Sunless Skies

Sunless Skies

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failbetterfuzz  [developer] Oct 9, 2018 @ 2:29am
Feedback Focus: The Reach Redesign
Greetings Sky-Captains!

The latest update sees the release of the revamped Reach. Dark, verdant and dangerous, we’re very proud of it and we think it’s going to blow you away, especially if you’ve been playing throughout Early Access.

We received a lot of feedback in Early Access that the Reach was too big and too empty. We listened and iterated our segment designs as we introduced the Albion and Eleutheria regions. Each time we felt we improved the atmosphere and use of space but this left the Reach feeling rather lacking, which is quite a big problem considering it’s the starting area of the game.

Not only does the redesign address the atmosphere and emptiness of the Reach, but its labyrinthine layout helps create interesting choices when navigating to points of interest. Will you travel into dead ends full of lucrative discoveries knowing there’s a chance that the Candlewind may appear and make escape difficult? Do you risk a detour through agent infested areas to visit a Wonder that will lower your Terror? Should you choose the shortest route to your destination and risk encounters with Terror inducing Horrors, or should you play it safe and go the long way around which uses more fuel?

We’re very keen to hear what you think about:
  • The visuals
  • The atmosphere
  • How it makes you feel
  • How populated the segments feel with discoveries and agents. Too much? Not Enough? Just right?
  • Interesting decisions/choices you’ve made on your journey around the Reach
  • Anything else you want to share with us

Give us your thoughts, tell us your stories. And as always, thank you for your input, we appreciate it and it is a huge help to us.

Please keep in mind that New Winchester hasn’t had a makeover yet because it’s tied into the opening game experience which is coming in a later build.
Last edited by failbetterfuzz; Oct 10, 2018 @ 8:51am
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Showing 1-15 of 28 comments
jacques Oct 10, 2018 @ 1:08pm 
I didn't have that much time to play today but I have just made a quick tour of the new Reach and it is. Absolutely. GORGEOUS. It is almost like discovering a new region altogether. Be it the snowy segment of Lustrum or the wild untamed area surrounding Titania, everything looks majestic. Congratulations on your stellar work!

It feels much more foreboding and threatening now, with a lot less emptiness and void backgrounds than before. Even if the region is now smaller, it feels much, much more interesting than before.

The only worry I have (and I know it is a silly one) is the disappearance of the ''Inner Circle'' music track, which was one of my favourites in the game. Especially jarring since there are two tracks that are present in two different segments each (Hybras + Traitor's Woods and Leadbeater + Lustrum). I'd think it would fit the Leadbeater and Stainrod area to a T, and it would bring some variety in the soundtrack. Anyways it would be a shame to lose this particular music. It is (IMO) way better than the current Lustrum - Leadbeater one.

I can't wait to spend dozens of Hours rediscovering every inch of the Reach. Once again, thank you for you amazing work!
Delta Oct 11, 2018 @ 4:01am 
Haven't fully re-explored yet but so far I'm loving it. Feels a lot more like Eleutheria; the sharpened graphics are gorgeous, I loaded in Traitor's Wood which felt appropriately mystical. Love the new look for the circus too. Lustrum is probably the standout though; the wide open zone of darkness which (I'm assuming) is where the initial slope of the mountain begins, really conveys a sense of scale. Would like to see more purple lights in the air though (wouldn't we all?)

On agent spawns, I've found them significantly improved, I promptly ran into a dead end near Brauley Rock which led to me being destroyed by Scrive Spinsters and Cantankeri. Definitely more dangerous with less room to maneuver, but it also aids navigation; instead of points of interest being arbitrarily distributed through empty space, I've come to refer to certain paths by their name; the Barrows is, for instance, a safe tunnel straight to Magdalene's. Weather events seem greatly improved too; being propelled away from a few too many baddies by the Peacock Wind feels quite rewarding now the momentum has been fixed.

All in all, the Reach really puts your best foot forward when it comes to the starting region new players will load into. Keen to see the new New Winchester, but impressed at how nicely the tutorial zone has been incorporated into the great bloody rock surrounding the more open city.
Nue Oct 11, 2018 @ 2:37pm 
Right, I’ll be the bad guy then.

I’ll admit, before this patch, I hadn’t gone along to the later regions, as I was really keen on acing the Reach (even that ever-resetting Circus). My Moloch-class liner was the doom of the Reach, and still only packs the green gear of that first region. So basically, the Reach was my home. Now, onto the assessment.

The good? The atmospherics are beautiful.

