Month: June 2014

TLF Version 1.026 Released (Brace For Options!)

Version 1.026 is out, and contains a number of things that fans have been asking for, as well as a number of important fixes.

There are some overall improvements to the solar map AI in this update, and there is also an overhaul of the ship graphics and their ships.

There are also new Advanced Start options that let you customize your gameplay experience, and it’s from there that the name of this update derives.  There are four new options added in this update, but more are inevitably coming in the next few weeks.  With a game like this — like AI War, too — having flexibility in how campaigns play out is definitely a good thing.  That means not just in-game options, but also options when you are setting up a new game.

In AI War, the lobby is incredibly complex and daunting to new players because of that extreme flexibility.  There must be over a hundred things you can choose or tune on there.  Our goal with TLF has always been to make it a lot more accessible to new players by making the Quick Start pretty much only ever have two options.  But then Advanced Start is something that we figure can run wild and get as complex as it needs to, in order to better serve the hardcore players.  Now that we are getting a better idea of what the hardcore players are actually interested in as options, we’re starting to do that.

In particular, there were some things that for new players are not a problem, but experienced players find them too easy or too tedious, and this update allows you to either make those harder or turn them off.  This doesn’t mean we’re never going to actually update core mechanics, but it does mean that we can make a kind of baseline set of core mechanics that does not just smash new players into complete pulp (as much), but where we still have options for the hardcore fans to ratchet up the difficulty in more specific ways than the two difficulty level dropdowns allow for.

Again, all of this is super familiar to anyone who knows AI War — except this time we’re aiming not to increase the baseline learning curve despite catering to the hardcore fans at the same time.  An important lesson we have learned since AI War.

————— What’s With The Shift In Schedule Lately? —————

I actually wrote about that last week on our recently-moved blog.

————— Ongoing Updates —————

The support of the community, and the growth of it, remain amazing to me. It’s been 10 weeks, and it’s clear we definitely have a winner here.  As of a couple of days ago we have now broken even on the game, meaning that we actually are making money over and above what we spent creating the game.  We’re continuing to expand the improve the game via bugfixes, balance updates, and new content, and plan to do so for the foreseeable future.

It won’t always be on a consistent schedule, but if you’re familiar with our post-release support for AI War: Fleet Command over the past 5 years, that’s basically the arc that we are currently expecting here unless something unexpectedly changes.

At present we are also working on expansions for both AI War and TLF (TLF: Betrayed Hope). The expansion for TLF is expected to be available for preorder through our site in early July, with access to the current beta of the expansion.  The actual full release of the expansion is expected to be in August at this point, on all the existing distributors that carry the base game.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater, or if you have Steam it will automatically update it for you.  To force Steam to download it faster, just restart Steam and it will do so.

Steam Community Flash Deal Knocks 40% Off The Last Federation Tonight

TLF_Steam_Community_Sale

The Last Federation popped up today in Steam’s Summer Sale community choice vote, and the indie space games group it was placed in (pictured) ended up winning out with 55% of the votes. That means the game is 40% off for the next 8 hours, after which it will return to 25% off for the remainder of the sale.

The flash deal is underway now and runs until around 2 AM PDT. Thanks to any and all that voted for us!

[Discussion thread on TLF forums]

Wallpaper for AI War: Destroyer of Worlds.

AIWarDestroyerOfWorldsWallpaper

We never really had proper large-scale concept art for AI War until the last month or so. This is definitely my favorite piece out of all the new stuff, and again this is by Cathrine Langwagen.

Wallpaper for Shattered Haven.

ShatteredHavenWallpaper

Ah, Shattered Haven. I get that it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but I feel like it’s so under-appreciated all the same. It really has a special place for me in my life. Anyhow, this wallpaper is just made of awesome, which surely is something we can all agree on, at least. ;)

Two wallpapers for Bionic Dues

city_big_painted

PortCity

Today is wallpaper day, I guess. :)  Here are two wallpapers from Bionic Dues.  These were both originally by me, although the side view of the city has been overpainted by Cathrine Langwagen to look waaay better than it originally did.  She added cooler reflections in the water and all sorts of stuff.

Enjoy!

AI War Beta 7.043-7.044 “Beltsander of Worlds MkI” Released!

This one is mainly bugfixes and balance work for the new expansion, but also some base game stuff.

