AI War 2 v0.900 Released! “Custom Fleets With Empty Slots”

Release notes here.

More refinement, and one major new feature.  First let’s talk about the smaller stuff:

  • The science menu is looking better, with more icons on there.
  • The standing order buttons now show their hotkeys for you.
  • There’s a new “flagship movement mode” control option for all your mobile flagships and battlestations.  This lets them either ignore or obey things like pursuit mode — it’s circumstantial which you’d prefer, per fleet, so an option was warranted.
  • There’s a new “tutorial” which basically is just directing you to the extended in-game “how to play” stuff, which sometimes people were otherwise missing.
  • Dyson Antagonizers now come in over time, so you have a chance to deal with them before they start causing trouble.
  • The AI taunts are all processed and split out by Pablo, and we’re working on integrating those and choosing the best takes.  Some more voice lines by the chief of staff (lady talking to you as things happen) are coming early next week.  Actually, technically both will be integrated around then.
  • Oh, there’s also a new tip under the modding section that explains how to make your own Quick Starts, which is both super easy as well as something we figure a lot of non-modders may want to choose to do for themselves or to share with others.
  • Now, on to the big  one:

Custom Fleets (Aka the Remedy For Control Groups)

The release notes for these are here.

Essentially there are now 9 new fleets, each with 7 empty slots, that you can build off the sidebar of any of your command stations.  Three are cloaked, three are fast, and three are regular.

What are you going to do with those new fleets?  Well… anything you want!  Including nothing, frankly.

So, here’s the problem we solved with this:

  • Essentially, sometimes people wanted to have really specialized fleets.  As in, a fleet with all cloaking stuff, or one with all melee stuff, or whatever.
  • And even though you can swap ship lines between fleets you capture, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll have enough slots or enough ship lines of the right type to make a full fleet.
  • So a fair number of people were either wanting old-style control groups, where you can just make arbitrary groups of ships from across any fleets; OR they were wanting sub-fleets.

Why not just do one of those two things?

  • The problem with old-style control groups is that a lot of the UI conveniences and automation just doesn’t function with that.  I thought I had a solution that would let me do something along those lines, but it was going to be really messy to set up as a player.
  • The problem with sub-fleets is that that adds another level of indirection, and greatly complicates the UI.  Really you don’t need your melee ships to also be part of the larger fleet of “whatever they were in,” if you want your melee ships to be assigned to a unique control binding  and ordered around as a unit; you just need them to be in a new organizational unit all on their own.  Aka, a new custom fleet, a new bucket, but previously there were not enough buckets.

Is this some sort of temporary workaround?

  • No! Fleets are meant to be the primary organizational units of your stuff in AI War 2.
  • This solution basically gives you some blank organizational units that you can use to subdivide your forces further than you used to be.
  • In other words, it keeps to the ethos of the organizational style of the  game — which  has a LOT of UI advantages to make your life easier — while at the same time giving you more control.

Why have nine possible blank fleet templates?

  • This is per-player in multiplayer, and based on how people tend to play this should be more than enough subdivision.  With 7 slots in each one, you can make three separate cloak-themed fleets (maybe one is etherjet tractors, the others are more strike-oriented?) if you need to.
  • That’s HUGE, because it allows you to cover three different fronts  with just cloaked units alone.
  • Then you have three that have fast flagships, typically for raiding or melee or some other units that need to move around the map quickly.
  • And then you have three that are just… “whatever.”  They’re average flagships, and you can do whatever you need to with them.
  • When you pair that with all the various flagships you pick up over the course of the game, you ought to really be able to customize things as much as you could possibly want, even when fighting on several fronts at once.

Isn’t it a pain in the butt to have to manually configure fleets like this just for control groups?

