Category: Newsworthy

AI War 2 — v2.999 DLC Eve

New build! https://wiki.arcengames.com/index.php?title=AI_War_2:Finalizing_Multiplayer#2.999_DLC_Eve

(Reminder that if you have trouble with the build, you can always go into betas and choose most_recent_stable to go one build back. This is how I sleep at night after making some major changes.)

Lots of last minute fixes and tweaks, a lot of them the sort of thing where we went “how did none of our testers find this?” But Democracy and some others ran a long game last night and found a whole crop of new bugs, so those got squashed.

Speaking of bugs, a not-so-new bug from the last few weeks has been making multiplayer just miserable for the clients, and I could not figure it out for the life of me. After chasing it for a long time, and getting lots of reports that I couldn’t replicate, I was finally able to replicate it. Once it was replicatable, its days were numbered. It turned out to be three complex bugs in one, but they’re all fixed now and so the client experience is a lot more sane. No more disappearing fleets and units.

On the DLC2 front — hey, that launches in about 11.5 hours from now! — there’s some really cool new additions as well, with some last minute new controls to allow you more control over targeting crashing nomad planets or zenith miners. These are semi-wildcard type aspects of DLC2 when you enable them, so the ability to use hacking points to turn them to your advantage (rather than having no choice but to fight and defeat them if they were unfavorable to you) adds a lot of new strategic options for advanced players in particular. For casual play, it still adds options, but it probably won’t be game-deciding at that level.

SirLimbo’s mods got some updates as well, and Tzarro helped us find a ton of typos that are now fixed, most in the base game. Oh! There’s two new fun cheat codes for DLC2. One to get all Zeus’s cruisers, and the other to spawn a Miner Probe.

Titan Edition and DLC2 arrive super soon. Enjoy!

AI War 2 v2.800 Released! “The New Paradigm”

It’s been one hundred and twenty-nine days since the last major release writeup, with forty-nine releases in all (all on the public beta branch), and notes starting here and spanning a further… one hundred and four thousand words.

That is literally midsize novel-length.  If you haven’t been reading as it went, I’m not sure that I can quite summarize everything, so let’s hit the high points.

The TLDR Of The Paradigm Shift

“Everything is the same but also different” is a good way to phrase this, I think.

Most of the central concepts of the game are the same — how combat works, how the economy works, what techs there are, how you upgrade in broad terms,  and so on.  Much of the new version should feel very very familiar, which is of course the idea.  If you are a player with next to no hours under your belt, the two versions are pretty much indistinguishable except for the many UI improvements.

And yet.  If you have a dozen or more hours in the game, this is going to feel like VERY alien territory for a short while.  Essentially everything you ever knew about the meta for the game is changed in very drastic fashion, and even some of the major goals of the game (like Global Command Augmenters) don’t exist anymore.

Word from most of our beta testers has generally been along the lines of “holy cow, this is vastly better in almost every way.”  (The second bit of opinion is also “hey, the game got a bit easier — so many bump the AI difficulty up by 1 from what it was before for whatever your play level was.”)

Anyhow.  The game’s meta allows for more playstyles, is more flexible, is more fun, and is still plenty challenging if you tune your difficulty or add extra factions.  As to what changed and why, I’ll get into the major items down below.

We also have a wide array of under-the-hood improvements for you in this build, plus tons of new mods by independent mod authors.  Our second paid expansion for the game, Zenith Onslaught, is coming May 18th with an absolutely gargantuan amount of content.

New Video Tutorials

While this rarely happens, the meta of the game has shifted dramatically over the course of the beta. Basically all of the older video tutorials for this game are now nonsensical in the new paradigm.  They give advice that is now blatantly backwards, they talk about units that don’t exist, and they describe a meta that has entirely moved on.

Thankfully, both Strategic Stage and eXplorminate Rob have been making new videos for you for the last few months.  Huge thanks to both of them, and also to the mountains of suggestions from both of them that helped to refine this new Paradigm over the course of the beta period.

Here are their suggested starting points:

Area 1: Balance Curves

This is the first thing that chucks the old meta out the window, and it’s paired with lots of subtle balance changes to a variety of techs and ships.  But, essentially, the way in which you get stronger is fundamentally different.

Old Meta: You can invest in limited technology pairs to get a few ship lines to Mark 7.  Whatever fits with that is pretty much what you have to stick to.  Anything outside of this is basically chaff, and potentially quite useless.

This means you were heavily dependent on the RNG, and have a small force of elite units mixed that you use, with a large group of ships that may not even be worth it to bring to battle.

New Meta: Aim for mark 4, not mark 7, in most cases.  Try to get as many to mark 4+ as possible, if you want maximum strength.  The ramp-up of a single unit is still linear (thus mark 7 is stronger than mark 4), BUT the number of ships you are granted goes up rapidly in the lower marks and tapers once you reach mark 4 (for strikecraft; for frigates, it goes more to mark 5, and for turrets it’s mark 6).

Don’t worry!  You actually get even more ships at mark 7 than you would have had in the old paradigm.  But if you are minmaxing, or even broadly trying to optimize, investing your science points super narrowly is no longer ideal.

TLDR: it is way more viable to upgrade widely, while still investing deeply in a few specialist areas.  You’ll use more of your forces, have vastly higher strength in general, higher unit counts, and more flexibility in how to play.  You’re free of the shackles of the RNG, while still needing to adapt to what you find.

If you want the really long explanation of all of this, there are multiple spreadsheets for you to read if you want.  They’re all linked there in the release notes.

Area 2: More Asymmetry

You and the AI are now MUCH more differentiated.  The AI no longer gets frigates at all, but their guardians are way more fearsome.  AI waves are vastly larger, but so are your defenses.  The AI has more nasty tools in more places, but you have more ways to hack or bypass or even take them over.

TLDR: essentially the AI and the humans both got massive makeovers, both got more exciting, but also both diverged increasingly from one another.

