Saturday, August 13, 2022

Faction Introduction: The Monolith Cooperative

This is the first in what will be a four-part series of posts introducing each of the four main non-player factions in Cosmoteer.


The Monolith Cooperative is a massive mining, manufacturing, and transport company that dominates galactic trade and economics with near-monopolistic power.

Originally branded as the "Armstrong Mining Cooperative" in the pre-hyperdrive era, the company had the remarkable good fortune of being the first to discover what is now known as the "Armstrong Monolith" hidden deep within the Sol (Earth) system's asteroid belt. The Armstrong Monolith was the last remnant of an ancient civilization that made its home on the planet which, before its destruction, orbited between Mars and Jupiter. The monolith itself was a technological archive that, once decoded, was discovered to contain blueprints for hyperdrive technology and the ability to detect and use the vast network of hyperjump relays built by the civilization long ago. Although there is some debate, it is commonly assumed that the destruction of their planet was caused by a misuse of hyperjump technology similar in hubris to that which led humanity to destroy the whole Sol system. No biological remains of this civilization, nor any evidence of their physical form, have ever been found, leading to much speculation about whether they were truly alien or a precursor to humanity.

After the discovery of the Armstrong Monolith, it took only two years for the Armstrong Mining Cooperative to recreate rudimentary hyperdrive technology, and then only another five to make it robust enough for commercial use. Although at first the company successfully guarded the technology as the most important trade secret of all time, the fundamentals of hyperdrive technology eventually leaked a couple years later and quickly spread throughout the solar system. Even still, those couple years gave the company (now known as the Monolith Cooperative) enough of a head start to dominate its competitors and eventually become the largest industrial powerhouse in the history of humankind.

Although not overtly imperial in ambition, Monolith has gradually built one of the galaxy's largest military forces over the two-hundred years since the discovery of the Armstrong Monolith. At first this was out of necessity to defend its own transport routes and mining and manufacturing hubs, but as the might of its military hammer grew, well, as the saying goes, all its problems started looking like nails. Middle managers tasked with convincing reluctant colonies to pay exorbitant prices for life-sustaining necessities would often use their ostensibly "defensive" fleets to blockade competitors and coerce the colonies into signing unfair trade contracts. As the space-high prices of basic goods bankrupted the local governments, Monolith was only happy to step in and sell its own administrative and police services at a discount—in exchange for a hefty percentage tax on the colony's gross income, of course. Although claiming no actual territory, the Monolith Cooperative is now the de facto government of almost a quarter of the known galaxy.

The "Cooperative" part of its name comes from the fact that the Monolith Cooperative is and always has been fully employee-owned. No single person owns more than 0.1% of the company, and no shares of Monolith have ever been sold either publicly or privately. Instead, every full employee of Monolith (not including contractors) owns a very small percentage of the company (the exact amount depending on rank and length of employment) and as such is entitled to a proportional share of the company's profits in addition to their base salary. Since the company is ultimately subservient to its own employees, those who are lucky enough to be counted among them, from the middlest manager to the lowliest janitor, enjoy good pay, fair treatment, and a general quality of life far in excess of the galactic average, making the typical employee extremely loyal to the company. But due to their desire not to dilute their own shares, the employees of Monolith have mandated hiring standards so strict that only about 5% of the population under Monolith's governance are actual employees, many of whom only become so out of nepotism. Much of the remaining population lives in extreme poverty, and Monolith-governed colonies have by far the highest wealth inequality of anywhere in the galaxy.

Ship Design

Monolith ships are generally very utilitarian in design. Military and transport ships are generally boxy with 90- and 45-degree angles. Mining and construction ships sometimes have more interesting shapes, but always because they are engineered to solve a specific problem, not for any artistic or expressive reason. The paint and finish of mining and construction ships tends to be grays and browns, often with a lot of wear and tear. Transport ships on the other hand, because they are seen more frequently by the general public, tend to be painted shades of gray and white with generally better exterior upkeep. Military vessels, intended to project a sense of wealth, competence, and authority, are usually a spotless white and blue.

Unsurprisingly given its status as an industrial powerhouse, Monolith military ships usually favor weapons and defenses that use a lot of materials. This primarily means cannons, railguns, high-explosive missiles, mines, flak, point defenses, and armor. Due to their expertise in mining, Monolith ships also often have ion beams (though almost never with prisms) and mining beam lasers. Due to their frequent need to fight more energy-focused ships from other factions, larger Monolith ships are also frequently armed with EMP missiles. Other low-tech, energy-based systems such as lasers and shields are less common but not unheard of. When used, shields tend to be of the "large" variant, and Monolith ship designers are full of hubris and thus usually poor at protecting them, rarely ever layering them behind small shields and only occasionally protecting them with strategically-placed armor. Monolith military ships always come with ample storage for their munitions, and larger ships usually have the capability to rapidly manufacture more.

Monolith ships of all varieties also tend to be larger than similar-class ships of other factions, favoring size and storage capacity over speed, often relying on their strong hyperdrive capabilities to escape situations where they would otherwise be too slow. Boost thrusters are rarely used. Tractor Beams, originally developed for hauling asteroids, have always been common on Monolith mining vessels and have more recently become common on larger military ships as well.

