Yay, it’s patch day, which is always a good day. Unless we miss something and things break and everyone loses their minds which has never happened. We’ve done things in this patch. Let’s talk about those things:
- replaced and/or added new sounds to all interactions
- reduced fleet hire and level up costs
- reduced overall route lengths (again)
- drone option checkbox now works as intended
- improved audio mix across the board
- “ascensions” are now “levels” to simplify everything
Before we get into that last one I just casually threw in there at the end, let’s talk about the other changes first. Several sounds were replaced to fit the theme/brand of STL, and others were added where sound was absent. Let us know your thoughts when you’re done unmuting your browser tab or desktop client because you don’t care about our feelings.
We reduced fleet hire and level up costs by 50% because through some testing we found that once you unlock Fleet and hire a few drivers (if you can), you’re essentially broke with no scrap gains outside of smashing paints/parts, the occasional collectable, and the +1 buff. This felt limiting and we’d rather you had enough scrap to hire/level/reroll drivers until you find a solid starter Fleet.
Overall route lengths were reduced for reasons. A lot of them. But the TL;DR version is that while idle games consistently pride themselves on a grindy slogfest in lieu of “content,” we don’t. STL is intended to be an idle game at its core, with minigames, crafting, nitro, gambling, procedurally generated loot, collectables, and a lot more so active players feel rewarded for being active. Finding that balance is brutal, but we noticed towards the later levels (the artist formerly known as ascensions) the grind was too… grindy. The idle outweighed the active and threw off the balance, and we’d much rather serve a delicious three course meal that you’ll wish lasted longer as opposed to an unstoppable buffet at Applebees. If you’re unfamiliar with Applebees, lucky you. If you are literally Applebees, let’s talk sponsorship — we’re prepared to sell out and I was just kidding your “food” is amazing. Also sorry about the quotes just then.
Audio mix in this case is really just getting the levels right. For example (and not limited to), we reduced volume on nitro sounds a bit and the idle truck engine as well.
Now let’s chat about that last bullet in the above list. When we started building STL a few years ago we simply adopted the most common nomenclature for progression in idle games; ascensions. Another common label is prestige. We did this to help identify as an idle game and to describe what happens when you basically hit the end of the map and you’re ready to start over. While this is commonplace in the idle genre, it poses a few problems for STL. First, it potentially alienates/confuses non-idle gamers. Second, it’s off brand for STL. We use simple and self-explanatory terms as much as possible for reasons: accessibility and approachability. Everyone knows what “goals” are except for me until I was like 20 years old. But if we changed “goals” to “aspirations,” there’s an inevitable drop-off in communication. Another problem is the negative connotation associated with the word ascension due to a lot of developers simply adding ascensions to pad the game with no actual content outside of doing the same exact thing but longer this time. STL introduces recipes, minigames, quality of life mechanics, badges, rewards, cosmetics, and other things that are intentionally locked behind ascensions. In short, we’re basically trivializing the effort and excitement behind the content and reward systems because we’re stupid.
But above everything else, it’s the inherent confusion that comes with referring to your progress in the game as your ascension level. When you start playing the game, you haven’t ascended yet, so you’re technically on A0, or Ascension Level 0. When you ascend for the first time, you’re on Ascension level 1, but technically you’re on level 2 because you just played through the first loop. Yes, I hate explaining this as much as you hate reading it; it’s confusing and convoluted. If all the reasons listed above weren’t enough, we still find ourselves misnaming ascension levels in internal discussions e.g., “well once you hit ascension 1, I mean, you’re on ascension level 1 because you beat ascension level 0. Or level 1. Mike help” because we don’t work as cryptologists for the f#%&ing CIA. The point is we found a simplified way to explain progression; levels. When you start the game, you’re starting on level 1 because of course you are. Have you ever played a Super Mario game and started on level 0 because of course you haven’t. When you reach the end of level 1, you’re on level 2. This makes sense in every conceivable way, is easy to communicate to the player in multiple places, separates us from the idle standard, and keeps STL on brand. And it only took 2 years before we realized it needed to change and less than 2 hours to fix it so great job us.
The patch is live, so let us know what you think. This week, we’re working on rebuilding the STL website for a lot of reasons I won’t get into right now, as well as a classic Mike/Dan booze-fueled jam session on the STL trailer that is currently in production and also a massive time sink.
Not Affiliated with Applebees,
Dan & Mike