Fire up your warp drives, captains! We're about to jump into Progression 2.0 and need to make sure everyone is briefed properly for what's next.
Last week we sent Timo, our new German community manager, to have a chat and talk shop with Peter Holzapfel, the game director of Dreadnought. The two sat down and talked about the upcoming changes in Progression 2.0, why they were made and what they mean for you. To help keep everyone in the community informed, below are some of the topics they covered.
Note: the pictures used in this article are not yet finalized. The actual tech trees and designs are subject to change.
So, why the change?
Let's start with the one big question that always comes with a change like this: why? What was the reason behind the decision to move away from the current linear progression system and replace it with Progression 2.0? In the words of Peter: "The main reason was that the old progression system did not feel as significant, high quality and to be honest, on par with the fun our core gameplay offers. It was important to us to let our players decide how to prioritize their own progress in the game."
Each ship manufacturer will have a unique tech tree (Note: the content of this image has not been finalized).
In the current horizontal system, those decisions are not up to the player since every unlock is tied to a level and you are forced into this progression. This means that at times you might unlock something you're not interested in or don't even want to play at all—for example, a certain ship class that just doesn't fit your playstyle or a module you don't like. Progression 2.0 will allow players to set their own goals in terms of how they progress. It also gives more significance to the meta-game, allows us to improve matchmaking and lets us provide a cleaner new-player experience.
Choosing your own path
The new system will no longer have you advance your captain level on a linear path. Instead, it will allow you to progress through different tech trees, unlocking new ships, modules and officer briefings along the way. At the beginning, you will have access to three ships of different classes (one from every manufacturer) and from there you can decide how to proceed. Do you like Jupiter Arms and want to unlock more of their ships? Or do you prefer Corvettes and want to mainly stick to that ship type? Or do you just want to unlock whatever looks fun? The new system will allow for all kinds of ways to customize your ships and make the game your own.
(A lot) more ships!
Ramping up the number of ships from 15 in the current game to more than 50 in the new progression system means there will be much more variety to choose from. "While you make your way through a manufacturer's 5-tiered system and unlock more powerful ships, we ensured that balance and fairness in battle are guaranteed," Peter says. In fact, not only will matchmaking take the power of your fleet into account. No matter if you just unlocked a tier-4 ship or you already maxed out all of that manufacturer's ships in tier 4, you have roughly the same power level. This means that modules and items that can be unlocked within a tier do not necessarily grant a power boost—just more ways to play the ships of that tier.
Ships will also have their own tech trees. Here's what a tier-2 Dreadnought's might look like. (Note: the content of this image has not been finalized).
That leads us to another question that has been asked quite frequently by the community: once you have unlocked a certain module for one ship, will you be able to equip it on a different ship—or will you have to unlock it again for every other ship that can use it? Peter tells us that, "modules will be unique to each ship, and that generally means that you will need to unlock them again." However, at the same time, he lets us know that the exact details of this mechanic have not yet been set in stone. He sees room for an option that lets you reuse a module in a certain way or reduces the research cost of unlocking a module a second time. What are your thoughts on this—and how would you like to see this handled?
The tier-4 ship tech tree offers many more ship customization options than the tier-2 tree. (Note: the content of this image has not been finalized).
New player onboarding
The "new-player experience" is something that we've talked about before and everyone agreed could be improved. With Progression 2.0, it will be much easier for new players to learn about the game and its systems. In the beginning, you will start with three fully equipped ships with fairly limited tech tree options. This enables you to slowly immerse yourself in the game and understand how everything works before you have to deal with all the different modules and loadout options of the higher tiers. Each of the three starting ships will be of a different class and come from a different manufacturer.
More about the ship manufacturers
Speaking of manufacturers, are we going to see more of them in the game? "The players already know the manufacturers and the ideas and philosophies they stand for. At this point we won't share more than that," says Peter (a bit mysteriously). But then he lets us in on the fact that there is definitely more to them that will be revealed down the line. While each manufacturer represents a different style of ships and gameplay, sticking to one of the manufacturer's tech trees won't limit your playing experience. They all provide ships of all classes—just with subtle differences. While talking about this subject, Peter lets us in on a little secret: "I, for example, started with the manufacturer I thought had the best-looking ships. But I won't tell you which one that was. You have to decide on your own who you want to start with."
