Ascension Perks were added in Utopia as the paid component to the Tradition system to create a set of interesting choices for the player to take as they went through the Tradition tree, choosing between simple but powerful bonuses and more elaborate 'unlocks' such as the ascension paths and Megastructures. However, since then we have noticed that this is a system we keep wanting to build on (for example by adding unique Ascension Perks for Machine Empires as we did in Synthetic Dawn), and found the requirement to depend all of this on Utopia too limiting. For this reason, in the Cherryh update, we are going to make the basic Ascension Perks such as Mastery of Nature, Defender of the Galaxy and so on free for everyone. Biological/Psionic/Synthetic Ascension Paths and Megastructure Ascension Perks (including Habitats) will still require Utopia and Machine Empire Ascension Perks will naturally still require Synthetic Dawn (but not Utopia). The core system itself however, will become part of the base game, so everyone will be able to get at least the basic set of Ascension Perks even if they don't own a single piece of DLC.
Surveying & Communications Trading
The way surveying, anomaly generation and star chart trading works has never really worked very well. For one, it's very unclear to players that for example, you cannot discover anomalies in other empires' space, or that star chart trading can actually be a bad idea since it can in some cases stop you from finding anomalies in those systems. For this reason, we've decided to make some changes to the way surveying works. In Cherryh, any system inside the borders of an empire you have communications with will automatically be considered surveyed, without any need to send a science ship into it and waste a bunch of time scanning planets that have no chance of yielding anomalies aynway. There are some exceptions to this, such as Fallen Empires, whose space will need to be surveyed manually and can in fact yield anomalies.
As part of this we have decided to remove Star Chart trading as well as the ability to buy Star Charts from Curators, and instead replace this with the option to trade Communications with another empire - acquiring Communications from an empire in a trade deal will automatically put you in comms with any empires they have comms with that you do not. This should mean that there are no longer any 'traps' in surveying, while also requiring the need to explore every little nook of the galaxy even when that nook is held by your ally since a hundred years back.
Terra Incognita Changes
Finally, I just wanted to mentioned that we have done some changes to Terra Incognita to make it more clear and make it work properly with bypasses (Wormholes and Gateways). Instead of Terra Incognita being based on which physical pixels on the map your ships have 'seen', it is now based on which systems are considered visited. Visited either means that you have been to the system with a ship, or that the system is inside the borders of an empire that you have communications with. As such, Terra Incognita no longer needs to be manually lifted on empires you have met in order to not make them appear grey and washed out on the map, also making it easier to see important galactic features such as nebulas.
That's all for today! I know it was a short one, but don't worry, we still have a long way to go and plenty of major things to talk about for Cherryh. However, next week we're actually going to be talking about something that's§ unrelated to Cherryh, but exciting nonetheless. I'm not allowed to spoil what just yet, but stay tuned!