On Wednesday, we only wrote a quick announcement here, thinking we would have the time and space to talk to you like we do via chats and forums. Little did we know we would get new messages faster than we could read the ones already in our inboxes! Additionally, there have of course been technical issues – wouldn’t be a proper launch if it didn’t keep the programmers busy straight after…
So we’re sorry if we haven’t returned your message; we promise we are going to read it, however. And most importantly, thank you for every review (the negative ones too, we really read them all!), purchase and wishlist addition – our first days post-launch have been amazing, if also crazily busy. Now we wanted to take the time to go a little deeper into what we actually released two nights ago.
And in particular the big question: what’s the difference between the game that everyone played for free for years and this one that we now have to pay for?
First, we should probably admit to having lived in a bit of a bubble here: since we’ve worked pretty openly with our community, with fairly frequent blog posts, our source code public on GitHub since 2017 and all new commits being automatically posted on our Discord, we didn’t actually anticipate this question! Like, of course everyone goes through these things with a fine-toothed comb, right? Well, of course you don’t. So here’s the short version.
Why can’t we play the free version anymore?
Barotrauma started as a pet project of Joonas “Regalis” Rikkonen, AKA Undertow Games, and a few other hobbyists. You can read more about the history in this other blog post. Around the end of 2017, Baro became a full-fledged professional project, jointly with FakeFish. FakeFish are, in the broadest sense in the context of Barotrauma:
Aku Jauhiainen, founding partner, CEO and executive producer
Joonas Rikkonen, lead developer of Barotrauma
Ez Jämsen, lead designer of Barotrauma
Pekka Saari, creative director and art lead of Barotrauma
Eetu Pitkänen, founding partner and programmer
Daniel Asteljoki, founding partner and designer
Lauri Härkänen, programmer
Juan Pablo Arce, programmer and Discord favorite
Roni Kovaniemi, QA engineer
Iiro Enges, senior artist
Namanh Lê, artist
Tuan Anh Dinh, artist
Jussi Elsilä, founding partner and audio designer
Vilma Savolainen, community manager
Kimmo Kari, consultant and business developer
Alex, Otto and Oskari – programming and artist interns who have also lent a hand in the development.
We work full-time to make games for a living. We’re particularly passionate about making survival horror games with editors and other tools that allow players to expand the game and create their own content. We’re also really into procedural generation and iterative design together with our players. Barotrauma is our first commercial release.
Around the time FakeFish boarded Barotrauma, the free legacy version stopped receiving major updates. We didn’t take it down, though, because we wanted continuity for those surprisingly many people who were playing and enjoying the far-from-complete early development version. However, it had always been the stated goal of the project to launch it as a commercial release once it was ready to see the light of day.
Now we have finally arrived to where everyone, not just our handful of community testers, is able to get their hands on the Steam version, and thus the legacy master server has been taken down. So, what should you expect to find in the Steam Early Access version of Barotrauma?
Over the last two days, we have been absolutely swamped with messages, and saddeningly many state that the game isn’t worth its price tag. Many say the opposite and have written wonderful things that have made us smile, and still many others find themselves somewhere in the middle. This is to be expected of course, and rather than try too hard to talk anyone over, we want to shed some light on our own position by listing some of the things we’ve done over the past 18 months or so. (You can find the complete changelog here, v0.8.2.3 being the last legacy version.)
- A full graphics overhaul: Almost all of the sprites have been polished or completely remade.
- Improved random event system to keep the overall difficulty of the game at a certain level, delaying additional monster spawns if there’s already a lot going on, or spawning more when there’s a more quiet moment
- Improved difficulty system: The difficulty level has a much more noticeable effect on gameplay.
- General difficulty balancing all across the board: We’ve tried to make the difficulty curve more approachable to new players while still keeping things challenging for more experienced players on higher difficulty levels.
- More varied levels, environmental hazards (volcanoes, water currents, organisms that disrupt the sonar, floating ice chunks…)
- A new and more detailed health system, with limb-specific injuries, addictions, overdoses, mental issues… The system is also highly moddable, and makes it much easier to implement things such as hunger mechanics, more varied poisons or stat-boosting items, which have been very popular in mods before (a big nod to BTE here).
