Elaborate Egret Eggs

This update is a huge one, with 2 new large features: a completely new skills system and a secure trading system. Let’s have a look at what those are about and what other changes are abound…

Pilot Skills

For quite some time, we’ve had a placeholder system for pilot skills. We are in the middle of replacing it with a new skill system that should lead to far more interesting plane builds! We have a bunch of things we want to accomplish with this revamp:

1. Make each death part of a bigger journey: For many players, each plane death can feel like a complete loss. You play an little action game, you die and start over from scratch. What we want is for you to feel like each plane is part of your bigger journey and dying in a good plane gives your pilot a leg up the next time around.

2. Give players something to plan for/around: The previous skill system randomly gave you skills so there wasn’t really any ability to look ahead. You should be able to say “Hey, that skill looks cool. I really want to unlock that.” And then go for it.

3. Chunky, meaningful skill decisions: The old +1% bonuses just weren’t very interesting. We’d love people to pick skills that make a substantial impact on how they play the game.

Our first pass on Pilot Skills

So, we’ve removed the old upgrade interface you get when your plane explodes and replaced it with the entirely new Pilot School interface. Here’s what’s different:

The Timeline: Along the left hand side the screen is the timeline of your pilot career. This part is still WIP, but it will eventually show every date you’ve achieved each rank. These will be actual time, so you can track your progress over the entire period you play Steambirds.

Skill groups: To the immediate right of the timeline are the skill groups. A skill group is a cluster of multiple skills, but you can only ever pick one skill out of the group. A skill group must be unlocked by reaching a specific pilot rank so you won’t be getting access to everything all at once. Skill groups can have addition requirements like reaching level 20 on a specific plane class, so there’s a good chance that eventually we’ll move the requirements for plane unlocking into this UI as well.

Individual skill info: The details of a skill are shown to the right of the skill groups.

  • Requirements: Many skills are only activated if you are flying a specific class or have equipped a specific item. For example, there’s a set of skills that are active when you are flying the Hog. And a different set that are active when you have equipped a shotgun.
  • Powers: Most skills buff the plane in some way, boosting damage, reducing cooldowns, increasing shielding, etc. Some are only active in specific situations like right after a kill or if your health gets low. Some skills involve trade offs where they buff one area, but nerf another.
  • Skill level: You can spend skill points (that you earn by ranking up your pilot) to learn and incrementally upgrade a specific skill. Skill points are limited and you can’t upgrade everything, so choose carefully.

Pilot Rank and other info: All the way to the right is your pilot name, rank and info on how much more pilot XP you need to attain the next rank.

Respecing: Right now respecing which skills are active is completely free. We may change that in the future, but this is the current plan, and we hope to stick with it unless we observe that it is negatively impacting the game in some way.

Accessing the Pilot school in the Rebel City: If you have spare skill points to spend or you want to respec your pilot skills, there’s a new building in the Rebel City that will bring up the pilot skill UI.

State of the new system: A steampunk contraption just rolling out of the garage

The Pilot School is incomplete and experimental, but we are sharing it early so that you can give it a try.

  • Due to the magnitude of the change, all pilot ranks are wiped. So you can start again from rank 1 and climb the ladder. We’ve significantly increased the frequency of ranks, so you’ll be ranking up and getting those skill points much faster.
  • Not all the skills are in: We plan to roll out new skills for each plane class and each weapon in future updates.
  • Existing skills are not balanced: We only have a first pass on skills implemented, and we’re trying to explore the system and be creative (as opposed to being conservative and rolling out something less exciting that is more likely to be totally functional on the first try.) Some skills will be OP. Some will just be annoying. We need your help identifying broken combinations of skills, and skills that are just plain bad. We also want to hear from you which skills are amazing and make the game better!
  • UI feedback on when specific skills are active is weak: Right now we have some icons that show up when a skill is working. If it is confusing to use, please let us know.
  • Multiple skill loadouts: you can purchase additional skill loadout tabs (from the store). These will let you save various respecs and quickly select them when choosing to fly a different plane. We see this as a nice-to-have convenience feature, similar to options available in games like League of Legends.

Future plans

Our next big effort is balancing the current skills and fixing discovered issues as they come up. We’ll also be slowly adding new skills categories. Please don’t get attached to any one specific skill since they’ll likely change a bit as we have time to live with them and react to feedback.

What we’d love to hear from you:

  • Overall impressions: What do you think of the new skill system? Does it hit the goals we were aiming for?
  • Balance issues: Tell us where the system is broken.
  • Ideas: What would you like to see for new or improved skills?

Secure Trade

We are also adding the first version of a secure trade system in this release. It also isn’t complete, but here’s what we are aiming for:

1. Fun negotiation between friends and strangers. Trade should be a small conversation, not just a transaction.

2. A secure, stable part of the game. The game should handle the security and every transaction should be reliable. The economy shouldn’t explode due to bad economy design, real money trade (RMT) or duping.

3. Social gifting. You still should be able to help a friend. Money isn’t everything.

Our first pass on trading

We listened to your feedback (you can read the previous discussion here: https://community.steambirds.com/forums/threads/261) The result is something that looks a lot like a traditional barter window. With a couple key adjustments:

  • You can trade gold for items. You can still trade items for other items, but if you want to top off the trade, you can also include gold directly in an offer. Our hope is that players who play for free will be able to sell goods for gold and thereby gain access to gold they may not have been able to afford.
  • To minimize scams and RMT there is a transaction fee. This is only on high-value goods and can be paid in either gold *or* scrap. We’ll be actively tuning the fee as we balance the economy. I wouldn’t get too worried about the exact numbers we’re using in this update since it is likely that they will change (possibly many times) in the future.
  • Most common goods (Tier 8 and below) have no fee. You can still gift useful items to your friends. And gold itself has no fee when gifted to another player.

How to use the trade system

Initiating a trade:

  • Type /trade <username>. You can also select the other player from your Friend List and select trade from the menu.
  • The other player will see a trade circle emerge around you signaling that you want to trade with them. This isn’t visible to anyone else. If you leave the circle, the trade request is canceled.
  • Only if the other player chooses to enter the trade circle, will trade request be accepted. Hopefully this is a bit less spammy than your typical trade request pop up.

Making offers

  • The trade UI appears and you both can now add up to 4 items to your offer by selecting one of the empty + squares. You can also add gold as part of your offer.
  • For high value items, you’ll see a trade transaction fee calculated. Either player can pay this fee. Or you can split the fee. The fee can be paid in either gold or scrap.

Accepting the offer

  • There are two accept buttons, once for each player.
  • Both players must hit accept for the trade to go through.
  • If anyone makes a change to their offer, the buttons are deselected to prevent mistakes or fraud.

Those are the basics of trade. Give it a shot and tell us what you think.

Content and Art

  • Duster uses standard armor and abilities like spin attack are now inherent to the plane.
  • Patched small XP farming vector with Brother Bomber
  • Removed Phoenix health regen
  • Fixed Geckelston wandering
  • Fixed Ambassador wandering
  • Nerfed Ambassador’s unshielded phase
  • Light vfx polish
  • Alternate backgrounds on some bosses

Polish and Bug Fixes

  • Fixed a bug where you could not fly until you pressed escape (connected to application focus)
  • Fixed dungeons generating overlapping rooms
  • Fixed visual popping of enemy units by extending the network cutoff range
  • Fixed some minor errors
  • Minor performance optimizations

Music & Sound

  • Quest dialog audio for new mission, cancel, fail, complete
  • New overworld area sting
  • Boss death dialogs play boss defeated sting
  • Music ducking. Various effects turn down the music so the mix is clearer.