Character generation & development

Added on 27 November 2013 by Lurler.

I will make it short, but I would like to share our views regarding the RPG system and character development in the VoidExpanse. We had a lot of discussions about this ourselves, but the basic idea was always the same - to only add features that make the game fun!

So, here are some principles of our design for the game:

  • Make the game an RPG. That was, after all, our most important decision from the beginning. This would enable the player to advance their character, and subsequently the ship as the time and game story progresses.
  • There must be a character generation when you start a game. Here is what we have so far - work in progress character generation screen.
  • No stats for character. That wouldn't make much sense to add attributes such as "strength" or "dexterity" as in classical RPGs. We could have, of course, made that work with attributes like "reaction", "intelligence" or "accuracy", but there is just no reason for it. It wouldn't add anything to the game.
  • What we wanted to add was skills, and a whole lot of them! Skills as in "Diablo 2 - skills"! Here is an example of skill tree in VoidExpanse. It is an example of asteroid mining tree. It is of course work in progress, but it is very close to what we will have when we launch beta. Oh, and this skill tree is procedurally generated too. You can add as much skills as you want and the game will automatically generate a skill tree for you! That means all the skills can be modded.
  • The skills themselves are mostly passive, granting you access to a particular technology or ability, or increasing your character efficiency with something. In the example above the first skill in the mining tree grants access to asteroid mining in general. It means that anyone can start mining quite easily, but to become really a proficient at it you will have to spend some time advancing down the tree to get better skills and increase your efficiency.
  • Now, how do you get these skills in the first place? For this you will need to spend skill points. Each skill can cost anywhere between 2 to 10 skill points, but usually around 5. Each character level you acquire 10 skill points which means you can usually get around two skills each level.
  • To advance your character to a new level you need experience points. You receive these from a lot of sources, for example in combat when you defeat your enemies or from missions and a few other sources.
  • Now what about character classes and pursuing a particular path? That is interesting topic and I want to talk about character classes in details, so I will make a separate post for it. In short - we want to give players the ability to develop their character in a particular direction. But at the same time I want to allow for multi-classing.

Well, I think that pretty much sums up the basics of the character development system!

What do you think of all this? Do you possibly have ideas to make it better? Let us know what you think on the forum!

Why VoidExpanse?

Added on 20 November 2013 by Lurler.
Today I decided to change the usual routine of posting only about updates to the game and do a post on a topic not directly related to the development of the VoidExpanse. Instead I would like to talk more about the game in general. So, why are we making VoidExpanse? That is actually a long story, but I hope it will be interesting to read.

The idea to make this kind of game actually came to me a few years ago. At that time I was playing several great Sci-Fi games such as Space Rangers: Dominators, System Shock 2, Master of Orion 3, and a few others. I always loved the space theme and it was while playing these great space games that I finally decided to start writing a concept document for a game in that genre. However, at that time, I wasn't really going to start the development of an actual game any time soon. I was just thinking on how it could be done and what would be fun to see. The document went over much iteration over the years but eventually I was happy with it.

So, how did actually making the game start? That is actually the funniest part of the whole story. In January this year I decided to start building a kind of prototype for the game just to see if the concept would even hold. I did a basic game where you could fly around in space shooting things that was a very simple at its core. Once I had the basic game made I mentioned my idea to one of my acquaintances at the time, including the idea that I might possibly make it into a big project. He was like "OMG dude, let's create a company and totally do this thing! This game sounds awesome!" You can guess what happened next! So, there we were in Singapore in February earlier this year creating a company to start a full blown development of this game and (I hope) many other games to follow.

By June all of the formalities were ready and we started looking for people to join us in our new company. We immediately found two great people: Vladimir, a Unity3D god and Dmitry, C# etherlord. With their help we finally started the development on what has become VoidExpanse. A few months later Andrew, the art almighty joined us in a role of 2d and 3d artist.

Now here we are, working on this great game!

Discuss this post on the forum!

Weekly news #16

Added on 15 November 2013 by Lurler.

I really like our new feature this week! Target locking and homing missiles are finally implemented. It is extremely rewarding to see your weapons chasing after the enemy ships. But let me tell you how it works. First you need to equip a radar capable of acquiring a target lock. Then after pressing [R] button and pointing in general direction of where your target is you will get him into a targeting reticule. Then depending on how powerful your targeting speed and enemy ECM (electronic counter measure device) you will acquire a target lock. Usually it happens withing couple of seconds, but could take longer on some ships. So, then what? Then you can fire all missile weapons your ship has equipped (with homing capabilities of course) to bring down hell on your enemy! Of course they can do the same to you, though :)

What else is there this week?

