Frame

A look back at the War Games demo, what we learned, and what’s changing.

Just over a month ago we released Homeworld 3’s War Games demo. It’s hard to express how awesome it felt seeing waves of players jump in and get their first taste of what we’ve been working on for so long. What’s really staggering, though, is that over 100,000 of you played that demo during the week of Steam Next Fest. Think about this for a second: Homeworld 3 is a sequel to a game so old that, if it were born in the US, it’d soon be able to legally drink beer. It’s rare for a series to stand the test of time like Homeworld has, and seeing so many of you waiting patiently all these years is an incredible honor — and a responsibility we take seriously.

We’re incredibly grateful to have seen so much engagement from the community during the War Games demo. We couldn’t have predicted how many of you would speak up to make your feedback known, get involved with the conversation, and offer your perspectives. This past month, everyone was heads down discussing every post we saw from Steamsocial, Reddit, Discord and beyond. We did this in service of putting together a plan worthy of this community’s dedication and passion for Homeworld.

In this Dev Update, we are sharing how we are applying your insightful feedback from the War Games demo to Homeworld 3. It’s not a comprehensive list of every change we’ve made (or will make). Instead, our hope is to address the most common pain points players experienced and show how we’re working to solve them.

We’ll be focusing on 5 main points today with a lot of nuance in them:

  1. Controls
  2. Combat
  3. Attack Move
  4. HUD, NLIPS, and more.
  5. War Games

1. Controls — or, rather, giving you control

We hear you: The control options in the War Games demo didn’t meet your expectations. Let’s not mince words here. Many of you found that the Modern controls were simply unintuitive and that the adjustments we made to Classic controls departed too much from previous Homeworld games.

As we address these issues, three key principles guide our solutions:

  1. Build an intuitive control scheme for all players that leverages Homeworld 3’s unique features and modern camera control best practices.
  2. Understand and acknowledge what veteran Homeworld players find familiar about the original control schemes.
  3. Let everyone have freedom to customize controls to best fit their unique playstyle as much as possible.

Now, let’s talk about how we’re delivering on those principles. First, there are some changes that have an enormous trickle-down effect on all aspects of Homeworld 3 and its control schemes. They are:

  • Nearly every single keyboard input is now rebindable.
    • Rebind abilities, keyboard-related camera controls, command modifiers, and more!
  • We have made sweeping changes to default hotkeys, which we’ll outline in more detail below. Spoiler: Rejoice, friends, as Focus Target is now triggered by simply pressing F!
  • We now have two presets for hotkey bindings, a revamped Modern layout and a layout that replicates the hotkeys used in Homeworld 2 Remastered (We’ll discuss these in detail in just a minute).
    • If you manually rebind an input and then swap hotkey presets, your manually rebinded inputs won’t be overridden.
  • We’ve increased movement and rotation speed of the default camera settings. The camera now feels very similar, in terms of speed, to Homeworld 2 Remastered.
    • We’ve also given you more granular control over the camera settings, so you can fine-tune it as needed.

Those larger, universal changes, especially being able to rebind keyboard inputs, are something to keep in mind for this next part. When you first fire up Homeworld 3 at launch, you’ll be asked to choose between three control schemes: ModernLegacy, or Customize. Let’s quickly talk about each:

  • The Modern control scheme has been designed for Homeworld 3 by incorporating two decades worth of innovations and learnings from other strategy games and is being made even better thanks to your feedback. This setup is meant to cater to a wide audience of players and doesn’t assume prior experience with Homeworld.
    • The first-person camera is controlled by WASD + QE.
    • Unit movement prioritizes clicking on terrain to provide waypoints.
    • We’ve also moved away from the War Games demo’s grid-style hotkey convention (where hotkeys were bound to QWERT + ASDFG keys). Hotkeys are now directly related to the action they perform but with a bias towards keys that are easily reached with your left-hand resting on WASD.
      • For example, “V” is now your default keybind for MoVe because Homeworld 2 Remastered’s use of “M” is a bit of a stretch on QWERTY-style keyboards. “H” is for Harvest, “A” is for Attack, and so forth.
    • In cases where a hotkey overlaps with a camera control, Modern preset prioritizes the camera. This effectively disables that hotkey. (For example, while the “D” key normally tells a ship to dock, with Modern controls it moves the camera left.)
      • To avoid this, you can choose to enable the option where the Modern preset camera can only be moved when holding the right mouse button. Or you can just rebind Dock to another hotkey.
      • We’ve fixed a bug in the War Games demo related to the above, where using right-click to engage the camera resulted in all hotkeys being disabled. Now, using right-click only disables any overlapping ability keys.
    • Certain UI features, like Tactical Overlay icon amalgamation, are turned on with the goal of providing concise, streamlined information about the battlefield and your units.
    • Certain unit behaviors are prioritized over others. For example, instead of docking with a Carrier when you right-click on it, applicable ships will now guard that Carrier instead.
  • The Legacy control scheme replicates Homeworld 2 Remastered’s controls and feedback. This setup catered to players wanting an experience that feels consistent with previous games, and effectively replaces the Classic control scheme you saw in the War Games demo.
    • The orbit-style camera is controlled by the mouse, arrow keys, or by focusing targets.
    • Unit movement prioritizes the Movement Disc, exactly as you remembered it.
      • We’ve expanded Movement Disc functionality to add some features that were available in Homeworld 2 Remastered, like using “Shift” to adjust height.
    • Hotkeys automatically default to those used in Homeworld 2 Remastered. (Move = “M”, Attack = “Ctrl-A”, etc.)
    • UI features are identical or closely resemble Homeworld 2 Remastered. This includes turning off icon amalgamation in the Tactical Overlay so you can see every unit icon regardless of how many are in a small area!
    • Unit behaviors, where applicable, will replicate Homeworld 2 Remastered. To repeat our example above, right-clicking on a Carrier will cause ships to dock with it.
  • The “Customize” option is for players interested in taking the best of both of these schemes to create something unique. Here you can mix and match both the Modern and Legacy presets to find the perfect setup. Unsurprisingly, this has become the favorite option for most of us on the development team, as it lets you retain aspects about Homeworld 2 Remastered that you loved while still benefiting from some more user-friendly options.
    • Every option outlined above (and many more) are presented as a set of toggles that you swap between Modern and Legacy. Want a WASD-controlled, orbiting camera with Homeworld 2 Remastered hotkeys and icon amalgamation in the Tactical Overlay? Go nuts!

Thanks to your feedback, we feel we’re much closer to delivering on a simple truth: There is no right way to play Homeworld 3 so long as you feel in control and are having fun. Our sincere hope is that the control changes outlined above (and any others you discover at launch) are a testament that we are invested and listening to what you have to say.

2. Making Combat More Satisfying

One piece of feedback we saw, again and again, is that many players felt like combat engagements were over too quickly. Whether it was formations of Interceptors or much bigger, tankier ships like Frigates and Carriers, many of you felt like units were just a little… squishy.

Seeing that widespread sentiment, we knew we had to make changes. A core part of the Homeworld fantasy is the idea of your ships enduring from one battle to the next. As we outlined in a previous Dev Update, our art team has gone to extreme lengths to ensure ships bear the scars of their hard-fought battles. But all of that is for naught if combat feels like feeding ships into a woodchipper.

  • We’ve increased the hitpoints of every ship by 30 percent. Now everything takes longer to explode without sacrificing the potential for devastating ambushes or other massive swings in momentum. This is just one crucial ingredient in a much larger mix of adjustments to ship behavior that makes combat more satisfying, intuitive, and tactical.
  • We’ve made improvements to formations that make using them more beneficial and less tedious.
    • When activating a formation, ships will organize themselves more organically instead of dropping everything they were doing to go form up.
    • When activating a formation on ships that are traveling to the same destination, the formation will anchor itself around whichever ship is the furthest ahead, so slower ships will continue moving forward and leading ships won’t suddenly pull a 180 to go regroup.
    • There was also a painful bug that often caused ships to stop dead in their tracks when given a formation assignment. That’s now fixed.
    • The sphere formation, in particular, is now a much more potent ball of death that is useful when you want to concentrate firepower and movement around a single ship.
  • The way we’ve designed ship abilities in Homeworld 3 is different from previous games and we were very interested in their reception. We heard from many players that abilities required too much babysitting, which clashed with some of their more passive benefits.
    • To address that, we’ve made ability durations and their cooldowns longer. The result is that when to activate an ability is a choice that carries more consequence than before. You’re no longer spamming abilities the moment they’re available, but instead waiting and choosing the opportune moment to use them for maximum effectiveness — knowing that failing to do so will result in that ability being offline for much longer.
  • Oh yeah, speaking of babysitting, we’ve had a little chat with Support Frigate pilots and let them know they’re more than welcome to heal friendly ships without being directly instructed to. They seemed very excited about this new level of autonomy.

3. Classic Attack Move is Back!

Just like in earlier Homeworld games, you will be able to issue Attack Move orders that your units will intelligently obey based on the presence of hostile threats, opening up new avenues for more strategic control of your units. Attack Move is actually a pretty nuanced topic, so let’s unpack this a bit.

In the War Games demo, a lot of players were frustrated that Attack Move wasn’t acting like they expected it should. There were a couple of factors here:

  • Homeworld 3 is still in development, and when the demo was released, we didn’t have a proper implementation of Attack Move orders.
    Many larger ships in 
  • Homeworld 3 feature point-defense systems like omni-directional turrets that automatically engage nearby threats. There was a bug in the demo, however, that was often preventing those turrets from opening fire as intended.

