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!