The ugly? There’s too much of them.

The project utterly succeeds at making me feel like I’m within something. However, I want to feel like I’m flying through the skies at some point, and not part of a planetary drilling expedition. Without that vast screaming void of hungry stars beneath my train, I don’t feel like I’m in space. Nothing seems that large on a background that looks so reachable, so that really this game feels like it takes place in some chthonic civilization that has fled into the bowels of their planet, not one that has raced to the blackness between planets.

What is the horror of Old Tom’s Well when it seems like a whirlpool in a great underground ocean and not a sucking gyre stabbing a hole through the very sky? How impressive is “an ocean the size of a forest” when there appears to be forest bl___y everywhere? What size am I to see for the Mother of Mountains when there are other mountains rising up above her forming a perimeter that edges in my exploration, that is to say: when the Mother of Mountains is contained inside a cave in a larger mountain?

The bad? “Chuck some rocks in it, job done!”

In Sunless Sea, coastal navigation was a feature to be exploited. One did not follow walls because they helped you find things unless you needed to find Wither or Kingeater Castle or one of the other things that always spawned on one of the four walls. One followed the coasts because of a simple feature with a complicated knock-on effect to gameplay: while near a coast, any coast including the islands, the amount of terror you gained was reduced. So, hugging a wall with your light on meant you had minimal terror growth. It encouraged skimming islands, coasts, light buoys, anything that counted for a bit less terror. Or, if terror wasn’t your problem but fuel was, you could turn off your lamp, and the coastline helped to mitigate the penalty of having your lamp off, while having the lamp off slowed the rate at which you consumed fuel. Of if fuel weren’t your problem, it made it easier to hide from Zea Beasts by killing the light and hugging the shore, without gaining too much terror.

Being near coasts in Sunless Skies doesn’t adjust terror, so they just threaten to ding your hull with no benefits. Similarly, the lamp only adjusts terror, not fuel, so there’s less interplay of features. This means the walls don’t create any complexities of options in balancing fuel against terror against visibility. Which brings us to the second issue of chucking in rocks.

Late-game Sunless Sea rewarded captains with the ability to design their own elaborate routes. If I was simultaneously delivering supplies to the Pentecost Apes, picking up Strategic Information from Frostfound, running a collection of Tomb-Colonist Tourists about, and working on gathering supplies to build the Memento Mori, I could pull up my map in London and plan an elaborate route, accounting for places to stop for additional fuel or supplies or terror reduction. And gathering oodles of port reports so I could keep in fuel and echoes. I had to make these interesting choices knowing what regions might have bad weather, where Mt. Nomad might (or might not) be, and what paths might be faster but have fewer coasts/shops/support locations. The route was mine to plan with the risks I wanted to take and the places I needed to skip, and the choices on the route were ‘all of them.’

Before, in the Reach, I was doing the same. Set out with three Prospects and their matching goods in the hold, while also hunting Stovepipes and Tackities, while gathering requested research parts for Leadbetter and Stainrod, while looking for a Cantankeri to finish building a replacement set of tools for the Magician since he broke the last one. The route could get me port to port with enough fuel and supplies, and get me by places where I could scoop up tea from Murgatroyd’s or a stop at Port Avon to recuperate Terror and stave off my return to the hub longer. I had to make these interesting choices knowing what regions might have marauders or spinsters, knowing what Horrors I might have to weave around or dive through to save on fuel, and scheme to dip by Wonders for the terror fixing. The route was mine to plan with all the risks I wanted to take and the places I needed to skip, and the choices on the route were ‘all of them.’

Now, in the Reach, I get to go into a ‘wing’ of the Reach, a predesigned castle whose biggest surprise is finding out the port at the end doesn’t sell fuel, or that the path I thought lead to the next port is a dead end (making my scout a dangerous tool that can now send me to my death). So now all my journeys are shorter or must avoid those wings, requiring far more returns to the hub. My interesting choices have been reduced to two or three routes that were planned for me and laid out like it was a fascinating choice, a beautiful maze that takes concentration but not effort.

The labyrinths are busy work. Sailing the open Zea was relaxing in that the ship could be set into motion and one could lean back and sail with small adjustments until something awful showed up at the edge of the screen, which was what the old Reach did as well. In the latest version of the Reach, I’ve had neither relaxation nor challenge in slowly wriggling my way down these needlessly wending corridors. Corridors that also artificially complicate combat because narrow battlegrounds inhibit combat mobility in a place where the number of enemies have been ramped up to make the endless skies feel fretfully crowded, not achingly isolated and alone.