  • You could make that argument, but honestly I think this is LESS of a pain in the butt.  Here’s why:
  • If you’re just needing a really quick selection of things like “all the melee units on the planet I’m looking at,” we already added hotkeys for things like that.  For ad-hoc selection of ships at the local area, using things like C+M to select all the melee ships will more than cover you.  It’s by far the fastest thing.
  • So the only real purpose of “control groups” in this sense is for NON-ad-hoc situations: aka long-term permanent or semi-permanent groupings of forces.
  • Given that a lot of the big complexities that old control groups had that fleets solve revolve around “what happens when ships die and get recreated into the fleet,” we get to bypass those complexities with the custom fleets just like we do with any other fleet.
  • If we did custom control groups again, we’d be right back into the boat of things like “does this get automatically selected if it’s created under xyz circumstances,” etc.
  • And what we found through lots of playtesting is that players were constantly surprised by the answer to questions like that regardless of  what we chose to have the logic be.  It just had too many edge cases, whereas fleets are always really predictable in how they are selected and how ships inside them act.
  • You can also name fleets, unlike control groups, which  is pretty handy.  So you can have something like your “North Melee” group if you want to, and even if you’ve got that bound to a control group or not, you can easily remember what that thing is for (for now) and rename it again if you need to.
  • Plus all the other conveniences with fleets, like changing around build orders, having higher ship marks from a fleet that has gained levels via fleet EXP, and so on.  There’s a bunch of stuff this keeps you having access to, and it also keeps the interface for managing that all the same across the board.
  • I do realize that it’s different from the control groups that you’re used to in a lot of other RTS games, but no other RTS game has this huge number of units in it, nor the rapid recreation of units, nor the need to split your units over such a wide space.  There are some others that come close on some or all of those fronts (Stellaris, Sins, AI War 1), but none of them really match what’s going on here if there are a bunch of factions and you’ve got a ton of fleets and are fighting galaxy-wide while defending yourself.
  • The bottom line is that we had to invent something a bit new in order to get at what you want out of the behaviors of fleets and units, and to keep micromanagement down, and yet to give you customization at the same time.
  • When I think about this, I think about it kind of like the city management screens in Civ IV; those start out a bit automated, but you can swap things around as needed. And that could be tedious if you had to do it all the time, but you’re usually setting up a given city for a very long time (or at least a middle-tier timeline) when you make changes to it.  So their management screens wind up being the  most efficient way to handle the setup, despite the fact they’re different from what  other games did  before Civ IV.
  • Anyway, since I know there will be at least a few people who are put off by the fact that this is different, I wanted to explain the reasoning for this, as well as note that we’ve explored all the alternatives.  There’s nothing else that we’ve considered or been pitched so far that is remotely so clean, that respects your time, that communicates to you so clearly, and gives you the flexibility that you’ve been asking for.  Hope you guys like it. :)

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

Launch Is Coming Up October 22nd!

We’re now in the process of tidying things up for the 10-year anniversary of AI War Classic appearing on Steam  for the first time.  We’re getting really close!  I understand a lot of you are really enjoying the game now, which is super duper awesome.  If that’s you, and you haven’t written a review yet, would you mind just dropping a couple of brief thoughts on the store page for the game?

There’s a sea of other indie titles out there now, and I’m anxious about my career to put it kind of frankly.  Please be honest, obviously, but if you’re enjoying the game it would really be a big deal to me personally if you’d let other people know; that stuff makes a big difference in our ability to get featuring on the store, in how people choose to purchase or not, and so on.

Problem With The Latest Build?

If you right-click the game in Steam and choose properties, then go to the Betas tab of the window that pops up, you’ll see a variety of options.  You can always choose most_recent_stable from that build to get what is essentially one-build-back.  Or two builds back if the last build had a known problem, etc.  Essentially it’s a way to keep yourself off the very bleeding edge of updates, if you so desire.

The Usual Reminders

Quick reminder of our new Steam Developer Page.  If you follow us there, you’ll be notified about any game releases we do.

Also: Would you mind leaving a Steam review for some/any of our games?  It doesn’t have to be much more detailed than a thumbs up, but if you like a game we made and want more people to find it, that’s how you make it happen.  Reviews make a material difference, and like most indies, we could really use the support.

Enjoy!

Chris

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