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Author Topic: *** Cogmind Vision 2025 ***  (Read 483 times)

Kyzrati

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*** Cogmind Vision 2025 ***
« on: March 31, 2024, 06:47:19 PM »

Not long after the release (and seventh and final patch) of our latest major new version, Beta 13 "Zoom All The Things", I'd like to do something I've never done here before: talk more about the future. This is only something I tend to do with frequent players on Discord, or patrons, and even then only in the broadest strokes or occasional disjointed details since anything is subject to change and I don't want to accidentally mislead anyone or create too much unnecessary hype for things that have no specific timeline. But in my own notes I do always have a fairly clear plan for the future, if one that sometimes still shifts around according to near-term priorities (for example our latest adventures in map zooming and upscaled UI layouts).

Preferring to write and share information about features that are already completed, for many years now I've subscribed more to a "deliver, then describe" methodology rather than "promise, then deliver." That said, over the years I have indeed made a handful of rather big long-term promises, promises that will come to fruition, and we're coming closer to those points in development, so I figure now is an opportune moment to remind folks what these things entail, fill in some of the blanks, and also bring plenty of newer folks up to speed, those who are not steeped in the decade-plus history of Cogmind development and community interaction :P

Let's go.


(animation by Maiker, depicting a particular special type of bot you may know about)

I started giving a general outline back during my typical annual review, the last one in December (our 10th!), but let me use this opportunity to provide a little more color on that. Of course Beta 13 already took care of the zooming and upscaling that was planned, even extending so far as to take us all the way through the final "Phase 4" stretch, but now that that's out of the way, it's time to get back to serious CONTENT. That means bigger expansions...

Expansion 1: Scraptown

This expansion I technically started working on all the way back in 2022 with the extensive Scrap Engine feature which, surprise, is actually not a major part of "Scraptown" after all xD

It was developed as an experiment in semi-controlled randomization of parts to create an assortment of unique and evolving technology, first of all because it could be a fun mechanic (yep, it's neat!), but more pertinently as a potential central theme for Scraptown. It turned out to not be fully suitable, or at least doesn't meet my requirements, so it will live on in its own way as its namesake town features other new things.

As for Scraptown itself, its scope has ballooned significantly (I have a tendency to do that :P), but is now more or less set and is even more than half realized, it's just a case of going through the motions to finish the whole thing.

But I call it an "expansion" because this goes far beyond the original plan years ago of it being just one extra map you might visit to gain some benefits, and is now a whole new story arc for the world of Cogmind spanning three new maps. These maps technically including the recently-released Subcaves which tie into it in several ways, Scraptown itself, and a new late-game Research branch: Protoforge.

While maps are a fundamental unit of expansion, they imply much more since you've gotta have a good reason for those maps to exist! This expansion includes:
  • a new major faction and optional alliance
  • a new major NPC
  • a number of brand new robot classes (new tiles!)
  • masses of new lore and dialogue
  • many dozens of new items, some with wild game-changing mechanics
  • multiple new large-scale events in which to test your skills
  • a new ending, our 10th
This is spread over two remaining versions:
  • Beta 14 "United Federation of Derelicts"
  • Beta 15 "0bPrime"
The biggest chunk is actually coming in that next Beta 14 release, in the coming months, I'd like to say June-ish? The latter version shouldn't take too long either, and while timelines tend to depend on how much other than the primary content I try to pack in along the way, at this point I'm trying to put an extra focus on pure content, especially after our significant UI detour with Beta 13. If not for months spent on zooming and upscaling we'd already have Scraptown out by now, but that was a pretty desirable, timely, and successful detour :)

Anyway, you'll also be seeing Beta 15 this year as well.



I promised this expansion would be added to the development queue once we reached 800 Steam reviews, based on the same premise as the Merchants Guild, which I write about below and actually came in an earlier announcement, but in terms of long-term development organization it's better to build this particular expansion first.

Expansion 2: Unchained

I promised the Unchained as a result of Patreon support. One could say that some funds saved from Patreon have been earmarked as what is primarily powering this particular expansion, which over time has now grown to be even more formidable than initially planned (are you sensing a trend here? :P). I continue to work on its design in the meantime, so when the time comes it will be fairly mature and I can hit the ground running with it.

