You Meet Some of the Coolest People when you Collaborate

 

SHG Studios has a history of finding interesting opportunities for collaboration.  Over the years, we have found artists within our communities to make images for stories in our games.  We have worked with web comics, bringing their characters into cameo strips, set in our games.  Cosplayers from North America and Europe have worked with us to bring characters from our game to life.  These have all been worthwhile partnerships and we’ve enjoyed them all.  Our latest collaboration, however, generated the most excitement yet within our development team.

In mid September, we released a new exclusive commission for Star Pirates.  This story was not written by our usual crew though.  This was a collaboration with award winning Canadian author Robert J. Sawyer.

Robert Sawyer
Photo courtesy of Bernard Clark

Robert is the only Canadian to ever win all three of the science-fiction field’s top honours for best novel of the year. He won the Hugo Award in 2003, the Nebula Award in 1996 and  the John W. Campbell Memorial award in 2006. Robert has extensive experience working in a variety of mediums having previously worked with other game studios and in bringing his novel FlashForward to ABC, a recognized hit for the broadcaster.  His twenty-three novels include Red Planet Blues, Triggers, Calculating God, and the “WWW” trilogy of Wake, Watch, and Wonder, each volume of which separately won the Aurora Award — Canada’s top honor in science fiction — for Best Novel of the Year.

This opportunity was exciting to us for two reasons; First, many of our staff have read Robert’s books.  Myself, I have read the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy and I know that AdminIce is working through the WWW trilogy.  Second, leveraging a professional writer for our game content raises the bar. The stories Robert writes are always engaging, based on hard science, and fun to read.  Exactly the qualities we want for a game that has enjoyed such a long shelf life.

But our dev team is not sitting idle either.  World War Mobile development is progressing well and next month we begin work on Star Pirates Infinity, our new CCG title. Zombie Moon has benefited from some back end changes to reinforce the store and free offers.  Another exclusive commission for Star Pirates is nearing completion and, my most daunting tasks, we are exploring an Ascension for Gates of Camelot.  Perhaps the only drawback of working with Robert is, as I now undertake the task of writing for Gates of Camelot, I find myself walking in the footsteps of a giant.

Much of my time this month will be focused on the Ascension for Gates of Camelot.  this is both an opportunity and a challenge for us.  Star Pirates and Spy Battle have already determined the framework for an Ascension and provide us with much of the underlying code base.  However, there are some story based decisions we have never considered in Gates of Camelot terms.

goc

Ascensions take place in isolated locations.  GoC has had only one map so we must determine where it would take place.  Ascensions also have rewards such as medals and an item slot.  These need to be created and be consistent with the current theme of the game.  The writing is certainly daunting, usually around twenty thousand words or more and the encounters need the right balance.

Most challenging though at this time is the graphics requirement.  All of our artists are currently needed for other projects.  We will likely be faced with a choice between delaying the release until we have resources to allocate to graphics or accept that the quantity of images for the Gates of Camelot Ascension will be reduced.  This will likely become a community discussion in the next few days.  Stop into the Gates of Camelot forums if you’d like to offer an opinion on this.

So I guess it’s back to writing for me.  Well, maybe just one more chapter of Wake first…

Changing Trends – Studio Dev Blogs

Welcome to the dev blog!  My name is Christian and I’m the Product Manager at SHG responsible for the Starcrash series of games which is our browser based titles of Star Pirates, Gates of Camelot and Spy Battle 2165.  As some of you know, SHG Studios has been undergoing some transformation since the beginning of the year and I’ve had the good fortune to be part of these exciting changes.  As part of our new look and style, it is our intention to provide a bit of extra community interaction through blogs and developer diaries like this one.  Our studio is very proud of the library of games we currently feature and the purpose of recent increases in the size of our team is to begin some exciting new projects.

My work with SHG Studios began about 6 months ago but I have known some of the team for many years.  Prior to SHG, I worked with another game studio in Hamilton and we would see each other at various industry and community events.  When my last contract was completed with the previous studio, I began to look for a new place to apply my talents.  With a solid reputation as a growing small business in the community, SHG was the first call I made.

I’m really excited to bring my experience to the great communities found in each of the browser games.  While they are built on the same engine, the different themes offer a nice variety of play.  Within Star Pirates, I enjoy building up my ship stats and unlocking new areas and new story elements.  Gates of Camelot has some really nice equipment.  I can easily picture the sword and horse my character has equipped.  And finally Spy Battle, where I’ve had the opportunity to see some very interesting faction wars.  All three games have some great game mechanics and story content but games that offer online persistent play also require ongoing attention and that’s where I’m focused

We’ve already made some updates in each of the games, mostly housekeeping level changes but big plans are under way.  We’re looking at increased content for all of the games and updating some elements that will improve the feel of the game.  Efforts are already underway to increase the community size by bringing in new players.  The largest addition of late was a new Exclusive Commission in Star Pirates.  This new story is the culmination of a collaboration with a cosplayer from the UK.  Giulietta provided us with a really nice character we were able to feature in game.  We look forward to expanding this system and adding similar new content in the other games as well.  If you haven’t experienced it yet, we encourage you to check it out.

sp_300x600_CO13

So we encourage everyone to check back on the site from time to time, some of my colleagues will also be posting about their work so there will be plenty of opportunities for community feedback.

