This article was originally writen by the Chinese media Game Grape (游戏葡萄) and translated by PandaYoo.com after it was licensed. Copyright belongs to the original author and it is forbidden to reprint without permission.
Dyson Sphere Program, a Chinese independent game, rushed to the number one position of Steam’s Global Top Sellers within an hour of its launch on January 21.
At present, this Galaxy-themed simulation game has received rave reviews and has won 95% praise on Steam. Many players in domestic and foreign communities are stuck in the “Dyson Sphere” infrastructure because of the operation and play of the Dyson Sphere Program across the intergalactic galaxy.
Many players built factories all night in the game on the night of the release and almost filled the planet with resource-gathering factories in one night. In order to maximize the efficiency of the production line, sophisticated players also use CAD drawings to design the layout of refinery pipelines in the game.
Dyson Sphere Program is released by Gamera Game, which has been in charge of independent games such as Amazing Cultivation Simulator, ParanormalHK, and the R & D team is Youthcat Studio, an independent game studio in Chongqing. This is also the second game of it.
Game Grape learned from Ye Qianluo, one of the founders of GameraGame in charge of game distribution, that the grapefruit cat game currently has a team of five people who set up their own project Dyson Sphere Program to release the game, which took only one year and 10 months to develop.
Game Grape learned from Ye Qianluo, one of the founders of Gamera Game, who is in charge of game distribution. The Youthcat Studio currently has 5 team members. It took them only one year and 10 months to develop the Dyson Sphere Program from the establishment of the project to the release of the game.
While the current 0.6 early access version of the game has shown players a complete way of playing, excellent optimization, and quite exquisite art details, so that many players who first see the game, it is even difficult to imagine that this is a China independent game.
On the whole, Dyson Sphere Program uses the “factory construction game” similar to Factorio as the chassis, which combines the R & D team’s interpretation of the science fiction theme of “Dyson Sphere” and realizes the expansion and innovation of the game. The Youthcat Games gradually divides the game goals that can only be understood by hard-core fantasies into small and medium-sized targets that can be closely linked, so that ordinary players can find their own comfort zone in many ways of playing. Without being scared away by the considerable simulation management system of the game.
Combined with the interview of the Game Grape to Ye Qianluo, let’s take a look at the secret of success behind the work of this five-person independent studio.
The method of expanding the factory of “Mecha Growth + Technology Tree”
Youthcat Games’ team members are a group of science fiction fans who envisioned a PC game that combines elements such as 3D automation factory/business simulation/space exploration, and the player’s goal in the game is simple: to build a “Dyson Sphere”.
Dyson Sphere is a hypothetical artificial celestial object proposed by American physicist and mathematician Freeman John Dyson. He proposed that the limited energy of the earth is not enough to support the development of human civilization. A more advanced civilization needs the energy of a star (such as the sun), so we can build a spherical structure that can wrap around the star and capture all its energy.
Although this idea is almost impossible in reality because of the excessive consumption of resources. But the idea of wrapping stars in huge structures satisfies the audience of many space operas, Youthcat Games is one of them.
In order to enable players to build a huge “Dyson Sphere” step by step, the development team gradually dismantled the player’s goal from a single exploration unit to form the phased goal of “Mining-> Basic Construction-> Mecha & Technology Tree Upgrade-> Automatic Construction-> Cross-Planetary Resource Supplement-> Dyson Sphere”.
Each game stage can accumulate and integrate new gameplay sections on the basis of the previous stage, forming a game experience that is different from other stages.
The first stage of the game has a goal similar to that of all sandboxie games: gathering & building.
This article does not verify the use of English words in the Dyson Sphere Program game, and some expressions of in-game functions may not be accurate.
At the beginning of the game, players manipulate the mecha named “Icarus” to gather resources on a small planet of a miniature version of Earth, sending mecha’s “main computer” to build a “Dyson Sphere” that provides energy supplies.
But after all, what the player wants to build is a star-level celestial object, so you can’t just dig with your bare hands. In order to improve the collection efficiency, players first need to use the acquired resources to build automatic resource gathering systems in various resource points and build wind power facilities to supply the energy needed for exploration and transportation.
Of course, efficient resource collection does not stop at a single site. To further improve the efficiency of player resource collection, the game introduces a performance growth system of mecha and a technology tree system similar to Civilization VI. The two systems broaden the players’ method of resource collection from vertical and horizontal respectively.
First of all, from the performance of the mecha. There are many options that can be upgraded, which are generally designed to improve the efficiency of the player’s personal operation, and can be roughly classified into three categories: resources, exploration, and efficiency.