Here's a sneak peek at some Jupiter Arms designs. (Note: the content of this image has not been finalized).
Going a bit deeper into the matchmaking system (and how Progression 2.0 will improve on it), Peter lets us know that, "The old system was strictly based on player skill. With Progression 2.0 it will be based on skill as well as the respective ship tiers." That means that every time you start matchmaking, you will be classified by your overall skill level and the ranking of the fleet you currently have selected. More specifically, your fleet ranking will be based on the ships in your fleet (the highest-ranking ship or ships will be weighted the most). Every player will be able to assemble three different fleets containing different tiers of ships. However, exactly how the skill and experience of a player will affect matchmaking has not yet been finalized.
How Hero Ships fit with Progression 2.0
So what about Hero Ships? How do they fit into the new system? "First of all, if you already own a Hero Ship, you will keep that ship—and in Progression 2.0, its value to you as a player will be even higher." The Hero Ships will be part of the manufacturer tech trees, but will remain separate from the main progression path. A Hero Ship is part of a certain tier, but it does not need to be unlocked via research (you can unlock them by purchasing them in the store). You can actually get a Hero Ship while you're still on a lower tier and use it to try out the weapons and modules of higher tiers.
However, advanced weapons and modules aren't the only perks that come with these ships. Since you can't rank up or max out a Hero Ship, all the XP you earn while playing one will be "free XP," which you can use to research and unlock items (weapons, modules and officer briefings) within any ship tech tree. Each Hero Ship will also have its own backstory, design and trademark abilities that cannot be customized. There might even be some additional perks for Hero Ships that have not yet been worked out, but we will make sure that each one has it's own personality and heroic feel.
Alright, let's address the elephant in the room: what does the new progression system mean for the monetization of the game? "Monetization was of course an aspect when we decided on the new system," our game director admits. After all, we need to make money to keep the lights on, pay employees and continue making this amazing game. In order to do this, we need to offer players an incentive to make purchases, while at the same time making sure that we avoid creating paywalls for content or creating a pay-to-win environment. Instead, we will focus our monetization strategy on vanity items, Hero Ships and Elite Status, which enables players to fast-track their progress in the game. Regular game content will always be available to all players without having to pay for it. This means that a player who decides to spend money will not become all-powerful—however, they will be able to progress faster through the game, have access to Hero Ships or use vanity options that are not available to all players.
Fleet maintenance costs
So how does the fleet maintenance cost fit in here? Peter stresses, "Well, at first I want to point out that a lot of details of this aspect of the new system are not yet set in stone. That means that a lot of what I say here is still subject to change, but this goes for most of what we have talked about today." There are different ways the repair cost can be implemented into the game and to talk details here would be a little premature. What we can say is that fleet maintenance costs will be negligible at the beginning. When you are new to the game and decide to have maintenance handled automatically, you're not likely to even notice it. It's only in the higher tiers that these costs will become noticeable. The maintenance cost will be paid in Fleet Points and at no point should it lock you out of the game. We want our players to be able to play any time they want. Since there is still a lot of stuff that's undecided, we're not really able to tell you more at this point. Please, feel free to let us know what you think, and how you'd like to see us handle this aspect of the game.
What about "the grind?" "We need to find the right sweet spot where progressing in the game is challenging and demanding, but at the same time fun. We want to make you look forward to your next unlock, module or ship." It is our goal to make the game engaging, and we want you to ejoy it all the way into the higher tiers. To achieve that, we've made it possible to follow your own goalswithin the ship and manufacturer tech trees. This was unfortunately not possible in the old system, since linear progression didn't allow for it. With Progression 2.0 it's clear to every player what can be unlocked next, what is waiting for them further down the road and how much work it'll take to get there. According to Peter, the new systems is about "giving our players a choice and letting them make the game their own.
Let us know what you think!
We've been working hard on all these changes over the past several months, and we're curious to know what you think. Let us know in the forums!
And if you missed last week's stream covering Progression 2.0, you can check it out on Twitch.