Toaster Hunt

Pirates! There be a treasure, rare and mythical, that ranks among the greatest in the Galaxy. Few echo its words, and those that do speak with reverence and hushed tones. Be warned, this treasure has made it’s way to our corner of the galactic community. It is, none other than… Space Toast. 😮 (<—shocked face)

What is the Toaster Hunt?

As the metaphorical dust settles after an invasion only one pirate finds the Mythical Toaster that the invaders left behind. Other pirates may steal or otherwise find this toaster by attacking the player who currently has it.

If you have the toaster:
– Stay out of the shipyard! If you are in the shipyard you will drop the toaster and a random online player (who is not in the shipyard, lost, in ascension, or frozen) will pick it up.
– Move around! If someone attacks you and wins they get the toaster instantly. If they attack you and lose they can still knock it loose and you will drop it! It will then be picked up by a random online pirate
– Use cloak + SSC! If you are hard to hit you may be able to hold on to the toaster for longer. It also makes it slightly harder to pin down your location
– Do not use a Letter of Marque, as it offers no protection to you from attacks
– Do not Ascend. Choosing to ascend makes you instantly drop the toaster, and it gets picked up by a random online player.
– You are not immune. Normal attacking immunity does not apply if you are currently holding the toaster

If you do not have the toaster:
– Use the “Hunt” hints to track your prey. These appear in the same location as invasion notices
– Attack the person who has the toaster even if you are too weak to win, if you manage to dislodge it (50% chance) it still counts as a find/claim for you. There is a prize for doing this! Also you help to diminish their chance of winning.
– Stay out of the shipyard! If the toaster is dropped you can find it if you are online but not if you are in the shipyard, lost, in ascension or frozen. Remember chatting alone does not count for activity
– Use cloak+SSC! If you attack the person who has the toaster and win their event log will tell them who took it from them. They can instantly attack you and take it back. But if you are cloaked this can help to cover your tracks.
– Check player profiles! You may see a hint to indicate that they have the toaster.

In the end the pirate who has the toaster will win a prize. There are equivalent prizes for finding the toaster the most, and holding the toaster the longest. One pirate can win multiple (or all of the) prizes. The prize is 1,000,000 in item credits for your Save for Ship fund, unless you have the best ship in which case you receive it to your Galactic Credit account.

 

 

Original Comic Contest Finalists Announced!

After much deliberation the finalists of the original comic creation category have been chosen. There were many high quality entries and it was a hard task for our team that chose the final ten. Each finalist will receive 1000 Star Pirates points each for making it into the poll. Now the community will vote on which is the best overall comic. The entries can be found below. The artist whose entry receives the most votes will win 5000 points, while the artist of the entry that receives the second most votes will receive 2000 points.

Note: A noble click embiggens the smallest comics

Entry 1

Entry 2

Entry 3

Entry 4

Entry 5

Entry 6

Entry 7

Entry 8

Entry 9

Entry 10

Ascension Q&A

What is Ascension?

Ascension is a mission players can choose to take on – as part of that mission, experience, statistics, points, bank accounts and possessions are temporarily set aside. It is similar to “starting over” at level 5 – with no ability to trade with other players. At successful mission completion, a significant Completion Bonus is applied. Research, accumulated experience and items accumulated are converted back to the main account.

What’s this Completion Bonus?

This depends upon the specific Ascension Mission (in first release, there is a single mission – there will be more added over time). The first mission pays out 1,000,000 experience points to each of the player’s Officers in Star Pirates (Underworld Contacts in Spy Battle). It also unlocks a new item slot.

Wait – 1,000,000 Experience?

This experience bonus is for Officers and Underworld Contacts – an additional 1,000,000 experience is not given to the player. Note that this is 1,000,000 for each – this is not divided among the officers and the 10% ratio does not apply. If you are calculating quickly, yes this equates earning 40,000,000 experience divided out using the usual 10% accrual rate.

What About Player Experience and Statistics?

All experience accumulated while Ascending is added to the Regular Account when you Complete Ascension.  In other words, the accounts are merged.

A New Item Slot?

In Spy Battle, this is Nanoglyphs (name may change – but the poll has a clear leader). In Star Pirates, this is a Protocol. In both games, only one of these items may be active at a time and these are findable while Ascending and transfer back to the Regular Account at Mission Completion. After Completing Ascension, this slot and any items of this type remain open for your use in your Regular Account – however items of this type can be found only while Ascending.

Hold On: Star Pirates Doesn’t Have Item Slots!

Until now. A protocol is a single slot which any ship class may use – it is an operating procedure with pros and potentially some cons.  It is tied to the specific player and crew – it cannot be used by nor transferred to another player nor ship (though they can be sold back to the game).  These can be found by players in hourly (and points-based) searches while Ascending.

