SBA’s first Mega Update ships this Wednesday!

On Wednesday afternoon, we will ship our first really big post-launch update to SBA! It includes a healthy combo of new content, new features, plus solutions to major pain points that the community has informed us about in Discord. ๐Ÿ™‚

I know this blog post is huge, so let me give you the TDLR: we’ve added: Flocks (aka guilds), a new “combat sim” daily activity, a new dungeon called the “Military Academy“, new Fox allies to help the birbs in their lonely fight against the cats, aaaaand we’ve substantially reduced how much SBA punishes you when you die. PLUS a bunch of other QoL changes and freebies (like free hangar and storage space) that ya’ll have been asking for. Read on for details!

 

Flocks! (aka Guilds/Clans/etc)

 
You need a place to organize your peeps…?

Yep, we finally have guilds (which we call “Flocks”) in SBA. To be more precise, we have two kinds of Flocks: leaderless “trainee Flocks” which everyone will be encouraged to join soon after creating a new account, and “professional Flocks” which are created and managed by veteran players.

You receive an XP boost when flying alongside members of your Flock, and your trading fees are lower when trading with members of your Flock (but you can’t trivially hop between Flocks to abuse that discount for mercenary purposes – there’s a cooldown.) And best of all, you can join four other of your guildmates to participate in the daily guild Combat Sim (more on that below.) We’ve also added a Flock chat system, which you can switch to and from freely while playing the game.

You can be a member of up to 3 Flocks at any one time. One of those will be your “default” Flock — you only get bonus XP and trading fees with people in your default Flock. But you can change your default whenever you wish (for example, if you want to participate in all of your 3 Flocks’ daily Combat Sims.)

To create a new “professional” guild and become its founder/leader, you will need to find a Flock Founder Token. These are going to be rare, but tradeable, so worst case if you can’t find one, maybe you can trade for it.

We wrote and shared a big document on our plans for Flocks a while back; if you never saw that and are curious to learn more, I encourage you to read it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Combat Sim!

 
New home of the Combat Sim in the Rebel City

I’ve personally been looking forward to this for a while. There’s a new “Combat Sim” building in the Rebel City, and once you’ve unlocked it, you’ll have access to two new modes of play: the Daily Solo Sim and the Daily Flock (5-person) Sim.

Daily sims are randomly generated encounters with unusual conditions and constraints. When playing a sim, you are given a throwaway virtual plane and equipment, so there’s absolutely nothing to lose by getting shot down (it’s not real!) For example, you might be required to choose between playing with a Level 1 Assault or Level 1 Hog at the start of the sim. You might also start with a Level 20 Raptor equipped with Special Legendary equipment. Either way, it’s all temporary.

Your goal is to survive to the end of the encounter, and to complete it as quickly as possible. The conditions of the encounters are, as I said, somewhat random, but we’ve modified things to make the pacing better (for example, in the Solo Combat Sim, you get a huge damage buff when fighting bosses, and you gain MUCH more XP than normal when starting at level 1, so you can level up extremely rapidly.) You only get one free play of a Sim each day, so you want to make it count!

You get rewarded in two ways when playing Sims. First, you get a simple reward immediately upon completion of the Sim, based on how well you performed. Then you get a second, larger reward the following day, once the leaderboard has been finalized. The higher up you are on the leaderboard, the better that reward will be. And hey, those of you who have been asking for more opportunities to flex, your wish has been granted. Show us all what you’re made of on the leaderboards. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The closer you get to the top of the leaderboard, more likely you are to earn multiple trail gems for our two new trails:

And the closer you get to the top of the leaderboard, the higher your (still small) chance of earning one of our four new Legendary SPEC items:

  • Sawed-Off Flakgun: Siege Tank secondary ability SPEC that spamsย muchย more flak than normal, but it spews all over the place. Also grants bonus DPS.
  • Merlin’s Staff: Merlin secondary ability SPEC that has a smaller sized bullet wipe in exchange for +2 HP, +12% DPS, and +10% turn rate.
  • Spiritual Oasis: Paladin secondary ability SPEC. Its effective radius is much smaller than normal, but it lasts a little longer, heals a bit more than T10, and stays where you put it, so your allies can use it as a safe place to retreat to. For making the sacrifice of not carrying it with you, you also get -10% maneuver cost and +10% camera view.
  • Hunter Killer: Raptor secondary ability SPEC with a significantly shorter cooldown than regular mines, lower steam cost, and MUCH more damage. Best of all, it rapidly seeks out and blows up enemies like a heat-seeking missile. Downside: it does not slow enemies the way normal mines do.

