Category Archives: game design

I admit it, it makes me cough and splutter a lot when people say ‘I don’t want to go to the trouble of designing the look of the spaceships, so I just slap down an empty hull graphic‘. It worries me because there are several downsides to this. Firstly, they are missing out a big part of the game, especially a big part of what makes GSB2 new. Secondly it means their challenges, screenshots and videos are going to give a poor impression of the game, because those naked hulls are…well naked, and simplistic looking. My engine can do better! Thirdly (and perhaps most importantly) it suggests that people think the ship design interface is too complex, or fiddly, or time consuming. This is something I’ve been working on.

Firstly we now have a lot of fixes that make composite objects work better, and rotation speeds are fixed, and there is now a handy ‘reset to zero’ button for rotation speed. Plus the interface now only shows color layer options when they are relevant, because always showing three confused people, as there are rarely three layers to adjust…

But something that was suggested, and it was a great idea, was that the game should come not only with all these tiny little widgets, but also some pre-built big components you can drag and drop to make the process quicker. I agree. This now acts as a half-measure between those people who couldn’t be bothered to design at all, and those who spend hours adjusting each fin.  Here is a screenshot of a naked hull surrounded by some of the pre-fabs you can choose from.


Those pre-fabs are ‘composite objects’ and you can just right click on one and split it into all its components. Each one has a big pile of them, and you can delete one, move one, and then regroup as a new composite if you like. You can scale and duplicate/mirror/set colors for composites just like anything else, it’s one of the ship editors best kept secrets.

On that topic, I should probably give some love and attention to nudging people into using the hotkeys on that screen, as frankly I never touch the size or angle slider for anything, its so much easier to use a mouse wheel with ctrl or shift. Here’s a closeup of a composite, made up of probably 30+ components.


I’m going to spend some time today just making a few of these for each race. They act both as ‘quick-fixes’ to otherwise dull looking hulls, as well as a demonstration of the way composite objects work, which hopefully will nudge more people into creating their own. Eventually I’d like to see collections of them in the steam workshop or as lists of mods on the GSB2 website. I can foresee people getting reputations as expert ship designers!

If you just stumbled upon this post, this is a blog about the PC space strategy game ‘Gratuitous Space Battles 2‘ which is currently in beta, and you can pre-order the game and start playing right now by clicking this link here. Tell your friends!

Sooo. this is a post about the feature in Gratuitous Space Battles 2 that lets you edit the design of your ships. The game is in beta now, and I’m getting people actually playing it properly, so I thought I’d talk a bit about this feature, and ask for some feedback.

Personally, I think this is one of the coolest things about the whole game. It’s one thing to fight a battle with lots of cool looking ships in, but it’s another to actually design you own and then send them into battle. For the seven year old me who first saw Star Wars at the movies, this is a dream come true. I can spend a lot of time tweaking the position of a radar, or pipe or fin or spinning widget on a space battleship. That’s what life is all about.

For those currently without the game here is a screenshot so we are on the same page:


What I’m asking for is some feedback about how you find the editor. I know it has it’s bugs. The composite creation stuff can lose Z-values, and I’ll fix that soon. I know people also want a snap to center feature, and type able values. I guess I’m wondering how people are using it. Are you using the mouse wheel and shirt/ctrl to do the rotating and scaling? it’s TONS easier and faster. Are you using the arrow keys to nudge items a set amount around the screen? Do you mirror items one at a time or design half the ship then drag select and mirror them all?

Do you think there are enough components? if not, what is missing? are you actually using the composite functionality much? I should point out today’s incoming patch fixes a lot of issues, such as hiding unavailable color-tint layers, and fixing the rotation speed of objects being represented wrong. It also fixes loses your design by hitting the ‘shouldn’t-be-there’ main menu button. I know people would like to place components ‘under’ the hull, which may be technically problematic, but I’ll have to investigate.

I’m definitely looking forward to running a few ‘who can design the best ship’ competitions once the game is released, and I also look forward to one day having some free time and getting a chance to really play with this feature a bit more myself. Also…modders will hopefully use it a lot :D. In the meantime, pre-order the game to get access to the beta on PC right now…


Give me your GSB2 beta feedback

February 09, 2015 | Filed under: game design | gsb2

Sooo… lots of lovely nice, attractive, charismatic and generally awesome people have pre-ordered GSB2 (THANKYOU!) and are playing the game right now. Obviously in a beta, the key aim is to get as much feedback as possible. People always assume game designers are of the same mind as they are, as the players, but the problem is, we get ‘too close’ to our games, and often can’t see design issues that are staring you in the face. For example, it shocked me to see so many people field ships that were just naked hulls. I thought I’d made it really obvious how cool and new and fun the ship visuals designer was, but I clearly need to signpost that a LOT more. Here is some stuff I’d love to know from people playing:



How is the game running for you? on what settings and what hardware? I have had no negative feedback, and some great feedback, but you have *no idea* how much I sweated over performance. This game does a lot more than GSB1 graphically, and I was terrified of performance issues. Am I right in thinking it runs ok for everyone?



I know there have been some glitches here and there, with alt-tab in particular, and some people quitting the ship visuals design assuming that saved the ship. I’ve also fixed a few errant pieces of text, typos etc. Generally how is it? does i flow ok? do you have all the information you need and does it make sense? Has everyone worked out you right click a friendly ship in the battles to get in-battle info? I suspect not. What can be improved here? Someone on facebook suggested ‘radar charts‘ for modules which does sound extremely interesting.



This is always the big one, because nobody ever agrees! But I suspect dreadnoughts are too cheap and too easily self-defending, and that possibly frigates are not fast enough. I think we also perhaps need a few more modules in general in terms of variety. Have I got the mix of power/crerw right in most cases? Are some of those hull bonuses maybe a bit too good? are they apparent enough from the GUI (something I suspect needs tweaking). The game currently only has easy difficulty enemies. Too easy? To hard.

All feedback is great. I want to ship the best game I’ve ever made, one that looks great, plays great and runs great. The more feedback the merrier, there is already a ton of feedback on the forums.

In other news, don’t forget to check out the latest big pharma video blog. And of course you should tell your friends they can pre-order and play the GSB2 beta right now.

Gratuitous Space Battles was a relatively big hit game (at least for positech), but it managed it despite some hilariously bad decisions. The lack of any decent explanation of how the core game mechanics work has to be one of them… For example the whole thing where some beam lasers bounced off shields, and some did damage, and you had no idea how or why probably upset some people. It was all explained in the manual, which obviously nobody read, because it looked like an RTS or an arcade game and thus such things aren’t necessary…bah.

The mechanics in GSB2 are slightly different, in that weapons have a fixed ‘damage’ but the effectiveness of that damage varies by hull/armor/shield. So a weapon might do 100 damage, at 50% if it goes straight to hull, 75% to armor, and 200% to shields. That makes it an awesome shield-hammering weapon, but not one you’d want to deliver the killer blow.

At least now a new part of the pop-up tutorial stuff does this:


Which should at least mean a higher percentage of people pay attention to that stuff. Now I think about it, I should probably add some code that encourages weapons to select targets based on their effectiveness. ARGHHHHH.