I can appreciate the work that went into this, but it’s all just very no. I’ve ground through the new version of the Reach just so I could flee it to Albion. And that task, too, was needlessly complicated, since I couldn’t run the perimeter of the region. In Sunless Sea, if I needed to find Avid Horizon, I needed only GO NORTH and trace the wall in search of it, even on a new captain. In new Reach, I had to weave my way through a cumbersome maze, repeatedly dipping back to New Winchester to resupply, with no indication if the path I was on lead to a dead end or not until I hit it and had to turn around.

I’m now enjoying exploration of Albion. Albion looks beautiful, combines relaxing when I don’t need to act and challenging when I do, and has a sense of vastness and stellar horror. I’ve not yet visited Eleutheria. I dread what I’ll find there. I dread also that Albion will get an overhaul to be more like the Reach.
Tower Oct 11, 2018 @ 5:06pm 
So, I actually picked this update to try the game for the very first time- I've played Sunless Seas, but am coming to this fresh. So I can't really say anything about a *redesign* per say, I can give my impressions coming in fresh.

And I think, visually, it's very pretty, but very....disjointed? In it's visual design. Like, I'm switching constantly and quickly from ice area to tree area to fog area, and there's no sense of anything unifying it all. Reading the above post, I think it's because as it stands, I legitimately forgot this was supposed to be in space. The view of the starfield is so uncommon and distant that I genuinely forgot it was supposed to be there, and the feeling, like they said, of tunneling is much more what it seems like. Tunneling though a landscape that changes dramatically, without apparent rhyme or reason.

Also, exploring past the center areas is irritating. My bat eats my limited supplies and mostly turns up nothing or something I don't have equipment for. But the long, snakey, too-often-vacant dead-end paths along the rim really add to the sense of tunneling, not flying. The paths feel really limited, and the fact that what paths there are are pretty regularly hampered by wind does not help. I actually don't like when a prospect or quest gives me directions to a new place, which is a shame- I should be excited to find new things, but instead I'm just dreading the tunnel scavenger hunt.

I do genuinely get the difficulty of hitting both "skyfaring" and "not too empty" when you're limited to a 2D plane- in some ways, a space game without a third axis is a really weird choice. And I'm still really enjoying the writing, and appreciate the mechanical differences from sunless seas. I just feel like, maybe the starting area shouldn't be so constrained and mazelike. I've heard about Eleutheria, and I think that would be a great feel for a claustrophobic, later-game area, but as a new player so far it's been frusterating as a starting zone.
Last edited by Tower; Oct 11, 2018 @ 5:07pm
Wlerin Oct 11, 2018 @ 5:41pm 
I agree with the above two posters that the new Reach is too claustrophic. It feels like Sunless Tunnels rather than Sunless Skies. The lighthouses still scattered through the Reach's rocks also now make even less sense than they did before, since the whole place is a warren of rocks to watch out for, and they're generally not situated on the dangerous ones.

That said, it definitely was too open before, and some of the region's lore didn't make sense because of that: The various fungal powers and the giant(?) courts seemed like they should have been more interconnected than they were on the actual map. Now they are... but too much so.

It also feels much more dangerous than it should be for a starting area.


- Serious stuttering issues/performance problems every time I approach a port, with the exception of New Winchester.
- The top and bottom of the Fuel/Supplies shops in Port Winchester and Port Prosper flicker constantly, like the shadows the game uses to indicate a list goes on further and can be scrolled.

I'll file proper bug reports at some point, hopefully.
Last edited by Wlerin; Oct 11, 2018 @ 5:51pm
spleenshark Oct 11, 2018 @ 5:42pm 
Originally posted by Robert Mends:
For some reason, with the latest update all the visuals (including the icons in the Journal and the dialogue interface) have all suddenly become low resolution.
Sure it hasn't just changed the settings? Mine looked fuzzy on start up, just had to change the resolution and it was great again.
spleenshark Oct 11, 2018 @ 5:51pm 
The new visuals are superb but I agree that the walls might need to be opened back up a little. I really appreciate the sense of place and guidance but I also feel less free to wander off.
MrGrudge Oct 11, 2018 @ 7:03pm 
I'm also going to say that while the revamped Reach looks rather pretty it is too damn claustrophobic now. Yes it was rather empty-feeling before but last thing that I wanted was it to turn into another Eleutheria, which is a fun zone to visit but I don't want another place so cumbersome to navigate. Right now I'm having trouble even finding Lustrum as the game tells me that I'm close but so many obstacles are in my way that I seem to keep missing the station itself and even my bat is not helping much.
failbetterfuzz  [developer] Oct 12, 2018 @ 3:35am 
Thank you for the feedback so far, please keep it coming.