Not a lot to say here except to read the above-linked release notes if you want to know the details. Partly just making this an update-with-blog-post (as opposed to yet another hotfix on the previous forum release thread) to make sure the new blogging system works, etc :)

Update: 7.044 is out to hotfix a bug in the pathfinding amendments (to make it not prefer nomads so much) that basically broke pathfinding in a lot of cases. Whoops!

Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 4.000 or later. When you launch the game, you’ll see the notice of the update having been found if you’re connected to the Internet at the time. If you don’t have 4.000 or later, you can download that here.

About The Recent Schedule, and TLF Updates

A really great question from a recent post:

Hi Chris – Is the last federation pretty much the final product now? Unless I’ve missed something the last update was June 6th to 1.24 -25
Before that you were changing every two or three days. Thanks

I’ve posted a few notes about this in the Off Topic section of our forums, and I think some bits on the TLF forum as well, but not everybody sees every post, and I didn’t ever collect everything in one place.  So here we go!

What’s Been Going On Lately?

The Last Federation is not the final product any more than AI War is, in the sense that those games are intended to evolve over years.  Others like Skyward Collapse and Bionic Dues are the final product, but these two — AI War and TLF — are currently ones that we consider in active long-term development.
The lack of updates on TLF has been due to a number of factors lately.

Some have just been scheduling things with trying to make sure that our other projects don’t languish — for instance, there’s not enough art for TLF to be working on, so I have to get design stuff in place well enough for Blue to be working on art for Spectral Empire, even though I’m not going to be doing heavy design there for a little while, and Keith won’t be starting coding there until early July.  Since right now I’m the sole programmer on TLF, that means that sometimes I have to set that aside to help manage things with the other projects, since I’m also the designer and producer on all of them.

Another issue was some personal stuff that came up and impacted me for a week and a half or so there in a major way, so that set me back in general.

Another factor has been the website redesign, as well as the (still in progress) work on redoing our site store.  That takes an amazing amount of time, but it’s been something we’ve sorely needed for a couple of years now.  Now was finally a time where I felt like I had enough breathing room to do it (there’s always other stuff to be done with games, but if I never set aside time to work on these other side things then they simply never get done — I’ve been really wanting to do this site redesign since something like 2012, because Joomla really wasn’t working out for us).

Another factor is that I’ve been trying to work on better steamworks integration for our games, particularly for linux.  TLF’s steam achievements don’t work on linux, and I also want to get steam cloud support on our steam games in general.  Once I get that working, then I want to get Valley 1 and 2, Skyward Collapse, and Shattered Haven all ported to linux.  Tidalis will remain PC and Mac only, and AI War’s linux port will come after 8.0 comes out in August.  So that one will be more delayed.

Yet another factor is that I’m trying to plan an easier way to install expansion packs for our games, without requiring an actual installer.  “Just unzip into your main game folder” works for windows machines, but on OSX and possibly linux there is not a merge-folders-when-unzipping natural behavior.  Instead it just blows away entire folders, which is, ah, a big problem.   It’s not remotely insurmountable, though, as our normal in-game updater already solves that.  So I just want to make a form of expansion-unpacker that more or less does the same thing.  This will be important for our non-steam non-windows customers coming up when with the TLF expansion, as well as with our other games that have existing expansions when we do updated packages for them that include other OSes, etc.

And lastly, when it comes to the actual updates to TLF itself, the time that I do have for that has been temporarily spent on the expansion.  Some of that actually has gone to other changes to the base game, but there are substantial changes to underlying systems there, and so I want to make sure and get all of that in at once, and then do those as a beta update rather than an official update so that we can have a set runthrough of testing all at once rather than having to go back and forth between beta and official updates a lot, or stay in beta versions for a long time.

What Will The TLF Update Schedule Be Like In The Future?

As with AI War, that’s really going to vary depending on the time period.  There were some periods in the history of AI War where we went 6+ months without an update because it was in good shape and we were working on other things.  Then we came back into periods with updates every 2-3 days for a month or two.  And then many other extended periods with a release every 1-1.5 weeks or so.  That’s the current expectation for TLF from our end, given the level of interest the game has had.

When the TLF expansion comes out into its beta form, which should be within 2 weeks (I said that before, I know, but some other stuff came up as you note above — apologies, that usually does not happen), then expect a flurry of updates every 2-3 days again for a while.  Focusing both on tweaking and balancing the expansion content, as well as making generalized improvements to the base game.  When the expansion launches officially, most likely in August, then the base game will be considered 2.0 alongside the new expansion’s release version.