Area 3: Less RNG

Old Meta: There were many places where you were handed a very specific ship, or three ships, and you got no choice relating to them.  Take them or don’t.  In some cases, you could hack to do a “re-roll” and see if the new options were more to your liking.  This was incredibly suboptimal.  It encouraged both save-scumming and a gambling-style mentality.

New Meta: Most places that offer you a ship now offer you only one at a time, BUT give you a choice between something like 6-8 options.  There’s no such thing as a gambling-style re-roll.  In most of these locations, once you select your first ship, it wipes the slate and gives you a new array of options.  You can’t save-scum to optimize this (that wastes your time!).

TLDR: You have a LOT more choice now, but it’s more meaningful choice.  You may not get your exact favorite units, but you can get something that fits with the current campaign in some way.  You are encouraged to explore new units, but not forced to do so.

Break For: Technical Improvements

Let’s take a break from discussing the meta, and talk about the technical improvements.  Briefly.  Essentially:

  • We’re running a newer version of the unity engine.  This runs smoother for most everyone, but some very old Windows 7 machines or High Sierra machines may have problems.  Both of those OSes are old enough that they do not get even critical security updates from Microsoft or Apple, so you are strongly advised to update in both cases.
  • OpenGL support on Mac OSX is removed, but Metal has been optimized and polished to work super well.  This is basically leaning into how Apple prefers games to work, and the results are actually quite stunning even on really old hardware that is below minimum system requirements.  My main mac I test with is a 2011 Macbook Pro that is well under minimum requirements, and it runs far more smoothly now.
  • RAM usage has been optimized for the base game and the first DLC, to a huge extent.
  • The way we draw things like circles in the game has been improved so that it’s more attractive, and way more efficient.  If you draw a bunch of range circles, it’s now both prettier and more performant.
  • Linux support also got some various boosts, and Vulkan on that and other platforms should work much better now, too.

Area 4: Science Refunds

Old Meta: You spend science to upgrade your ships  or fleets, and it’s gone forever.  If you find something later in the game that makes you wish you had chosen differently, too bad.  For this reason, most players would “float” large balances of un-spent science points until late in the game.  This actually was the single largest thing contributing to the complexity spike leading into the midgame, in my opinion.

Related: Hacking Points (HaP) were also spend-and-gone-forever, but for most players there is so little of worth to hack that you will have an abundance, making this kind of a non-factor.

New Meta: You still spend science to upgrade your ships or fleets, but you can get it back at a later point by using a new button at the bottom of the Science sidebar tab.  This will cost you some hacking points (HaP) to do, so you can’t just do it infinitely, but it’s a very attractive offer and allows you to go all-in on science during the early, middle, and late game.  It allows you to transform your empire as you grow and as you find out more of what is available to you, which is extremely nice.

AI War 2 is very much about adapting and working with what you have on hand. The ability to respec your spent science, both in tech categories and individual fleets/command stations allows you to be MUCH more flexible than before. So start experimenting!

Related: Hacking Points are still spend-and-gone-forever.   And you have more than ever.  However, now there’s a LOT more to hack, and that is brought into the forefront in general.  Some folks (like Strategic Sage) still carry large balances of extra HaP as they play, but most playstyles will see you having to make fairly tough calls with how you use these.

TLDR: Science points now firmly represent empire-design, and as such allow you to make changes  as you go.  Asking you to commit to techs forever, based on your limited early game knowledge in any campaign, is just plain unfair and unfun, so is gone.

Hacking points, however, have stepped up to occupy the role of “decision with long term consequences, but you need to make it anyway.”  The nature of these is that using them is substantially less stressful, but still impactful.  I want both elements in the game, but I don’t want you (or me) to be stressing out about the long-term side of things above a certain threshold.

Area 5: Hacking, In General

Old Meta: The interface was very clunky, but you could hack to sometimes weaken some AI stuff, but not much of it.  You could also sometimes hack certain buildings to gain new powers for yourself.  But overall you could honestly ignore a lot of this if you were not playing on a high level.

New Meta: The interface is pretty and helpful, and the number of things you can hack — enemies, friends, even yourself — is insanely high.  You hack for new ships, you hack to steal superweapons, you hack to turbocharge your golems, you hack to transform your transports or battlestations.  And occasionally to get some science points refunded.  Additionally, there is a small bonus for taking planets adjacent to your own. While it isn’t a lot, it does add a nice little dynamic.

The effect this has on the game is immense, because (for instance) if you previously felt like your Armored Golem was a paper person in the presence of your current foe, you can not only upgrade it via science, but you can also hack it to directly improve its hull.

TLDR: Your hacking points are now super precious, because now it’s a target-rich environment for them.  You may still have extras at the end (the float is not a bad idea), but there are easily 5x more things for you to do with hacking points than you can actually ever acquire.  So your priorities will reveal themselves.

Area 6: “GCAs” and Battlestations

Old Meta: You start with one battlestation.    You can capture more.  There are also citadels out there, which are a bit overpriced but kind of the same thing.  They all are what they are when you find them.  For most of your defenses, you will rely on your command stations, and finding Global Command Augmenters (GCAs) to unlock loads of new turrets for them.  You get new turrets in overwhelming lumps all at once.  In some cases you have to hold planets if you don’t want to spend hacking points.

New Meta: You start with TWO battlestations, and can never get any more of them.  You can choose to capture Citadels, which are way more expensive but also way more useful.  GCAs are gone, and Turret Schematic Servers (TSSes) and Other Defensive Schematic Servers (ODSSes) are out there instead.

The hack for a TSS or similar can be done 2-3 times, and gets more dangerous and also more expensive each time you do it (per building).  You get to choose ONE line of turrets or other defenses to add to your kit, and then it rerolls for a whole new set of choices after that.  Most of the time, your hacks will benefit all of your command stations AND your battlestations and citadels, but you can also do special hacks that give extra ship cap for that turret line to just one battlestation or citadel, instead.

TLDR: You’re no longer so flooded with information about new things you just got (“here are four new turrets, all at once”), and you can also choose specific units that you want to acquire, with some limitations.  In other words, your empire is designed with much more intention, and there are no “useless units” cluttering things up all over the place.

