A major change to Subsurface: now it takes place in a submarine instead of an underwater station!
I’ve been turning over this idea in my head for a while and thought it would make the game a lot more interesting, but I wasn’t sure whether it would be feasible to do using Farseer physics. The physics engine can’t handle collisions properly if one object is a lot larger than the other, and moving an object with smaller objects inside it is also somewhat problematic. But I managed to make it work pretty well by cheating a bit (for example, the submarine doesn’t actually move, only the map), and I think it was definitely worth the effort.
Now, instead of sitting in the same spot at the bottom of of the ocean, you’ll be guiding a submarine through procedurally generated caverns and trenches, trying to reach the next outpost/city/station to replenish your supplies and hire some new crew members to replace the ones who got eaten by some eldritch horror.
I think this change will improve some aspects of the game a lot. One thing is that it creates a much stronger sense of progression. Earlier, I would start the game, go about my daily routine for a while (fixing anything that needs fixing, making sure everything is running smoothly), waiting for the inevitable disaster to strike. After the situation had been resolved, I’d repair any damage and basically start from over again. I’d also gain better equipment and gather a more competent crew as the game progressed and the difficulty level of the random disasters went higher, but it still felt like I was going nowhere. Okay, I survived through that shift, lets start another one and have another monster wreck everything again.
How the game works now is somewhat similar to FTL. You have this large map with dozens of different
beacons outposts, and you travel from one location to another through the aforementioned procedurally generated levels. I think it immediately gave the game some of that much needed sense of progression: you aren’t starting another round just to get through another round, but to make your way to the next location while exploring a completely new area with who knows what between you and the destination.
At the moment the outposts are nothing more than points on the map with some creative name (such as “Location 985″), but obviously there will be more to them in the future. Some could be cities where you can hire new crew members or sign up for some kind of quests (“kill the enormous squid thing that’s stopping our ships from using some passageway”, “go to Place X and salvage something from a sub that sank there last month”). Some could be military outposts where you can buy weapons, ammo and explosives, or research facilities where you can buy cool new tech. Or remote underwater facilities that had gone completely silent some time ago after broadcasting a distress signal.
Having the game take place in a submarine also allows a wider array of things that can go wrong. Breaking the reactor and running out of power doesn’t just mean that the lights go off and oxygen generators shut down, it means you’re stuck at the bottom of some uncharted cavern until you fix the reactor or come up with some other way to power up the engines.
Navigation and steering the ship are also a new cause for potential disasters (as seen in the Youtube clip).