Don't forget to add Cosmoteer to your Steam wishlist so that you get notified when it launches!

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Cosmoteer Feature Preview: Career Mode

Greetings, Cosmoteers!

This is the first in what will be a series of "Feature Preview" posts about new features coming to Cosmoteer when it launches on Steam later this year. The first new feature I want to tell you about is also the biggest: A brand new "Career Mode".

Players of "Cosmoteer Classic" (a.k.a. "the free version" or "the demo") will doubtless be familiar with Bounty Hunter, a simple single-player mode in which you destroy enemy ships to earn money and then use that money to upgrade your own ship. While fun at first, I think most players would agree that its simplicity makes it become repetitive pretty quickly.

Career Mode takes the basic loop of Bounty Hunter (fight so that you can get stronger and take on tougher enemies) and greatly expands it within missions, factions, salvaging, mining, trading, and multiplayer co-op.

As in Bounty Hunter, you start the game with a small scout ship with only a few weapons and a handful of crew.

Looking around, and you quickly spot a nearby civilian space station under the control of the Fringe Systems Resistance. You hail it with your comms and immediately see a list of mission contracts posted by the Fringe and other factions within the star system. Many are "bounty" contracts, tasking you to hunt down and destroy specific enemies, but there are also other types of missions, such as rescues, resource delivery requests, and exploration missions.

Upon accepting your first bounty contract, you fly to its last-known location and soon spot your target. You close in for the kill and--as it is merely a level [1] target--have little trouble defeating it. (But beware, higher-level enemies are dramatically more dangerous!)

The enemy ship has been destroyed, but don't leave quite yet! Its wreckage contains valuable materials that you'll need to repair and upgrade your own ship. You send your crew out to salvage the enemy ship, who carefully break apart what's left of it into basic construction materials and carry them back to your own ship, storing them in your cargo bays.

Using the materials salvaged from the enemy, you repair the damage it did to your ship, and you even have enough materials left over to construct a new Laser Blaster!

You start heading back to the station to collect the bounty reward, but on your way you spot a ? icon on your radar, indicating the presence of an unknown signal nearby. You take a detour to investigate and discover a large asteroid field! Many of the asteroids contain iron and copper and a few have even more valuable ores which can either be sold at space stations or smelted by factories into usable construction materials. You have a bit of extra room in your cargo bays, so you send your crew out to mine some copper from a nearby asteroid.

Returning to the space station, you hail it again to collect the bounty payment and sell the copper you mined for a tidy profit. You also earn a few fame points as word of your accomplishment spreads, which will convince more people to join your crew. The Fringe Systems Resistance also makes note of how you helped the cause.

Using the money you earned, you replace your existing storage bays with larger ones, add another crew's quarters, and hire 2 more crew. You didn't actually have enough materials on board to build the larger storage bays and crew's quarters, but that's okay because the missing materials were automatically purchased from the station.

Using the little money you have left over, you purchase the blueprint plans for a Small Shield Generator, which will help reduce the damage your ship takes and save you materials on repairs in the long run.

Just when you are thinking about where you should add the shield generator, you receive a Discord message from a friend! She's playing Cosmoteer too and wants to know if you want to play co-op together. Of course you do! So you save your game, quit to the menu, and host a multiplayer game for her to join. You load up your save file, and the two of you continue playing from where you left off. She's the best pilot and combat tactician you know, so you mostly leave that up to her, whereas you're an ace ship designer, so you handle most of the building. You've set it up so that you both share control of the same ship, though you could have also started a new game where you each control your own ships.

Over many hours, the two of you explore dozens of star systems while traveling across the galaxy.

After dozens of missions and more than a few close calls, you and your friend finally reach the pinnacle of fame. With a fame score of 10000 and the title of "LEGENDARY", no one in the galaxy will ever forget your accomplishments. Along the way, you have become the revered champion of the Fringe Systems Resistance and the loathed nemesis of the other factions.

"Do you want to play again?" asks your friend.

Stay tuned for future feature previews, including lore histories and ship design philosophies for each of the four major factions: the Fringe Systems Resistance, the Monolith Cooperative, the Cabal of Sol, and the Centauri Imperium.

Friday, July 29, 2022

New Cosmoteer Trailer!

Ahoy Cosmoteers! It's been a really long time since you've heard from me, but that's because I've been laser-focused working on an updated version of Cosmoteer that will be launching on Steam. I'm pleased to finally be able to show off what I've been working on in an awesome new trailer, and to announce that Cosmoteer will finally be launching on Steam later this year!

Check our this awesome new trailer!

This new version will be by far the most massive Cosmoteer update ever, including:
  • Completely overhauled graphics, which you can see in the trailer above and in Cosmoteer's new Steam page
  • A brand new "Career Mode" with missions, factions, and mining. (It also supports co-op multiplayer!)
  • A "resource system" that allows resources to be salvaged from defeated ships or mined from asteroids, which can then be stored on your own ship, refined into more useful resources in factories, and used for construction of ship modules and munitions.
  • Various new ship building parts including a large shield generator, a mining laser, and new resource factories.

If you haven't already, please tell Steam that you're excited to play Cosmoteer by adding it to your wishlist!

Stay tuned for more updates as we get closer to launch!