These factors resulted in confusion over whether ships could move and attack at the same time. Fortunately, they’ve been addressed:

  • Attack Move now works as intended, and can be used with either the Modern or Legacy control presets. To initiate an Attack Move order you can:
    • Give an Attack order and click on terrain.
    • Give a Move order and, when the Movement Disc appears, hold “Ctrl” to convert the Move order to an Attack Move order (the Movement Disc will turn red to indicate this).
    • Units currently engaging hostile targets can be given a Move order and they will move to a chosen point but keep attacking their existing target as long as they are within range, allowing you to kite enemies.

We’ve also added in some extra functionality to provide more clarity into how your ships are responding to orders. In previous Homeworld games, you’d either see a green line showing you where units were moving or a red line showing you who they were attacking, but never both lines at the same time. That was often confusing because it could look like your units were ignoring orders. We’ve changed it so that you’ll see both lines if your units are attacking and moving at the same time.

4. HUD, NLIPS, and other fun acronyms

Let’s take a minute to talk about some other important adjustments that we think make 

Homeworld 3 a more immersive experience. A lot of you felt like the HUD ate up too much screen real estate, especially compared to older Homeworld games. We’ve always endeavored to make Homeworld 3 the most beautiful strategy game you’ve ever seen. We’d hate for players to feel like they can’t get lost in the splendor of space because other elements are getting in the way.

The only solution was obvious: We’ve added a slider to adjust the scale of the HUD in the settings menu. We’ve also dialed it back by default and refactored many elements of the HUD so it will appear less obstructive than it did during the War Games demo.

Speaking of scaling things back, you’d be forgiven if you saw “NLIPS” written above and thought a cat had jumped on my keyboard. NLIPS (Non-Linear Inverse Perspective Scrolling) is a feature from older Homeworld games that scales ship models up relative to the camera’s distance to them. Essentially, it was a way to ensure you could still see and easily select smaller ships like Fighters even when zoomed very far out.

In the War Games demo, NLIPS was bugged and that resulted in ship sizes being all out of whack. That obviously made it harder to ground yourself in the drama of combat. It also resulted in some pretty funny “Don’t talk to me or my son ever again” moments where one Fighter would appear much larger than another one right next to it. NLIPS issues have been addressed and it now works properly. You can also turn off NLIPS entirely, if you prefer a totally realistic sense of scale for ships.

There’s some other relevant adjustments I’d like to mention:

  • The bandbox (or selection box) is now much more accurate than before, so you’ll find it easier to select clusters of units.
  • The Spacebar no longer builds a ship when the Build Menu is open, so you won’t accidentally start production on something when you really meant to open the Sensors Manager.
  • We’ve also made the Sensors Manager more usable by increasing zoom sensitivity.
    • And don’t forget there’s now more granular options for icon amalgamation so you can select a preset that is most useful to you.
  • Did you know you can retire ships to refund their resources? Not your fault if you didn’t because it wasn’t in the tutorial. That’s been rectified.
  • In a similar vein, there’s a powerful context menu you can activate with Alt+Right Click to access additional unit orders. We’ve given it a proper place in the advanced section of the tutorial too.

5. Variety is the Spice of War Games

We’re thrilled that so many of you are just as excited by War Games as we are. I hope you’ll be even more jazzed about some of these changes we’ve implemented thanks to your feedback.

  • We’ve doubled the amount of objectives that can happen during a run.
    • To clarify this just a smidge, the four objectives you saw in the War Games demo are now only available during the first mission.
    • The second mission has an entirely new set of four objectives. To reflect the escalating difficulty of a run, these objectives require use of advanced mechanics, like salvaging wrecks, protecting flagships, and capturing ships.
    • Enabling difficulty modifiers that spawn an extra objective during each mission now vastly increases the number of objective permutations you can experience between runs.
  • Resource Controllers are now free but take significantly longer to produce in War Games.
    • We saw how frustrating it was to have a run end with a whimper because your Resource Controllers were destroyed and you lacked the funds to build new ones.
    • Now you can always reboot your production operations, but their increased build time will put you in a very vulnerable position until they’re back online.

As I said, this list of changes isn’t necessarily comprehensive but is meant to address the more widespread points of feedback we saw. That so many of you not only took the time to play the War Games demo but then dedicated so much energy into writing detailed feedback is not something we take for granted. That’s why it was so important that we first took the time to organize, investigate, and assess, so that we could come back with more than just vague assurances or roundabout answers to your biggest concerns.

That isn’t to say this process is over, either. We’re keen to hear what you think about today’s Dev Update and will continue to listen and assess in the weeks left until Homeworld 3 launches on May 13.

Thank you!

Lance Mueller, Game Director