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Community Drop: Game Vision
In the last update, we promised that we would share our plans for Early Access and the vision for the game with you. If you already saw that update, you’ll know that we talked about some changes in the scope of the game and a new focus for the initial release. We’ve had to take some tough decisions and we’ve taken a hard look at what we pitched, what you wanted and what we can deliver.
So, we will start with the overview. We will release The Mandate as an Early Access title in 2017. The Early Access version will introduce you to the story and give you the opportunity to explore the universe. We expect to have the opening arc of the main story and several hours of side-quests as hand-crafted content for you to explore. In addition, you will be able to explore fringe clusters and experience the sandbox.
We will have trading, combat, customization, and crew management. You will be able to find your own role within the universe. You can be a trader, finding rare and valuable cargoes and matching the lowest prices with the highest bidders. You can hunt pirates in the lawless fringes or become a pirate yourself and prey on fat traders scurrying from port to port. You can fit your ship with a variety of modular ship sections to optimize your vessel for different roles. Finally, you will be able to interact with your crew. They will progress along with you and you will have choices to make about their specialization as well as potential replacements. Crew members will have their own stories to explore and personalities that might impact the way that you choose to explore the game.
Work in progress: ship refitting
Let’s take a closer look at some of those systems.
First, the story. The Mandate has a huge and branching plot that’s already fleshed out and that will take a long time to play through. The story is branching based on your decisions - which faction you choose to support as well as which enemies and allies you made.
This means that you will be able to replay it several times and get a different experience each time. The Early Access version will introduce you to the first act of the story and give you a chance to take your first steps in that journey. As well as the main story, there will be crew missions, side-quests, and all kinds of discoverable content waiting for you. Your relationship with your crew is important to the game and we’ll have some of that in the Early Access version. Your officers have skills that affect the performance of your ship and help you in other areas such as diplomacy, trade, and science; skills can be learned and officers can specialize as you journey through the galaxy. In addition, your officers will impact the story as a result of their personal stories and their personalities.
We’ll release significantly more content after Early Access; you’ll get to advance further along in the main story as well as finding more things to do along the way. The story is a central pillar of the game and you’ll be thrust into the very center of galactic politics and intrigue with the opportunity to change everything. As we previously mentioned, the Early Access version will be a single player experience. The story is designed around a single captain and their crew.
The first sandbox cluster will comprise 3-4 systems. These will be filled with NPCs to interact with, resources to find, trade deals to make, pirates to dodge (or hunt!), and an opportunity to make your name as whatever you want to be. More fringe clusters will be added after Early Access with a different mix of content and new opportunities to explore. What we call Fringe cluster is the wild region outside the mandate space. Everything is possible here and they can be dangerous for the unwary. As you progress, you’ll find greater rewards in more remote areas - if you are prepared to accept the greater risks.
Work in Progress: trading interface
When we looked at your expectations for the game, a common theme was customization. You wanted the opportunity to adjust the way that your ship and your crew worked together so that’s an important element for us, too. Ships are modular; different sections can be fitted together. Different subsystems and weapons can be added to really specialize your vessel for the task at hand. Whether you want a fast trader, a science vessel, or a heavily-armed warship, you’ll be able to adapt your ship as you want. Your crew is also central to your plans. Your officers will progress and have the opportunity to improve and specialize. You will be in control of how they develop so that your crew and your ship together form a perfect tool to carve out your place in the galaxy. The crew are also part of your experience in other ways. They will have their own motivations to explore, loyalties, and personality traits which can affect the way that you progress through the game. You’ll have choices to make about your crew. Will you replace difficult members or work through their problems? When the Early Access launches, these systems and options will already be in place, more choices and further opportunities will be added after launch.
Exploring and chasing danger implies the chance to get into combat. We have come up with a different approach to most space games. We wanted a system that was about resource management and planning, which also emphasized command rather than one that was about twitch play or reflexes. We want you to be a commander rather than a fighter pilot. We want you to make the decisions that matter and then watch your crew make them happen. We’ve built a system that runs as asynchronous, turn-based battle. You’ll plan your actions, provide orders to your crew and then watch those actions play out in slices of real-time. You can adjust your plans and react to new information between each turn as well as run simulations of the next few seconds to check your strategy. We will be able to give you a detailed look at this later on.
Work in Progress: The bridge of your ship
The center of your experience is the bridge of your ship. You will see your officers working away at their stations, as well as the holo-projector which lets you plan your journeys around the galaxy. It also runs your battlespace simulations. A large viewport shows you a variety of camera angles outside your ship as well as a series of options when you are docked in a station. This is your command centre and you can run everything from here. You can zoom in for fine-control and closer inspection or you can issue general orders from the default view. Later on, there will be an opportunity to have your own base of operations as well as to lead your crew in daring boarding combat operations. Boarding combat will be developed after the Early Access Launch. We have a list of features that we hope to have ready to roll out between Early Access and final release and we will be able to give you a more complete view of those plans closer to the time. For now, we are concentrating on what we know we can deliver and avoiding the trap of over-promising.
All in all, we have a solid design and framework to build upon. We are busy making all of this work at the moment and we will be sharing development updates with you all the way up to Early Access and beyond. Look out for videos of the team at work, feature and art showcases and gameplay videos as we get closer to release.