  • We are almost finished with the space stations. Shops are fully working now, and other features are almost completed too.
  • Added jettison / destroy functionality for items you are carrying.
  • Improved shield collisions with objects. Now it will activate on asteroids and other static objects too.
  • Implemented new NPC scaling system that would make it much simpler for us to reuse the same enemy profiles thus enabling us to create really a lot of variations even for the same enemy types. It would make game difficulty progress more steadily throughout the game.
  • A new save system also got implemented this week. It works in an incremental way making save times almost instant. You won't even notice it in single player, and for huge multiplayer servers it could be just 100-500 milliseconds which is also perfectly okay.
  • And finally we have improved latency handling. Now in single player there is no latency at all, and in multiplayer it is perfectly okay to play even with 200-300 milliseconds lag. Most likely you won't even notice it thanks to interpolation and extrapolation algorithms that we use.

Here is also a wallpaper for you to put on your desktop. I think it looks pretty old school :)


Download 1920*1080, press "save as..." on the link.

Discuss this post on the forum!

Welcome to AtomicTorch Studio website!

Added on 11 November 2013 by Lurler.

Hi and welcome to AtomicTorch Studio website!

Today is our first big milestone in the development of VoidExpanse! We are finally at the point that we feel confident enough about showing our project to people and the press. This post will highlight some general information about the game we are making and our plans for the future of this project.


So, what is it?
VoidExpanse is a spacefaring action-RPG with boundless freedom to forge your own path in a galaxy rife with conflict.

Once, we looked to the stars with dreams of peace and immeasurable prosperity for all. We reveled in our limitless potential as we conquered space travel and ventured deeper into the unknown. Then, the aliens struck, and we lost.

Faced with insurmountable odds, some of us continue to fight, while others turn to self-serving greed. Regardless of our motives, the battle for survival is only beginning.

With robust skill-trees, multiple factions with their own agendas, and extensive customization of your ship, VoidExpanse allows you to truly shape your journey to defeat the alien threat and restore the galaxy. Will you be the stalwart savior of humankind, the opportunist playing every angle for financial gain, or the down-and-dirty renegade?

A single-player campaign with a masterfully crafted story of open-exploration and difficult choices is only the beginning of VoidExpanse. With moddable sandbox modes, you can create your own procedurally generated galaxy to discover, or create persistent multiplayer worlds to band with other players – or destroy them.

Key features include:

  • Spacefaring action-RPG with open exploration of procedurally generated galaxies.
  • Carve out your destiny with extensive skill-trees and ship customization.
  • Battle, trade with NPCs, mine asteroids, and explore the unknown.
  • Real-time combat with serious dangers; no auto-leveling enemies.
  • Play through a carefully crafted story in procedorally generated galaxy.
  • Join with friends or take them on in persistent multiplayer worlds.
  • Every aspect of the game is fully moddable and extendable.

Visit our forums to discuss the game.
Or like our page on Facebook.
You could also follow us on twitter.

Below is a screenshot of early in-dev alpha version of the game. Everything will change upon release of course, but it should give a rough idea of what the game is like.

Weekly news #15

Added on 8 November 2013 by Lurler.

Hello again. It's Friday and here is another developers update!

This time we finally started implementing space stations, or "bases" as we call them. In the game you will be able to dock to many different stations and use their services such as shops, shipyard, visit canteen, etc. Different stations will provide you with different options of what you can do. For example on a mining outpost you can sell your ore for a better price.

Anyway, here is a detailed list of changes this week apart from implementing the bases as I described above.

  • It is now impossible to change your ship equipment while in space. Well, it does not make much sense if you can just swap your weapons in the middle of a fight, right? :)
  • Now it is also possible to change your ship hull. What that means is that you can now buy better ships with the progression of the game.
  • Better galaxy generation. It is now all script based and can be easily changed in mods. We are also continuing working on the map editor that would allow us to make the game campaign as awesome as it can be!
  • Many enhancements to the faction system. All factions are now defined in XML files and you can add your own. You can also script any custom features for them. One of such features is that when you belong to a particular faction they will offer you better prices when trading. It will be in the game by default, but you will be able to add any other features like this.
  • And finally we tweaked the physics of the ships a little bit. Now it is possible to precisely define the mass distribution across the hull. For example a ship might have it's center of mass right in the middle, or to the side which would completely change how it behaves in combat.
  • Oh, and we added money! Yes, no game like this can be without money! :)

Here is a picture of our map editor in progress and an example of galaxy that it can generate. I think it is quite nice gameplay wise. Colored zones represent zones of influence of a particular faction.


And here is a render of the space station.

Discuss this post on the forum!

Weekly news #14

Added on 1 November 2013 by Lurler.

