It’s been two years since the last post and I’m going to skip the pleasantries and dive right into it.
Previously, I was experimenting with a v2.6 build where I added new features and content to the game but unfortunately it turned out to be a mess. I’ve been on and off it for a while a bit unsure of where to go with it and ended up scrapping it. You can still play this version via my discord server here.
For a long time, I’ve been mulling over remaking the game in RPG Maker MV but the cost and time offsets the worth of doing it for me as I know I can’t really manage it. I also though a lot about how the game could be better and learning a lot since 2011 when I started, I know there’s a lot of messy mechanics, story elements and content just stitched in all over the place.
Eventually I decided to remake the game in the same engine, recycling what I can and cleaning things up. The v3.0 as it will be known is essentially a soft remake of the game and I’ll go over a few key points below.
This may be a point of contention but there will be cut content. My overall goal this time around is to focus on the 3 major story beats and I’m hoping to provide full voice acting for all of them. The game menu will be cleaned up and just show the 3 options for Natalie, Blake and the Captain’s stories respectively. I feel like focusing on these does them more justice and is a more achievable goal in the long run. I do also intend to give “The Captain” a fixed surname this time around, ala commander shepherd sort of deal so characters can interact with them more organically.
I do intent do rewrite the stories (which sadly means scrapping the current prequel mode voice acting) to make them more cohesive, to freshen them up and to iron out some of the kinks. Story mode is likely to benefit from this the most as it had a lot of added on side stuff that I hope to integrate though I will be cutting the mercenary outpost stuff as it got a bit ridiculous. Another example is in the Prequel Mode where the timer forced players to wait around, I intend to going forward provide an in-game time system and allow the players to short/long rest to pass time and recover some of their health and injuries.
Another prominent note is that I do intend to cut “Marathon Mode” and change the way Original Mode ends which will be a lot darker than before.
So, I had a lot of characters before, especially in the story mode and I have cut them down this time around. There are now 50 characters per mode (57 in Story as it was hard to cut them) which increases the challenge more and lets me put more focus on the characters. I’m intending to provide a bit more personality to them and interactivity to the sections they are in. With full voice acting I intend to provide more passive chat / commentary for them and am looking into chat reactions during combat though may forgo this if it turns out to be too annoying.
There will be more of a focus on a ‘main’ group of characters like Natalie had Irvin, Harding and Perkins for example I intend to up the roles of characters like Black and Bashford to provide a bit more exposition and dialogue options to scenes. I’m also hoping if budget allows to provide more still art images like we did for Prequel Mode.
I’ve also done some work to manage the larger party a little better. The party menu is no longer available in combat and can only be accessed from the menu in your ‘safe area’. You’ll still be able to take stuff off characters not in your party that are not following you (though I see this as more of a convenience) but you’ll no longer have your 50 characters available at once.
I’m also experimenting with a 6-character team instead of 7 which gives more display in combat and doesn’t squash things up as much though balance will need to be considered for this so it may remain as 7 though there is sacrifice to icon display in battle.
Another big change is that I am going to use larger more realistic sprites going forward as well as actual faces so while this will no doubt take extra time I think its worth it to ditch the chibi aesthetic.
The classes have been reworked completely. There are now six distinct human classes and the attack dog. From playing a lot of D&D in the last few years I’ve set the level cap to 20 and had classes learn their abilities at set levels. Skill Features such as “Accuracy +5%” and the like make a return but are greatly expanded and the 20-level cap has been taken into consideration and now 2 points are awarded per level up to spend on the passive features for classes.
The roles should be better defined this time around as each class has key growths in an area and key abilities, they unlock which leans into certain playstyles though the flexibility is there to still use any weapon and play how you like.
The key attributes have also been reworked each class has particular growths in each one. These attributes provide bonuses to each of the other stats in the game and aside from the passive features that buff these the skills that provide status effects give temporary but large boosts to these stats. Skills that provide buffs are now also instantly used and no longer take up an action.
Items & Equipment
I’ve essentially changed the entire balance and formulas for weapon attacks and equipment stats to accommodate the new changes. Many items return but I’ve made some cuts that make sense such as the near infinite supply of anti-venom in the arctic that wouldn’t be useful against alien poison but I’ve still had to add ‘video gamey’ sort of things to allow the player to cure various effects.
Weapons have had some cuts and new additions. There is no longer a legendary variant of every weapon in the game which makes it easier for me to balance the ones that are left. There’s also some new stuff like shotgun magnum shells, player smoke grenades and cs gas that can be used. I’ve had a big rebalance around how long status effects last for so while things like fear are now more impactful than before, burning only typically applies 1 stack so you need to keep the fire on to keep the damage going. Remaking the game allowed me to clean up weapon abilities order too so now attacks only appear if you have the ammo and energy cost to use them, else they remain hidden, reducing clutter in the battle menu. On top of this weapon attacks and abilities are now all under the ‘attack’ option so class skills are kept separate. Throwing items are also under attacks when available.