The unlock of resource skills enables players to locate planetary resources more quickly; explorers can improve the performance of mecha such as moving speed and range, which can improve the mobility of players after research; efficiency category mainly involves buildings built by players, and this part of the addition point can bring about changes in the efficiency of production lines, such as increased resource reserves, increased transportation speed, and so on.
Looking at Dyson Sphere Program’s technology tree system, this system is different from the tactical choice of Civilization VI technology tree, but belongs to the horizontal expansion of the player’s production line richness, and forms a time axis similar to the division of the production stage.
Mecha growth system + technology tree system, both serve the purpose of the game for players to exploit resources from different angles, and at the same time provide guidance for the current development direction for different stages of the game.
In the end, Dyson Sphere Program constructs such a model: the game periodically reduces the player’s inefficient repetitive work, increases the positive feedback from the diversified construction of the factory, and the two experiences are finally converged to the player’s ultimate goal of building a huge “Dyson Sphere”.
In fact, the obsessive “factory-building” environment is only part of the game, and cross-planetary and interstellar exploration and design is the most interesting part of Dyson Sphere Program.
The goal upgrade brought about by the theme of “Space Opera”
Space exploration has always been a science fiction game with the theme of the universe and galaxy, and it is the key to measure whether it can rise to the level of “space opera”.
In the field of science fiction, the theme of “Space Opera” has a considerable number of enthusiasts, and it is also an area where relevant creators are keen to give full play to their imagination. Works such as Star Wars, Macross, and The Three-Body Problem have appeared in the field of literature, film, and television, and the well-known Asimov’s Foundation series also belongs to this theme.
Whether the character can travel freely in an unknown space is one of the core charms of this kind of game. No Man’s Sky and EVE have a good performance in this respect, and Star Citizen, which launched a crowdfunding project in 2012, has won nearly 3 million players to participate in crowdfunding and raised more than $300m in development funds by digging into the core game alone.
Similarly, Free Travel in Space is the key to Dyson Sphere Program’s ability to stand out in factory simulation games.
The motivation of players to explore space in the Dyson Sphere Program consists of two stages: the expansion of planetary resources and the liberation of spatial displacement.
In the first stage, after the player has set up a large-scale collection factory on the initial planet, the player will be able to carry the basic construction resources, leave the initial planet and go to other planets around the target star to continue to do the work of resource exploitation and factory construction.
The factory construction of these new planets does not start from scratch, players can build cross-planetary resource transport belts to quickly provide construction resources for the new planet.
In the second stage, when players unlock the curvature flight of the mecha, they will be able to fly to other galaxies that were previously inaccessible and light-years away. The game can also establish resource transport channels between galaxies.
Most of the traditional factory simulation games integrate the discrete resource sites and finally form a joint whole with gradually expanding scale. To put it simply, it is the process of forming a point into a line and a line into a surface. This is the case with the automated construction process mentioned above when the player has just arrived on the original planet.
After Dyson Sphere Program’s space exploration function achieved this goal, the entire planet, which had previously established an automated factory, became a point again when the player’s perspective rose from “planet” to “galaxy” by unlocking the space restrictions that players could explore. As a result, players enter the connected planets and build a new face of “Dyson Sphere”.
The addition of space exploration has not only brought progressive goal upgrades for simulated business players, but also sufficient planetary design to meet the needs of enthusiasts with the theme of “Space Opera”.
Optimization and details beyond the level of independent games
In fact, the rich way of playing the game is on the one hand, we are impressed by the excellent optimization performance of the Dyson Sphere Program.
Sandboxie construction games with the passage of time, more and more building resources, and loading materials in the map will gradually increase the burden of computer operation.
In Dyson Sphere Program, from the middle to the later stage of planet construction, there will be more than a thousand transport planes flying, covering the entire planet’s facilities, and numerous transport belts will transfer goods, which is only the resource loading of a single planet. Beyond the planet, there are also transport ships on interstellar routes, the operation of celestial bodies in galaxies, the light operation of stars, and so on.
However, from the actual performance, in the middle and later stages of the game development, when players walk through many buildings, they can still run smoothly:
An array of turrets constantly launching Dyson Cloud materials into space:
A large number of drones are transporting supplies:
At the same time, the quality of the art resources of each building, vegetation, and planet of the game has not been reduced. Each building in the game has its own characteristics, and most of them have corresponding special effects:
Trees are not static, and their leaves wobble slightly:
The game makes the details of the corona of the stars:
Before the game release, Youthcat Games specifically shared their game performance optimization ideas on the relevant platforms.
From the first development log, the game needs to realize the logic of random generation and simulation of galaxies, dynamic generation of planetary topography, seamless loading, and so on. These functions are almost impossible to achieve with the CPU alone.
