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Prepare for Blackout

by Rob Bunce and Gina Lees

Another Stable Orbit update glimmers on the horizon, Blackout. This update is named after one of the myriad of problems your station may encounter once the update goes live: a communications blackout due space weather. While Blackout is still a few weeks from release, I'd like to take this moment to tell you about what is coming up.

Events, Calamities & Disasters

The first major new gameplay system that Blackout introduces are events, calamities and disasters. Events are benign or even celebratory occurrences like, say,  a party thrown for the 100th astronaut to board your station. Calamities add small problems to your mix of worries and include incidents like power failures, shuttles not launches due to bad weather conditions and the aforementioned communications blackout. Finally, there are disasters, which are rare events with a massive impact on the continued operation of the station. Ironically, since this is space we're talking about, even big disasters have their causes in the smallest of things. Your shuttle pods may become grounded for months at the time after a fueling incident[www.google.nl] (thanks reality) caused an explosion on the launch pad. Alternatively, you may loose an entire section of your station due to a CBM[en.wikipedia.org] failure.

Orbit Controls

Additionally, Blackout introduces orbit controls. Up to now, your station in Stable Orbit "magically" maintained a perfect orbit around the earth - but that's not how space stations really work. With Blackout, your station will be in constant and steady decline and, like the real ISS, will require regular thruster boosts to maintain its orbit. By default, the station boosters will fire automatically at the appropriate times and all you'll have to worry about is the placement thrusters around your station (incorrect thruster placement will impair your stations ability to control and stabilize its orbit). You can also disable the automatic boosting if you wish to attempt to maintain a stable orbit all by yourself.

Orbit Map

While the orbit map doesn't really affect gameplay, I believe it is nonetheless going to be a fun addition to the game. Most obviously, the map will show you where on (or should I say 'above'?) earth your station is and where it is headed. The fun part is you can click on a spot on the map to cause the station to use the maneuvering thrusters to alter its course until it flies over the spot you just clicked on. Orbital tourists, rejoice!

Be kind, rewind

The final new addition that Blackout brings is not actually new at all and has technically been in the game since the very beginning: the ability to rewind time. I've actually demonstrated how the feature works at Gamescom last year, but I was not very happy with how you, the player, got to control the feature and therefore felt that part of the user interface needed a major rethink. Now, with Blackout, I believe that I've finally got this part right and ready for you to play around with.My hope is (and always has been) that having the time rewind feature will allow even the most casual players to enjoy the "full" experience, disasters and all, since they can always go back and try a different strategy even if some major event causes a complete breakdown of their station. Of course, for the hardcore fans who want nothing of this sort, there will be the option to turn the time rewind mechanism off entirely.

Coming Soon!

I hope you are all excited for the changes coming with Blackout. I am working in full overdrive mode to get everything finished and polished as soon as possible. You can look forward to having Blackout in your hands in a couple of weeks!

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