Break For: UI/QoL Improvements

Let’s take another break, this time for something that has been very exciting to basically everyone who plays the game:

  • The planet sidebar now has many new options, including list view, views broken out by faction, new sort options, and even fleet displays.
  • There’s a handy writeup in the How To Play menu under  Getting Started that explains how this works in more detail.
  • Seriously, that new planet sidebar is fire.  You can make it look like it always used to if you prefer, but the usability of it has gone through the ceiling.
  • The various settings-style menus now not only have subcategories (THANK you, organization!), but they also divide their content into regular and advanced.  The advanced content is just one click away, but otherwise kept out of your face unless you turn it on.
  • You can now multi-move ship lines around, or even swap fleet leaders between fleets.  There was much rejoicing.

Area 7: Other Capturable Changes

There’s a lot, so let’s go through them just briefly:

  • Fleet Research Stations (FRSes) actually are super useful now.  Their units are not so overpriced, but also only work on smaller individual fleets.
  • IGCs and similar have been removed, as they were redundant with other aspects of the new meta.
  • The Advanced Research Station (ARS) now uses that new style of hacking for units that gives you more choice in a serial fashion, without ever needing rerolls.
  • Fleet Capacity Extenders (FCEs) were also removed, as they clashed with the new FRS design, and also were pretty darn redundant now that you have so much choice directly from the ARSes and so forth.
  • You will capture comparably few fleets, and you can’t make custom ones anymore from the sidebar, so you won’t have a bunch of idle transports sitting around anymore on your home planet.  You have enough to meet your needs, but rarely too many more than that.
  • In the event that you DO have extra transports even in the new model, they can now be strategically placed on economy-focused plants to give a passive economy buff if you leave them on that planet for at least 5 minutes.  Even your “useless” stuff is now quite useful.
  • When it comes to upgrading your Fallen Spire cities, this is now done via clicking a notice at the top of the screen.  Previously it did it automatically, sometimes in a non-ideal order.  Now you get to control the order in which it happens.
  • Outguard units are easier to get into contact with, and hopefully will become a part of more midlevel player strategies.  Advanced play has used them for a while, but they are vastly easier to understand now.

Area 8: A More Active AI

This is another one that is hard to summarize into any one thing.  But in general, here are some highlights you will quickly notice:

  • AI waves sizes are CRAZY stronger.  They were previously incredibly rare and very weak.  They are still not something that is likely to end the game for you, but they actually factor in now.  They are also no longer cowards. They used to run away the moment you out-strengthed them in turrets. These new waves are a part of the “Relentless AI” subfaction; that means they will fight to the death and constantly seek to do battle with you.
  • Phase 2 of the AI Overlord is a lot more interesting and intense, and the final battle got several buffs in general.
  • AI Reserves are smarter.
  • So are the AI Praetorian Guard, Hunter, and Warden.
  • The AI Warden in particular is way more aggressive, fine with losses, and able to regenerate itself a bit faster than before.  It doesn’t have to worry about carefully preserving itself, and in some ways is actually more similar to your forces in that it can take a beating, regroup, and try again.
  • Overall the style of the AI is less “try to wait until the player cannot possibly win before we attack at all” and is instead “harass them at various levels constantly, and exploit any openings that come up… while holding some forces in reserve for those decisive strikes that are so effective when timed well.”

Area 9: Massive Balance Work

This is the work of many people, mostly longtime players and/or modders who have turned volunteer.  ArnaudB, CRCGamer, and Zeus Almighty are the three largest direct contributors, but Strategic Sage had a lot of excellent advice, and Metretek kept pushing the boundaries of ultra-high-level play.  Among so many others!

Let’s try and hit some highlights:

  • The balance of battlestations and citadels is all new, as befits their new status.
  • The balance of turrets has been further refined, often with a lot of help from user Democracy (who designed a lot of the DLC1 turrets).
  • Frigates are actually useful now!  Their balance work is still ongoing in some ways, but they have shifted from being a metal sink into being something you can main.
  • The way you generate metal and energy has been dramatically updated, in terms of which mix of command stations you should employ.
  • Randomized ship line amounts are gone, so each line you get now has a specific hand-designed meaning.
  • Forcefields and frigates and other small-cap units like that usually do not gain cap anymore as they mark up; instead you start with more of them to begin with.
  • Forcefields in general have had several balance overhauls, leading them to be less overpowered in average games but also still viable in Fallen Spire (and other mega unit) games, while scaling their tech cost to be more linear.  You also don’t have to worry about them getting knocked out of place anymore.
  • Visibility from logistics stations and military stations is increased a lot, plus you can place a new unit called Spies as pickets.
  • A ton of other factions got upgraded to be more useful, including the Marauders and Scourge.  This is to say nothing of mod factions, many of which were added outright or were majorly expanded.
  • Alien ships that you can acquire via hacking are now a lot better deal and more exciting.
  • You’re no longer quite drowning in turrets so much as you were before, and energy and such has all been rebalanced, as has their attack power.  You can very much defend yourself, but it’s much less of a hassle to do so.
  • Brownouts now have a grace period and are harder to trigger, but last a bit longer when they do happen.

What’s Else Is New?

  • I mean… it’s really a lot!  You’ll notice little things on almost every screen of the game.
  • In a lot of cases, it’s simply more clear and more balanced, or easier to make what you want into reality.
  • The Fallen Spire campaign from DLC1 now has a vastly more robust set of lore entries, many of which are adapted in from the beloved campaign in the original AI War.
  • On Steam, there’s a new “beta” branch pointing to the last  pre-paraidgm-shift build.  (z_historical_2_715 Release 2.715 – The last version before the Major Paradigm Shift of Early 2021.)  So if you had a game in progress that you’d prefer to finish in the prior style, please feel free!

More to come soon!

Multiplayer Schedule?

Both shared-faction and multi-faction multiplayer are in public beta at the moment.  Details here.

