230 Days Of Work And A Lot To Show For It
This is one of the more challenging sets of release notes I’ve ever had to write up, and not for any bad reason. How can I really summarize 90 beta releases that span 230 days (Jul 17th, 2021 to today), and which have full notes that are 184 thousand words long? I can’t even just skim those full release notes, because they are longer than TWO trade paperback novels.
So… please know that this is super-abbreviated, however long this turns out to be. Let’s talk big picture, first:
Why did we go into beta at all?
The short version is that I wanted:
- The code to be able to monitor itself, and in particular mods, to look for bad behavior (memory leaks or performance issues, in particular).
- The performance to be better than we had before, despite the extra monitoring we were going to be doing.
- The data structures that we were using to make sense in the context of the way factions and faction modding had turned out, which was way more robust than I’d ever expected.
- And for all this to work equally well in multiplayer or single-player.
I figured this might take about a month. The core of this took two months, and then cleanup took another half year while also developing out new and improved features. If we had halted all development, that process would have been faster, but it also would have more bugs at this point. Instead, we put all the new-feature development alongside the fixing-fallout-from-the-refactor, and that was a much better way to handle that.
All Old Savegames Do Not Translate Forward!
Hopefully everyone knows that I’m a really big proponent of keeping savegame compatibility, so I don’t break something like that lightly. AI War Classic went through 6 years of development and never broke long-term savegame compatibility.
With AI War 2, we hit a point where there were simply too many architectural gains that we could make by reformatting things, and so this beta is the singular long-term save breaking build we’re going to do. If you have existing games you want to finish from prior to this build, you will need to do that via the Betas tab. There’s a y_historical_3_309 that will let you finish older games from pre-4.0, and that will be left in place indefinitely.
Big Picture, What Is New?
This has been a technical revolution for the game, and performance is better than ever, a well as using however many cores you have. Multiplayer works better than ever before. There are multiple new modes of play, called “Campaign Types.” There are a bunch of new features for the base game, and for DLC1, all available now (the price of DLC1 is also rising today to match that of DLC2 and 3). Modular ships are a thing now, as one example of new stuff.
How about a list? I am going to omit everything that is from DLC3 development, because that gets even longer.
- “The Great Refactor” has new code structures, with BaseInfo and DeepInfo, and there are guides to programming mods in thathere on youtube.
- The threading model has been reworked three separate times, improving each time, and here are some conceptual diagrams that help make it clearer how that works.
- Multiplayer works on an entirely new premise, and here’s a conceptual diagram for how that works. It’s wonderfully effective.
- Wormhole Invasions have been completely reworked from scratch by Badger, and are a lot more fun now.
- The unit tooltips have been almost entirely reworked by -NR-SirLimbo, and the number of readability improvements in them is voluminous.
- Raid Engines now have a ton more features, thanks again to -NR-SirLimbo.
- The number of balance improvements made to the base game and DLC1 and DLC2 is just hard to really overstate, and that’s mostly been the work of Zeus Almighty and CRCGamer, with some assists from a number of other folks.
- DLC1: New map type! “Classic” has been added by Badger, and it provides an experience a lot like the Realistic map type did in AIWC. Instantly a favorite for me.
- DLC1: Mods and otherwise can now define “GameEntityTypeData Extensions“, which is very useful for mods.
- DLC1: New Chaotic map type, created by tom.prince!
- The game now has support for Total Conversion mods, which in turn also support mods of those mods. RocketAssistedPuffin is working on a giant first TC mod, called Classic Fusion, which blends aspects of the first and second games together. That is not yet out, but it’s cool that it works.
- DLC1: There is a new Ark Empire player type, which lets you have a powerful Ark instead of your normal home command station. It’s a more nomadic, challenging way to play. It’s a lot like the earliest versions of the game that were closer to the original kickstarter design document, but more fun (if a bit less like traditional AI War).
- DLC1: Spire-Infused Empires provide a new way to experience the Fallen Spire campaign without having to do relic chases or any of that business. You just have spire cities from the start and start duking it out with the AI from moment one. Big thanks to Badger for implementing this design.
- DLC1: Modular ships have been added! The first ones to get this are the Spirecraft ships, but you can also find this on the CRCGamer’s Riot Control Cruiser in DLC2, and on many ships in the upcoming DLC3.