Content-wise, right now, we have a few different scenarios baked into the Sim. In the future, we intend to add a bunch more, including, for example, a “Pacifist mode” where you have to survive as long as possible WITHOUT killing anything with your guns or secondary abilities. We look forward to adding this additional content in future updates not long from now. ๐Ÿ™‚

Nerfing Permadeath!

This is another big one. As we discussed in detail over the past month, we’ve decided to seriously soften the permadeath aspects of this game. The reasons are pretty simple: a ton of users have told us they don’t like the permadeath bits, and our analytics data show that people — both new users and veterans alike — tend to quit immediately after dying. This game was always supposed to be first and foremost about playing with your friends (and making new friends), but somewhere along the way we became too focused on making it really hard and punishing. Mea culpa. We’re going back to focusing on what really matters now.

So now, when you crash, you don’t lose your plane. You lose some of your upgrades, and all your gear and cargo gets damaged, but your plane remains. The more times you crash, the more damaged your cargo gets. Eventually, it won’t be worth using anymore. But you can repair it, and maybe even supercharge it if you’ve got the right materials, so nothing is truly “lost” anymore.

How do you repair your equipment? You can do it in the Workshop. It’ll require a bunch of materials, but most of all, it’ll require a new currency that you gain by recycling spare equipment that you don’t need anymore.

We’ve called that new currencyScrap“, because that’s the perfect name for it, and we’ve renamed the old currencyIron.” I know it’s a bit confusing — hopefully everyone will get used to it soon!

How exactly do you earn this new Scrap currency? Easy. Instead of simply dropping your trash items like you’ve always done, now you’ll use the exact same command to recycle them. You can also select items individually and recycle them at any time. The more valuable the item, the more Scrap you get by recycling it.

The most valuable items (T10, Elem and SPEC) are expensive to repair. Not only do they require a lot of Scrap, they also require an equivalent item (i.e. use a T10 to repair a T10) and several “Nanites”, which are things you can craft by fusing 5 upgrades together. Excitingly, nanites can also be used to Supercharge items, which gives them semi-random bonuses that make them even more powerful than regular, pristine equipment!

Since you don’t die anymore, we had to change the way we give out pilot XP (which was previously awarded ONLY when you die.) Now you get 65% of your pilot XP in real time, while playing. Which means you can rank up at any time. We know you’ve all wanted something like that for a long time, so we were happy to have the excuse to do it. You get the remaining 35%, plus Iron rewards, when you voluntarily choose to retire a plane, which you can do from inside the Hangar.

We’ve tested this stuff carefully, but I will be the first person to admit that it’s a huge change, with a lot of complex implications, and I would not be surprised in the slightest if we need to do a bunch more fine-tuning of the economy in the weeks ahead. We have already decreased the droprates of certain items in anticipation to compensate for the fact that people won’t be losing items when they die. We have also reduced the “loot drop multipliers” for dungeon mods to 1x/2x/4x. And lastly, we’ve tuned the repair and supercharging costs of items to help consume many of the resources in the game that might otherwise become inflationary. But I doubt we’ll have perfectly guessed what every number should be, and that’s OK; these numbers are easy to change! Please play for a while — ideally at least a week or so, to get a good feeling for stuff and not be biased by short term RNG — and let us know what you think needs tweaking. We’ll be listening carefully to you, as always.

New Dungeon: Military Academy!

 
Wait, why do those drones have beaks??

Before Meowza became the god-leader of the world, she was a promising student in the Cat military regime. Much of her training occured in the Apex Military Academy, an old and well-respected educational institution whose instructors had absolutely no idea what Meowza might turn into someday.

One of the core training rituals at the academy was an unusual “sport” in which teams of students were expected to capture spawn points while fighting off guardian mechs that vaguely represented combat class archetypes (like “the sniper” and “the tank”). Teams that managed to capture enough points would eventually reach the the Control Unit, a particularly tough mech that tended to humiliate less-prepared students.

