It’s that time again. Again. While Mike is still going hard on the backend overhaul and getting both travel & offline progress completed, I wanted to dip into some details of the balance overhaul we’re working on simultaneously. Specifically, some of the changes that are coming to improve game polish while also making sure the game balance feels rewarding and fun. Now, I know what you’re thinking or hopefully thinking; STL is already so fun, how could you possibly make it better? Aw, shucks. Really though, we know some things are a little wack and also out of whack that need attention. While Mike is burning the candle at both ends, we’ve slowly been compiling a sheet so it’s ready to tackle beyond travel and offline completion. Let’s start with a few basics:
- Route length
- Sound design
- Radio stations
- Scrap income/balance
- Crate rarity
And other things. Its always been our focus for the player to have fun. That might sound like a trivial and obvious component of game design but the truth is sometimes it isn’t. While I personally appreciate and love many roguelikes/lites, RPGs, and souls games, the ones I truly enjoy are those that have balanced challenge and reward while also respecting the player’s time and investment. Here’s a fun fact: we initially had a mechanic in place where you had to refuel in some way in order to make your truck even function at optimal performance. Like if you ran out of fuel eventually your truck would sputter along. So fun. Also, yikes. Eventually we decided on optimal fun with ways to make your truck harder, better, and faster daft punk style without feeling crippled because you didn’t have to keep up with painfully tedious maintenance mechanics. Seriously, if someone can explain to me how durability is a fun mechanic in games I’d love to hear it. That being said, we still have to find a balance between simply handing the player everything while making them feel like they’ve earned a reward worth earning. Game design.
Moving on. Let’s talk crates. The trend we’ve seen is that while people enjoy cracking them open (including serious diligence in claiming the free daily), there is an abundance of garbage received due to our balancing of loot tables. On top of that, there’s no shortage of crates earned in the game, so what you end up with is a lot of crates with a lot of garbage. That’s not ideal. We’ve been discussing ways for crates to be slightly more sparse, while containing potentially better rewards. Quality over quantity and all that. We also need to tweak the scrap income so scrap feels more valuable. This relates to scrapping, buffs, and vending machine prices as well. Not to mention the Track, which needs some love.
We also realized that while we’re pretty happy with the route length prior to ascension 1, offline progress and scrapyard improvements will make the distance less considerable so those will be increased over time. This, of course, will be a serious consideration as we add more ascensions, or simply put, more content.
Lastly, while sound design isn’t part of the balance pass so desperately needed, it’s a huge component of overall polish. We’re missing sound cues on multiple interface elements and we really, really want more radio stations including a DVD commentary-style station where Mike and I talk in non-southern accents (unless…?) about this ridiculous game we’ve built for no discernible reason.
There’s a lot more to cover here but this blog post is already starting to get away from me. However, I’m actively asking ya’ll to start offering suggestions in Discord as we get closer to finalizing the list of things we really, really want to tackle before Early Access. That vertical slice will never be perfect, but damnit we’re going to try. In the meantime, we’ll let you know when Travel & Offline progress is ready, but perhaps I’ll share the actual Google Sheet for balance and polish changes as we get closer cause as you know, transparency is kind of our thing.