Right now there are continual intermittent bugs that we are sorting out as reports of those come in, but most of them do not prevent folks from having a great session.  Some of these are in mods, and we are helping with support on that where we can within reason.

All of the features of all styles of multiplayer are here now, so it’s just a matter of ironing out the last bugs.  I also recently added a new Steam P2P networking support option, but Valve has been having some server issues and so we still retain the other Steam Connection-Oriented (Steam C-O) framework for folks who run into issues with that.

We were planning to dump Steam C-O in favor of Steam P2P, since P2P is better when it works, but given the ongoing issues Valve seems to have had with P2P for several months, we may keep both indefinitely.

Both GOG and LitenetLib continue to work well, and both have been upgraded to use multiple data channels like the Steam P2P mode is able to do.  This is a big advantage compared to Steam C-O in terms of connection throughput.

DLC2: Zenith Onslaught

Our first non-kickstarter-related expansion comes out in May of this year.  Probably.  We’ve had to push it back a number of times, partly because of this large Paradigm Shift (worth it!), and partly because this thing is so huge.  You can read all about it, at least in a limited preview format.  You can also watch me working on the art for it here on discord.  Sometimes I also do livestreams on youtube, which you can watch later if you miss them.

This expansion represents a large opportunity for us, since it will coincide with the game fully launching its multiplayer mode.  A lot of news outlets didn’t fully cover the original launch of AI War 2 because we released it in a crowded season and it came out with too little advance notice.  So we’re trying to turn that around with this expansion and hopefully get some more traction with a wider audience for the base game itself.  Part of why I was so intent on refining the base game so much was that I really wanted to make it easier for both new players and veterans to get the most out of it.

DLC3: The Neinzul Abyss

Our second piece of DLC for 2021 will hopefully come out before the end of the year, and you can read about that here.  The themes for this expansion, so far, are really focused on some roguelike options, as well as new ways to play.

On the roguelike front — which is all optional, but really fun for those who like the feeling of raw exploration — there are new random factions, plus all sorts of ways to turn any campaign into something you enter into fairly blind and discover as you go.

When it comes to new ways to play, there are TWO new player factions.  Normally you play as what we call a Human Empire, which is basically just “the human faction.”  But DLC3 adds:

  • Our new take on the Champions faction from the first game, which includes ways to explore the 5th dimension and fight all sorts of new foes there.
  • A surprising new Necromancer faction, which allows for a partner (or two or three) in multiplayer to take control of the zombies that are generated, as well as become a zombie-making machine in general.  Build necropolises, and so on.  For once the necromancer in a story isn’t the big bad… it’s you.
  • Yet another surprising new mechanic, Vassals let you have a buddy-NPC faction that you give more direct orders to.  This is backwards compatible with the base game and other expansions, and it’s expected that many mods will likely also want to hook into this.

And this is before we get into the Neinzul faction that I’ll be designing, and which can be friend or foe.

Remaining Kickstarter Stuff?

No progress since my last update, but plans have crystalized some.  The actual work is all to be post-DLC2. I covered what is left back in update #65.

Interplanetary Weapons are something still coming for free to the base game (they were a stretch goal), and those should  be a thing this summer.  I keep putting this off because it’s hard to make them as epic as I’d like.  Our original stretch goal just described guns that can shoot neighboring planets, but… that doesn’t really affect how you play all that much.  My goal with these is to allow for new strategies both in offensive and defensive areas.  I have some solid ideas for a few designs that may work, but we’ll have to test them and make sure they are suitably awesome.

The backer planet naming will happen around the same time, as well as the ability to send some taunts back from the player at the AI.  As far as player taunts against the AI goes, Badger had the great idea that this should actually be a bit of a prestige thing, where it actually makes the game harder but then gives you special accolades at the end.  “I won the game on difficulty 8 with two taunts!”  etc.

We’ll probably do another batch of AI taunts as well, and the Cyber Cipher reward for mysterious messages will be something that we tackle during that DLC3 period.  Design and Name an AI is something that will be around the same time as the third DLC3, same as the Text-Based or Design-based Mercenary Stuff.  A lot of new lore stuff has been getting integrated lately, and we’ve been figuring out how to do that in a non-obtrusive way that still lets you get at pages and pages of context if you want it.  That’s an exciting thing, because the lore is deep and wide, but also not something we want in your face in a glaze-over-RPG-text fashion.

There are two lingering art-related backer rewards I still need to follow up on, but then that’s it.  I’ve been getting much more practiced at digital sculpting and painting, so I’m definitely excited to return to those two, as they were challenging ones.

What Happens After That?

That is enormously up in the air.

The release of this game started out going well, and I think that the reviews that folks have been leaving for the game were a big help for folks passing by at the start.  2020 was a very rough year, financially, though.  The company’s 2020 income fell to less than half of what it was in 2019, and that was already one of our lower years in terms of income.

That level of income isn’t sustainable, even with me being a one-man shop now (volunteers aside), so it all comes down to what 2021 winds up looking like.  So far it is just more of 2020, but I’ve been putting so much effort into refining the base game for a reason.  And we do have those two new DLC planned for this year, along with the final multiplayer drop and so on.  If you’ve been playing the game and enjoying  it, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d drop by and leave your own thoughts, too.

If the trend doesn’t turn around?  I will likely spend most of 2022 working on other smaller titles in a completely solo fashion, rather than continuing to work on AI War 2 in a fulltime capacity.  And after that, we’ll see.

AI War 1 was a game that I stepped away from after four years and three DLC expansions, but then we kept up support for it with periodic updates and yearly DLC for another few years after that.  That worked well, but that was when we were a four-person studio.  I’d like to do something similar here if I can, but a big part of this may wind up being partnering increasingly with modders, we’ll see.  The mod scene for AI War 2 remains vibrant, and I hope to see it grow.

This game is a financial loss for me on paper, but there was a lot of R&D work that will pay dividends to future titles, so I have to partially look at it as an investment in infrastructure.  But since Arcen is a one-person shop again, dividing my time between multiple projects will be an “interesting” exercise.  Anyhow, I mainly want to have this in a state I’m proud of, which I can now finally say is the case without any reservations.

