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Devblog #24 - Upcoming Features

It’s been awhile since we did a proper announcement of new features so this blog will outline our plans and explain various new mechanics that we are working on, including damage, degradation, heat and radiation. Today, we’ll explain the reasoning behind these decisions and update our roadmap accordingly.


Here’s what Marko Smiljanic, creative director at Zero Gravity, had to say about the planned features: “We are excited to implement mechanics that will take the PvE aspect of the game to a new level. Immersion plays a big role in Hellion and recreating the harsh conditions of space is a major part of it. After all, space is a dangerous place and it won’t hesitate to kill you if it catches you off guard, even for a second.”


These changes will be introduced one by one in the following updates to allow more time for testing, feedback and improvement.


Damage, degradation and repair


Some of you may have noticed the new concept art in between the loading screens. These images are just a small teaser for the upcoming damage and repair mechanics. We are happy to announce that the “age of invulnerable ships and stations” is coming to an end. In order for their equipment to function properly players will be required to repair and maintain it. Damage comes in two basic forms, degradation and collision.


Exterior damage effects and repair points - concept art


Degradation is a steady process that represents a slow decay of materials due to extreme temperature variations and exposure to space radiation. As time goes by modules and ships will slowly lose a percentage of their health until it is reduced to zero. This is true for both claimed and unclaimed modules and ships and will completely replace the current despawn mechanic. Loss of health will be accompanied by various visual changes like cracks and material decay, sparks and electrical discharge for modules with power and fire for those with pressure. These effects will vary in intensity based on the amount of HP lost allowing players to discern the approximate HP of an object at a glance.


Interior damage effects and repair points - concept art


Collisions in space can be a rather deadly thing, especially considering that damage is based on physics and takes into account mass and relative velocity of objects. So a slight bump between two small modules will cause damage, but won’t be fatal. However, a full on collision between two ships is likely to ensure mutual destruction and even cause damage to other nearby objects as well.


All of this brings us to the repair mechanics. In order to repair a damaged module players will require two things: a working repair tool and resources. Repair tool is a small welding device that allows players to restore HP to the modules and consumes a certain amount of resources that can be replenished from the cargo interface, much in the same way as you refuel a jetpack. Repair can only happen at repair points that are scattered across both the interior and exterior of the module. They also count as damage indicators since the number of active repair points and the intensity of visual effects indicate how damaged a module is. To fully fix a damaged module players will have to interact with all active repair points as each one can only restore a fixed amount of HP.


Repair tool - concept art


And just to spice things up and make salvage a bit more interesting, modules and ships that players can find will never spawn at full HP, requiring some maintenance work before a module is restored to full functionality.


Heat management


Another new feature that we are working on is the introduction of heat and cooling in space. Considering that we often hear “how cold space is” it might come as a bit of a surprise that in vacuum cooling is actually a bigger problem than heating. This is because all matter transmits heat in two ways: contact with other particles and electromagnetic radiation. Since in vacuum there are almost no particles, the only way to cool down is to either vent hot particles (using limited resource) or radiate heat into space. However radiating heat is a bit tricky since it is based on the mass and surface of the object. The bigger the surface the faster an object will cool but it will also absorb more of solar EM radiation causing it to heat up.


Modern technology handles this problem by using specifically designed radiators. Radiators look similar to solar panels in design and use heat transfer system to collect excess heat and bleed it off into space. To compensate for solar radiation, they are always angled in a way that exposes very little of their surface to the sun.


Current ISS configuration showing solar arrays and radiators


In Hellion, we plan to introduce a similar system that will require players to carefully plan their actions and manage excess heat if they want to keep their ships and stations operational. There will be two factors at play here: external and internal influence. External influence is entirely based on the distance from the star and whether or not players are in the shadow of another large body, such as a planet or a moon. Internal heat will be generated by various onboard systems. As a rule of thumb the more power a module produces or consumes the more heat it generates. Needless to say excessive heat will have a negative impact on the player’s health and cause damage to the module’s hull. In order to mitigate these effects and maintain stable conditions players will have access to entirely new systems and upgrades.


Radiation exposure


In addition to heat we also plan to introduce radiation as a factor in Hellion. Rather than damage the hull of the modules directly, radiation will cause damage to active systems and parts ultimately causing them to break down. For players however, it might be more dangerous than heat since there will be only a handful of options for removing radiation poisoning.


Radiation sources will include natural ones such as trapped radiation (Van Allen belts), galactic cosmic radiation, solar particle events (coronal ejections, solar flares) and gas giant planets, while abandoned stations, damaged modules and derelicts will represent artificial sources.


Station management and overview


So by now, we already know what you’re thinking. How the hell are we going to keep track of all that? It is for this reason that we will be adding a proper ship/station overview interface that will allow players to easily keep track of the conditions in their base. The overview will feature all necessary information to allow easy management of security, power, pressure, damage, heat and radiation. So, no more guessing if there is enough oxygen to pressurize that new power supply module. The overview will be available to players at any given time, but managing various systems will only be possible from specific consoles within the base.


Our goal is to make player stations an important part of gameplay in Hellion. As such their function will expand well beyond “a place to safely log off” and turn them into safe harbors where players have to return to recover, upgrade their equipment and plan their next move. Creating a proper base layout to counter various threats at a certain location by using available upgrades, resources and equipment will require additional planning and in large part decide the pace at which players explore the Hellion system.


Inventory and storage rework


Fully stocked armory


Along with the features mentioned above we are also working on improving inventory and storage mechanics that will make manipulating items more intuitive and user friendly. Streamlining inventory management will speed up gameplay and eliminate many of the grievances our player base had reported so far.

That’s all for today’s news, fly safe and stay tuned for more news over the next weeks as we will go into detail about each and every new feature outlined today.

Posted by Zero Gravity team