From the beginning of the project, the production team decided to hand over the heavy computing work to GPU, which has multiple floating-point computing cores, to minimize the computing pressure of the game on CPU, and to ensure the efficient on-screen rendering capability of the game.
In addition, according to Kat, the main creative staff of YouthCat, in order to make the game experience smoothly on low-end computers, the production team specially used computers with 660Ti graphics cards to develop games. In the game to 100 hours, the middle and later stage of development, it can still ensure smooth operation.
Gamera Ye Qianluo said of his impression of the grapefruit cat game team: “I didn’t expect to be able to iterate like this every time they updated their art material, but the best thing is that they put most of their energy into game optimization. They are really making games from the point of view of the player’s experience. “
Incredible execution ability
With a new team of 5 people, the game took only 1 year and 10 months from the establishment of the project to the launch of the game.
Even if you put aside the number one achievement on Steam’s Global Top Sellers not to mention, Dyson Sphere Program’s complete gameplay and excellent optimization technology, it is amazing enough.
On November 7, 2019, Ye Qianluo saw Dyson Sphere Program’s game video for the first time and thought, “that’s so cool! I’m going to publish this game. He remembered so clearly because it was his birthday, which he stumbled upon when he was looking for an independent game production group on Weibo. “This is also a special fate.”
Youthcat Games at that time in the development of planets, galaxies of the small demo, opened its own “Dyson Project Game production Group” account updated and released the game video.
After Ye Qianluo contacted the Youthcat Games with a DM, the two sides chatted very well and soon reached cooperation. Ye Qianluo said that Zhou Xun, the producer of the Youthcat Games, was also a practitioner in the game industry before. He brought together four like-minded developers and formed a game team with only two artists, two programmers, and one game schemer. The team was a combination of practitioners and science fiction enthusiasts, and when they set up the project, they worked out the overall development plan of the game in detail.
Because Ye Qianluo himself is a veteran Factorio player, he often chats with the development team about the game experience of various versions and invites factory and science fiction players to give advice to Dyson Sphere Program. In the process of game development, some Satisfactory and Factorio players had provided a lot of game help to the production team, and this help had even continued to answer questions for other players in the game group after the game was launched.
There are not many stories in this process, and basically, only all the members of the development team work overtime. Ye Qianluo said frankly: “Their success is due to the vulgar ‘enthusiasm’. I even often persuade them to take a rest because they work too hard. “
GameGrape learned that the YouthCat Games encountered few major version changes in the development process, and every step went in the direction they had expected.
For example, in the optimization of the game, at the beginning of the project, considering the excessive number of game resources, the development team decided that this is a GPU game; and in order to make the universe exploration in the game in line with the real situation, and not because the stars are too large to bring a lengthy process of exploration, they investigated the celestial body-related literature in a short period of time and tuned the proportion and composition of the universe in today’s games.
Unlike independent game development or commercial game development, Game Grape finds that the design of the Dyson Sphere Program achieves the dual driving forces of “game design” and “self-expression”.
The past game work experience of the production team allowed them to accumulate enough experience in project management, research and development, and optimization, and they almost envisioned most of the key points of game development before the start of the project. The research and development process of the game was almost promoted by the assembly line of “development is to optimize itself”, so that the game was finally presented to the players with a high degree of completion.
At the same time, the members of the Youthcat Games also have a deep understanding of the theme of “Space Opera” so that the theme itself provides a blessing effect for the game. Use the higher-dimensional “Dyson Sphere” goal to open the simulation operation into the upper and lower layers of the “Planet-Galaxy way”.
In this little-known team, it’s easy to see such traits: conscientious patience, idealism, strong execution, and the ability to solve problems from the player’s point of view.
It can be said that the reason why Dyson Sphere Program reached the top of Steam’s Global Top Sellers can hardly be attributed to luck. The team’s ideal and realistic way of creating mergers and acquisitions is the answer itself.
And then, what they’re going to do is clear. After completing the construction of the ratio of the game factory play to the universe, the subsequent version of the game will also add a monster system, richer universe presentation, and so on. Of course, at this stage, they give priority to dealing with the various problems encountered in the public test of the game.
In the middle of our interview with Ye Qianliu, Youthcat Games called him to talk about the repair of the game bug. After the Wechat call, he talked to his colleagues in charge of community operation about how to make the announcement. Dyson Sphere Program has been updating small patches frequently these two days, and two small versions have been updated in one day.
“Bug is a small problem, but a small problem is also a problem. The Youthcat Games team and I are both players, and we know that the player experience will be more important. “