Killing Darlings

The last couple of days I’ve been hacking away at a feature that we haven’t discussed before, but I believe is very important to the feel of the game: visible damage to modules. I’ve long thought about how to approach this particular feat, since I lack the skills required to convincingly model destruction damage (and neither have the budget to commission someone to model and texture such damage for me). I do, however, know a thing or two about shaders and after a lot of tinkering, I’ve managed to create this rather pleasing effect that places random scorch marks on modules, which I can have fade in and out to reflect the amount of damage done to a module. Space being what it is, a surprisingly small amount of damage can render modules fully inoperable. The lab depicted above is destroyed beyond repair.

As I am hurtling towards the end of Stable Orbit’s development, I have also been hacking away at something else: my to do list. I’ve whittled the thing down to a handwritten list on a single sheet of paper (I’m European, so that’s one sheet of A4). Every time something is done, I treat myself to the incredible satisfaction of crossing the thing off the list – old school style, with a pen.

Conversely, every idea that’s not on that list, will not make it to the final game. Time rewinding mechanic? Gone. It caused too many bugs. Dynamic weather? Pushed out of the 1.0, because there is not enough time to do it well. All those cuts hurt. Like hell. They’ve long been part of my grand vision for Stable Orbit, but the game is more than a passion project now – it’s how I make a living. Overspend on development… and I don’t eat. Harder cuts still are those that made it to the paper list but still had to be crossed off uncompleted: astronaut EVAs (I couldn’t find a suitable, production ready and affordable astronaut model) and a module delivery vehicle (those lacking modeling skills again).

The things that do remain on the list, though, all help me converge on my singular goal: make Stable Orbit feel like a complete game. Make the game feel “done”.