If we had to name one defining thing that makes Prosperous Universe what it is, the thing that determines game feel, pacing and a player’s progression in the game world, we’d have to say this was the Material Tree. And with most core features of the Early Access release candidate being in the game, the material tree is our primary focus at the moment.
This time we deviate from our usual devlog format a bit. The simple reason: Michi was at simulogics HQ again and we spent the days (mostly) locked in a room together, staring at a whiteboard and pondering over the material tree. Before we start putting in the high-level meta gameplay features during the Early Access phase, any sense of progression in the game is rooted in the material tree. Therefore it has to tick quite a few boxes:
- The lower-level materials needs to be easy enough to produce that the economy can more or less bootstrap itself.
- Especially for new players, the early production chains must work quick enough to give the players “something to do” during their first hours and days in the game.
- There shouldn’t be major imbalances giving players an advantage or a disadvantage from the get-go by simply choosing a certain starting profile.
- There needs to be clear progression, making higher-level materials increasingly more costly to produce and late-game supply chains difficult to master.
- The tree needs to set incentives to explore the game world and to start and grow colonies beyond the initial systems.
- All materials should match the particular flavor of sci-fi we envisioned for the game, which means no over-the-top techno-babble but also not 1:1 realism.
Tech-trees are the bread & butter of game designers out there. But add the fact that PU needs many hundreds of materials to work properly to the already quite extensive list above and you start to see the challenge we’re facing: Balancing this beast and keeping it in line with all our requirements is tricky, to say the least.
Obviously, we didn’t solve the issue over the few days we got to spend together this week, but I think we at least have a few ideas on how to tackle this problem. I am pretty sure you will read a lot more about it over the coming weeks or - if you are part of our alpha test program - you might actually experience the first results first-hand. If you want to become a part of said program, make sure to join the forums and let us know!
Last but not least: The voting for the IndieDB indie-of-the-year competition is open for a few more hours! Please help us out and cast your vote for Prosperous Universe!