The team has been toiling away on a new major Steambirds Alliance update for the last few months. We’ve taken the opportunity to take a step back and re-evaluate why we made this game, what we’re trying to do with it, and how well we’re achieving those goals. We’ve written about this before – Steambirds is best when played with others. While we’ve tried to focus on this throughout development, our investigation revealed that a surprisingly small number of players were actually playing with others. Some of that can be attributed to lower-than-expected player numbers, but generally there were many ways that the game failed to bring players together. Sometimes, features inadvertently separated players. This goes against the entire reason we wanted to build Steambirds in the first place.
The More Together Update includes a number of fundamental changes to the game. The majority of changes are designed to actively bring players together in the game and keep them together, but we haven’t stopped there; we’ve also included a revamp of the crafting system, the new Boss Arena, and a whole host of other smaller changes.
Bring Players Together
First thing’s first, we made changes so it is far less likely you’ll start playing new content alone. We asked ‘What if instead of going on individual quests, players joined shared missions with a clear focus?’ As of this update, our revamped missions are multiplayer encounters a lot like dungeons. Each mission has a goal visible to everyone in the mission, shared progress towards the goals, and clear rewards.
You’ll join missions from the Mission Command in the Rebel City. This is a regularly-updating list of missions you can join, and a short list of some upcoming missions. Each mission tells you upfront your goal, the rewards you can earn, and how many other players are actively playing. When you join a mission, you’ll be teleported directly to a squad of players doing the same mission.
All the old great content you’ve come to love has been converted into missions accessed via Mission Command. This replaces the old system of getting missions from the Pilot Pub and then jumping into an overworld carrier. The pub is still there, but now it’s primarily for daily rewards and bounties. We’ll be looking at adding more bounties and similar content to the pub at a later stage.
Keep Players Together
Now that players are starting with others due to the new Mission Command structure, we’ve made more changes to try keep them together: squads, speed changes, and closing the power gap.
When you join a new mission from Mission Command, you are immediately teleported to a squad of players, all actively doing the same mission. One of the players will automatically be selected as the squad leader, generally the strongest or most veteran player. In most missions, if the squad is far away from a mission target, the leader can instantly teleport much closer, and any player that gets separated from the leader can quickly teleport to join them. Gone are the days of having to travel across a huge world to find that one distant target.
Everyone within a squad will be pointed at the same mission target with the radar indicator. Your radar will only show the other players in your squad, and a prominent indicator of the current squad leader. You should follow your squad around, but if you get too far away from your squad, we start to zoom in your camera a bit, limiting your vision and reminding you that you’re not with your squad. At the same time, we highlight that you can quickly teleport to the squad leader with a button press.
If you’re successful with your current mission, the leader can sometimes also pick some follow-up missions so your squad can stick together and take on more content as a unit!
In our investigations we found that speed engines and other speed modifiers were a big contributor to player separation. If you don’t know exactly where you should be going, you are instantly left behind. Even if you do know exactly where you should be going, players without the top-tier speed engines, upgrades and skills, found it very difficult to keep up with speedy players zipping around. We’ve made the tough decision to remove the speed engines (existing speed engines will be automatically converted to damage engines) and nerf a lot of the other speed bonuses throughout the game. We’ve compensated slightly by giving all players a +15% baseline speed boost. This is quite a significant change, so we ask that you please give it some time to get used to – we’ll also be keeping our eyes on this and adjusting further as needed.
Closing the Power Gap
There’s a huge variation in the difficulty of different content in the game. Veterans are not only more experienced players, but their planes also have much stronger gear. This wide power gap makes it almost impossible for new players to join veterans, which is currently unsustainable unless we have a large number of active players. With this update, lower-tier players will get an armor and damage boost to bring them a bit closer to top-tier players. We hope this will make it easier for newbies to contribute and be more valued by veterans.
This update brings the addition of the new Boss Arena. The core is that you’ll be fighting more than 100 different combinations of bosses and minibosses in a small locked room. You’ll find this mission showing up in Mission Command. Check out the exciting new combinations and see if you can overcome the challenges!
Crafting in Steambirds has always had some rough edges. We’ve taken the time to both improve the UI and make crafting a more critical aspect of playing the game.
The biggest change here is the addition of ingredients. Instead of having to juggle various crafting items – a rather clunky affair – most crafting now relies on ingredients. Ingredients don’t take up any cargo or storage space, and can be stacked up to a limit of 100 or more. You can see your list of ingredients from an option at the bottom of the inventory menu.
One big change that crafting ingredients enables: tiered items can be upgraded with copper up to T8. Most enemies in the game now drop varying amounts of copper. Instead of hoping to get lucky and get that much-need T8 weapon, you can now rely on the much more consistent upgrade path to getting there. We’ve also added many different catalysts that drop from different parts of the game and are needed to craft or fuse new SPEC or ELEM items. We’re excited for more changes that the granularity of the ingredients allows us to do – we can slowly give you resources to craft a rare drop, instead of relying on a tiny drop percentage to create rarity.
The addition of ingredients removes the old hack of storing excess items inside crafting recipes, so we’ve removed this from most recipes. We’ve also improved the logic for which recipes are shown/hidden so you aren’t inundated with a huge number of recipes that aren’t relevant. All of your old crafting progress should be maintained and automatically migrated into the new system.
Other crafting improvements:
- Added a confirmation box to crafting
- Improved the crafting details panel
- Removed the confusing location goal from crafting recipes
- Fixed a scroll bug where details can move off the screen
This wouldn’t be a major update without a list of other changes to the game. Community-suggested changes are indicated with
- Tentative fix for the notorious chat bug
- Automatic skill loadout switching when changing planes, based on last one used on that plane
- Suggest another active flock if yours seems mostly inactive (maximum of once per day)
- Adjusted the default camera zoom to show 15% more
- Improvements to the flock register
- Increased range of T0-T5 machine guns (for newbies playing the Quad)
- Fix combat sim bug where stationary enemies spawned on 2 adjacent walls couldn’t be killed
- Siege Tank can use flak while in siege mode
- When you are idle for too long, kick you to the RC selection menu instead of quitting the client
- Apex Military Academy mission is now more granular (more goals so you can see progress)
- Prevent spamming of trade requests outside the RC
- Fixed dungeon mod descriptions for AMA and HFSC dungeons
- Show the teleport effect on other players
- Fixed some more small bugs/issues
- Probably even more small changes we’ve missed here…