Q&A with the Devs - Ask a Pirate Day #7

Posted on February 26th, 2021 08:26 PM EST
Ahoy Pathfinders!

We’ve got a pretty jam-packed post for you today! Because of your amazing participation, providing tons of questions for our team, we’ve decided to split responses into two posts. Since we received a large amount of inquiries regarding PvP balances, we’ll be discussing those questions separately in a later post.

Because today, we have a few special topics we’ll be addressing first. Our first entry is a reply from the dev team regarding the inclusion of a new ship building system. Next, we have a new survey for you all to provide feedback on Ships and we can’t wait to hear your responses. Finally, we finish up with Q&A, excluding PVP questions previously mentioned.

In an effort to provide more transparency between the team and the community, we continue to look for more ways to blend the goals of the two entities to make Atlas as great as we both know it can be. We appreciate your support and ‘til next time, may your skies be clear, waters calm, and sails full in whichever way you roam.

From the Captain's Quarters

We have heard your concerns regarding the new ship system and we would like to discuss our goals for it to help set expectations. We love the level of customization the original ship system provides and we will continue to support it for as long as possible. Currently, there are no plans to remove the original ship system.

Early Access gives us the unique opportunity to share new systems while they are still early in development. The modular ship system is one of these new systems, and it will be released in three main stages, the first of which has already begun. In the first stage, we used the new system to create pre-built ships, like the Ramming Galley and the Majestic Kraken. Our goal with this stage is to give players a sneak peek of the system while also providing a quicker option for obtaining new ships. While the ability to purchase pre-built ships isn’t going anywhere, it’s not the end goal for the new system.

The next stage of the modular ship system is coming soon and will introduce customization options to pre-built ships through module swapping. We will be introducing a system similar to ‘Sail Points’ called ‘Module Points.’ Each ship will have a pool of Module Points, and every module placed on the ship’s ribbing will cost a set number of points. Higher impact modules will cost more points. As a simple example, a Midship Gunport Module with two Gunports will cost more than a Midship Gunport Module with one Gunport. We will be rolling this system out piece by piece, starting with the ability to craft and swap Railing Modules.

As we expand the customization system, our goal is to introduce a variety of modules that provide meaningful choices when building ships. Players will need to decide which pieces are most valuable to their strategy and budget their points accordingly. We feel that the original ship system had little room for choice and expression because the meta was so defined. Our goal is to expand the meta to include a variety of different builds and strategies supported by the new system. Initially, we will be releasing tactically-focused modules, but eventually we will also release cosmetically-focused modules. These could include things like different Railing types or a Midship Module with windows. Cosmetic modules provide no advantage in combat but would allow players to make their ship their own. (Cosmetic modules won’t cost additional Module Points.)

The final stage of the system will allow players to build modular ships from the ground up. After choosing a ship hull size, players will be able to plug in modules from a variety of available choices. (As long as they have enough Module Points!) Our goal is to eventually have enough modules that the new system will have the same level of customization as the original system. This final stage of development won’t be complete for a while, but we hope you’ll stick with us for this journey!

New Survey - Ships

We're back with another Community Survey! Remember, surveys will cover a specific topic, so if we haven't pushed out a survey relevant to your interests yet, please know that there will be more! If there are any topics or changes you would like to see from us in future surveys, please let us know! We're only beginning this initiative, and hope to improve our process as we continue to develop ATLAS hand in hand with the community!

This month's survey is focused on collecting early feedback to our New Ship System / Ships for Gold System. So far, we currently have the Ramming Galley and the Majestic Kraken out, with plans for many new and unique ships on the way. The goal is to create a highly customizable and modular ship system where players can make meaningful choices when building their ships.
Before you complete the survey - if you haven't already, please make sure you have read the latest about our goal for this new Ships system in the Captain’s Quarters section above, as it will provide more details.

Please find the link to the survey here[docs.google.com]

Although we cannot promise to commit any specific change, we would want to be able to quantify which issues players care about most by using this survey to reach as broad an audience as possible.

We appreciate your support! Thank you!

Without further ado, here’s our Q&A! Hang out at our Discord for a chance to get your questions answered in the next Q&A!


Will the new claim system address the long-standing problems many islands have of "lawless" areas in what should be Island-owned territory?
We have been getting a lot of great data about claiming since Early Access started. Each system has had some good aspects and bad aspects. Every player has different needs and ideas about what they want. The new Area Claim system is meant to fill in some gaps and for now will live side by side with the existing island claim system. The island system still has some flaws and bugs and will be looking to address that in the future when we decide how it fits into the big picture.