I noticed that I start each of the developers updates with some variation of "this week" or "another week" :) This time I decided to do it in some other way for the variety sake!

Anyway, main addition to VoidExpanse this time is a new ship which you can see in the screenshot below. I think you can guess its purpose from its look. Yes, it is a cargo vessel. It has very spacious cargo holds ideal for trading missions or transportation of mined ore. Now, thinking about it, it is actually a very smart idea if one player does mining in a specialized engineering ship, while other player helps him to transport ore to a processing facility in one of neighboring star systems. I should certainly try it to see how much more effective it is compared to mining alone.

And here is our usual detailed list of other important features this week:

  • Crates. Now it is possible to loot destroyed ships. Or you can jettison some or your cargo for others to pick up. The crates themselves were done some time ago, but this week we finally implemented UI for actually picking up these crates, or rather their contents.
  • Better planets. We have adjusted how the atmosphere is displayed and increased the polygon count for the planet models.
  • Better shaders for the sun, now they take into account actual 3D space fore more realistic look.
  • Energy calculation. Generator, capacitor and all energy requiring equipment now take into account all associated ship stats. That means you can be left off without energy if you spam-shoot your weapons non stop for some time.
  • Tractor beam. You can use it to draw containers closer to your ship if you are too lazy to pick them up manually. I know, I will certainly use it often!
  • We have also started working on the galaxy editor that would help us in creating the campaign for the game later on. For now though, it is mostly needed to tweak the galaxy generation in the game.


Discuss this post on the forum!

Weekly news #13

Added on 25 October 2013 by Lurler.
Despite the number of this blog post I think this week brings one of the most important updates! Today we finally rolled out our new website that supports all needed functionality such as master server for our games to play online and ensure that your multiplayer identity is protected, then of course the ability to actually buy our games (although none is available for sale at the moment, naturally), subscription to news, proper security for users and many other features essential for our future launch of VoidExpanse and other games that we will be making after that!

Also this week we implemented following features for the actual game:
  • Added static and dynamic decorative objects to the game, example of this is debris left after destroyed ships.
  • Weapon icons that will be displayed in the inventory.
  • Actual 3D models for turrets that will be displayed on your ship in game.
  • Started working on a new ship that will be added to the game next week.
  • Added quite a few new icons for skills.
  • Containers with loot that is left after destroying enemy ships.
  • Grapple beam and the ability to grapple items in space.
  • Some more improvements to AI system.

Weekly news #12

Added on 18 October 2013 by Lurler.



This week we have completed probably the biggest update to date. A whole lot has been accomplished, but let’s go one by one:

  • We have finally implemented the logic for skill system. There are about a dozen skills now, but by the time we release the game we will surely bring it up to possibly one hundred or more.
  • New space station. You can see it in the screenshot below.
  • A lot of improvement for AI. The NPCs and enemies now behave much smarter and can accomplish tasks such as delivering goods or mining asteroids. Funny thing here, since they all belong to a different factions, as soon as we run the simulation they started fighting each other :) That was unexpected, but that’s what makes the system good. They can make decisions for themselves.
  • New planetary system generation. It works now and things such as asteroid belts, proper planet orbits, jump gates, etc. are generating properly.
  • New logo for the game. Which you can already see in the top of this post.
  • Icons for items and skills are now properly loaded from resources.
  • And finally we have added a new type of effect for weapons. It is now possible to add sprite effect such as plasma ball and such.

This week we also finally completed our second internal build of the game. Now it finally looks more or less like an actual game! :)  Still, there is not much content though, but that will come later as we continue working on the game!

Weekly news #11

Added on 11 October 2013 by Lurler.
Another week of hard work! We are still mainly working on creating a new website. The site will provide all needed functionality to power the game’s community and allow such obviously important functionality as buying our games :)

But aside from that we also implemented several new features in the game:
  • New ship, gorgeously called “Crab” for it’s shape.
  • Several new weapons. Among them are several lasers, plasma cannons, new rockets and missiles.
  • Identity protection for multiplayer. This way no one will be able to hijack your nickname and pose as you.
  • And finally we started implementing character skills system in the client. It will take a long time to finish, but even now we can see how awesome it is and how fun and rewarding it is to advance your character.

Weekly news #10

Added on 4 October 2013 by Lurler.
As usual this week’s portion of updates to the game. This time we focused primarily on making the space look decent. We are finally happy with the results of how the space background generation works. Effects of the sun also got some love and it looks gorgeous in motion. You can see the results in the screenshots below.
Another feature implemented this week was mining. It is now possible to equip mining gears and go extract some useful minerals from the asteroids. Although the visual effects for this are not quite ready, so no screenshots :)





Weekly news #9

Added on 27 September 2013 by Lurler.
Main change this week is that we decided to completely redesign the weapons system. Instead of “per ship” configuration as in previous system now we can specify every parameter on a per slot basis and place this slot anywhere on the ship. We also going to add actual turrets for the ship that will be rotating to match the targeting reticule. Each weapon will have its own 3D model.
We have also added completely new ship called “Boomerang”. It has quite unique shape.

