The developer branch of Stable Orbit is now live! From now until the launch of the full game later this year, the developer branch will grant you unfettered access to the latest and greatest new features as they are being developed. What this means is that you’ll get to try the new additions, such as the new pressurized / unpressurized mechanic, at an early stage. Some times, that may mean the feature is broken or not working quite as intended yet — but that’s the point. By sharing these work-in-progress builds with you, you can comment on the feature as it is being made and – where necessary – help me course correct before it is too late.

Several new features are launching on the developer branch Today:

Altitude Control

The station’s altitude is no longer a static thing, but an aspect that now requires your constant attention. By default, the system will perform altitude correcting burns for you at regular intervals and all you have to do is build enough RCS thruster modules to allow your growing station to maintain a reasonable altitude. If you really want to keep yourself busy, though, you can disable the automatic controls and perform the station keeping burns by hand – not easy.

(Un)pressurized Gameplay

Stable Orbit now distinguishes between pressurized and unpressurized modules and your crew can no longer freely travel from, say, a hab to a lab unless those two modules are connected to each other through pressurized nodes. Your station may have multiple pressurized ‘islands’, but you’ll need to build airlock modules to allow your crew to travel between them via EVA. Note that an EVA takes far too long and is too risky to perform as a day-to-day routine. In other words, if you want your crew to work in that remote lab, you’d better make sure there is a hab module within easy reach.

Events, Calamities & Disasters

Minor calamities and major disasters can now happen at any moment. Since I am still testing the waters with this new system, the number of things that can happen is fairly limited at the moment. Once all the kinks have been worked out, though, you can expect that the number of different things that can and will go wrong aboard your station to ramp up considerably!

Gimbal Node

Using the new gimbal node, you can now build rotating station structures (provided your station is sufficiently powered). This node is the first step towards the advanced truss structures mentioned in the public roadmap.

UI Layout

I’ve made some changes to the UI layout. Most prominently, the station panel is now a large bar at the bottom of the screen. I’m not 100% convinced this is the right way to go, but it does help to reduce the number of sliding panels. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll probably try a few different things to find out what results in the best UI experience overall. Let me know what you think!

With all of the above features, I am focusing on the technical aspects first. I really want to sort out how the game mechanics of Stable Orbit as a whole are going to work in the next couple of weeks. Once I am happy with the technical side, I’ll switch over to making the art and content (new modules, more disasters, extra contracts, etc) needed to round out the final game.

If you want to travel with me on this journey, hop over to the Steam forums for instructions on how to opt into the developer branch. See you there!