I first wrote about Beyond Beyaan back in September 2011. Then I wrote a BB progress post in late November 2011. Today I’m writing a more consolidated preview because BB has reached a more advanced alpha state and is now available for pre-purchase at Desura.
Beyond Beyaan is a 4X turn-based space strategy game for the PC that is heavily inspired in the Master of Orion series, especially by the original MoO game. BB is a 100% indie title that is being developed by Brent Patterson nicknamed “Zeraan” here in the Space Sector blog and forums, and in other places.
I’ve watched BB grow over time and can now say that I feel that the game has finally passed that invisible threshold that will allow it to turn itself from a game project into a full and enjoyable game. If Zeraan goes all the way of course. But, right now BB is still a work in progress. There are lots of placeholder features still and lots of areas that need further polishing. Next follows a preview of what’s already offered and what’s still in progress or planned for the game’s future.
What’s already on and what’s still off
You can already generate a galaxy world and customize your race (limited to name and one of three available factions). But, the different races are just placeholders right now. To my knowledge there are no different race perks or disadvantages available at the moment. Neither there’s diplomacy yet. Although there seems to be diplomacy planned for the future, right now it is just a placeholder in the game. That’s it for different races and diplomacy. From what you can see in-game of course.
Space combat is still a simulation that you can play out of the main game just to get a taste of what to expect when the game is finished. It looks nice though. It really captures the Master of Orion combat mechanics. Turn-based, full control of ships, targeting and weapons selection. Looks like it’s on the right path. We surely need more turn-based space combat games.
The game’s core mechanic is the same as in the original Master of Orion’s. You express your empire management decisions by manipulating a set of sliders. This BB’s feature seems to be already quite mature. There are five sliders in BB that you can manipulate.
There’s an agriculture slider that controls how much food is produced in a given planet with a consequent population increase or decrease by that adjustment. There’s also an environment control slider for you to keep your planets free of pollution. Another slider instructs how much stimulus you want to do to commerce to generate money, another allocates production for you to build your ships and finally another one allocates resources to research. You can lock the sliders (a must in this type of mechanic).
This slider-controlled economy idea is taken from the original Master of Orion game, used also at a later stage by the Sword of the Stars games. It is a very abstract and quite elegant way to manage your planets no doubt, and that many enjoy, but it can be seen also as bit too simplistic by many others. I’m a bit in between here but I tend to be more inclined to the set of people that prefer to micromanage their planets and be able to see stuff a bit more closely. Therefore although I love the original Master of Orion’s sliders concept I favor a more detailed planetary management scheme like the one offered by Master of Orion 2.
You can colonize many different types of planets. I could already spot tundra, dead, steppe, terran, toxic and gas giant planets. An interesting detail, that Zeraan was careful to get in BB, is that planets may have specials (e.g. rich, fertile, etc). These specials are bonuses (and perhaps malus also) that affect a planet’s characteristics and can make them stand apart from other planets. This is very important because it increases choice depth and enlarges the array of possibilities. Well done! However, there are no tool tips yet to explain how these bonuses affect your production so it’s not evident yet what they do. But their presence is a sign of good things to expect in the future.
One interesting aspect I would like to note is that BB’s User Interface is very peculiar, featuring a very interesting art style. That’s nice, but what counts really is how easy it is to use the UI and how evident things are. At this stage BB is still a bit rough around the edges on that department, well, a bit rough is probably an understatement, it’s actually quite hard to use the interface at places due to windows overlap or some quirkiness here and there (when selecting or moving ships for example). Although there are great aspects also, which certainly makes BB’s UI unique and special.
An example of a good UI screen is ship design, which is quite brilliant in my opinion. It’s very slick, cool, quite accessible (you deduce what things are for with very little information). The “Planet Management Screen” is also one of such good examples, with very rich filters and the ability to manage your entire empire from that single screen if you want. This is a clear sign that Zeraan clearly knows what he is doing, and that he has a very good sense of style. He probably just didn’t have enough time yet to look at the remaining interface parts with the same eye. Let’s give him more time to sort that out.
But a bit more on ship design is needed to say. I had a lot of fun designing my ships. It’s very easy and fun to pick components and create your designs. It’s fast but it’s quite rewarding also. I admit that designing ships was probably the part I enjoyed the most so far. That and landing ground troops to invade your enemy’s planets. By the way the AI is not yet functional, so, the other factions will just sit there for the moment and do nothing.
Developing a 4X game is a very hard endeavor. There are many mechanics to consider and as many hurdles to surpass. Beyond Beyaan is still not quite playable yet, although there are parts that can already offer some enjoyable moments, like ship design, exploration and colonization. Planetary invasions are also already quite cool to prepare and watch. But, research is not yet functional, space combat only a simulation still and diplomacy just a placeholder. But, the game is still in alpha, so… let’s give Zeraan some slack, and a bit more time so that he can put everything into place.
Zeraan has managed to bring Beyond Beyaan to a level that I think is already quite high for an indie developer working almost single-handedly. With the right support and investment, from Zeraan and from the community, I think BB could be turned into a worthy successor of Master of Orion, after a great deal of polishing and feature completeness of course.
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