Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

On the beta version of the GSB2 ship visuals editor

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

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 2 is in beta at last… RIGHT NOW

Oh god the fear…game launches are terrifying. And this isn’t release day it’s beta day but still…let this trailer do some of the talking…

So yup, GSB2 is now taking pre-orders direct from my site, and this gives you access to the beta. You can grab it right now from here:

Note that this is a proper beta, not some super-early-access proof of concept thing where most of it doesn’t work. In other words, most stuff works! it’s playable. Hopefully its fun! It’s PC-only and English only for now, but that will change come-release. There will of course be bugs, and myriad balance issues. And I will be adding some extra voiceover and a few other bits and pieces. But hopefully this is something you can play and enjoy right now. You get a download link, an online serial (for challenges, if you want to use them), and a steam code for its eventual steam release (the code obviously isn’t working yet).

PLEASE tell people you know about it, this is really appreciated. If you are a member of the press, please check your inbox, and if you don’t hear from us today please email me at cliff At positech etc… and I will put you in touch with *my people*. Yeah that’s right, cliffski got people now :D.

And of course, we have forums that you can go chat on and offer feedback and suggestions, criticism, maybe even some praise for things you like? and ask questions about stuff. You can log in to my forums with google or twitter or facebook, or manually sign up for an account. We also have a facebook page.

Holy cow I’m nervous. I actually feel sick.

Gratuitous Space Battles 2, the brand new ship classes…

So if you have played the original Gratuitous Space Battles game, you will remember that there were three classes (or crudely put: ‘sizes’) of ship in the game. They were cruisers, frigates and fighters. In simple terms, cruisers were the big damage-dealing and damage-soaking tanks, frigates were the smaller, faster raiders, and fighters were tiny things that zipped about and sneakily shot through enemy shields at very close range, plus enjoyed some aesthetically pleasing dog-fighting with enemy fighters. This was pretty simple and obvious, but it didn’t lead to enough variety, and thus we have doubled the number of ship sizes/classes this time round. So here they are, and here is what they do…


Same as before, the small fast little one-lifeform dogfight ships, that can also carry some small missiles and do damage to enemy frigates & destroyers, but not much else. The big changes in GSB2 are that these ships (and this also applies to gunships) need to be brought to the battle aboard a carrier, and need to refuel now and then. (depending on how big the fuel tanks are you fit to them of course :D)



These are new. basically big fighters, more power, more hull slots, able to mount two weapons at a pinch rather than one, so consequently they can also pack enough armor to survive one or two shots and still make it back for repairs, unlike many of the smaller, cheaper fighters.


These are quite deliberately targeted to be raiders this time round. They are faster, and more geared towards attack. They are vulnerable to fighters. Ideally deployed in a nice big formation and told to keep moving to leverage their speed and avoid getting hammered by the slow-tracking cruiser & dreadnought guns.



These are support-ships, that you will generally find escorting or in formation with a cruiser or dreadnought. They are roughly the same size as frigates, and share some of the same module choices. They have special ability modules such as shield support beams, propulsion support, and defensive systems such as point defense and guidance scramblers. These don’t generally attack they enemy, they defend your bigger ships against attack.


The main line-of-battle ships. these do the majority of the damage, blasting enemy cruisers and frigates to bits with serious weaponry and decent defenses, meaning they will last a good time into the battle, even in the middle of things. They have the capability to act as carriers, and have some of the big, scary weapons. Cruisers can also take on enemy dreadnoughts, and actually share quite a few module choices with them.



The ultimate ship. This is the ship that a fleet is built around, and you are unlikely to have many of them deployed at once. Expensive, big, very slow, and capable of carrying the biggest weapons available. Like cruisers, they are vulnerable to missiles and fighters, and rely on an escorting group of destroyers to defend them from enemies while they deliver the killer blow. Ideally suited as carriers, that stay at the rear of the battle, refueling and repairing endless squads of fighters. Losing a dreadnought in battle can be a disaster.

I think this variety is going to add a lot to the game. Right now it’s not, I have to admit, as balanced as it could be, but that will be something endlessly debated and tweaked during beta. I’d like there to be really distinctive roles for each class and that is going to mean a lot of restricting modules to one type or another, and maybe adding a bunch of new ones. If you don’t want to wait until all thats sorted out, and want to get your tentacles dirty with the beta, we are taking pre-orders and giving out beta copies to people who pre-order starting this friday… So keep an eye on this blog, or our facebook page.

A preview of space ship design in Gratuitous Space Battles 2

So we are only a few days away from the GSB2 beta (oh yes), and I thought I’d write up a little preview about the basics of spaceship design in the game…

As you probably know Gratuitous Space Battles 2 is a game about ship design and fleet design, not really a typical real-time strategy game where you give individual instructions during a battle. As a result, what really matters is your ability to perfect a decent spaceship design, one which is efficient and effective in battle. This is harder than it sounds. In GSB2, like the original game, you select a ship ‘hull’ from a list of presets, and then equip it with modules that contains engines, weapons, defenses and other abilities…


The trick is balancing all the different attributes of a ship to get the right mix. Basically everything you select has a cost, a weight, and probably both a crew and power requirement (plus many more attributes specific to that type of module). Cost means you will be able to afford more or less of these ships in any given fleet. Heavier modules make a heavier ship, which makes them slower (which is countered by more engines…). The last two requirements (crew & power) are often the two you spend time fussing over.


Each hull in GSB2 (unlike the original game) comes with some power generation and crew supplied, but you are likely to need to add to that with extra modules. There are power and crew modules in various sizes, but getting the exact balance right, where you have enough of both, but are not wasting capacity on surplus power (wasted) or surplus crew capacity (again…wasted) can be tricky. This also leads to a lot of head scratching and chin-rubbing. You *could* add another engine, but if the engine needs more power and that demands another powerplant, then actually will the heavier weight reduce the ships speed enough to mean that the extra ‘marginal’ engine wasn’t worth it? There are a LOT of trade offs, and ship design is an art.


As well as those variables, there are also lots more, such as range, damage and tracking speed for weapons, fire interval, salvo size, fighter capacity for carrier bays and many many more. Thankfully, the game does try to make comparing it all a bit easier than it sounds, as you can click on any variable associated with a ship module and it launches a handy list to show you how it compares against other modules for that particular attribute:


This is just scratching the surface, because the choice of ship hull also affects how things turn out. Some are relatively cheap, some expensive, and many of them have bonuses (or penalties) to cost, power requirements, armor, and so on. There is no ‘best’ hull for each class, it really depends what you will be using it for? A tank, a sniper, a support ship, an anti-fighter platform? a raider?

This is a BIG part of the game. Part of the fun is fighting and winning a battle, and then working out how to do it with a cheaper ship. Every point you don’t spend on fleet cost gets transformed into ‘honor’ if you win the battle. If you beat your honor record for a mission, you earn the difference, so you can keep re-fighting a single scenario with a more and more cleverly balanced fleet to score as many points as possible.

…and of course, once you earn that honor there is the decision to make as where to spend it on the research screen. On a new hull? new weapons? new shields or engines? Or shall we be gratuitous and just spend it on a nice new decorative fin for one of our ships? :D


If you like watching huge at space battles AND the idea of studying starship blueprints to work out whether you can make your space cruiser more deadly for less cost you will be in heaven :D.

Gratuitous Space Battles 2 is still in development, although pre-orders & beta are coming at the end of this week… Tell your friends! (and warn your enemies…)