With the new theme and vision, will single player still be part of that?
While PvP is our primary focus when designing content, we want to ensure new features are also supported in our other game modes. (Including Single Player!)

Are patches being tested in single player or are they only tested for multiplayer purposes?
Recent patches have addressed some Single Player specific bugs and we plan to continue this in future patches. Your reports speed up the bug squishing process, so please continue reporting any bugs you come across.

Can you enable the market system on single player?
The Trade System runs on a separate server from the game to allow Markets on different servers to talk to each other. When it comes to single player, it will have to be same-server trading only. This change will require some engineering work and we do not know yet when we are going to make that happen.

Will there be factions or AI? It would make PVE more interesting. What do you think of having PVP only at sea while land is PVE?
Our direction for Atlas is to make rich player interactions, whether that is through conflict or cooperation, and that is where we will spend most of our development effort. We have talked about factions and think those fit better with an MMORPG style game rather than a massively multiplayer sandbox game focused on PVP.

When will there be a massive Structure limit for land bases? How do you intend to prevent massive Structure spam that was used in PVP as defense meta on any island and in PVE to claim land on lawless?
Spamming structures is not fun gameplay and we would like to get it out of the game. We have some tools available, such as restricting the number of structures that can be built. Each of those options come with drawbacks. We'd like to find a solution that feels good within the world, is good for performance, and isn't so ugly. One of the things we are working on is giving players more choices when building. For example, rather than having to spam 100 walls, we are adopting some of the modding community's solutions and making large stone blocks so that larger defensive structures can be made with fewer pieces. We are also looking at making more automated structures that are designed specifically for defense.

When can we take exact amounts of resources out of a resource box? Can we please have a keybind to pull one single stack of something from a ship resources chest?
Thank you for the suggestion! We'll look into this. We love hearing ideas that make Atlas a smoother experience.

What Holidays are to be recognized going forward? So far with the new team we've enjoyed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s and then skipped over Valentine’s. Is there a list, or is it just if there's time given the more frequent Updates?
We don't have a formal list of events, but we like to celebrate as many holidays as our development schedule allows. Our primary focus is on new features, quality of life changes, balance, and bug fixes, so most holidays will be celebrated with rate up events. However, the Winter Event was a lot of fun to prepare, so you may see something similar in the future. (Anyone want a pair of Bunny Ears?)

Do you plan to make any changes to the current economic system? Gold is pretty abundant on PVP, and absurdly worthless on PVE due to the lack of any major goldsinks. Do you have any plans to change gold cost settings between PVP and PVE? PVP sinks gold into war-dec tokens, drakes, and 1000s of defensive npcs. PVE has none of this and island costs are minimal - there is little chance of islands changing ownership on PVE until the owner doesn't log in for 10 days.
This is one of our core focuses on the game right now. We definitely have some more gold sinks in mind and would love to hear your ideas. Please note that with our small team, at this stage in development, we are focused on balancing PVP first. Gold is only one aspect of the economy. We would also like to see a thriving and competitive resource economy. Right now it's very hard for small companies to get a variety of resources, and very easy for large companies to get nearly all of the resources. Since this is tied so closely to competitive balance, it accentuates the gaps between these player groups. We have started working on the next map, and it will give you more reasons to value different islands for the unique characteristics they contain. This is something we’ll talk more about in the future.

Question, will more gear for the players (like new swords, guns, and armor) be added as time goes on?
Atlas is a game about telling player stories. Custom gear or content is one of the places we would like to reinforce that. Rather than take the standard RPG approach where the devs craft thousands of items, we'd rather give the tools to players to let them craft unique and interesting items within the game, so we will be working on those sorts of systems instead. That said, most of our art effort in the next year is focused on creating awesome new ships, so new visuals for player gear are not likely to be added soon.

Does the team envision that it could be viable to just sail 24-7 and totally avoid land from the beginning of the game?
With the introduction of new ships, Sea Forts, and water tames, the ocean is more alive than ever before and we will continue developing content that pulls people towards the sea. We have a variety of features in development including physical trade ships that can be intercepted to steal resources. We are moving towards a world in which a strong navy will be required even if you have a base on land. That said, land will always have a place in Atlas and the majority of players will want to explore both the land and the sea.