Please Do Report Any Issues!

If you run into any bugs, we’d definitely like to hear about those.

Thank you!

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 super detailed, 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

AI War 2 v2.701 Released! “Multiplayer Shared-Faction Reaches Beta”

It’s been sixty-six days since the last major release writeup, with THIRTY-FIVE releases in all, and notes starting here and ending here.

We are now in a mix of multiplayer alpha and beta!  (Depends on how you play, some methods are feature-complete and others are not.) If you want the full info on multiplayer’s current status, the place to look at that  is here.

Badger’s Retirement

Okay, this would be a really really long digression, but I hope you take a moment to click over and read about the legacy of Badger and Puffin.  Both have retired from working on the game fully (although both still hang out and occasionally poke things in), and so I’m now the sole remaining active developer on the game.

With that being said, this is “news” as of a month and a half ago (for Badger — for Puffin, it was much earlier this year), and we’ve had 28 releases since Badger retired, so I do okay on my own.  This isn’t a cause for concern, but rather a moment to take stock of their achievements and celebrate them.

It’s also worth noting that Badger is still doing some remaining work here and there on DLC2, and he’s already decided to return and is working on content for DLC3.

New Main Menu

You might have noticed the new main menu if you’ve logged into the game in the last month:

If your computer fans turn on and your FPS is only like 30, please don’t freak out.  This is actually the (by a really large margin) most intensive scene in the entire game.  I get 90fps on it and in the game on my main dev machine, and a measly 30fps on my under-min-sys-requirements mac computer, but it’s usable on both.  Even my below-specs mac is getting like 60-90 fps in-game with ship models turned off.

The main menu might seem like a strange thing to revise, but it’s the first thing that you see when you load up the game.  We wanted something that felt more epic and exciting, and that had a darker and more appropriate thematic feel for the game.  Personally, I also wanted a view from inside a spaceship looking out, since usually we only ever see spaceships from the outside during actual gameplay.

I also majorly updated the ending scenes (both win and loss), so those are more epic now.

UI Overhaul, And Usability Galore

Okay, so for one thing I did a complete visual overhaul of what buttons look like, and backgrounds on all the UI bits, and things like that.  This no longer feels vaguely website-ish.  It feels like… well, like a hardcore strategy game with a lot of space themes.

But that’s not all we did.  There are new functions for doing searches for units or planets by name on the galaxy map.  There are a ton of new galaxy map filters that show more information of various sorts.  You can easily see where threat is, or the hunter or warden, etc.  You can edit planet names, set priorities per planet like the first game (but with more options), add narrative notes to planets, and more.

You can also ping planets or locations on planets, and you can ping with multiple colors to help communicate meaning while you’re discussing on voice chat.  The notices up at the top of the screen now have backgrounds that indicate their severity/importance, and are automatically sorted by that.

There’s also a new fleet status window that Badger added despite being retired (he actually did a ton of QoL stuff in the last month, since he was actually starting to play both on his own as well as with his family and friends and thus noticing more things).  The fleet status window is particularly helpful for keeping an eye on what is going on in your empire, or in all the empires of players in multiplayer.

…but it’s been 66 days.  Come on, we’re just getting started.

AI Improvements

  • The AI Hunter has gotten more intelligent multiple times over, and fireteams in general have gotten smarter.  You have pre-retirement Badger to thank for these.
  • Deepstriking (the AI Reserves) got a number of AI updates from Badger right before he retired.
  • The way that AI Sentinels handle their reinforcement budget was completely overhauled by me, making them much more threatening and interesting.
  • The way that AIs use turrets has also been redone, so that they really don’t use remotely so many as before.  They really should be putting their resources into things that can strike you offensively, so the planets with a bunch of turrets are now far more rare.
  • Turrets have actually been rebalanced fairly substantially, largely thanks to post-retirement Puffin, who was still collecting ideas from the community and implementing them along with his own thoughts.
  • We made a number of changes to how strength values are calculated, to more accurately represent how dangerous ships actually are.  This makes it easier for you to make good decisions, but also plays directly into the intelligence of the AI and other NPC factions.
  • There were a number of cases where the AI Sentinels would hold onto threatfleet ships (which are not very smart) for too long rather than giving them over to the Hunters.  We looked at that and I decided to just brute force them into giving their ships to the Hunters if they can’t get whatever they think they are doing done in 3 minutes.
  • Thanks yet again to post-retirement Badger, various factions including the nanocaust and marauders are able to invade your galaxy in a delayed fashion, which is pretty cool.  Rather than having them there from moment one, they show up a while into the game.

More Mods!

  • Another new included-by-default mod is now in place: Civilian Industries, by StarKelp.  This is turning out to be a really popular mod, which involves a lot of defensive and economic buddies hanging around.  Strategic Sage has been doing a video series with the Civilian Industries helping him against the Scourge from DLC1.
  • NR SirLimbo has been adding a prolific number of mods, as well as several frameworks for modding.  His Extended Ship Variants (for the base game and for DLC1) have become really standard fare for a lot of players, and his Kaizer’s Marauders are a vastly more complex and dangerous interpretation of the base game Marauders.  At the moment he is working on a new and evolutionary style of Devourer, but that is currently still in earlier testing and not yet included for everyone in the main game.
  • I did an enormous overhaul of our XML Parsing capabilities, upgrading it so that the data is parsed faster, and also more correctly.  This fixed up a number of blocking issues that were preventing certain mods from being possible, and consequently we saw a huge uptick in new mods right after that.
  • Oh man, the mods from NR SirLimbo kept coming!  There’s a micro mods collection in there now, too.  He’s been absolutely prolifically busy on several fronts.  It’s hard to understate just how involved his Kaizer’s Marauders are, in particular.  And his AMU tool is there to support any modders who want to use it, making it easier to make complex mods like his.