After that… right now it’s too early to say, but I’m expecting that we’ll likely be in a period of releases every 1-1.5 weeks for a while, as we’ll be working on Spectral Empire in the main.  Assuming interest remains high in TLF, then at some point we’ll work on a second expansion for TLF, and during a month or so period there we’d see heavy development again with tons of updates to both the base game and then of course work on the expansion.  If you look back at the history of AI War updates, you can see that’s more or less how it works out.

Completely as an aside, we tried the approach of not doing expansions and just doing tons of free updates to the base game with Valley 1.  Valley 1 sold very well at the start, but partly because of our persistent post-release work without any sort of paid additions, we’re still very much in the negative for having made that game (aka, it cost us a hundred-ish thousand dollars more to make than we have made selling it).  With AI War, we’ve been able to balance things out more, having it be very profitable on an ongoing basis (5 years now!) partly thanks to the expansions, while at the same time using that to help fund updates to the base game, free for everyone, all through that time.  And frankly that covered the losses we took on other titles that were not financial successes — it let us have a bit more freedom to experiment.  Some of which led to great results, and some of which led to results that the market at least deemed not as great.

Anyway, so that’s our update model and the reasoning behind it, which is all super familiar to long-time followers of AI War.  Any questions, always feel free to ask!

Airship Eternal, coming in 2015

[SlideDeck2 id=4160]

Coming In 2015

Airship Eternal is a bit of a funny project, because it is both in its infancy and extremely far along. We’re barely in pre-production, but the code is around 70% done. How does that even work?

Well, you may know that The Last Federation went through quite a number of combat models prior to its 1.0 launch. The next-to-last combat model was basically a pure SHMUP set in space, and it was super fun — if you like that genre of game. Ultimately we moved away from that combat model for TLF, because we felt like requiring players to like both deep strategy games AND a more twitch-based SHMUP in order to play TLF was… well, a super bad idea, to put it bluntly.

So combat in TLF went turn-based, and actually became something really cool and unique in its own right, while we set aside the code for the SHMUP we had built and said “we’re going to come back to that someday and build that into a full game, because it is too fun to let lie.”

Airship Eternal is that game. Or, well, will be. At this point all we’ve done is set aside that TLF code, as well as do a lot of larger game design work and art concepting work. So it’s in what you’d call “pre-production,” really.

The idea here is that the game is set in the upper atmosphere rather than in space. We’ve got a variety of other far-below terrain types beyond what is shown above, and a lot of other ships, too. All of the larger ships all come in pieces (already even in the concepts), and can be blasted apart piece by piece in good SHMUP fashion. The smaller ships just explode, but that’s generally the idea with that sort of thing in SHMUPs.

What’s one big thing that will differentiate Airship Eternal from other games in its genre? Well, I don’t want to get too specific since a lot might change once we hit the prototyping phase and start testing out the larger game flow. But the general concept is that we’ll be using our skills with procedural generation to make unique battlefields that you can free-fly around in. In other words, no linear upward corridors.

I don’t see this as being a huge project for us, it’s not something that is going to be our next AI War or something. It’s not a flagship product that you’ll spend hundreds of hours with (well, somebody does with every game, but I mean people on average). This will be a relatively inexpensive game for us to make and for you to purchase, and the focus is going to be on focused fun while at the same time giving you more of a sense of freedom and purpose than in a lot of the rest of the genre. It’s the sort of game I see myself sitting down to play a few rounds of with my son 10 years for now, just because it’s “bubble wrap popping fun,” as Keith and I tend to say. Right now we’re working on a few other really huge projects, but once those are done this is currently next on our list, and we’re looking forward to varying things up with something smaller and relatively simpler.

Thanks for reading!

Resources

Site page for the game (just the same content as this post, for now)

Forums for the game

Updated Website, And Both Blogs Have Moved!

ArcenGames.com has been overhauled, and as part of that we’ve pulled both of our blogs (our News blog and our Games By Design blog) into this main site itself.

Please update your bookmarks, or your RSS feeds (although RSS subscribers from Games By Design should already find themselves repointed thanks to feedburner).