Originally posted by Robert Mends:
For some reason, with the latest update all the visuals (including the icons in the Journal and the dialogue interface) have all suddenly become low resolution. Is it just me or did something on the game's end change? My native resolution is 1920x1080 and I have played with no such problems before.
This is odd and we've not had any other reports of this. Please try restoring the graphics to defaults to see if it has any effect (Esc > Options > Graphics > Restore Defaults).
DISCLAIMER: I have yet to play Sunless Skies as I am waiting for the full release of the game, so please take what I say here with a grain (or maybe a silo) of salt. That being said, I think what I have to say will be valuable feedback none the less.

From reading feedback about the game world as the game has evolved, there were definitly issues with the previous design of The Reach, mostly to do with navigation. However, I believe this redesign has pushed the reach too far in the other direction, and I believe there is a middle-ground that could work better than either of these designs.

In the update post for The Reach redesign, there is a picture of the new map design for the segment of Traitors Woods, upon first seeing this picture, my 3 first thoughts were:

Hang on a sec, how the heck will these segments fit together with limited passageways between them, is there a gap like spokes in a wheel, do all of them have the same entrances/exits at specific points in order to fit together. I got no idea but I could see that being confusing for some people who want to switch from one segment to another.

Why is there 2 points on the map where the wall between Regent's Grave and the surrounding area incredibly thin (It might not actually be thin (idk what the scale of the map is) but it is comparitively thin). It's possible that these were also going to be entrances/exits to the area at some point, but were changed. If the walls really are thin enough, and I (As a Captain) knew that, I would probably just try and blast a hole through the wall to make the trek from Port Avon be much shorter.

Why is there a hard edge to the map, this is space right, how does that make any sense because 1, isn't it space, and 2, if there are hard walls around the whole edge of the map, how the heck did people even get to the reach (People came through the Avid Horizon which is in Albion, if the whole place is walled off, how are they here), it would make a lot more sense if there was pretty much nothing but empty space at the edges of the map. That would mean people (By people, I don't mean the player) could theoretically travel between regions if they were willing to go on a long expedition in something akin to a colony ship (Something I could see space victorians trying to do). For the player, this particular point doesn't really make much difference gameplay wise other than having another way of traveling to a different segment on the map. But thematically, I don't understand a giant circular wall in space.

Speaking of that last though (Kinda long thoughts but I did elaborate on them somewhat), I could understand Eleutheria being surrounded by walls as maybe it is a stellar mass of some sort (Possibly a Centaur (Small planet)) that people found and set up residence in, which would explain its labryrinthine structure which (thematically/lore wise) only has a few small tunnels to the rest of space. So in my headcannon, that makes sense, however, in The Reach, where there is apparently a whole mountain in one region, the more claustraphobic design makes a lot less sense.

One point in particular I want to make is, why redesign the region players start in, the one that is (hopefully) supposed to be the least dangerous, around what is (currently) supposed to be the most challenging region in the game. That design philosophy just feels backwards to me. I get that people had issue with how open The Reach was before, but making the region more closed in has issues as well, issues such as fighting being harder because there are more obstacles in the way, and if I understand what people are saying (and it being true) navigation could also actually be worse because hey, the bat says there is something to the east "heads east", there is a wall east, the place is through the wall and to get around said wall, you actually gotta take a winding path to the north first, but you have no idea that's how to get there until you discover it. Somehow to me that means the bat could actually be even less useful than it was before. While feedback about the design of Eleutheria may have been quite good, I bet part of that was because it's a very different region to the others and that stark contrast sets it apart and makes it interesting, it also somewhat shakes things up by making the way navigation works different than it does in other regions.

I believe the solution is to widen things out somewhat (Not like it was before, but at least so people remember that, yes, they are in space), take away some of the corridors to make the map feel less labyrinthine, and give people that sence of space (because the game is set in the cosmos, with stars and stuff). I think people whould be given the ability to navigate more freely and be less constrained by tunnels (In Eleutheria, I believe this makes sense and provides a good contrast compared to other regions, but I would like it to be it's own thing, over there, where captains go when they are seeking more thrilling/deadly adventures).