Multiplayer Bits

  • Multiplayer itself has seen a ton of improvements at a technical level and otherwise, it probably goes without saying.  But this has been the major focus of mine during this period, despite the detour into quality of life improvements.
  • Multiplayer went through a number of changes at a technical level as I experimented with how to get the smoothest experience in terms of sync, while at the same time keeping things moving.  The end result was not what I had planned on, but is instead something that relies on data I collected in real world use cases.  It works ridiculously well.
  • The ability to swap ship lines between players was added by NR SirLimbo, which was really kind of him and saved me having to do it.  He also made that interface a bit less overwhelming in general even in single player.
  • I added in the ability to finally share control of a single faction, and that’s the mode that is just now going into beta (aka feature-completeness).  The multi-faction mode will hopefully join it in beta status in the next week or two at most.

Other Visual And QoL Improvements

  • I redid all of the visuals for area of effect attacks, most notably tesla attacks.  It looks SO much cooler now.  The old version was okay, but not nearly as varied.  And when I upgraded the lighting pipeline during the runup to DLC1 late last year, the AOE visual effects actually wound up taking a step down in visual quality.
  • I added a new Stationary Flagship Mode, which I had expected to be popular but actually was almost universally hated.  But it is still something that you can enable if it solves a gameplay problem you have.  A few people were enjoying it, so that’s a win in my book.  But it’s no longer on by default for everyone.
  • The way that galaxy map links are drawn has been updated to be a gradient of the two colors of the owners between those planets, which was a cool addition of post-retirement Badger.
  • For a long while, we’ve had some trouble with trying to use one button for toggling on or off modes like pursuit and attack move and so on, and so I split those into two functions where you can clearly tell it if you are turning them on or off.  This solves a lot of intermittent frustrations people were having.
  • Post-retirement Badger added a whole host of other quality of life improvements.
  • Post-retirement Puffin added about thirty-six new space backgrounds of various sorts, for use in-game and on the galaxy maps.  These were mostly created using the shader tool I set up a few years ago, but the results are the result of a lot of artistic work and experimentation on his part.  They really spruce up the variety in the game, and in particular make the galaxy maps look nicer.
  • I also spent a goodly while making it so that we are now able to include arbitrary sprites in text.  This involved further customizing our version of TextMeshPro, which now has a number of unique features for us.  This paired well with our overhaul of the icons for various resources, and in the future we’ll do things like embedding ship icons in tooltips.
  • The visuals for shots themselves are now a lot more appropriately-scaled for various zoom levels, so battles look nicer.
  • There are also now battle indicators on the galaxy map, making it more obvious where there are fights happening in your territory without it becoming a circus.

What’s Else Is New?

  • Astro Trains got a buff to make them more interesting.
  • Post-retirement Badger also added a variety of roguelike options for not revealing things about what the galaxy you are entering entails, which is a cool feature.
  • A bunch of performance improvements in text generation, and UI updates in general, have been made.  SirLimbo and I wound up going down a giant rabbit hole on the text generation in particular, but it makes it so that really length text narratives and dynamically-generated lists of ship tooltips no longer suck the performance out of your game.
  • Error handling is also vastly more robust in the game, and when errors happen you now get much more information about what is happening and especially if there are a bunch of silent errors hammering your log.
  • Ever thought that “snipers and drones are useless, because they just aggro entire enemy planets and get me killed?”  Well, they now have a new aggro invisibility ability, which solves that problem and lets them remain useful without being unfair or annoying.
  • For our linux players, we’ve added a variety of tools to get around the unity bug with mousewheel scroll being backwards, so that is one annoyance off the list.
  • The number of bugfixes and general balance tweaks are too staggering to recount, but it’s a lot.

More to come soon!

Multiplayer Schedule?

There are two ways of playing: a shared faction, which is now in beta and thus basically complete aside from bugfixing; and multiple faction, which still has some known issues and missing features and thus remains in alpha.

I expect to sort out the remaining known issues, while fielding ongoing bug reports, over the next 1-2 weeks at the most.  At that point, multiplayer is effectively finished aside from just giving it time to collect any more bug reports people come up with.

One thing I should point out is that this is an insanely complicated game from a technical standpoint, and so the more testers the better.  The game might be working perfectly for most people in most situations, and then you come along with your friends and run into something catastrophic and wonder how anyone could possibly play this.

Send me your bug reports, and I can generally have that stuff knocked out in a couple of days.  But without your bug reports, if other people aren’t running into it, I’ll never know it’s there.

DLC2: Zenith Onslaught

Our first non-kickstarter-related expansion comes out in early 2021.  Maybe January, or potentially February.  You can read all about it, at least in a limited preview format.  We’ve had a number of testers banging on this for months now, and the detailed unit design and art to go with it are the last pieces we’ll be putting together.

This expansion represents a large opportunity for us, since it will coincide with the game fully launching its multiplayer mode.  A lot of news outlets didn’t fully cover the original launch of AI War 2 because we released it in a crowded season and it came out with too little advance notice.  So we’re trying to turn that around with this expansion and hopefully get some more traction with a wider audience for the base game itself.

DLC3: The Neinzul Abyss

Our second piece of DLC for 2021 will hopefully come out more around the middle of the year, and you can read about that here.  It’s something that came into existence largely because Badger kept adding too many things to DLC2.  DLC2 was either going to be massively expensive, or any other DLC we ever did was going to look paltry and small by comparison.

We made the sensible decision to split these out into two products that we can thus offer at better prices — and also take extra time to do cool extra things for DLC3.  I’m looking forward to getting to fully design my first faction, versus just collaborating on factions with others or doing the art and technical support for them.

Remaining Kickstarter Stuff?

There’s a diminishing number of things.  I covered a lot of it back in update #65.  Interplanetary Weapons are something still coming for free to the base game (they were a stretch goal), and I’ll be working on those while I work on DLC3.  The backer planet naming will happen around the same time, as well as the ability to send some taunts back from the player at the AI.

