The best thing about video games, experts agree, is particle effects that spray, ping, spang, billow, and zbloom all over the place. Crafty space sandbox Space Engineers has recognised this in its latest big early access update, adding a new particle system which showers sparks, glimmers, and clouds all over the place. As it right and good. The update also spruces up the game's looks overall, making it simultaneously fancier and closer to its bold and blocky original look. The update also brings a new physics system for wheels, making spacecars less likely to freak out or flip while you're admiring the particle effects they kick up.
Keen Software House's Marek Rosa details everything about Friday's update in a blog post but let's look at some highlights.
First, pictures. A new particle engine runs on the GPU rather than the CPU, which Keen say means they can have more and fancier particles without harming performance. A load of new particle effects are in too, for everything from explosions to thrusters. The colour palette is more saturated, closer to the look of the game in its early days. Character animations are improved, including new landing animations. A new voxel engine borrowed from Keen's own Medieval Engineers loads and runs faster. Tone mapping, bloom, ambient occlusion, and other effects make lighting and scenes more dramatic. And a few (optional) "cinematic" effects are in, like lens camera dirt and chromatic aberration. In short: pretty things and technical words.
As for wheeled vehicles, Rosa says the new physics should make them "be strong, robust and endure more". They should suck less.
Sounds are reworked too, with a mixture of extra sounds and rebalanced levels intended to make things feel heavier and more real. Oh, and a 'realistic mode' option makes sound more like actual space - very quiet. Rosa explains:
"Sound waves travel only where there’s a physical connection between a sound source and a listener. The medium can be either the atmosphere or a solid object, and influences how you hear the sound: clearly or muffled / low-passed (through vibrations). The game simulates this property. The end result is that you won’t hear an explosion of a ship nearby if you are not standing on it. However, you will hear a muffled explosion and cracking of your ship if you are standing on its surface."
All of this sounds good? Good stuff. Space Engineers has been solid to play for yonks but this sounds like good polishing. While there's still no word on when Space Engineers will be 'finished' and launch properly, it did recently enter beta status, whatever that means these days, and seems to be starting to finish up.