Who, or what, are the Unchained...

Well, the lore-filled 2020 ARG, which touched upon many of the expansion concepts for the first time (and suggests others not mentioned in this post), had this to say about the Unchained, which is still accurate:



They will become a significant overarching mechanic, albeit mainly a potential threat to players who challenge the status quo in Complex 0b10. If you prove you're not some regular Derelict by repeatedly causing more trouble across multiple maps, or even just being more problematic for the Complex in other ways, you may end up with one of these guys hunting you, and they are not your normal enemy. Almost all of them will have special abilities beyond anything possessed by current robots, including new unique AI and behaviors that will add new dimensions of challenge.

And in some cases you won't be able to simply leave a map to escape their pursuit. They don't care about "alert level," they care about finishing the job, and will eventually track you down.

But don't make too many assumptions based on the above description just yet--these encounters will be varied and challenging, but fair and balanced. Of course some players will never even see them at all. Hone your skills in the meantime to be capable of summoning the wrath of one of these ultimate crazies. Think of them as possible recurring mini-bosses of sorts.

This particular expansion is currently planned to span two versions:
  • Beta 16 "Unchained"
  • Beta 17 "Hexidium"
The first release will include a batch of these new friends to play with, and the second adds yet more unique members to their ranks while enabling you to visit their headquarters for bullets or tea. In the end there won't be just a handful of these guys--while they're powerful and you won't likely see many, or any, in a given run depending on your actions, there will be a wide variety to encounter across numerous runs, most of them adding brand new tech and mechanics.

The Unchained will definitely be worked on this year, and also hopefully completed or at least start to be released this year as well (at the very least on Patreon if they're not ready for prime time). You can already find small bits of lore about them in game--Beta 13 added more, including some that will closely tie into later Unchained-related content.

Patrons tend to be more avid players and many enjoy their punishment, or really the opportunity for extra challenges and therefore potentially even more interesting loot as well, so the Unchained seems a fitting "reward" for them ;) (and of course everyone else gets it as well, since this feature will be integral to the world and updated gameplay balance).

Expansion 3: Merchants Guild

The original promised expansion! This one was always going to be around 1.0, so has sat on the sidelines waiting for that part of the timeline. This promise stemmed from when I said it would be really helpful if we could eventually hit an Overwhelmingly Positive rating on Steam, which would require at least 500 reviews, and although it took us a while to reach that point, once there it has tended to hold for quite a while (maintaining that status does help sales, and therefore means more revenue to sustain development of free content since I always simply reinvest revenue into more development). While we've since occasionally lost that status, many thanks for the good periods where we've had it, and the Merchants will be at your service :D

As for what the Merchants bring to Cogmind, they are probably the most mysterious of the future factions, and for that reason likely the most misunderstood. Although you can already find a few vague references to them in the world, they will not quite be the sort of merchants you have come to expect from other roguelikes.

More specifically though, like the Unchained their addition will involve a new map, and aligning yourself with them for a different sort of run is also a distinct possibility (okay, yeah you'll be able to do that). Beyond a single primary map, their associated overarching mechanics will also likely involve other new sub-map areas, depending on the needs of their final implementation.

I still have to test out one of the potential important new gameplay mechanics I'd like them to take extensive advantage of, but there's still time to slip that in somewhere considering that I don't see development on Merchants beginning until next year (2025).



1.0

I'm not yet sure where 1.0 fits in between all these, but it's, uh... somewhere out there! It could come at any time, though seeing as each of these expansions will be integrated throughout the normal world and gameplay, and all of them have far-reaching impacts, maybe it doesn't come until after all of them are complete?

To reiterate, as is Cogmind is already a very complete experience and has been since it came to Steam in 2017,
with hundreds of hours of content for those who want to dive further and deeper. Despite the size of these future expansions, there will be no DLC or any extra charge--everything is included in the price at which you get it now, though additional support via Patreon is very much appreciated and helps continue to expand the world with yet more options and experiences.

There technically aren't any more significant requirements left before I'd be happy to officially call Cogmind "1.0."
One of my plans in that regard, from years ago, was to at least run new experiments with alternative UI layouts before that milestone, but not only are said experiments now done, we've already got them fully implemented in Beta 13.

