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Steel, Stone and Spiders: what's coming next on Sunless Sea

Sorry we’ve been quiet lately - we’ve been really busy on the real-time, on-map combat revamp, and there’s been a dreadful plague going round the office. (No-one has died, or if they have, they haven’t mentioned it.) But we’re back, with some progress to talk about and a likely release date, both for STEEL (the combat update) and the whole game. Here’s a couple of screenshots of our working prototype, to give you an idea of the direction we’re going.

ALL THE USUAL WARNINGS APPLY: this is PLACEHOLDER LOOK AND FEEL! All the mechanics are subject to change! (and feel free to make suggestions in the comments)

(Click to enlarge these screenies)


Those abilities in the bar at the bottom are attacks. You’ll click an ability to attack a targeted enemy - you won’t be aiming bullets - and you can still pause the game. You need to keep your enemy in view while your crew work out a firing solution - this works rather like the existing warmup mechanism, but it only builds up while your enemy’s in the right arc (we’ll show you the arcs in a mo). But you can fire prematurely, as long as you’re at least halfway there, with a greater risk of missing but a chance of getting licks in early. If your enemy is illuminated, by your prow light or other features, you can attack that much faster. The same goes for you, of course.


See those red and green arcs? That’s your, and their, Deck (wide arc, less damage) and Forward (narrow arc, more damage) gun arcs. You need them in that arc to fire your weapon, and you also need them in that arc to build up firing solution warm-up. (Smaller ships can only mount a Deck weapon; the largest ships can mount Aft weapons as well). But if they drop out of your arc, you keep the progress - as long as you can get them back in your sights, you can use the progress you’ve built up.

This is because early experiments were really frustrating - ‘gaah! not again! I lost it’ - and tended to encourage what we call THE WALTZ OF DEATH. You’ll know this one from top-down games, probably - two ships trying to get each other in a front firing arc, endlessly orbiting a common centre, both turning as hard as they can around and around. We’re iterating to discourage that in a bunch of ways. More about that next time.

(BTW, the arcs will probably be visible by default, but easily togglable off - the final version will be prettier but they’re always going to interfere with the look of the game.)

A few other tasty details...


Iron, Mirrors and Veils still play into combat. Iron improves damage; Mirrors pre-fills some of the firing solution warm-up; and Veils reduces the enemy’s visibility range (as does turning off your light, and being in the dark). This means that avoiding combat is a much more interesting proposition. It also means that you should be able to get some mileage out of turning off your headlight, sneaking up behind an enemy and surprising them.

Zee-beasts don’t have ranged attacks (other than Lorn-Flukes and Mt Nomad, who both use an attack that we’re colloquially referring to as ‘cuss’). So that they remain a challenge to ships with ranged weapons, we’re allowing them to submerge (or disperse, in the case of bats and Blue Prophets): they’ll remain unseen while submerged, they’ll surface, they’ll take a charge at you and try to damage you. If you position yourself right, you can deal them damage or evade with a boost. We’re devoting considerable effort to maintaining the stately feel of the rest of the game- we want it to feel like you need to take care with your movements, not like you’re dodging an ARPG boss.

Items and abilities - we’re preserving the use of as many items as we can from the current combat. Strange Catches to bait zee-beasts to the surface - Blue Scintillack to illuminate your enemy, and Unclear Devices to hide you - the Pneumatic Ratsender for emergency repairs. One suggestion that we keep seeing on the forums is flares to illuminate patches of ocean - this is pretty likely to go in, but there are some balance issues we’ll need to find a way through. Combat’s been our focus - but we’ve been working on story and terrain too.

Content releases have been thin on the ground lately - it’s difficult to push content out right now, because of the way the content engine is being reworked around combat - but you’ll see more islands drop along with STEEL. Here are some images to whet your appetites.


The Reef of Roses: touched by the light of a place behind mirrors.


Gossamer Way, where was spawned that dread octomaran, the Tree of Ages...


The Isle of Cats, the smugglers' port where forbidden roses grow...


The core port of the Chelonate, built on a long-dead turtle. This is the cheery part of that zone, actually.


The Gant Pole, where things go to die. This is the less cheery part.


Nuncio, sometimes called the Isle of Lost Postmen.


Visage: choose your mask carefully. You may be required to live it.

We’ve also got some news around Kickstarter rewards (and some goodies available to customers who weren’t backers) but this post is HUUUGE already, so we'll save that for next time.

So when will you get your hands on this? We’re aiming for the end of September, an aim we would describe as ‘fairly confident’. This will push final release to early December (gah!) - final date TBD. We’ll probably juggle the exact date to avoid releasing in the middle of the Steam Autumn or Steam Christmas sales, and we don’t know when those are yet. We’ll update the roadmap shortly.

Thanks, as ever, for your patience. This is a big change to make late in the day - it’s making the whole game feel more vibrant and unified, but we don’t want to rush it. The message from the community has always been ‘later and better’ - and although a later release is hurting us, it’s nothing like a mortal wound, not yet. So we’re going to take the time to give you the best game we can.