- DLC1: Doomsday Mode. This was an idea from Puffin, implemented by Badger, which sees the galaxy collapse into oblivion around you as you play. Win fast or perish along with your foes!
- Ironman Mode has come to the game, allowing you to play games where you can’t save-scum. Big thanks to Badger for adding this.
- Roguelike Additions have also been added to the base game, including things like adding random factions, or adding some random game features. Again big thanks to Badger.
- There have been so many quality of life features that I can’t even really go over them all. Notifications, intel, and so many other things now work better than ever.
- There’s a new in-game Ship Encyclopedia, which automatically includes data from any mods you have enabled. It has a varied of helpful categorizations of ships (big thanks to Puffin for filling out all that data!), plus the ability to filter, search, and sort by various types of data.
- The game is now able to detect when specific NPC factions are behaving in a way that will be draining to the performance of the game, and shows that.
- DLC1: Warheads and Interplanetary weapons have been added, but more about that in another section.
- DLC1: New Spire Dyson Spheres factions implemented by StarKelp, along with a big overhaul to the Zenith Dyson Sphere in the base game, and a new Splintering Spire faction. More about those below.
- DLC1: New Chromatic Horror faction that wanders around and causes chaos as it goes.
- A CPU Load Estimator in the lobby now lets you know what level of CPU Load the game you are contemplating is likely to require in the late game. The early game pretty much always performs great (better than ever now, too), but if you’re setting yourself up for a choppy late-game experience, you now can see that.
- A bunch of art from the base game, and DLC1 got major improvements! Also a lot of new art for DLC2!
There are some major omissions from that list, which I’m going to talk about separately:
Campaign Types: Expert Mode and Beyond
This is a huge topic all on its own, but essentially these are new ways to experience the general content of the game. These have increased complexity, or more formalized rules, or both. They also tend to get increasingly difficult, but you can use lower-difficulty enemies in concert with a more complex campaign type, so it’s not purely a matter of difficulty. This is more about the complexity of strategic thinking, if that makes sense.
Humanity Ascendant is the default gameplay mode, and the one you’ve known for quite some time. HA campaigns are dynamic, aggressive, and reward the seizure of territory with powerful features even if they are difficult to defend. Your primary challenge will be assembling a force that can crack the AI Homeworld(s) without allowing the AI to scale beyond your means to defend against. Other than your home command station, there are few strategic locations that are critical to defend, making HA campaigns more of a cat-and-mouse war.
Challenger is a new mode, which basically just disables some of the more cheat-style configuration options from the lobby, as well as enforcing a few things like Distributed Economy (making your metal harvesters worth defending), as well as a few other minor tweaks.
Expert is an alternate, more difficult, official campaign type for AI War 2. Expert campaigns are tense and complex, where you must choose your strategic targets very carefully and have many fronts that you must defend. You must fight a minimum of two AIs, like in the original game — a lot of the complexity of the game is lost when you only have one AI, because you don’t get that ramp-up in challenge after defeating the first one, and have to figure out how to still deal with the second one.
In addition to everything that Challenger mode adds, this mode forces on mechanics that make beachheading harder to cheese. You also get only one Battlestation at the start, rather than two. There are some other features that are only forced on for Expert, but you can enable most of those features in lower modes as well.
Logistician is basically Expert mode, but with the addition of Fuel to manage. Fuel is a complex new system, and we encourage you to give it a try, but it’s not going to be for everyone. Fuel makes you have to take more planets, has a major impact on the general flow of your game, and requires you to manage logistics in a way that the game otherwise does not ask of you. Expect some new Strategic Sage videos on this subject shortly, as he was one of the primary architects behind this and the other higher-complexity game modes.
Deathwish is the final new campaign type, and it is meant for brutalizing people with permanent losses of key items when they make a mistake, restricted map types, enforced ironman, and other not-for-mainstream-play type of features. This is basically the “Full Sage” mode.
In general, we don’t directly maintain mods ourselves, but here’s what is going on with all the mods:
- Devourer Chrysalis by NR SirLimbo, adds devourer golems that can evolve and change.
- From Spire Frigate to Dreadnought by ArnaudB, adds the ability to upgrade the Lone Spire Frigate to upgrade in various ways.
- Lost Humans by StarKelp adds a whole host of cool things that are actually only possible because of the new code framework. This was StarKelp’s way of creating some cool stuff while experimenting around in the new framework.
