Side A progress report: One giant leap!

Greetings surveyors!

I’m excited to share that an important milestone has been met in the development of Periphery Synthetic EP: the core game loop is complete! In my previous post about our first destination, I previewed the visual style and world generation of Alpha Periphery B. Today it’s now possible to explore this desert planet, collect its materials, and craft upgrades for the exosuit.

Continue reading to learn more about my progress, and next steps, toward the initial release.

What’s new

A ton has changed since my last post! In summary, the game has transformed from a vivid screensaver I might observe, to something that resembles a real product, that I enjoy dedicating entire lunch breaks to playtesting. But the game iterates so rapidly that I find it difficult to hit pause and share.

Each month I completed development sprints that focused on a single aspect of the project:

  • Graphics sprint. For the remainder of May, I continued to refine the graphics and add a user interface. Here I finalized the color palette, introducing yellows, pinks, and blues to the evolving gradient that fills the sky. This included deep dives into color spaces and dithering techniques to achieve the perfect look with shaders.
  • Movement sprint. My goal for June was to implement the movement mechanics for on-foot and driving modes. A challenge during this sprint was accounting for the shifting sands within collision detection and other physics calculations. This was aided by creating test levels with ramps and moving platforms. Ultimately I think I’ve found the correct balance between fun and realism that my previous games haven’t captured.
  • Crafting sprint. This past month I added collectible materials to the world for surveyors to collect and synthesize into upgrades. While the mechanics are largely identical to E.X.O., the implementation needed to account for differences like the new Codex system, multiple explorable worlds, and terrain that changes over time.

Throughout these sprints I found extra energy for tiny refinements and key decisions. For example, improvements to the visuals and terrain generation have rendered the screenshots I captured after that first sprint obsolete. Likewise, now that I’ve mapped out all the story beats for this and the next few sides, I just need to make time to write.

Improving upon E.X.O.

In my announcement for Periphery Synthetic EP, I described it as a remake and expansion upon my previous games. In E.X.O. pilots walk and drive across an icy exomoon to collect materials and upgrade their exosuits. The initial release will introduce many of its core mechanics within an all-new environment, with key differences informed by playtesting:

  • Climbing and jumping. To further differentiate the on-foot and driving modes, bipedal movement now receives bonuses to climbing steep slopes. Jumping is now far more controlled and responsive, with lateral force applied and redirected in the direction of the pressed controls. At higher levels, surveyors can climb faster and jump farther than ever.
  • Driving and drifting. At the beginning of their journeys, surveyors will find their driving ability locked behind the rarest material. This scarcity forces early investments into on-foot movement skills—and appreciate its scale. Once unlocked, they gain a new drifting ability, which bypasses the brakes for tighter maneuvers and sliding down steep slopes.
  • Fewer materials, lower costs. An issue with E.X.O. was its large material pool and high crafting costs, which was not very respectful of pilots’ time. These have been streamlined and reduced, to the point that most upgrades are affordable after the first cargo upgrade. Future destinations will introduce new materials that are unique to their upgrade paths, to encourage nonlinear exploration across worlds.

By prioritizing fun and player choice, my hope for these enhancements to make Periphery Synthetic EP the ultimate experience of this universe. I’m already eager to revisit Alpha Periphery C2, the icy exomoon of E.X.O.—and its parent, the ocean planet of S.E.A.—but there is more work to be done!

A small verbiage change

Moving forward, I will be referring to its episodes as sides, like a vinyl record or cassette tape. For example, Episode 1 is being renamed to Side A, Episode 2 will be released as Side B, and so on. I believe this is more thematic with Periphery Synthetic being an EP. My apologies for any confusion! And don’t forget—these will be released as free content updates.

Next steps

With the core game loop complete, my focus for this next development sprint is audio. I’m very excited to get back to audio programming after such a long break since Bladius, notwithstanding an art installation I worked on earlier this year—that’s a story for another time. This sprint attacks multiple fronts, from core sounds shared across the worlds like engines and collisions, to the centerpiece that is the soundtrack to Side A.

Once the audio is complete, I should have enough to begin creating promotional materials, like a trailer for the Steam store page. Currently I’m considering a delayed Steam launch, until after the release of Side B, so I can participate in the first Steam Next Fest of 2023. This gives me more time to receive additional visibility and refine the game for the larger audience there.

In closing, I’d like to express my appreciation for the folks who have reached out about their excitement for this project. I’m excited to share more with you soon. Thank you for your kind words, and thanks for reading!

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