The new blog is on the main ArcenGames.com website, and combines the content from both prior blogs.  The RSS feeds are a bit better set up now, too:

If you want to get absolutely EVERYTHING (the equivalent of previously subscribing to both blogs), then here’s your link for that RSS: http://feeds.feedburner.com/ArcenGames.  That’s a new url, so if you want that you’ll need to subscribe to it fresh.

If you want just the main newsworthy stuff, not all the smaller product updates and minor sales and such, then the following is the RSS for you: http://feeds.feedburner.com/ArcenGamesNewsworthy.

Note that all previous subscribers to the Games By Design blog automatically are now getting the equivalent of the http://feeds.feedburner.com/ArcenGamesNewsworthy feed, but under the name http://feeds.feedburner.com/ChristopherMPark-Blog, since that’s what that particular RSS feed has been called since 2007.  You can either switch to the ArcenGamesNewsworthy feed or stay on ChristopherMPark-Blog, they are both the same and will both remain live.

Also, another cool feature!  If you want to subscribe to a particular category — any category you see on our site — you can now do so.  For instance:

– For this category: https://arcengames.com/category/aiwar/
— There is this feed: https://arcengames.com/category/aiwar/feed/

– And this category: https://arcengames.com/category/gamedesign/
— Has this feed: https://arcengames.com/category/gamedesign/feed/

And so on.  Pretty handy!

Steam Summer Sale 2014: Arcen Titles 25-80% Off (Ends June 30th)

Steam’s annual summer sale is upon us, and Arcen is once again participating with significant discounts on our entire library of games. These discounts will run the duration of the sale, ending the morning of June 30th:

Announcing AI War: Destroyer of Worlds

When in doubt, use bigger warheads.

AI War: Destroyer of Worlds, the sixth expansion pack for AI War: Fleet Command, focuses on two new optional features:

Nomad Planets introduces dynamic topology to AI War for the first time, giving the player new challenges and opportunities beyond the previously-static wormhole network. One of the Nomads also holds a secret weapon of truly dire power (that gives the expansion its title, hint hint).

The Exodian Blade is a powerful alternate way-to-win, but getting there is a multi-stage journey with a great deal of desperate fighting once things get going.

Beyond those two key features, this expansion also adds:
* 8 new AI types, from the humorous/annoying “Kite Flier” and “Cowardly” to the monomaniacal “Starship Fanatic” to the aptly named “Brutal”. There’s also “Mime”. Never trust mimes.
* A new “Encapsulated” map style (screenshot).
* 4 new Bonus Ship Types, including the Neinzul Combat Carrier (with Beam Drones, Rail Drones, Spider Drones, and Grav Drones) and the Maw-gone-mad Powerslaver.
* 2 new AI Guardian types, including the Combat Carrier Guardian (so humans don’t get to have all the ludicrous-drone fun).
* A new “Preemption” optional AI Plot that lets the AI start taking more direct action against you from the start.
* More awesome music from Pablo Vega! (that’s still being worked on, but will be added for the official release)

A more in-depth look at the expansion can be found here.

AI War: Destroyer of Worlds is slated for official release in August 2014, and we’ll be running a closed beta until then. If you’re interested in testing and providing feedback on the expansion during the closed beta, please send me (keith.lamothe) a PM on our forums.

We’ll be contacting the first wave of testers that have already signed up later this afternoon.

In other news, we’ve also added Steam Trading Cards for AI War. Enjoy!

AI War Beta 7.036-7.040 “Sanding Before The Storm” Released!

This one is more bugfixes and balance work. Important stuff, especially the metal/energy-related changes, but just polish.

What’s more than polish is the upcoming expansion, which we’ll announce with actual details tomorrow (Thursday, probably noonish eastern time).

We’ll be doing a closed beta that will run until the expansion’s official release (alongside the 8.0 offficial release) in early August. If you’re interested in being part of the beta please PM me (keith.lamothe) on the forums.

Update: 7.037 is out with some text updates specific to the new expansion.

Update: 7.038 is out to hotfix some problems with unlocking the mkII/III versions of the bonus ship types from the new expansion.

Update: 7.039 is out to fix several bugs discovered early in the new expansion’s beta, so the testers can proceed without them in the way.

Update: 7.040 is out with another batch of fixes for the new expansion’s beta.

Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 4.000 or later. When you launch the game, you’ll see the notice of the update having been found if you’re connected to the Internet at the time. If you don’t have 4.000 or later, you can download that here.