- Completely redesigned in-game HUD (the inventory, crew command interface, chat, etc)
- Redesigned crafting system: There are many more raw materials and ways to get them, and more things you can craft. It’s also now possible for all members of the crew to craft anything, although characters with insufficient skills will take much longer to do it.
- Added minerals scattered across levels that can be used for crafting
- A command/report system that can be used to communicate with your crew more effectively (in both single player and multiplayer)
- Tons of additions to alien ruins (traps, puzzles, non-flooded rooms)
- Improved, functional AI for both crew and enemies, although this is still a work in progress
- NPC dialog (including random chatter and context-specific lines that make it easier to keep track of what the crew is doing)
- Redesigned most of the device interfaces to make them more intuitive to use (and a lot nicer to look at!)
- Many additions to the campaign mode, although it is currently still a work in progress
- Overhauled the skill system: Now every character can generally do anything (repair devices, fabricate new items, apply medical treatments), but characters with higher skill levels will do things more efficiently.
- Skill progression in the campaign mode: Characters’ skills increase gradually, making them more valuable with each completed round.
- A whole soundtrack of new music composed specifically for the game
- Completely remade audio
- New monsters – types and behaviors, not just skins
- New mission types
- New items (weapons, tools, medical items, alien items, crafting materials, signal components, etc)
- Completely remade tutorials, with tutorials or guides for the editors still in the works
- Improved and much more stable ragdoll animations
- Additional tools for modders (character editor, sprite editor, level editor, additions to the submarine editor)
- Steam functionality, of course: full Workshop support, achievements, banning Steam IDs from servers…
- In-game VOIP, although it still needs some more work
- Too many bugfixes to count.
What each of us expects from a game of any particular price point is of course fairly subjective. We thought the price suggested to us by our publisher seemed reasonable when coupled with regular discounts during the Early Access period. Barotrauma is currently available at 15% off; this is for only one week, as per Steam standard launch discount duration. The next discount is planned to kick in as soon as we can, again playing by Steam rules, to offer regular opportunities to purchase the game at a reduced price during EA.
Where we made a genuine mistake with the pricing was in letting the original estimate hang around our FAQs for too long, let alone if it was ever quoted as a fact. This has been a valuable lesson: it’s hard to give estimates and make sure they are seen as such. We want to apologize to everyone who feels mislead by what we have said before. The final price was hammered out (and raised somewhat) only fairly shortly before launch, but as we were slightly unsure for an extended time about what the eventual price tag would be, we should have withdrawn our estimated price range much sooner to avoid false impressions and been clearer about the fact that the price was still subject to change.
Business as usual! Tonight we’re going to live stream again on our Steam page and Twitch channel, now at a time when we hope our US followers are going to be around to see it. So tune in starting around 1 AM CEST, or late afternoon/early evening stateside. On the topic of Steam, we’re also trying our best to react to the sudden explosion in the volume of Discussion posts, and there will be more sensible subforums soon.
And of course, it’s back to work for us with the game as well, with much planned to be implemented during the Early Access period. Here are a few things:
- More monsters, new mission types, more items. So far we’ve mostly been focusing on polishing the core gameplay, but now we’re starting to gradually shift into adding more content.
- Explorable outposts: you will be able to actually go inside the outposts, interact with NPCs to hire new crew members and purchase supplies, learn more about the game’s lore and so on. There will also be outpost-specific missions (for example, defending an outpost from an attacking monster or exploring an outpost overrun by sea creatures).
- New location types (e.g. explorable natural formations)
- Expanded traitor mode (more complex multi-part objectives)
- An overhauled karma system that should remedy the griefing issues
- Ways to upgrade the submarine during the campaign
- Built-in NAT Punchthrough to make server hosting a lot simpler
- An item and structure editor (so new items can be created without having to go into xml files).
Beyond these, we will be reading both the Steam forums and our dedicated forums, chatting with our players on Discord, and continuing to stay informed every way we can about what you think would be good to see in the game. So, as always, let’s be in touch!