I also did a change to the weapon proficiencies that give a lot more flexibility to loadouts. Now most weapons are equip-able without any sort of proficiency though certain ones will still require investment in the passive proficiencies. I’m also intending to rubber band the loot system this time around to only give you ammo if you have a weapon for it and stuff like that though I will have to find some way of not letting this get exploited.
Equipment has also changed. The five mod slots return for your weapons but now the general equipment options have been expanded. Head, Eyes and Face are unique slots but some objects do cover more than one slot when equipped. Armor, Outfits, Backpacks and Trinkets are also their own slots. Trinkets now have some uncommon variants to be found to fill the slots rather than relying on the special finds in the game.
I’ve also changed the way crafting works; I’ve essentially gutted the crafting stuff as it was complicated and bloaty. Its more basic now so Soldiers can strip weapons for ammo and parts, Medics can make items and Engineers can make ammo or strip equipment for supplies. I’ve removed the scrap metal, toolkits and scrap meds stuff and focused more on the use of ‘supplies’ in the game. Supplies are more universally used this way and feed into all the crafting menus.
New enemies are being added, a lot of new enemies so stay tuned for that. Enemies are also going to be a little more unpredictable than before and have had a rebalance.
I’ve removed the complicated points system that for example spawned one of 3 different us troopers based on difficulty, party size and level etc and this time around there is just one of every enemy (though there are cosmetic and equipment variants still).
This should make the balancing infinitely easier for me. Difficulty changes also mean that harder enemies take less damage and are harder to hit instead of having more health which I think is a better change.
For thing enemies fire is more important this time around as from Normal difficulty onwards fire is necessary to ‘kill’ things. I’ve also added a whole bunch of extra variants and have more plans for boss fights. I’ve decided to lean more into the 2002 video games logic of an action-horror experience as I do think its more enjoyable than trying to avoid fights and the like, it also makes more sense that as its an RPG, combat is a core element.
Speaking of combat, I’ve changed the system significantly. No longer will you order all your units and watch it play out turn by turn like before. This time its ATB (Active Time Battle) and every unit has a bar that fills faster based on their speed (though I am being careful to not let dex characters dominate this too much). This makes combat more engaging but don’t worry the battle still pauses essentially so you have time to select your options (I hate being attacked while browsing menus). The options are cleaned up and easier to use but the Auto command is still available should you wish the units to act freely though they only tend to prioritize healing or high damage still.
Another combat change is that party members won’t instantly die if reduced to 0 health. Instead, they will start to bleed out and any characters “bleeding out” when combat ends will be revived to 1 HP at the end of the fight and remain in the party instead of being removed. This does make up for the reduced character numbers (though infection is still the end of a character). I’m still working on this mechanic so it is subject to some change, especially with the “Main Characters” who previously on death caused a ‘Game Over’ screen. I am leaning towards main characters automatically reviving after battle with 1 HP assuming you win the encounter as a party wipe is still a gameover and this is likely to be less annoying if they can just get back up.
Human enemies have had some slight tweaks too but the major one I’d say is that I’m intending them to drop more reliable equipment this time around, mainly weapons, armor and ammo as it’s a bit morbid to be stripping your enemies after a fight generally but I’d say body armor is fair game (assuming it wasn’t damaged too much in the fight!).
Due to the resize of characters (essentially being twice as tall) I will have to redesign a lot of the areas and have new objects. I was always a bit bummed about this as its quite a lot to do but as I do each story mode individually it’ll make it a lot more tolerable though the time toll will be there so, please be patient. Things will hopefully be better proportioned to the characters this time around and the game should look a lot more unique as I plan to abandon the default assets more or less completely.
The main benefit of this change comes in the form of the looting. Before you sort of just had to go around interacting with everything hoping it had loot or you hadn’t looted it yet but now, I’m planning to have more of a visual indicator such as a draw being opened once looted as an example though again this will take extra time.
I also intend to take another look at the game lighting and either replace it or simplify it with another script.
New Game+ Changes
In the v2.6 test builds I was working on a mechanic that allowed you to assign a reserve party, unfortunately this script was incompatible with the NewGame+ script and I think the reserve mechanic didn’t really work as I wanted it to anyway so I ended up scrapping it this time around.
I believe NewGame+ is important to the design of the game and allows replay ability. As such I have am aiming to rework this.
Firstly, there is the introduction of Clear Points (CP) and a feature known as the Unlock Shop. The Unlock Shop will be available from the Menu and doubles as an achievement tracker essentially as it will list all the special equipment you can purchase for your current playthrough as well as the ‘unlock requirements’ (basically achievements).
Clear points are intended to be awarded when completing a story mode (they will probably be difficulty based) and stick to your save file. You can then basically save these up or spend them as you please to unlock items you have earned in the game which feeds into my second point.
I realize how much of a mess the special items in the game became. So much so that I needed a wordy section on my website to list where items can be found on a newgame+. I’m scrapping all this. Instead, items are either found where they are meant to be or purchased from the unlock shop, this keeps things simpler.
