The Future of Planets Nu is Here
Friday, May 11, 2012
Over the past few months the development team has been working hard on designing and developing the future website and game design for Planets Nu. We are happy to announce that the new version has arrived.
There are three major sides to this release:
1) Website Design - A new website which is designed to be more interactive, is built on a technology that is more touch friendly and will allow it to be easily ported to many devices (as native apps on tablets and phones) and features real time functionality such as live chat and "flying around".
2) Planets Gameplay - A new "race customization" engine which allows all players to accumulate resources on their officers homeworld and use those resources to research new race advantages, ship designs and parts for use by your officers in your games.
3) Upgraded API for Developers - Every piece of functionality on the new website is built on our upgraded API. So developers will now have access to all data and functionality inside of the game. Documentation for the new api's will be released shortly.
The New Website
The new website can be reached by going to http://planets.nu or http://play.planets.nu. Until we have had some significant testing time on the new platform both the current website and the new website will be available for use. The new site has the same basic screens and features as the current one but features an interactive design where you can see the other players visiting pages, chat with them and discuss the general happenings in the Echo Cluster. It also contains all the functionality for customizing your races and your homeworld. Everyone is recommended to get used to playing your turns on the new website rather than using the old as we'll eventually be retiring some parts of the old platform.
The new website is still in Beta. So please report any issues you find to http://planets.uservoice.com.
The New Gameplay
While we hope the new website will make the Planets experience more immersive and inviting to new players the real changes for existing players will be felt over the coming months with the new game functionality. This functionality is a huge step forward and a significant break from the pure "traditional" view of VGA Planets. While it will always be possible to play a pure "classic" game with only the original functionality this new Advantage/Customization engine will allow each player to customize their own race in the way that suits them best. It is a different view of VGA Planets addons, where each player has control over the add-ons they would like to use.
So what is it? How does it work?
The Homeworld - Researching New Technology
The core concept of the new engine is that each of your officers (player/race characters) is assigned their own homeworld. You can view this homeworld by clicking on the Race Icon from the menu bar on the left side of your screen when you are signed in. This menu bar is called your "engagements bar" and lists your characters and the battles they are currently participating in. You can jump directly to those games or to your officers homeworld. Each homeworld slowly gains resources based on the games you have already played and your ranking in those games. You can click on your homeworld to see the resources you have already accumulated.
These resources can then be used to build a starbase which then allows you to upgrade some of your ship hulls, or to research new technology specific to your race. Every race has a few new race advantages that they can research. Some are available to several races such as Starbase Mine Laying, or Starbase Mine Sweeping.
As mentioned, every race also has the ability to upgrade some of their ship hulls as well, most often the upgradable hulls are those ship hulls we don't normally see built very often in classic Planets games.
So over time you can gain more and more advantages and upgrade or add new ship hulls for your officer which you can use in your future games.
The Advantage System (Keeping things even)
So if you're still following this article, you are probably wondering how we will continue to keep the races even if one player has all these extra advantages?
The answer is the new Advantage Value system. Every default race advantage and hull and every new advantage and hull upgrade has been assigned an "Advantage Value" based on its ability to help a player win a game. When a player enters a game the advantage values for all active advantages and all active hulls is added up to give a player their current Active Advantage Score. When entering a new Planets game there is a maximum Advantage Score allowed on each game. The default maximum value for this score is 450 points.
Based on the long term statistical analysis of games here at Nu as well as the original Planets Ladder statistics we've determined the default advantage value of each race. While there have been many discussions about the balancing of Planets races there is no doubt statistically that not all races have been created equal. We have incorporated this into the base advantage value of each race. This means, that races which are slightly disadvantaged (like the Fascist) will be able to do a few upgrades without having to give anything up. Top races such as the Privateer or the Cyborg can also customize their races with lots of exciting new stuff, but will have to give something up to do it.
The races have the following base advantage values based on their ability to win historical games:
The lower the advantage value, the more customizable a race is.
What this actually means under the new system is the Birds and Fascist will be able to add 2 significant advantages without having to take anything away, most of the other races will be able to add one more significant advantage or a few hull upgrades and the Privateers and Cyborg will have to give something up to start customizing their race.
These new features will start to come in quite slowly, over time.
How fast will all this happen? Well, the first thing you will notice, is that the upgrades are very expensive (at least for now). So most of you won't be able to do any upgrades just yet. You'll have to focus on a race and complete a few games first. As you start experimenting with the new features you'll learn a lot more about what is available and what works best.
If we determine that one advantage or another is too big we will adjust the advantage values to compensate and keep things exciting and balanced. Hopefully even more balanced than they are today.
We have made this dramatic enhancement to the game to create a more immersive and dynamic long term experience for our players. Planets has long had a history of add-ons to games which have made the games more fun and exciting. We wanted to take the add-on concept and make it a core part of the long term play of the game. In addition, we wanted to make each game (we now call them battles) more meaningful, to carry purpose and value into your future games. Now the colonies you conquer in one game will help you earn resources for new technology you can use in your next game.
There have also been many calls to edit the ship list for the races. Critics of this argue that it changes the game too much and that changing the ship list would just mean that a different set of ships would be built more often. By allowing each player to customize their own ship list (a little bit) we'll see many different ships in the Echo cluster as one race builds many of their upgraded Vendetta and another chooses to upgrade their Thor and build a lot of those. Each time you meet a Fed opponent (or any other race) they will be just a little different than the last one.
If you don't have enough resources for any cool upgrades yet, don't worry, we'll be adding some more ways to accumulate resources in the future. Or you can just go out and win a game to get a big reward.
We sincerely hope you enjoy the new functionality as it begins to enter your games over the coming months.
The complete list of hull upgrades and race advantages can be found here: http://planets.nu/ships
As always, your feedback, ideas and input are welcome!