Skybreak! After-action report (and future plans)

Thanks for playing everyone.
This isn’t a postmortem, because Skybreak! isn’t finished. In fact, Skybreak! will probably never be finished: I explicitly built the game so that I could add content ad infinitem and that is exactly what I intend to do.

Skybreak! is my magnificent octopus, that big, gangly open-world RPG many of us imagined making when we were teenagers that we quickly abandoned. My objective in making this game was solely to finish making a game like that, to prove to myself that such a thing can actually be done. I very much doubt if I’ll make another IF that is this large or complicated, ever again.

So what now? Well my plan is to release new versions every few months or so for the foreseeable future. The first few will be responding directly to feedback, later additions will add new adventures. Roughly, I plan to do all of the following in this order:

general quality of life: The one area where I think it’s fair to say the game was an unqualified dud was the interface. To some extent this is inevitable, as the game is confined for nostalgic reasons to the ADRIFT system…also, I like how some interface limitations give the game an old-school feel (at least one of you found it charming). The good news is that this is a relatively easy fix, if perhaps a time consuming one. Any encounter option that requires you to spend a resource will print the amount of that resource you have. The ship launch protocol will be simplified from two buttons to one.

more variety on “generic” planets: This is a difficult balance to strike. Many reviewers noted that the relative tedium of “unpopulated” systems was in some sense deliberate. An intrepid space explorer blazing through darkness and dead rocks will be intrigued by a single, pulsing life sign on a planet below…the same cannot be said of a traveler in a universe where each and every planet is crammed full of life and technology. I absolutely detest how many open-world sci-fi exploration games pack their universe with civilization…it makes space feel so much less lonely and awesome (I’m looking at you No Man’s Sky). I tried hard to made the “empty spaces” feel vast, but broken up enough that it didn’t get repetitive…enough reviewers complained that I’m thinking I need to rework it…more varieties of planet types (IE molten worlds…with oceans) and asteroids seems to be the solution.

More "pure CYOAs: I initially envisioned the game having a goodly number of pure choice-based encounters that allowed for simple role-playing outside the skill system: no success or failure. There are a few of these…but I wanted a lot more. Specifically I wanted one fairly large, branching decision tree on each interesting, populated world…something that would occur once in each game, for each world like this, and force the player to consider on a deeper level how they interacted with that place. Obviously, this would take a long time…but now that IFComp is over, I have a long time. Each new release will have at least one new “Pure CYOA” on an interesting world.

slightly more social interaction: One feature I came very close to finishing, but didn’t think was polished enough for the final game, was dialog with characters. Skybreak! features 30 recruit-able characters and maybe two dozen other, recurring beings that pop up over and over again between encounters. I initially envisioned the game as having an option where you could simply ASK (character) ABOUT (concept) and get a little backstory and a feel for what they were like as a person (or goblin, or entity).

more places to go: There are already hundreds of unique locations in Skybreak!..but I’d like to make hundreds more. Skybreak! is a setting I’ve been building in my head for decades, and there are many more places I’ve imagined than appeared in the game. It’s worth noting here what I don’t plan on adding: I don’t plan on adding any new resources, skills, talents, backgrounds, or major mechanics. This simple system was designed to be expanded in an easily balance-able way. Instead, I plan on adding new worlds and encounters using these simple mechanics.

community-created worlds: Since playtesting began, players have wanted to add to the game…it would be relatively easy to do, and would contribute to the scope and scale. My hesitation comes from the fact that Skybreak! is a pretty specific setting, far outside of generic Sci-fi, that’s hard to do right. Still, I’m experimenting with what would essentially be an auditioning process for other authors to add worlds to galaxies outside of the Skybreak! galaxy itself, which might ultimately make for a richer and more wondrous game…certainly a far larger one.

Things I would appreciate hearing from the community, especially as I begin adding new worlds:

  • were there any system “loops” where you got stuck oscillating between the same 3-4 worlds over and over again?

  • were there any resources that you felt were too common or too rare? (some were of course supposed to be very rare)

  • did anyone actually manage to fall in love? (I fear I made this too rare…it’s supposed to be a chase goal, but an achievable one)

  • what were your favorite and least-favorite places?

  • Did anyone face the difficult choice regarding space amoebas? What did you choose?

*any other bugs, typos, etc.

8 Likes

I knew an update was coming, maybe more, but I wasn’t expecting this kind of long term dedication to adding to and improving the game.

Needless to say I’m a little giddy at this announcement. Skybreak was already on my shortlist of ‘will remain on my computer forever and be binged on every few months’ games (and the only IF title to have that honor unless King of Dragon Pass counts…) and this will give me an official reminder of when it’s time to do that.

I don’t know of any other IF game receiving regular updates like this, but it does indeed seem to be easily doable because of the way you designed it.

2 Likes

Aww, I kind of liked the anticipation that cl brought. Got me hyped up every tine it was time to leave.

That sounds pretty kewl.

Happened a few times, but I think always for less than ten back and forths. I didn’t always mind it, since when it was in a named planet, it let me do more things than I could otherwise have.

One planet I went to a lot at once a few times in a row on multiple occassions was Melissa, and another was the goblin planet. The planets belonging to the Children of Veth and the other surrounding areas, along with the void, was a place I was stuck in for a long time once.
But, hey, I became a saint.

No

CHAD goblin saints don’t have time for such things.

I liked Juul and the Veth home planet and Melissa a lot. Can’t say I had a specific least favorite.

I don’t believe so.

1 Like

The first expansion/update will be out sometime this month. While it is primarily focused on quality of life interface improvements, I’m going to try my hardest to have every update feature

  • at least 7 new locations with accompanying encounters
  • at least one new mini-CYOA

Teasers attached.

3 Likes

Loved the game! I found myself encountering spelling errors that didn’t irk me but should probably be corrected. (Take fifty whacks with a wet noodle as punishment, please.)

More concerning to me was that certain options don’t seem to function at certain locations. I tried playing multiple games and double-checking that I hadn’t somehow chosen one of the other options by accident, causing the others to become invalid. Nope - certain options that should be possible, weren’t. Is there a way to locate these sorts of errors other than playtesters stumbling upon them?

One minor suggestion: the ‘report’ command doesn’t show the options specific to markets when visiting a market is chosen as an action. During my first game, I got lost when the market-specific list of options scrolled up off the screen, and I couldn’t get them to re-display. I eventually figured out what number I had to press to exit the market, but for a while I was trying to selection options from the report menu and being told I had no [commodity] to sell.

This was a fascinating experience.

A new version of Skybreak! is out, v 1.1 is available on IFDB and the ADRIFT website. You can also play online here

As aforementioned, this update is comparatively modest (I have plans for at least two other, larger expansions for later this year). Here’s all the changes, slightly different than what was described above:

  • Many bugfixes
  • Improved quality of life updates including an automatic “listing” of the relevant inventory item in most transnational encounters
  • Seven new worlds and several dozen new encounters
  • two new places that use the “archaeologist” talent
  • two new places that use the “lowlife” talent
  • one new planet of each type (Frozen, Molten, etc) hidden out there somewhere

Each update will try to have at least this much new stuff. As always, please write me at Theodidactus@gmail.com (or just post here) if you find stuff that doesn’t work.

Happy…uh, skybreaking

1 Like