Nanoglyphs!  Tell Me More!

Nanoglyphs are patterned nanotech implanted into the subdermal layer of spies – each is uniquely customized to the person using them.  They are bonded to your neural net forever and cannot be used by anyone else (though they can be sold back to the game).  These can be found by players in hourly (and points-based) searches while Ascending.

How Do I Start Ascending?

A new Mission will appear in the Missions list. Starting this Mission will bring up a confirmation – clicking any of the mission links will start Ascension and $500,000 is deducted from the Regular Account bank balance. All loaned items are returned, funds and existing cash on hand is returned to the bank.

You must be Level 40 to start Ascension and your Fleet or Faction must not have a war upcoming. You must have Notorious Star Pirate or Special Agent Status to start Ascension. If your status runs out, Ascension will be paused by the system – to resume later, you must pay $500,000 and qualify. This pause is not the same as an “Auto-Pause” (see below).

How do I Complete Ascension?

You must progress through – and win – the Ascension Mission. Unlike player-created Missions where scripted encounters use weapon names and encounter names but select opponent statistics at random, Ascension Missions have scripted encounters which must be defeated before the mission can continue. As a safeguard, there are level requirements at specific key points – you must reach the level before you can continue.

Can I Ascend Multiple Times?

No, but potentially in the future.  At release, the Ascension Mission is a one-time mission, although players can Pause and Resume as often as desired once the mission is Completed it is finished. There are plans to allow repeats of specific missions in future.

What if I Buy a Ship or Safehouse?

This is sold back to the game and credited to the Regular Account bank balance at successful Ascension Completion.

Can I Transfer to the Ascending Account?

You may not transfer points, funds nor items to the Ascending Account – not from another Ascending player, nor from a Regular player, nor from your own Regular Account, nor from the Markets.

Can I Transfer from the Ascending Account?

You can transfer points from your Ascending Account to the Regular Account. You must have Paused Ascension to do so.

What if I Need to Stop Ascending?

You can select to Pause Ascending (from Settings). You can then Start Ascending, pay the $500,000 again and the mission and Ascending Account will pick up where it left off.

What About Fleet and Faction Management?

Players start Ascending at level 5 – this means ladder eligibility is not affected. Leaders can still control memberships, promotions, loans, vaults and armories – but while Ascending they may not access vaults nor armories for their or any other Ascending Account.

What About Wars?

At the time a Faction or Fleet War is declared, all Ascending members in both groups are automatically “Auto-Paused”. When the War completes, players who were Auto-Paused are automatically resumed. There is no control over this by the players – there is no cost to resume Ascension as a Result. Take care with this feature – note this is at the time of war declaration, not when the war is underway. It may be advisable for players who wish to focus exclusively on Ascending to leave their Fleet or Faction to do so to avoid an unexpected interruption.

How Does Upgrade Account Work While Ascending?

Notorious and Special Agent days are used up on both accounts at the same time and carry over from Regular Account to Ascending Account.
Purchases you make while Ascending credit your Ascending account.
Purchases made by another player for you credit your regular account – NOT your Ascending account (this means you will benefit from the SA days but not points in that case).
Purchases made while you have paused Ascending credit your regular account.

What about Purchases That Are Delayed by Payment Provider processing?

Certain purchases can take time to clear (ie. e-cheques). If the purchase was made while you were ascending and you have not completed the ascension mission yet, the purchase will be applied to your Ascension account (whether you are currently ascending or have paused ascension). If you have completed ascension, the purchase will be applied to your Regular Account.

In any case, you will receive an in-game PM with the details of your purchase and information on which account it was applied to.

New Hall of Fame Category?

Yes – a new Ascending Hall of Fame is part of this release. This tracks overall time to completion for each Ascending Mission.

When Does this Go Live?

We will announce the release date later this week. We want to ensure everyone has time to set aside to enjoy it. We’re getting close to “Back to School” days and final summer vacations and want everyone to enjoy as they wish.  We intend to provide at least 7 days notice before such a large update to the games would go live.

Is there a Bonus for the Very First Player to Complete Ascension?

Yes.  There will be a unique medal given to the first player to complete ascension.

In Star Pirates, the first player to do so will be given a small item known as a Mjolnir  — check the item guide.  (Please note we would appreciate players treating this prize and their health with respect and care.  There is no point in winning it if your gut is damaged due to a dozen Red Bulls worth of insominia!)

A subsequent announcement will reveal the bonus for Spy Battle.

StarPirates PodCast

We were invited to speak on PodWarp 1999, the SciFi PodCast. They tend to deal with the online comic strip side of SciFi but have topics ranging all over the map. We got to know some of the hosts while promoting Star Pirates and it was fun to hang out with them for an hour.

Check out the episode where AdminArrBilly is the guest speaker, and maybe pick up some hints on the oncoming story line. Oh and why “evil players” are actuallys sometimes a good thing 🙂

http://pod.ghosthamster.com/2008/09/29/episode-26-space-pirates2/