space.
  • Finally, the game is not done! While humans have three major factions, only one side has their story done. Much later, after you help the (alien) Wanderers move to new space, there is no more plot until the next release!
Download and Play in 1.7 Beta...
Playership Drones v7 (Beta): Acquire and command almost any ship in Stars of the Pilgrim or Eternity Port.
Drake Technologies (Alpha): More hardware for combat in parts 1 and 2!
Star Castle Arcade: Relive classic arcade gaming in a new Transcendence adventure!
Godmode v3 (WIP): Dev/cheat tool compatible with D&O parts 1 or 2.

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Thu Nov 24, 2016 4:02 pm

One of the biggest differences I see is cross-platform support. Mac and Linux users are heavy supporters of games that easily run on their platforms.
And at least in a developer sense - everything from code to design / story is posted centrally and heavily organized - https://github.com/endless-sky/endless-sky/wiki.

Different perspective maybe?
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