BETA AI War 2 v0.850 Released! “The Arrival of Fleets”

Release notes here.

To play it, you MUST go into your Steam properties for the game, go under the Betas tab, and choose the “current_beta” option.  Otherwise you’re going to be stuck on the much-older (heck it’s been a month and a half now) version of the game.

Soooo… I’m a little stuck as to what to even say, here.  Here’s what this is, in a nutshell, I guess:

  • The game was feeling stagnant (to me personally) for a variety of reasons, and I wrote up a big document about what I intended to do to fix that.
  • I figured that an initial proof of concept would take “a week,” and in an ideal world it might have been possible.  But that’s obviously not what happened.
  • Instead of a small proof of concept, we actually doubled down on a lot of the most interesting things going on in the new build, and that document I originally linked doesn’t even convey the full scope of what has already changed.
  • This also actually slaughtered a ton of bugs and to-dos and complaints from mantis and the steam forums, so good stuff all around.
  • Hooray!  Month and a half well spent.
  • That said:
  • We’re missing some things again, like tutorials, quick starts, and a fleet management screen.
  • Also I hate the icons and the ships tab, functionally and visually.  This is not new.
  • There’s probably a ton of bugs, given only three of us have been testing this at all, and we haven’t even tried to test all the parts that are here.

Why should you play this new build?

  • If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty and want to help us refinement (bug reports, please!).
  • If you already mostly know what you’re doing with the game, and are just ready to play the next phase of it.

Under what circumstances should you NOT play this new build?  It’s under the BETA tab for a reason:

  • If you just want to play a game that is polished and doesn’t have any blatantly missing pieces, I’d advise waiting for 0.900.
  • If you have an allergy to bugs, and/or the thought of losing your savegame repeatedly prior to 0.900 bothers you, then I’d wait.
  • If you have no idea what you’re doing and would like some form of tutorial, then this absolutely isn’t for you yet.

What’s Actually New?

  • I just… this is where I struggle.
  • Most everything is refined.
  • The release notes are over 20k words long.
  • The initial document describing what is changing and why was 12k on its own.
  • Control groups are gone and fleets are in, and fleets are awesome and a player-side thing.
  • The docks tab is gone and a new fleets tab is in.  That one is only partially implemented.
  • The way techs work is completely redone, and is way better.
  • The way hacking and planet capture work are way better.
  • Many bugs were fixed, and achievements (not yet on Steam, but local at least) have been added.
  • There were a variety of AI improvements, and mapgen got a whole heck of a lot of overhauling.
  • Your ability to field a large force of spaceships, and to customize what sort of defenses your planets have, is through the roof compared to earlier versions of this game or the original game.
  • Transports are gone, but all your mobile flagships (Arks or Golems) now can do that.  Press L to load and U to unload.
  • Factories (formerly docks) are now incredibly automated, and the whole concept of things like build queues, rally points, and so on are all gone.  It just does what you want, now, without you having to tell it how.  You more or less tell it how by what you build and where you put things.
  • Scouting has been completely revamped from the ground up, and there’s a “hard mode” for that if you want.  It’s mostly automated and thus serves the role of gradual-information-dispensing that it was always supposed to.  There’s no way for you to cheese or grind it anymore.
  • The way AIs defend their planets is completely different, and each planet is much more of a puzzle box for you to solve.
  • There are way fewer capturables around the galaxy in a types-of-things-to-hack sense, like for instance Design Servers and all that sort of thing are gone.  This might seem alarming.  Even after writing the original big document, it alarmed me.
  • But the reality is that there is more to capture than ever before, in the form of partially procedurally-generated FLEETS of ships that each dramatically improve your offensive or defensive (or both!) power.  It’s shockingly gratifying as a way to grow in power, and the galaxy is absolutely littered with these things.  You can really field quite the force, now.
  • The way the AI buys stuff is completely different (from how it worked before and from how it works for you, too), and it’s way more effective and scary and interesting.
  • Your risk of losing very early into the game because you left your king (in a Chess sense) undefended is higher than ever, especially if you play with many factions on.  Your risk of losing in the middle and late game is also a lot higher.
  • In general things happen faster (not in a reaction-time sense, but in a not-waiting-for-things sense), and you’re both more powerful and more exposed at all times.  Games that are won are likely to be several hours shorter, and I expect that games that are lost are likely to be even shorter compared to their counterparts in earlier versions or the prior game.
  • There are literally dozens of new ship variants and new ship types.  It’s actually kind of absurd how much new stuff there is.  The sense of discovery, even for me, is notable as I look through the galaxy.  That new stuff isn’t marginalized, either, which is doubly cool.  You’ll actually be seeing it with frequency, just not all in one big ugly soup.
  • A bunch of stuff that took two or three steps (like colony ships!  hackers!  etc!) has been simplified a lot to just be one step.  Efficiency!  Let’s get on with it.
  • Savegames are vastly smaller in size, but actually have more data in them.  We’re using a completely different format.
  • The tutorial is disabled right now because we have to completely go in and redo how that works.
  • If you’re interested in our most immediate todo list, here it is.  Though some of that is misleading, because some of that stuff we might not wind up doing until after 1.0 or even at all.  I’m really not sure the hyperspace stuff is a good idea.  That applies to several things on the list.  But it’s a working list.

Badger and Puffin and I would all love to have your thoughts on this, as we’ve been working on all sorts of various elements of it.  The absolute scale of this game has been rather staggeringly shoved in my face as I’ve undertaken this rework, but rather than stop with half measures and just implement band-aids, I’ve been going for the full deal fix as I see it.  So hence a month and a half rather than a week.

What Now?

What happens next is that we finish up some of the interfaces, decide whether or not to do some of those items on the todo list or leave well enough alone, fix a bunch of bugs and balance things that you guys toss at us, and then we’ll ditch the beta status and go back to main steam branch builds when we hit that massive 0.900 build.  That will basically be this version, but fully finished and polished and with tutorials and all that jazz.  Think of this as kind of the needed preview version, and also a way for us to get a bunch of bugs out of the way (thanks to you finding them) without us inflicting them on people who just want to play the old version of the game.

Remember way back a year or so ago when we did “The Pivot,” and that was the largest change in the game that I thought it was going to have?  That brought us mechanically back toward the first game in a huge number of ways.  It also started a bunch of people asking if this game was just a reskin or what.  This new version, the arrival of the Fleets concept, basically is 2.0 of the concept of The Pivot.  Mechanically this takes us actually really far from the first game, and anyone asking about reskin status at this point after seeing any of the ui I will seriously wonder about.  But gameplay-thematically and game-flow-wise this is taking us way back toward the first game, back to what I loved about it in its earliest days.

In a lot of respects, at this point the amount of content is so astounding thanks to things like procedural fleets that I’m feeling like the smartest way to reach 1.0 from here is to focus on polishing the mechanics and interfaces, fixing bugs, getting multiplayer in, and in general going for something tightly polished (and still huge) versus dripping with even more new mechanics.  We can save that stuff for post-1.0.

In the shortest term, my goal is to get to a really stable and awesome 0.900 build, which should be the best version of AIW2 to date, and potentially better than any of the AIWC builds.  We shall see.  The proof is in the pudding, and today you guys finally get to actually get to taste things.  Hope you enjoy!

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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