We’ll probably do another batch of AI taunts as well, and the Cyber Cipher reward for mysterious messages will be something that we tackle during that DLC3 period.  Design and Name an AI is something that will be around the same time as the third DLC3, same as the Text-Based or Design-based Mercenary Stuff.  There are two lingering art-related backer rewards I still need to follow up on, but then that’s it.

What Happens After That?

That really depends.

The release of this game started out going well, and I think that the reviews that folks have been leaving for the game were a big help for folks passing by at the start.  2020 has been a rough year, though, when we really look at the data.  The company’s income has fallen to less than half of what it was in 2019, and that was already one of our lower years in terms of income.

We do have those two new DLC planned for 2021, along with the giant multiplayer updates and so on that are free, so hopefully that trend will turn around.  If you’ve been playing the game and enjoying  it, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d drop by and leave your own thoughts, too.

If the trend doesn’t turn around?  I don’t know, exactly.  The structure of modern online stores may ultimately wind up forcing our hand.  I’d probably have to either choose between working on an entirely new project unrelated to AI War 2, or start working on a sequel instead of more expansion.  Both prospects have a lot of downsides, but they also have some substantial upsides.

Right now I don’t feel super inclined to leave the AI War franchise after all this work and developing this giant engine, so I’m more inclined to stick to something closer to home than try to reinvent the wheel.  If you look at the evolution of AI War 2 since launch, the current build you’re able to play is already practically AI War 3.  It looks better, plays better, has better AI, has more content, and is much more technically advanced.

Right now the frustration is that more or less we’re doing most of that work for free (personally I have still lost about $240k in making AI War 2, versus earning any actual money, if you look at my spent money versus earned), and it’s hard to get press attention for a “year old game.”  Since we started this project, more than half a console generation has come and gone, sheesh!  I have no shortage of ideas, but I don’t want to work for someone else and right now the open market is feeling fairly indifferent.

I have a lot of hope for 2021, though. :)

Please Do Report Any Issues!

If you run into any bugs, we’d definitely like to hear about those.

Thank you!

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 super detailed, 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

AI War 2 v2.001 Released! “Expansion 1: The Spire Rises!”

The first expansion for AI War 2 is out!  It’s time for a little retrospective of how things have been going since the October 1.0 launch of the base game.

Base Game Updates

Put most simply, we’ve had 47 patches to the base game since 1.01, which is about one every 3 days.  There have been a few of those that were just little hotfixes, and some were on the beta branch temporarily, but most of these were quite substantive.

The largest of these was v1.3, The Grand New AI, on January 10th, which we called “almost a sequel in terms of how much it adds.”  That’s a huge read on its own, so I won’t recap it here, but suffice it to say it added a ton of content and a complex new intelligence to the AI.  Some of that (like the awesome fire teams mechanic) was us backporting work from this new expansion to the base game.  Other bits were just us updating the base game.

I’m actually struggling a little bit on how to even describe what has been happening in the base game, because there’s no singular improvement.  It’s just been relentless evolution and refinement on basically every front.  We’ve had a lot of really involved testers, and some of the first large-scale mods (Civilian Industries, Galactic Conquest, and others), and a number of those modders have also been contributing code or ideas to the main game itself.

We also continue to have a healthy number of volunteers who pop in and out and make various additions.  Things I really wanted, but which kept sliding down my own todo list, like the ability to load a quick start or savegame into the lobby for further customization. Dominus Arbitrationis and StarKelp have been the two most active on that sort of front. Heck, StarKelp has kind of adopted the Macrophage faction from the base game and has been adding cool new features to them.

Anyway, the release history is long, and public, and has a lot of detailed writeups already.  Suffice it to say, things have been VERY active.

Expansion 1: The Spire Rises

The base game was already huge, and something that we considered to be on par with AI War Classic and maybe… two of its six expansions?  Something along those lines, although it’s apples to oranges since the content in AI War 2 tends to be so much more versatile and involved.

I’ll skip summarizing what is in this new expansion and just let you read about that on its own page, so instead I can speak a little more broadly here.

The very short version is that we now consider AI War 2 plus this expansion to give parity to be equivalent to AIWC and four out of its six expansions.  Wowzers.

AI Goes Up To 11

The Scourge are a faction born out of the desire to fulfill the Nemesis kickstarter stretch goal in a more… entertaining and robust fashion. That’s just how Badger, the mastermind behind this race, is.  The original concept was one large ship that harasses you mercilessly; that’s still here, but instead we also get a faction of multi-racial slaved warriors doing even more involved and interesting stuff.

Being able to set the scourge as your ally is one of the things that amuses me the most.  Just last night, StarKelp was playing in that fashion and watching the AI Hunters duke it out with human-allied scourge.  The result was a galaxy mostly swept clean by the scourge, and then an amusing of AI-on-AI tag in the ruined wasteland as the hunter fled around the galaxy, fighting as needed, and the scourge split up and chased them, occasionally seeming to have a small group pause and catch their breath on the safety of his home planet.  The fact that things like this can exist inside the game… that makes me really happy.

The really key testers for the Scourge were zeusalmighty, Astillious, Ethan “DEMOCRACY” Wong, and Ovalcircle.

Going Into All-Out War

The Fallen Spire, the other big faction in this expansion, were again to satisfy a kickstarter stretch goal, but in a more-fun way.  We didn’t get as much into the scripted-campaign territory (that’s just not personally as high on my list), but we did build out the citybuilding to a ludicrous degree.  And we then built out the AI forces to a ludicrous degree, giving them the ability to pull back in Extragalactic War units from “whatever it is they are fighting outside the galaxy.”  Those two big expansions of the content for this faction are just how I think about things. ;)

We’ve been really fortunate to have some huge-fan Fallen Spire players from the first game, such as Matt “Vinco” Taylor, show up to test things and let us know where we were failing in this expansion.  Things like the relics having a stronger response or phasing in and out of reality came about because of him, and so much of the citybuilding balance and the effectiveness of the Imperial Spire in the alternative victory condition were thanks to feedback from Ethan “DEMOCRACY” Wong.

