Travel Through the Reach Part I: APHELION

By Hannah Flynn, March 15, 2017 · Alpha Sunless Skies

March’s first Sunless Skies sprint is APHELION. This sprint focuses on The Reach: the first region in Sunless Skies, where you will begin your journey. It also involves big chunks of setup for later regions: hunger, death, time, fuel – all of the basic building blocks of our game.

Design and Gameplay

Mac has been trialing a new approach to procedural generation. In Sunless Skies there are 4 types of terrain:

Ports: Big, able to dock at them, they have effects on you

Spectacles: Medium, have some effects on you, usually as you pass them

Discoveries: Medium, effects when you interact with them

Decorations: Pretty things with no function (such as: a rock)

Our map is now built on circles, not squares as in Sunless Sea. Each has a core, an inner band and an outer band, with three or five segments in each band.

As you cross into a new segment, the game will generate the Ports, Spectacles, Discoveries and Decorations for that segment (depending on some rules to make the transitions smooth, and make sure a port doesn’t just pop up under your nose).

We’re still working on this, but the idea is the load on your PC will be lighter than Sunless Sea – because it’s not rendering the whole map at once.

For us, Mac’s work also means it’s much easier to make content happen in the game (hooray!).

Also this week, Barry is God, and decides your fate: he has implemented supplies/hunger, fuel and time. Sounds simple when put like that!


This week, Cash has mostly been working on port Titania.

chris and bees 2

chris and bees 1

chris and bees 3
Titania is an early game port, built on a giant flower. The occupants – you may have gathered – are troubled by bees.

Chris has also put together the stories that deal with hunger this week. You’ll be glad to hear that eating your crew is an option once more!

People often ask why there is no gameplay disadvantage or punishment for eating your crew in Sunless Sea. In Sunless Skies, you’ll gain terror for eating a member of your crew, as well as becoming more unaccountably peckish. Though, um, cannibalism is currently more nourishing than eating supplies. So, y’know. Consider it!


This week Paul has been focused on locomotive design.

We showed in the Kickstarter that equipment will have a visible effect on your ship:


Paul has been digging into this to see how best to deploy it in-game. He has also added chimneys to the base design, which we all found very exciting.

From left to right:

  • Basic chassis (including the boiler at the top and crew quarters at the bottom)
  • Armour
  • Guns
  • Colour flourishes

This means lots of possibilities. Starting with a monochrome chassis leaves options for armour types being made of different metals/materials. The colour elements could identify different factions at a glance. And we want to try and get steam coming out of the chimneys!

Also on the art front, we should note that ports in Sunless Skies will look more like the Khanate than other ports from Sunless Sea: exploded areas that you can explore more than just sailing around.

Production sprints on Sunless Skies last for 2 weeks. Next is BIG BANG, in which we will be working on combat, and we’ll be back with an update on that in early April. Until then, we hope you’ll join us to talk about APHELION during our live podcast on twitch, this Friday 17 March at 1600 GMT!


Leave a reply

Steve Mar 16, 9:09pm

As a Scrum Master and Project Manager I love seeing this kind of up-front Sprint posting. Not only does it tell me about the game, but gives me actual ideas for on the job. So, technically, reading your blog counts as RESEARCH for work!

Capt. Crunchberry Mar 15, 10:54pm

looks good man