We would like to hear more about direction on loot. The loot in this game is so bad right now we are seeing no crafts on bps, and are not seeing more of those bps dropping. We would just like a long write up of what direction you would like to take loot. Also why was loot changed mid season, crippling companies who now do not have the bps to replace boats? What data has been collected on the loot change? Most of us are still seeing low % items at the MW and above scale. Is there more loot balance coming this season?
We have started making changes to loot focused on blueprints and will continue to do so. We are making multiple changes simultaneously to support some transformative changes and that means sometimes things will get out of balance for a while. Recently with blueprint crafts there were some errors in the math which made the number of crafts significantly lower than was intended, and we'll be fixing that. To be clear on the intention - we are moving BP drops to happen in higher frequency with lower craft counts. This means you will see interesting and unique BPs more often, and will not be able to sustain as long on a single good find. Regarding our long term plans, rather than make this a strict RNG loot experience, we're also working on a set of blueprint crafting, merging, and upgrading systems. This will be initially focused on sails as we prototype the system. This should allow you to get closer to the sort of customized, hand-crafted blueprints you want while still providing an element of skill and luck for getting there. We will reveal more on that system as it comes along, but look for sail BP crafting in the coming months.

Will we see increased reasons to sail in our home grids? Currently the only place to sail for content is GA. Is there talk of making more local grid content that would incentivize players to sail to other grids other than GA?
Our goal is to get more player interaction, especially on the water. Adding in Sea Forts is an example of an objective you need to sail to and compete over. Sailing can be obnoxious if you have to go long distances and that's why we're addressing that problem with the upcoming Tradewinds and after that we plan to introduce a portal system. Tradewinds is in final testing, and the portal system is still being worked out in design. Atlas is primarily a game about interactions with other players, so new water objectives we create are not going to be single-player experiences, but rather ways of drawing players together in conflict.

What are your long-term game performance optimization strategies (realistic ones)? It seems pretty clear that from a technology perspective, it's not possible to support islands with 100s of thousands of structures on them and maintain enjoyable gameplay. How is this being addressed and how can players provide detailed feedback as you discuss potential strategies for dealing with this?
We're looking to consolidate some larger multi-piece structures into chunkier single-piece structures. The overall structure count has a huge impact on performance. We don't want to remove the customization that is a hallmark of Atlas, so we're looking for ways to add new options rather than cull existing choices.

Are there any plans to rework the chat system to give players a better method of communication?
Not for a while. We'd love to eventually implement a mail system that allows players to communicate across servers.

Would the ability to salvage ship parts of sunken enemy ships be possible? A skill with a chance on salvage to get the item at a low percentage. This will help provide an incentive for players to pvp for loot in ship combat.
We're definitely looking at ways to bring more conflict to the ocean. Winning a difficult battle only to receive some resources can certainly be frustrating and we'd love to implement a system that allows you to receive a greater reward for your efforts.

Will players who have been playing since Early Access be rewarded with something special when the game goes to Full Release?
We will be looking for some ways to reward our long time loyal fans as we leave early access. It is a bit too early to commit to anything specific.

What are some immersion goals on the horizon? While performance-related, it's currently boring/problematic to have ships rendering when they are almost within firing distance (versus spotting sails far into the distance).
This is on our radar. We agree that the render distance should be increased to prevent ships popping in and out of view during combat, but we want to ensure any changes we make won't come at the cost of performance.

Weather mechanics are currently very one dimensional and don't offer any actual strategic value (you can't choose to head into a storm to lose chasers, for example).
We're planning to flesh out the weather system in the future. Some early ideas include allowing players to control the weather to make certain islands more inhabitable (or uninhabitable if you're an attacker). We'd also like to make storms more interesting by adding new encounters and resources inside them.

Also, smaller things like allowing lanterns to burn indefinitely and automatically turn on/off at dusk/dawn.
We always love hearing quality of life suggestions! Keep them coming!

Final Note

Again, we would like to emphasize that ATLAS is still in Early Access, meaning many things can and will likely continue to drastically change - even in the middle of development. Anything discussed is only up to date as of the moment it is posted. Features and changes that ultimately make it to the next patch, as well as timing, may be different from what was previously discussed.
As always, we appreciate the suggestions and feedback from the community. Please keep them coming! Thank you for all of your support! :)

Happy Sailing,
- ATLAS Crew

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