I know this is a wall of text and then some, but hopefully this serves as valuable feedback of my thoughts on the redesign and why I feel the way I do about it (Even though I have not played the game). I have had to make some assumptions while writing this, so if there are things I got wrong, then some feedback for my feedback would be great, and I will try to update this accordingly, thanks :)
Fiat Luxia Oct 12, 2018 @ 6:53am 
The Reach is seriously better now. I had to give up playing this game in July as it was just too empty and I had no idea where anything was in relation to each other. Now there are more features to follow, navigation is far easier and the routes to take between locations are much easier to plan.

I don't believe it feels claustrophobic. One of my main criticisms of Seas and this game is, still, that you undergo long periods of unexciting travelling between locations with no fast travel available. But at least now you can fly with some obvious routes to navigate.

Given that, I have to say, using the bat scout is pretty mediocre. Perhaps this improves with the better scouts from Menagerie, but as it is, using the bat feels bad as you lose a great amount of supplies for not very much gain.

I'd also like it to be clearer where various ports are in the Reach, on accepting most quests there is a description of which direction the ports might lie in from New Winchester, however on resuming the game after a night's sleep or something and trying to pick up where you left off, this pointer doesn't get mentioned in a lot of the Quest entries in the Journal. Making it so I either have to look online, or try fruitlessly to remember what the passenger asked for when I had the initial dialogue.

However, really solid changes and this game is looking way better than in previous builds.

Sign nothing! Oct 12, 2018 @ 8:05pm 
I LOVE the redesign. Really makes the reach a hundred times more interesting. Before this I could be travelling for ages with so little happening that I could be checking messages on my phone or go away and make a cup of tea.

Now it's really exciting and interesting and discoveries seem way more meaingful.

It just feels more like a coherent world.

Bugs (where should I be reporting these? Sorry if this is the wrong place)

-crew and armour can go above their maxima now from some events (mainly this affects crew).
-I got the "another crew member lost" without losing crew in one instance
-the traitor's wood storyline bugs out when grabbing the gold seal and I had to quit and reload (storylet screen had no options but wouldn't let me quit)
-guests that are in dreadnought hulls still use their turrets and often don't go hostile (also their tentacles don't seem to appear).
-the new Titania storyline is quite unclear... there were issues with the old one, but now I'm just pumping in money for no clear reward and with no clear purpose.
-there's a prospect of crockery to Titania that seems only to pay the bargain price for each item (25)
-I already mentioned FPS drops elsewhere.
leeaf Oct 12, 2018 @ 10:56pm 
This isn't intended to be a comment on the entire redesign (most aspects seem fantastic, haven't had time to really dig into them), but I just had to come to say how much I dislike how claustrophobic the Reach is now/how many large land masses there are in relation to open space. I feel like I'm traversing a series of tunnels, which is especially weird given that I'm supposed to be in the *sky* and it's unlikely that all this land would be in the same plane. I think the changes made were for the better, but it was taken way too far wrt open space and needs to be scaled back ~30-40%. Give me space to fly, please!

I don't want to only offer criticism, so: I love your guys' games, there's a reason I'm playing it a ton even though it isn't finished, keep up the great work!
Last edited by leeaf; Oct 12, 2018 @ 11:07pm
Gecko Oct 13, 2018 @ 3:36am 
"The project utterly succeeds at making me feel like I’m within something. However, I want to feel like I’m flying through the skies at some point, and not part of a planetary drilling expedition. Without that vast screaming void of hungry stars beneath my train, I don’t feel like I’m in space. Nothing seems that large on a background that looks so reachable, so that really this game feels like it takes place in some chthonic civilization that has fled into the bowels of their planet, not one that has raced to the blackness between planets. "

I agree with this.

For sure I didn't play a lot SunlessSkies yet, but I can say that I don't really have the feeling to be in space anymore.
Atm, the game makes me feel like I'm playing SunlessSea more than SunlessSkies.

I also agree with the fact that the first reach design was too empty, feeled like just waiting to reach a new point fo interest. But the new one is "too much" imo.
-> Something in between would be perfect I think.

Thanks you !
Teag Oct 14, 2018 @ 4:31pm 
I agree with the previous posters - it's too tight at the moment. Gorgeous, but too constrained. Punishingly so.

I started up a fresh game and basically had what the original post described, word-for-word: I took the wrong turn at a fork and burned all my supplies in a very long dead-end, basically ending my game in 10 minutes.

With scouts being (IMO) as weak as they are, I feel like the landmasses need to be more porous.
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Date Posted: Oct 9, 2018 @ 2:29am
Posts: 28