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Barotrauma: status update & Steam release

Way past due to make a blog post and give a status update on what’s going on with Barotrauma!

Despite the lack of major updates (on the blog and on the game), a lot of stuff has been happening this year. Those of you who have keeping an eye on the GitHub repo may have noticed the dev branch we’ve been working on this past year. There’s quite a lot of new features and changes in the dev version, and in the coming weeks I’ll be making more blog posts about them and the things to come. But as a teaser, here’s some of the upcoming features (some already implemented):

  • Overhauled health system that’s closer to SS13’s one. Supports things like limb-specific injuries (like a broken leg that reduces movement speed), overdoses, poisons, antidotes, infections, addictions, mental health problems… And everything is highly customizable, so I’m eager to see what modders can do with this.
  • The campaign is being overhauled to give the player a better sense of progression. The levels and missions increase in difficulty as the player progresses, the world changes as new outposts are established and existing ones devastated by the sea monsters, and there’s an actual end goal instead of having the player wander around the map indefinitely. We’re also planning on making the outposts something you can actually dock your sub to and enter, not just menus with a list of characters to hire and items to buy. This is such a large feature to implement though, that at least initially the outposts will stay similar to the way they are (although with redesigned menus).
  • Improved levels. There are several distinct biomes with different sorts of environmental hazards: moving ice structures, water currents, sonar-disrupting sessile organisms, giant plants that can latch onto the sub, lava vents…
  • Improved and more easily customizable event system. The system can be used to adjust the difficulty and pacing of the rounds more accurately, for example by distributing monsters more evenly throughout the level, by creating random events when there’s nothing going on or by delaying additional monster spawns when the crew has just been hit by a disaster.
  • Visual improvements: many of the current sprites and animations will be reworked, menus redesigned, the lighting system improved and new kinds of structures added to give sub creators more to work with.
  • Better audio design and new music composed specifically for the game (along with a system that dynamically mixes the music according to the situation).
  • Steam integration: achievements, matchmaking through Steam, authenticating users based on their Steam ID (= ban evasion by changing your IP will not work anymore), downloading mods and submarines from Steam Workshop…
  • Improved crew AI and more ways to command the AI characters – playing with an AI crew doesn’t feel like babysitting suicidal crash test dummies anymore.
  • VOIP
  • In-game character and animation editor. So less tedious xml editing to create new monsters or mod the existing ones.
  • As usual, tons of optimization and bugfixes.

In other news, Baro’s development is about to switch to a higher gear: FakeFish, a game studio I’ve been working at for the past ~3 years, recently started collaborating on the development and now with the extra hands on deck on the code, art, design and audio side we should be able to progress towards the Steam release way faster. And it’s not just about getting the game ready for release faster; we’ve assembled a really solid team with over 60 years of combined gamedev experience that’s worked on over 70 titles (S.O.M.A, Cities in Motion, P·O·L·L·E·N, Ridge Racer Unbounded, Angry Birds (:D), Thief of Thieves and Iron Sky to name a few), and I’m quite confident we can take the game to a whole new level with this crew.

Regarding the Steam, something I’ve been mulling over is whether there should be an early access release or not, but now I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the best way to go. I’m generally not a big fan of the early access model, but I feel like at this point it’d be beneficial not just for Baro’s development but also for the players. Steam and Steamworks make many things so much easier – distribution, updates, hosting servers, finding and installing mods and new subs, managing servers, client authentication… And of course getting a little bit of profit from the game is also a good thing for the development. I also think that Barotrauma is the kind of game that you could keep adding content to almost indefinitely, and if I were to wait for a point where everything I want to implement is implemented, it’d take forever before it’s “officially finished” – so I believe a good alternative is to release a good, solid and stable base game as early access and keep expanding it (and also let modders expand it with the help of Steam Workshop). And as a side note, the Steam release is going to be DRM-free, so if you feel early access is cancer, there are alternative ways to get the game, although you might not be able to use any of the Steam functionality if you get the game from an “unofficial” source.

As for the release date, we’re currently aiming for February 2019. It’s not set in stone yet and it might turn out we have to stretch it a bit, but in any case we’re starting to get close!

More in-depth posts about the new features coming up soon!

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