Combat in the Reach: DARK MATTER

By Haley Uyrus, May 8, 2017 · Sunless Skies

In DARK MATTER we foray further into combat! Tech have been busy plotting enemy behavior and implementing pathfinding. Meanwhile, our writers have continued spinning tales for the ports within the Reach. This sprint, we also welcome a new artist to our teamToby!



First off, a very warm and exceptional welcome to our new artist Toby Cook! We are delighted to have him onboard this space locomotive with us and we’re sure we’ll be featuring his work within these blogs sometime soon.

Paul has been continuing to bring various ports within the Reach to life. This sprint, we’ll give you a glimpse of Traitor’s Wood:


Traitor’s Wood: “A gloomy forest rears up from a flinty outcropping. Grave firs rise in furrows behind the station, where a few gaudy tents have been set up, sheltering from the persistent drizzle. A great stone bulk, like a barrow mound, rises over the trees in the far distance.”

Paul and Chris have also been fine-tuning the art brief process now that we have more than one artist!



James and Olivia fleshed out two different ports this sprint: Hybras and Magdalene’s. Hybras was a once-promising port, but suddenly and mysteriously became deserted. It’ll be up to you to uncover the fate of its inhabitants.

Magdalene’s on the other hand is a port that will allow players to improve their Condition. For a price, the skilled staff at Magdalene’s will tell you precisely the lies you need to hear. Terror works differently in Sunless Skies to Sunless Sea. Every time Terror reaches 100, your Condition worsens. Reducing Terror is easy; improving Condition is hard. But Magdalene’s is one of the few places you can do so. But be warned: each time you do, the price goes up.

Chris has also been putting his sinister talents into creating a Discovery called Old Tom’s Well. In Sunless Skies, wells are wounds in the heavens, often used to banish and imprison beings which are disinclined to die. At Old Tom’s Well you can encounter the Cursing Church, a fledgling sect which considers the wells sacred.



Now that Barry is back from his holiday, he’s been heavily working on different aspects of combat. One of the first things he shared with us during our sprint review meeting this week was the pathfinding he’s implemented.


Note: The light blue squares are the path for the agitated agent. The green line is its next target.

Then he proved his driving skills as two enemy agent locomotives chased after him. Barry also implemented what we call Tactics, the motivation for which paths agents choose to take. We’ll build on this further next sprint with Wrath and Passions, the driving factors behind agents’ (locomotives or beasties) behaviour in-game.


Tactics are meant to be modular and reusable. In Sunless Sea players could expect enemy vessels or passive vessels, but in Sunless Skies it’s not so black and white. In the High Wilderness, players can expect to find these agents have a variety of different motives. When we design them, we’re no longer thinking “will it fight the player?” but rather “when will it fight the player” and “what else will it do?”

Our very first sound effects have also been commissioned, such as different engine sounds for our three types of player locomotive, changes to Terror levels, and discover and general UI interaction sounds. Lottie and Liam have been working with the lovely Soundcuts team on these, the same audio production studio we worked with for Zubmariner’s SFX.


This Friday at 16:00 BST we’ll be holding our bi-weekly FBG Podcast on Twitchwe do hope you’ll join us! Lottie will be hosting this week, as Haley will be off on holiday in America, and will be joined by Sam and James. If you have any questions for them to discuss in the podcast, feel free to send them to @Failbettergames!

Our next sprint, EXOGENESIS will be all about the people of the Reach, as we begin designing crew, locomotives, and more agents!

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