Design-wise, the Military Academy functions a bit like HFSC. It is accessible to mid-level players, but should still represent a fun challenge (and opportunity!) for higher-level players thanks to some pretty stiff veteran mods. The Military Academy is also home to two of our newest SPEC items:

  • Pet Turret: extremely powerful turret SPEC that follows the Engineer around like a (somewhat erratic but very loyal) pet.
  • Sledgehammer Shield: Dagger Knight secondary ability SPEC that significantly improves your DPS even more than usual in exchange for much lower superSpeed during the times when you are shielded.

Foxy Allies!

It turns out that the Cats haven’t subjugated every race other than the birds. At least one other race has resisted Meowza’s yoke. I refer, of course, to the Foxes! (Come on, you knew it had to be them.)

Yes, you can now select a Fox portrait for your pilot – just dive into the Options Menu to bring up the portrait selector, and you’ll find 9 new portraits alongside the usual birbs. You’ll notice that the Combat Sim building is staffed by a Fox as well. We look forward to doing more with the Foxes (lore-wise) in the months to come. ๐Ÿ™‚

And yet more stuff…!

There’s a bunch of other good stuff in this update that isn’t covered above. And hey, we’ve got a new system for identifying and celebrating changes that were a direct result of community feedback — any such change will be preceded by an SBA salute graphic: It means a lot to us that ya’ll are willing to patiently explain what you think the game needs and give us time to address those concerns. You deserve multiple salutes for that. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Major update to Elder Arena, in response to player complaints tha it was too long / too boring:
    • Made it so waves only go up to 15, with 2 miniboss phases
    • Shortened time between waves by 2 seconds
    • Spotters move faster after initial shot, making their time spent offstage a lot shorter.
    • Reduced spawn radius of enemies by 20% so they don’t spawn far off-screen.
    • Improvements to harasser enemies that weren’t very interesting.
    • Fixed bug with miniboss battle ending prematurely
    • Art fixes: Updated VFX, added more warnings to enemy attacks, reduced art model overuse
    • Added 2 room variants to the encounter
    • Fixed issue where enemies would spawn over each other
    • Added basic aimed gun to boss
  • Damage boosts to the following weapons:
    • Almost all Blasters: +15%
    • Void Prism: +28% damage
    • Quantum Reach: +15% damage
    • Frost Dagger 1, 2 and 3: +18% damage
    • Tiger Whisker 1, 2 and 3: +5% damage
  • Now only half the rooms in the Crypt are locked (the “setpiece” rooms) instead of 100% of the rooms. Should speed up progress.
  • You can now earn cool new stuff when you hit certain pilot ranks.
    • For example, at rank 12, you’ll earn another free hangar slot, and at various ranks, you earn a free storage slot. This is on top of what you already start with for free.
    • You can see graphics representing stuff you have earned / will earned in the timeline on the left side of the pilot skills UI.
    • We’re definitely planning to add more unlocks in the future; things like emotes and trails and other goodies that you cannot acquire any other way. We just ran out of time to do more in this update but we look forward to surprising you with more soon!
    • All unlock rewards will of course be granted to you retroactively if you’ve already surpassed any given rank prior to this update.
  • It is now possible to enter “/t UserName” to private message other players in game.
  • When you filter the Pilot Skills UI by class, we now condense the previously-huge blocks of empty space in between skill groups at higher ranks. No more pointless scrolling.
  • You can “favorite” items in your cargo, so they won’t ever be accidentally recycled. (People have been asking for this forever; it seemed particularly worth doing now that “drop” has been replaced with “recycle”.)
  • We’ve rebalanced Iron (aka “old scrap”) rewards. You get less from things like the login bonus and beating M1 & 3 Brothers, and we’ve made that up via the Combat Sim rewards.
  • There are fewer quests available per hour, but they give a LOT more XP than they used to. We’ve also made copper rewards from quests more valuable by letting you use them to craft T9s and Nanites.
  • We’ve also made collection quests less unpredictable/subject to bad RNG. (More improvements to quests will come in updates soon.)
  • Various minor bugfixes not worth mentioning individually.
  • Ongoing server improvements.
  • A boatload of other minor changes that I’m probably forgetting but what the heck, this blog post is long enough already!