Difficulty is getting a major change and looking at the state of the v2.6 game there are wow, so many damn options before you even get into the game its crazy. I’m making it simpler this time, Easy, Normal and Swedish (Hard).
Easy difficulty makes enemies more vulnerable. In addition, there are unlimited saves, a combat helper that gives you a boost to attack stats and no permadeath for party members (except for infection). This mode is intended to be as much as a casual experience as possible for those who just want to play through the game.
Normal difficulty is what the game is intended to be balanced around and enemies will be at their standard settings. This mode will introduce Limited Saves (Tape Saving), the classic permadeath for party members and fire will be the only way to kill thing enemies though guns still harm them. This will additionally introduce the cold and hunger effects which I intend to rework both of. Cold is easier as I’m adding a ‘cold exposure’ state based on the weather/temperature but I am struggling with the starvation a bit more.
Swedish (Hard) difficulty is going to be more of a challenge than normal though probably not as hard as it was before. Enemies will have stat gains to make them harder to hit and take less damage, all the features from Normal are included but thing type enemies take less damage from conventional weapons and the player characters gain less experience in this mode. Additionally, Sickness & Darkness effects are enabled, Darkness making its return gives attack penalties in the dark and sickness (from enemies and items) effects healing received and energy regeneration rate. Overall, this is intended to be more of a challenge though the unlock shop might allow players to make this easier based on what they’ve accomplished previously.
Another big change here is the way cheats work in the game. I lean on the fence when it comes to cheat codes, I think they are great and a fun way to mess around in a game but I also dislike the impact they can have on the intended experience. This time around I will be changing what cheats are available but I will make them available from the menu right off the bat instead of having to be unlocked (a notepad file will be included with the game with a list of cheats). One thing I intend to do however is assign a tag to save files that have ‘Cheated’. This wont effect anything other than letting you know you cheated on that save file.
I do hope people will give the normal intended experience a go as a dev but as a player I also want you guys to have fun and go nuts. I will say that I am likely to cut cheat codes from before as I’m not intending to include the spawn codes for characters like Whitley or the US Outpost 31 characters.
Save Stations: I am hoping to add Audio Logs at these tape recorders to give a little something extra to listen to in game as well as include more notes and computer file stuff to read, focusing more on environmental story telling.
Tutorials: I’m scrapping the Tutorial Mode inspired by conflict desert storm for in game tutorials. I’m also scrapping the field guide and merging it with Blakes Notebook. This way tutorial popups will be archived in the menu for easy access alongside the collectable research notes, timeline stuff or whatever random things I have in there. A static image tutorial note is also a lot easier for me to make than relying on the in-game message window to convey text.
Mouse Support: Mouse support has been implemented, it’s a little weird to be honest but it works well enough so far. In addition to this WASD movement is enabled though this has greatly changed the keyboard control layout. Before Q/W was a quick command to cycle next/previous in menus but this has now changed to A/D because of WASD. Another change because of this is the change to the games Quick Buttons. All of these are now under the Q key which brings up a little choice box menu with the options for objectives, flashlight etc. For convenience a mouse clickable Q button has also been added to the screen.
Travel: The story mode mechanic of using a helicopter to travel around is being scrapped in favour of a travel option from the quick menu. I still need to work on this but this will essentially allow you to quickly leave an area once you are outside and streamlines a bunch of stuff. This also filters into the time system I want to implement. I’ll probably still feature the helicopter as an explanation for the travel method but it’ll play more of a cosmetic role itself this time around. I’ll also be removing the refuel timer thing. Travelling will essentially pass real time in game though I’m still working out the pros and cons of this and debating on tying story progress and events to the time system similar to how Dead Rising handles things. The short/long rest option is also a factor I need to look at for this.
Playtest: The game is a long way off having anything to play currently though a lot of the mechanical groundwork is set there isn’t much tangible to play. I will be focusing on Natalies story first in the remake so once something tangible is playable such as exploring the ship I will release a test build in the discord server which you can join here. Though realistically this maybe some time off yet so please stand by.
I think that’s everything, probably forgot some stuff and did ramble a lot but there was a lot to go on as I haven’t posted for some time. Apologies for the lack of visuals and the lack of updates but it does take time, please stand by for more updates or check out the discord to ask me questions.
Thing Team: Richard2410, Arteaga
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In other news I saw the thing in cinemas for its 40th anniversary 4k Restoration and Blair’s sweaty face in the kennels scene looked glorious on the big screen. Movie still holds up and is fantastic, definitely still my all-time favorite. Sadly Wilford Brimley (Blair) passed away in 2020 joining Donald Moffat (Garry), Richard Dysart (Dr. Copper) and Charles Hallahan (Norris) to pass away leaving only 8 of the original cast still alive. I think at this point if there ever was a sequel it’d never match the original cast anyway, they definitely caught lightning in a bottle with this film and I cannot believe it was slated at the time. Not to mention it came out around the same time as ET of all things which I don’t think holds up as well.