Try the Astral Shipwright demo!
The first public release of the game is now available. Try it to get a first look at what the game will feel like, and don't forget to wishlist it if you enjoy the experience!
This first build should be seen as a very early version of the game - Early Access is still a ways off. In fact, this demo doesn't feature more than basic shipbuilding, travel and trading. It also runs on the cutting-edge Unreal Engine 5, with the limited stability and support that comes with early technology. In short, this is a vertical slice of the game masquerading as a demo!
Known issues include the following items:
- The game may randomly crash to desktop. There is no need to report the crash as the operation is done automatically, but feel free to report the conditions of the crash if you were doing something in particular at the time.
- The game map may display in a corner of the screen as opposed to the center.
- AI ships may clutter the map by flying very close to stations.
- Spacecraft may have undesired trajectories around asteroids.
If you're wondering why such an early version of the game is up on Steam today, here are the main reasons.
- Helium Rain, my previous project, took five years of development, in large part because late playtesting let to significant rebuilding.
- Astral Shipwright has been in development for about 18 months already and has nice fundamental elements that need validating.
- I believe players can try an early, buggy version of the game and enjoy the complete experience later, especially if their feedback is heard.
In short, I believe a game needs to find its way into player's hands as quickly as it can in order to get better.
So what's this game about?
Astral Shipwright is about two things: building a spaceship, and operating it.
The first aspect of the game exists in a nearly complete state. You can build your ship by adding compartments, which are large structural building blocks; and filling them with modules, which are large internal components, and equipment, which are smaller external components. The current selection of all three classes of ship parts will of course be expanded upon, but this is a solid foundation that will not change fundamentally. Compartments will get more intermediate options such as three and four-modules compartments, and hopefully a larger rotating compartment. Modules will be much more varied, allowing you to turn your ship into a mobile factory or to carry passengers; and additional equipments will expand into sensors, solar panels, and of course weapons.
This brings up to the second component, spacecraft operation. This part already allows you to buy fuel, plot trajectories, and travel between stations or mine asteroids. This will of course be drastically expanded. Here are some "user stories" that I want to allow - keeping in mind that this, again, is just a plan for the future and that some of these ideas may change or be removed.
- Build a mofile refinery that processes mined asteroid while en route to a station. This is my first order of business after the demo!
- Add a powerful radar to your ship in order to detect and pirate other vessels.
- Smuggle passengers or wares while avoiding detection by enemies, running dark to avoid detection.
- Take on contracts to eliminate targets.
Your overall goal as a player is simply to build your dream ship. This is a tall order - everyone has a different ideas of what their ship should be like, and providing enough variety is difficult work. I hope the result will be satisfying!
We're in June 2022 - and the Early Access release is planned for September. In those short two and a half months, I plan on building a more complete experience for shipboard systems - including power management, mineral mining and processing. Along with new content, UI improvements, and feedback from the demo, this will make for a more interesting experience.
After that, there are three main blocks of features that will be landing during Early Access, hopefully one every three months.
- Progression block: parts will be restricted at first and unlocked by progressing through the game. This is very important to avoid drowning the player under unecessary features right at the start. This should also come with a Helium-Rain style contract system.
- Combat block: engage other ships with long-range weapons.
- Detection block: run dark, or find the ones running dark.
Whether these blocks release all at once or as a steady stream of new features will depend on how development goes, but this is what the priorities look like.
Astral Shipwright doesn't currently feature multiplayer, but it's worth mentioning that the game is developed with multiplayer in mind. It was a highly requested (and highly impossible) feature in Helium Rain, and I would love the experience of taking contracts with your friends and flying in formation to gun down enemies. The only promise I can make is that I am dedicating development time to making it possible - it's a lower priority than the previous items, since you can't play a game with your friends if your friends aren't playing it. I will keep developing the game with multiplayer support, and in due time, if everything goes right, you will be able to join friends to help them out with your new stealth frigate.
Thank you for reading me - and thank you for playing Astral Shipwright.