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Alpha Test Update - 20th March 2013
March 20, 2013 - Paul

As planned the first Neon alpha build was ready on schedule for the end of February.

The intention was to have all of the existing game systems bug free and balanced to allow for lengthy play sessions and to get a real feel for how the game was shaping up. This was achieved and the idea of this update is to let those that are following Neon know the results.

Current state of the game
The core procedurally generated game world, with approximately one thousand persistent enemy ships flying around doing their own thing is all working as intended (It's possible to have two thousand ships but the game feels cluttered with that many).

The player can kill and loot those enemies collecting the upgrades, ships and weapons that they are using and use them himself.

All of that tech is nicely balanced all the way up to tech level 80 with nearly one thousand upgrades and ship types varying in usability across those levels.

Upgrade shops, hull dealerships, garages, and armories are also working nicely with their pricing scaling to create a steady progression for the player.

In a nutshell, all of the existing gameplay and technology is now balanced and working with no major bugs, and the combat and enemy AI scaling feels great.

So can we play the game already?!
Hehe, not just yet.

The biggest issue that playing the alpha build highlighted was that there simply wasn't enough really exciting new fun stuff constantly unlocking to keep the player motivated. Unlocking better shields, faster engines, new weapons, and new hulls is fun for a while but that was always intended to be just the backbone of the game. The plan was always for Neon to be much more than that...

Since the start of development, the plan was always to add loads of cool toys and gadgets, with new ones unlocking constantly to keep the gameplay fresh and ever changing. The alpha build didn't have these although they are in development now.

The plan was always to get the core fundamentals of the game tech finalized for the alpha so that there was a solid and balanced foundation to build the rest of the game around. To that extent the alpha was a complete success.

It's now time for the really fun stuff
Now that all the hard work of getting the game systems fully functional is done, development energy can be spent making all the cool gadgets.

Work on this has already begun and they are already having a dramatic effect on the fun factor.

Just this week the Drone tech was finalized. Drones are little autonomous ships that any ship in the game can release if they have a drone upgrade installed. The player can loot these off enemies or buy them at upgrade shops just like any other upgrade. A ship can have multiple drone upgrades installed. If the player installs three drone upgrades he can release three drones at once, but of course installing drone upgrades will be taking the place of other potential system or weapon booster upgrades that they could have installed instead.

Another really cool gadget is also finished but I'm keeping the details of that one under wraps because the idea is too cool and would be stolen by other developers.

The idea is to have dozens of gadgets and cool toys that the player can install along with the hundreds of already finished weapon and system booster upgrades. Yet, each ship only has a maximum of eight miscellaneous upgrade slots, that these fit into, so the player will need to experiment and find which upgrade loadouts work best in all of the various hulls.

I'm sure you can imagine the possibilities.

Upgrading to Unity Pro
Currently Neon has been built in Unity Basic!

Unity Pro offers so many extra rendering options that are not available in Unity Basic. Realtime lighting and shadows, deferred rendering, and bloom/glow effects are some of the options that I'm most excited to experiment with. The good news is that I'm confident enough with the result of the Neon alpha that I expect to upgrade to Unity Pro this week.

There will obviously be teething problems with the transition. I'm not just moving from Basic to Pro but from version 3.5 to 4.0 which does many things differently. I expect that next week will be spent doing nothing more than getting the existing game transferred over and ironing out all the bugs that will arise from that.

Then I will be experimenting with all the cool new rendering options available and I expect they will make Neon look a whole lot better than it does right now. Hopefully in a couple of weeks I'll be able to do some screenshots to show the initial results.

The next 3 months
I plan Neon's development in 3 month chunks so here is what is planned over the next 3 months.

~ Upgrade to Unity Pro and improve the games rendering and graphic fidelity.
~ Build at least a dozen (hopefully more) completely new gadgets that will convert into about 100 new upgrades.
~ Experiment with a completely different ship design concept. More on this later but the idea is to experiment with a more modular design where I can plug ship parts together and have miscellaneous upgrades attaching to the outside of the ships so that the game could have literally thousands of different ship designs. I've never been really happy with the current ships.
~ Polish up the User Interface and convert much of the text into icons.
~ Improve explosions and particle effects to give combat a more dramatic look and feel.
~ Possibly add challenge arenas and more environement designs if there is time.
~ No doubt much more than this but these are the main goals.

That will bring us up to the end of May. The plan is to have another alpha build done by then that should have enough content to pack the first 15 tech levels full of content.

At that point I will review the state of the game again. If I'm happy with those first 15 tech levels I will consider making the game available for purchase with future development adding the content to fill out the remaining tech levels in similarly sized chunks.

Each station in the game spans 15 tech levels, so it makes sense to ensure the first station is full of content and motivation, to keep upgrading, before moving on to the next.