- Strategic Rebalance by Zweihand, gives an experience a bit more like the original AI War. There are also line items for DLC1 and DLC2 for this.
Substantially Updated Mods
- AMU – a lot of the “cheat engine” type of features from this have been moved from this mod by NR SirLimbo into the base game itself, and the rest of the parts of this mod have been updated to work with the new code framework.
- Civilian Industry by StarKelp has been massively overhauled to better code standards and the new code framework.
- Capturable Dreadnoughts by Zweihand
- Exotic Ships by -NR-SirLimbo
- Extended Ship Variants by -NR-SirLimbo
- Frigate Focus, by CRCGamer
- Micro Mod Collection by -NR-SirLimbo
- More Frigates by Zweihand
- More Starting Fleets by Zweihand
- More System Defenders by CRCGamer
- Powerful Command Stations by ArnaudB
- Raising The Floor Multi AI Adjustment by ArnaudB
- Supercharge Raiders by ArnaudB
- Super Saiyan Overlord by Zweihand
- Tame Dark Spire by ArnaudB
- AI Shield Generators, by cml. Originally we were going to fold this into the main game for Expert mode, and I did some official art for shield generators, but we decided to not make this a part of the main game. I believe cml is planning to resurrect this mod with some new options at some point.
- Kaizer’s Marauders by -NR-SirLimbo was a very popular faction, but for now it’s disabled as it has never been ported to the new code framework.
- More Starting Fleets Plus by Zweihand. I believe that the contents of this contextually turn on as part of the main More Starting Fleets mod, now, so this one was just redundant,
- Spire Railgun Shop by Lord of Nothing has been discontinued, because the titular railguns are now available as a part of DLC1 as modules on the new modular Spire. Done with permission from Lord of Nothing!
- The Reprocessers by CRZgatecrusher. This hasn’t been updated to the new code standards, and it’s the one other big code-based mod other than Kaizer’s Marauders that has been left behind in this way.
New DLC1 Features
A lot of these were mentioned above, but basically it’s two new map types, modular ships (fallen spire particularly, but the feature in general for modding purposes), Ark Empire and Spire-Infused Empire player types, and then the new Spire factions from StarKelp. About those new factions…
DLC1: Splintering Spire
A large scale war between the Dark Spire and all Sphere factions in the galaxy. Sphere factions will unleash small task forces that band together in an attempt to dismantle Dark Spire VG for parts, while the Dark Spire VG will be far more likely to expand. As Dark Spire VGs are destroyed, they will leave behind Derelicts, that Sphere factions will than fight over for extra income for their respective factions. Yesterday’s friend is tomorrow’s foe.
A Gray Sphere, a Chromatic Sphere, and a Dark Spire faction will be automatically included when this Faction is enabled, and these factions will use the Intensity set on this faction.
If you help either the Gray Spire or Chromatic Spire become suitably dominant, you will be able to hack them in order to get either Warheads (Gray Spire) or Interplanetary Weapons (Chromatic Spire), respectively.
HIGH IMPACT: By enabling this, not only are you adding in two Sphere factions and a Dark Spire faction, but every single one will be stronger than normal, and be actively aiming to fight. You will have a whole other war to worry about during your own.
Most notably, the Dark Spire do not care who attacked them, and will be out for blood. You’ll want to shore up your defenses more than usual to account for this.
DLC1: Spire Dyson Spheres
In addition to the Zenith Dyson Sphere, you can in general choose to have Gray Spire Dyson Spheres, or Chromatic Spire Dyson Spheres without getting the entire Splintering Spire thing going. They are beautiful and deadly and really cool to have around.
Oh, and there’s also the Chromatic Spire, too. Man there’s so much!
Technically I’m still noting that part of the game as being in beta (as it always has been), but that status will be gone within the next month. Most of the serious issues are gone now, but there are still enough nits that I want a last bit of extra testing before I call that non-beta.
It’s quite playable now, though, and the worst thing that might happen is that a client might need to disconnect and reconnect to solve some passing issue. This is a major milestone for us!
Yeah, we’ve been really busy on this. And there’s more to come soon. We’re also going to do a Developer Supporter Pack DLC before too long, because the fact is that we don’t make a living from this game (I have a huge financial loss from it actually). But I’m really proud of how this is shaping up, and the Complete Edition with the truly giant third DLC is also coming within about six weeks, give or take a tiny bit.