I know you've been waiting for an update for a long time, my apologies for that. It's a real challenge for me to to take a step back from the millions of development tasks and find the time to write updates, but I'll try to do it more often.
My goal with this post is for you to better understand what Dream Engines is really about and how it plays. After reading you should be able to better imagine what it will be like to play the game, and hopefully you’ll get even more hyped about it! I’ll also explain our current state of development, and give a very rough timeline for the future.
Please do keep in mind that we’re not even in alpha yet, so everything may change. We are putting quality and your enjoyment above all else, so if we see something is not working out or find a better way of doing things, we’ll change them - nothing is set in stone.
It’s a game about building a flying city in order to survive in a hostile world.
Sounds simple enough, but survival in Dream Engines will be far from simple. You will often find yourselves with no other choice except to retreat and fly away with your entire city to stay ahead of the swarms that want to destroy you, and surviving with a nomadic lifestyle in a dark, dangerous world is a tough challenge.
Dream engines, at its base, is a city-building real-time strategy game (with pause). For most of the game your city will be on the ground. That’s when you’ll be able to expand it and build new structures. You’ll train units to explore the surrounding areas, searching for and collecting raw materials, and fighting nightmare-born creatures. You’ll build and manage your city’s industry, research new technologies, and tend to your citizens’ needs. All this, while defending your city from attacks.
Unlike many similar games, however, you will never be able to get too comfortable. The more you stay in the same place, the harder it will get - until you are forced to fly away. You will be pressed for time, and need to get things done in the most efficient way possible. You’ll need your wit and nerves of steel to successfully lead a Nomad City.
Enemies will come banging at your door, and the longer you stay in the same place, the stronger they will get, until your turrets and walls will no longer be able to stop them. Nearby raw materials will deplete and you will have to venture further and further away, struggling to keep your people fed and your industry running. Weather and disasters will threaten to devastate your city.
Eventually, you will be left with no choice other than to pack your things and leave - launch your city into the skies and fly in search of greener pastures.
But in the world of Dream Engines, there is no such thing as greener pastures. There are many different biomes, each darker than the other. Everywhere you go, you will meet new challenges, but also opportunities to find rare resources, forgotten mysteries, and ancient technologies.
When traveling, you’ll be able to choose your destination from a world map, taking into consideration the risks and opportunities in each area, the different biomes, distance, and available fuel. Every time you land, a new random map will be generated, and you’ll be able to explore it in search of resources and special locations such as ruins of ancient civilizations, trading partners, and mysteries to uncover.
After landing, you will have a limited amount of time to search and gather raw materials. There are many different resources that undergo elaborate production chains before they can be used to expand your city, train units and research new technologies.
Gathered resources are sent back to your city, where you set-up automatic transport networks to move them between storage, factories and consumers. You will have full control of transportation by placing conveyor-belt style rail networks, on which automated minecarts will travel and deliver resources. Weight is an issue and space is limited in the flying cities, so efficient construction will be a priority.
The city’s flying ability, however, is not unlimited. Heavier cities need stronger engines which have to be researched and use more fuel. You will always face hard choices in balancing between long-term and short-term benefits. Will you spend more resources to expand your city and manage the extra weight, or will you build outside, knowing full well that those buildings will soon be left behind?
We’re planning a fairly fast pace to the game, but which will also include an active-pause system, so you can always stop time to think things through and give commands. The goal is to challenge your wit, not your reflexes, but we do plan it so the game will not have “slow periods” where you just want time to pass faster - and so no speed controls other than the active-pause.
You will always be exploring the area around you, controlling units in battle, defending your city, managing your industry, your resources, and making other life-or-death decisions.
The history and lore of the Dream Engines universe is something I am particularly excited about. As you play, you will discover new information and hints about the history of the world. It is an original world, fictional, dark and wacky, inspired by Tim Burton’s works among other things.
The game takes place many centuries after the destruction of the ancient civilizations by the nightmares that now infest the world, and all that remains are small wandering tribes, struggling to live another day. You’ll play the leader of the world’s first Nomad City - an entire mobile city that is also your last, best hope for survival.
I’ll elaborate more on the world’s lore in a future post, we’re still thinking much of it through, and some of it will only be revealed as you discover it in the game..
Now that you know a little more about the game, here’s a small update on the state of development. We’ve been working on Dream Engines almost exclusively since we released the full version of Judgment in May 2018. While progress is fairly good, the scope of this project is large, and we are a very small team (of 3).
At this point we do have a playable demo, but not fun enough to be called a “game”. All the systems such as production, transportation, upkeep, and construction are there. Procedural generation, exploration, combat, unit control - all these are in place. We already have a lot of visual assets ready, including two biomes, several units, and many different buildings and resources. We’re a bit behind with enemy design, as we only have one enemy creature so far.
For the moment, our main focus is to balance the early game content so that the first few hours of gameplay are a fun and thrilling experience. In order to get there, we started doing some very small-scale internal playtesting sessions where we physically stood behind players and watched them play.
Unfortunately, we discovered that before we can get meaningful insights from playtesting, we need to work on usability. We tried focusing on gameplay and fun before UX, but we found that players were unable to properly experience the gameplay when they were too distracted with struggling against controls they did not understand.
And so, we turned our attention to UX and teaching players how to play. We’ve just completed a basic and short standalone tutorial that explains the most important aspects of the game - namely how to build your industry and transport network - a crucial part of the game that is also the most non-trivial. We also added a hints tips network that will explain more advanced aspects of the game, improved our UI, and added tons of in-game indicators and tooltips.
We now believe that new players will be able to quickly understand the basics and we hope we will now be able to get more insights about the gameplay itself and the balancing. We have another playtesting session in the next couple of weeks.
Our mid-term goal is to begin closed pre-alpha playtesting with you guys. We still haven’t decided how we will organize this, but if you’d like to be considered for these tests, don’t forget to join our discord and sign up to our newsletter. We hope to start this in the next few months and are preparing for an Early Access launch in 2020 - but our highest priority is quality, and we will only launch when we feel the game is ready and polished enough to be enjoyed by you guys in EA.
- Tomer and the Suncrash team