Neon is still on schedule, I've managed to meet every deadline I've set for myself so far, and the next 3 months are going to be the most exciting of all. It's finally time to start working on the really cool and fun stuff.

Please feel free to chime in again with your ideas for cool gadgets. I already have some great ones planned but the more people who throw their ideas into the hat, the better Neon will be.

Thanks for your continued support and interest and don't forget to let similarly minded gamers know about Neon.

Paul - Intravenous Software.

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Paul Mar 31, 2013 @ 5:06pm 
I'm really eager for you to play it too!
St4s1 Mar 31, 2013 @ 11:39am 
no offense, but i read the topic, goy very exited, scrolled down and got sad. Im really eager to play it! :D
Paul Mar 27, 2013 @ 5:11pm 
Adding pics is definitely on my to do list. I spent the end of last week and the beginning of this week upgrading to Unity Pro. It took a few days to iron out all the new and weird bugs that cropped up, but mixed with that I was also upgrading the default colour scheme textures to work better with bloom.

I really wanted to do some pics, but I knew I would also likely be updating the ships so it seemed more sensible to wait and replace all the existing screenshots when that work was complete. There is also a possibility that I may choose to do some GUI upgrades right after the ships too, so that may delay some screenshots a little longer.

Expect all the screenshots to be replaced in the next 2-3 weeks.
Psycho Mar 27, 2013 @ 2:31pm 
Sounds sweet, hit us with some pics when you're ready?
Paul Mar 27, 2013 @ 1:03pm 
Thanks for your belief and support Sgt.Psycho. If I get some time I may take a look at it.

Haha, like I ever have any free time.

While I'm here I'll just add an update: Today I began experimenting with the idea of having ships built around a modular design where pieces slot together (almost like lego). The initial idea was to possibly proceedurally build ships from a group of parts, but after some initial testing I don't think I'll go that route.

However, I really liked the look of the first ship that came out of this experiment. I'll be spending the rest of the week building a couple more ships to see if I like the new design enough to completely replace all existing ships.
Psycho Mar 26, 2013 @ 4:12pm 
Hey you're the dev, so you'd know. As I said you wouldn't want to copy Zigfrak. Being (imho) superficially similar games (6DOF space shooters with an emphasis on combat over storyline, with a lot of randomised elements) based on the same engine, you might find some elements in it that could be useful to you.

I'm not familiar with Unity, but you might find a certain UI feature, the way it multi-tasks different features, or certain shaders interesting. From a design standpoint, the transitions, loot logic/drops and overall fluidity of the interface is well worth a look. Never pass up an opportunity to improve and learn, I say.

Neon is of course, it's own game, with it's own style and it's own flow. I expect it will be pretty much premiere in it's genre and look forward to comparing the two side games by side.
Paul Mar 25, 2013 @ 5:07pm 
Hey, I was already aware of Zigfrak but it doesn't appeal to me. That might sound strange considering the similarities but at it's core Neon is a different game entirely.

The original concept of Neon came from my utter dismay that in nearly 30 years nobody had recreated a game with the core combat mechanics that made Elite a classic. I'm not talking about the trading, I'm talking about it's combat.

Elite gave you a scanner that let you know where all enemies were with such precision that you could flick your mouse and be facing them instantly. No turning speed restrictions combined with the perfect scanner created combat that, in my opinion, no space shooter has matched since.

It's no coincidence that the scanner in Neon is the same as Elite's, or that the controls allow you to spin 360 instantly. It allows you to literally run rings around enemies.

Psycho Mar 25, 2013 @ 1:33pm 
Thanks for the update. I can get that making a demo takes time that could be far better spent actually working on the game. I'm just being impulsive and demanding. :)

By all means, make Neon all it can be. As you've said, the competition is very steep (1000+ entries) so you really want to stand out from the crowd, not just be "okay"

I hesitate to pimp it out (okay, maybe I don't) but if you've not seen it take a look at
This is a space shooter with many of the same design goals as Neon, also using the Unity engine. It's pretty cool and lots of fun to play. I'm not saying you should copy it by any means, but give it a go and you may find some ideas that will tie in neatly with your vision for Neon. The free demo is not time-limited, you can visit any location, but only advance to level 10.
Paul Mar 25, 2013 @ 11:49am 
I've considered Kickstarter, but I'm in the UK and the UK kickstarter site is not as busy as the main one. It's not totally off my radar though.

The problem with creating the demo is it takes time to prepare and time is the most valuable commodity for a solo developer. Trust me you will be pleased you waited. It would be a bit like eating your dinner before it's cooked - it's better to wait for it to finish or you will spoil it.

Do keep checking back though over the next few weeks. I've been working on the graphics using Unity Pro again, and boy is it looking so much better.
Jhaymes Mar 24, 2013 @ 9:35pm 
I'll keep my writing fingers limber for when it's ready, then. I'm looking forward to having something to say about Neon.