Steam Marines 2 – State of the Game

 

State of the Game

Steam Marines 2 has been in development for about eight months now and is still in pre-alpha. The first game was a straightforward dungeon crawler. It was very no-frills, just clear/escape each level and kill the baddie at the end. The sequel is a bit of a different beast.

 

Frills

Steam Marines opened by making you pick a difficulty level,  bringing you to a squad creation screen, giving you a blurb about awaking from cryo-sleep, and dumping you unceremoniously in a procedurally generated level.

Steam Marines 2 shakes that up a bit. For starters there’s no difficulty level to choose from. Instead starting a new campaign brings you inside the interior of a spaceship. What, where’s the squad creation? Well…

Mission Briefing
Mission Briefing

You can just jump right into the first mission by hitting the Launch Mission button, or you can hit that suspicious looking Squad Loadout button in the upper left portion of the screen…

Roster Selection
Roster Selection

This isn’t fully fleshed out yet, but the general idea is that from the interior of your steampunk spaceship you can flip between your ship base and galaxy view, look at and gear your marines in roster/squad lists, and view and accept missions. Don’t worry, I’m aware that font is terrible for displaying numerals.

This is great because Steam Marines was all about an intrepid squad of four marines, huddled together trying to survive a hostile boarding of their vessel, whereas Steam Marines 2 is about receiving missions from the Steam Marines Corps directly, while trying to engage in directives from the Earth Council and balancing the needs of the system you’re in. Safeguarding civilians and gathering resources to aid your primary goal constitute the new strategic layer.

Gear is now modular – you can mix and match helmets, chest plates, gloves, et cetera. Marine classes have semi-randomized pools of talents that generate different talent trees once marines are promoted. Enemy units return in robotic and alien flavors, but have separate faction goals, and you’ll learn more about their motivations. Maybe you’ll even find some new allies?

 

Marines, MARINES

Steam Marines 2 is still ultimately about turn-based tactics. The old square grid has been retained, but the action and movement and aiming system has been overhauled:

Squad Ready
Squad Ready

I’m still playing with fog of war, but I’m leaning heavily toward either a very dark layer of fog for already explored areas, or simply blacking it out entirely, meaning you can only really see what your squad sees at any given point. It has the benefit of making the game feel more claustrophobic and introducing even more imperfect information since players are unlikely to remember the exact layout of the map once they’ve moved on.

Marines can see and aim in a full 360 degree arc and facing is no longer a factor in game mechanics. While the environment is in 3D for eye candy, the same ruthless mechanics of turn-based combat apply. This is not a hide-behind-a-corner-and-fire tactics game. The universe of Steam Marines is brutal, life expectancy is short, and losing all your marines still a very real possibility.

Since facing has been removed, this makes positional play even more exacting. There is no facing action cost (default on in the original game), and you cannot sit back in a wide area and take potshots in Guard Mode – ranged enemies will be able to pick you off at any angle!

Environments are not destructible this time around, however, and this opens up new avenues of attack and defense. Choke points become much more contentious, and units both in the Steam Marines Corps and on the side of the robots and aliens will have unit-specific tools to rush and otherwise break up that layered tactic.

Escape via blasting a hole in the wall and running away used to be an option. Now if your back’s against the wall you’re forced to fight. Or plan ahead so your back doesn’t get against a wall.

You’ll also have a full roster aboard the I.S.S. Delhi, as well as a larger squad size to play with.

 

The I.S.S. What-Now?

The I.S.S. Delhi is the first human controlled ship you get at the start of a new campaign. It’s a small Corvette-class steampunk military vessel, complete with a skeleton crew of Fleet officers and a handful of marines. You’ll have to obtain more resources and personnel on your journey – Earth is very, very far away.

Steam Marines 2 is not a 4x by any stretch of the imagination, but you don’t just control a squad of four marines anymore. You manage a roster, you manage squads, you manage Fleet personnel, and you manage… ships?

 

Ship Designs
Ship Designs

Oh snap – ship upgrades? Ships? Almost certainly ship upgrading. I’m not sure about managing a fleet yet, but I’m mulling over some possibilities. It will depend heavily on how the strategy layer shapes up over the next few months.

 

Also don’t let me get sidetracked with scope creep, please and thank you.

Third Person Shooter
Third Person Shooter

I had this idea where if you were down to one marine the player could have the option of running and gunning in third person mode. I mean you’d probably still die but it’d be a cooler way to die.

 

Thanks for reading,
Mister Bums

You can contact me at [email protected]Twitter, or leave a comment below.

Indies Can Do No Wrong

There was a Polygon article with the title Big indie’ Kickstarters are killing actual indies.

There was nothing wrong with the main thrust of the article. Points were made, namely that in many Kickstarters (I’d add crowdfunding in general) costs and budgeting are not made clear. If you follow my Twitter at all you’ll know these are issues I rant about rather frequently.

But of course if you follow my Twitter you’ll also know I get rankled when indies ignore when other indies behave badly by going after non-indies for the same bad behavior. Specifically:

Indies Can Do No Wrong
Indies Can Do No Wrong.

 

I did the math earlier along with some other pithy tweets, but the upshot is that the developers of Kickstarter – Elsinore are (currently) running a Kickstarter with a goal of $12,000 when they believe, according to the Polygon article, that they needed $672,000. That is approximately 1.8% of what they think they need to complete the game. By comparison $500,000 of $5,000,000 is 10%, or 6.9% of $7,200,000.

Indies, as a group, participate in pretty much all of the bad behavior that they accuse “AAA” or “big indie” studios of. This includes crunch, chronic (and more severe!) underpayment of employees and contractors, and obviously crowdfunding without transparency or even a hint that they actually created a workable budget.

My suggestion is to not support unethical developers, wherever they are, whatever their status of indie or big indie or AAA or AAA indie or AA or whatever label you feel most appropriate. In these cases the most relevant label is unethical.

 

Thanks for reading,
Mister Bums

You can contact me at [email protected]Twitter, or leave a comment below.