So in terms of regular content and features we're definitely set, although one more thing we do need before that release can happen is at least one more major batch of achievements, there being hundreds of great new possibilities related to content added since the first 256 achievements in... 2018 (!). I've got a looooong list, so maybe slip it in after Beta 15? Maybe even make it its own release, since it'll be a lot (thereby pushing back subsequent version numbers, though not adding a significant delay--the new batch could probably be completed with 2-3 weeks of dedicated work). If I did slip that in we'd have to have another batch for 1.0, related to content added in subsequent versions.

Cogmind has been out so long that the percentages shown on Steam for such achievements will be even more deceiving (remaining incredibly low... forever, even if a larger portion of the current player base gets it), but that's not meaningful compared to individual players being able to collect them and reflect another aspect of official completion. (The current percentages are already significantly distorted from reality, but Steam's system isn't designed for games that add achievements long after the initial release of the game itself.)

More?

Those are the main expansions to bring us all the way through 2024 and a good part if not all or most of 2025.

I have several other factions and maps planned, but can't promise anything more at this point, since even what's above will take a while to complete, and I can't be sure Cogmind will be funded that far ahead, but promises are promises, so the these things will be delivered regardless!

In summary, my vision for Cogmind in 2025 is that we'll have at least three new factions and four or more new maps, all of which of course entail new mechanics and items, the core of what makes for unique new builds in Cogmind, so expect a yet greater variety of strategic possibilities.

Looking at the "little" picture instead of the big, as usual we'll also continue getting a number of isolated non-theme-specific features, many of which I know will be in high demand, including for example:
  • Improved large robot behavior. These guys can be really annoying in a number of situations, but the Polymind event made some technical advances in that area which may help in upcoming endeavors to improve that. This applies to both enemies and allies.
  • Now that we have map zooming and new UI layouts with reduced grid dimensions, there's a good chance that I'll complete and release the so-called "overmap" feature I experimented with back in 2020
  • A way to manually replace attached parts with parts from the ground when there's no objective improvement for the automated system to make
  • More visual indicators and/or a way to access ongoing RIF effects on individual bots
These are the sorts of things on my long list of possibilities which get moved around and picked out for development as time permits. The above are relatively important features I know I'll be working on eventually, but I have a virtually endless list of other interesting features, many of which have been inspired by conversations with or among the community on Discord, or just lower priority optional features that keep getting pushed back as more important features or necessary content are often added nearer to the beginning of The List...

The latest stats show that my current primary todo list is about 450 pages long at 150,000 words. Ha. That's just the primary one, but it is the bulk of where I organize things that could be added, except the latest big project, which is the Scraptown arc and has its own separate set of more specific design docs to explain all the finer details. (The main Scraptown design doc is nearing 20,000 words, and it's not quite finished :P)

DISCLAIMER: I can't predict that no bad unforeseen event will happen to me, as it's not like this is a big company and there are people to pick up the slack, so the general timelines given above are assuming I'm okay :P. That'd be another reason I don't like to talk too much about future timelines--life is fickle like that! Health issues have been a significant headwind for me in some previous years, but I'm very hopeful that this year will be better overall. Now off to continue kicking butt...

2024 7DRLs

One more thing: Also in the news, as usual I reviewed a bunch of good 7DRLs from this year's event in order to share them with followers and provide feedback to other devs, so if you'd like some cool games to play in the meantime, you can check out my review list including summaries, screenshots, and videos as well.



Dosh!

Wait a minute, yet one more thing to tack on here that happened after I drafted the above announcement: DoshDoshington has released a great video titled "Cogmind and the Future of Roguelikes." It's really nice to have someone who is more deeply familiar with Cogmind, and roguelikes in general, able to share it with a wider audience of folks that might very well include many who could also enjoy this sort of game.

While it's a good watch even for any of you already playing, I do recommend it as a faithful summary of the experience if you're looking to let others know about Cogmind and what they might like (or not like!) about it.

There are some big plot spoilers towards the end, but he'll warn you and you can stop if so inclined :P

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3b11EA6XW3w
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