Aside from that, there are a lot of other changes:
  • We have finally started work on the active devices. These could be either combat devices such as some EM field generators or shield boosters or these could be something like mining laser.
  • New particle effect for “space dust”. Now it really conveys the movement and makes it much easier to navigate in space.
  • System map. It displays all the objects withing a current star system.
  • New backgrounds for space, it doesn’t look that good yet, but at least we are on a right track :)
  • And finally we started work on a new website. This will be a completely custom engine ensuring complete feature set we will need for this game and all possible future projects.

Weekly news #8

Added on 20 September 2013 by Lurler.

This week signifies our first build of the game! This is for internal use, but never the less it is a fully working game now (without much to do yet, though). Anyway, this week our main feature is the character generation screen. Just look a the screenshots. I think it looks amazing! Kudos to our artist and programmers. One thing to clarify though is that the GUI is obviously temporary and will be replaced before release. Aside from that there are not that many other features implemented this week as we were mostly trying to fix all the bugs there were so far and make it into a fully working application.

As usual, here is list of other things this week:

  • We have ported SMAA to Unity which will be one of the possible effects for the game.
  • We have implemented multithreading for dynamic resources loading. This way load times will be almost instantaneous and all other resources will load upon first usage.
  • NPC can now dock to space stations.
  • We have added strafe movement to our ships and also rewrote how ship control works. It is much nicer now.

Weekly news #7

Added on 13 September 2013 by Lurler.
Main feature of this week update is shields. Not only they work properly now, they also look awesome! The game also now correctly calculates collision boxes for weapon hits. When the shields are raised the weapon will hit the sphere around the ship, but when they are down the hits will go directly to the hull of your ship.
Second big feature is that the dialogues are more or less working now. We even created a small quest! The quest is given by Darth Williams – “The base is under attack, go and kill these pirates” :)
Next, improved AI for NPC ships. They can now avoid collisions with objects and generally behave in much smarter way. The AI scripts are also working about 100 times faster now since we have offloaded most of the logic to the main engine. As a result even around 100 active NPC ships flying and fighting only take about couple milliseconds per frame to execute. What that means – expect HUGE space battles and custom servers with a lot of players online.

Other notable changes:
  • Added cursors graphics, such as mining, picking up loot, etc.
  • Changed physics engine, now we use Farseer with some slight modifications to make in platform independent.
  • Extended debugging statistics. It is not important for players, but it certainly helps us!
  • Shadows!
  • Shield / structure bars and names for NPC ships.
  • New asteroids models and textures. There will be several types of asteroids for all your mining needs.
  • The sun!
  • The server build for Debian. That is about confirms cross platform compatibility!

Weekly news #6

Added on 6 September 2013 by Lurler.
This week three important parts of the game were finally implemented. First one is the NPC dialogues and quests system, the second one is character leveling and the third one is factions system. There is one problem with all that though. It all works only on the server at the moment. The client can’t display any of that yet. As always implementing features takes much less time compared to the time it takes to add everything to the client. But that is to be expected. Anyway, I really like how these systems turned out in the end. All the flexibility and ease of use. We will make full use of it when we start creating content for the game!

So, to summarize the full list of important changes this week:
  • Model for our first space station is done. We had to use ship model to represent a space station before. It is much better now :)
  • Some new graphics such as proper laser beams and cargo crates.
  • New interface for weapon groups. We decided to put that into the bottom-right corner of the screen.
  • Server logic for quests system and NPC dialogs.
  • Leveling of the game character.
  • Factions and relations between characters. NPC disposition system.

Weekly news #5

Added on 30 August 2013 by Lurler.
This week we spent most of the week arguing about the quest and dialogues system :) In the end we created a concept for an awesome system that would allow us to do pretty much anything we could imagine, yet remain the most simple of all proposed options.
It is achieved by providing a transparent API to anyone interested in creating the content. As a result any player can create a mod for the game that would add new dialogs and quests. It would be as simple as just adding a new file for each of them.
We will have a more detailed post about our questing system in one of the following weeks. Stay tuned!

Also new this week:
  • Changed the scripting engine completely. It provided a 100x boost in performance. That’s what I call optimization!
  • Now all the stats of all in-game items actually take into account data in XML files. This means we can now start adding content to the game. Though, we will wait a bit before we do this as we want to finish all other essential game mechanics first.
  • Started work on the new GUI.
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