Looking To The Future

There’s more that we could do with the fallen spire, and we do plan on that, but it’s already a really solid and huge thing that is a fun new way to play the game.  The amount of core content that we wound up adding was far above what we initially planned, so certain things like journals or multiple loadouts were pushed until later because there are just only so many hours in a day.

The nice thing is that some of those features can double as work for expansion 2, so as we enhance things we’ll continue backporting not just to the base game, but also the first expansion. For now it’s kind of a matter of balancing that against my goal to finally get multiplayer going fully.

The Sheer Volume Of Turrets

Soooo… this was not really planned at all, but is one of these things that we added in because somebody (Ethan “DEMOCRACY” Wong in this case) had a great idea and we wanted to do it.  He basically observed that in the base game, there are not all that many turrets, and they are not spread evenly among all the technology lines (because how could they be).

Looking at the base game, I see there were 11 combat turrets, plus orbital mass driver and ion cannons as major combat turrets. Then we had a further 2 non-combat turrets in the form of  tractor and tachyon turrets.  And that was it.  Out of the 11 combat turrets, one of those was also curiously larger and scarier than the rest, with a higher cost and much lower unit count.

Democracy thus made a big ol’ table for each tech, with columns for regular combat turrets in each row, and then one larger-than-average turret in each  row.  Working with Puffin, and then getting some assists in new code from Dominus and Badger and myself, plus a whole heck of a lot of new art on my end, and we wind up with THIRTY freaking new combat turrets in this expansion.  It’s madness.  They’re so much fun and so varied, too!  The first game never had anything like these.

Game Mechanics For All

We wound up adding new game mechanics to support the scourge, the spire, the turrets, and the new arks — yes, there are five new arks as well in this expansion. In a lot of games, you’d see that sort of stuff gated off if you don’t buy every last expansion, and so if you’re a modder you have to think about what expansions the player does and does not have if you want to allow them to fully use your mod.

I’m not a fan of that.  We build all the new mechanics into the base game so that any mod can use any mechanic, and the modder never has to worry about what expansions you have unless they are explicitly setting out to mod expansion content.  This keeps things going along really well, mods-wise, and lets you consider our expansions on their own merits individually without having to wonder if they block you from getting some mods you want.

The Sheer Volume Of Art

Oh, yeah.  One of the things that we recently did for the base game was massively upgrade the lighting, and add a lot more pleasing detail onto many ships.  That required me to go through and touch basically every ship and structure in the base game, which was a great result but super time consuming.

We also added some VERY large new ships for the Extragalactic War feature, which is something I wanted to be in the base game so that any expansion or mod can trigger those guys.  Right now mainly only the Fallen Spire trigger it, but it shouldn’t be a feature that is limited to them in the long term.

After all was said and done, the art asset bundles for the base game are about 1 GB.

Looking to the first expansion, then, the total amount of art wound up being… 714 MB.  That’s absolutely insane, but shows just how large some of these factions are, not to mention all the turrets.

Hey, Multiplayer!

We haven’t forgotten about that!  In fact, we’ve been coding in preparation for it from day one, and have continued to make some revisions to things to make things easier to implement there.  Balancing things out with such a small workforce has been hard, but now the turn for this aspect of the game has come.

To make things as easy on players as possible, the plan is to try to use three different transport layers to allow for playing multiplayer in any of three fashions.

Firstly, we’ll have some general basic networking based on Forge Remastered.  There’s some light NAT punchthrough in there, which is a big feature that we said we wanted for this game, but it’s only going to work but so well.  You ultimately need relay servers and such, and that’s expensive to set up and maintain-forever.  But this would be the absolutely-no-DRM-or-service way to play multiplayer, and probably the ideal way to play via LAN.  So here we are with this.

Secondly, we’ll implement Steam networking as another transport layer.  The game code is all the same either way, but then the code and networks that is transmitting the data of the game is different in these cases.  This should be the most seamless experience for Steam players who want to play via the internet.  Steam has relay servers, NAT punchthrough, and a bunch of other things that a small group of people can’t hope to match.  So we’ll just use theirs! But locking you into this wouldn’t be cool, hence other options.

Thirdly, we’re going to implement GOG networking as the last transport layer.  This one works very similar to Steam’s, has all the same cool functionality for bypassing firewalls without a hassle to you, and even has some inter-connectivity to Steam players.  The only real downside in the short term is that it doesn’t have Linux support (since the GOG Galaxy client doesn’t support Linux yet).  When they have it, we’ll add it.

None of this means we’re going to have matchmaking, because for games that last a long time that just doesn’t make any sense.  But for connecting with your friends via your platform of choice, this should make it so that you can just connect and play.  During the next few months I’m definitely going to be wanting to have a variety of testers to help us iron out the bugs and find network load bottlenecks, etc, before we move towards calling this “true multiplayer support.”

Beyond Multiplayer and DLC 2

Badger and Puffin and I have some things that we’d like to do for a DLC 3, and there are always new ideas coming up in general.  This project has been in work since 2016, and we could probably spend another four years on it and still never run out of ideas we want to work on.

What happens long-term is still… something that remains to be seen.  When multiplayer and the other base game features come out around the same time, that will finally discharge the last of the kickstarter obligations.

What happens after those obligations are finally met is… up to the market, really.  At the moment, AI War 2 doesn’t fully pay the bills, and it never has.  It is close to doing so, and our hope is that with expansions and related promos and so on it will start doing so.  In the current climate on Steam, back catalog sales drop by roughly half basically every year, which was income we used to rely on.

I still feel cautiously optimistic despite having to take on debt to cover half of my expenses last month (and having had to take on debt to a greater or lesser degree for 33 out of the last 36 months), but I figured it was worth noting.  Everything we’ve been accomplishing lately has been on a shoestring, despite such a successful 1.0 launch.

That sounds glum, but I’d rather give you an honest appraisal than potentially have some surprise after we get into summer if things are still on a downward-trending or flat trajectory.  We’re hoping that paid DLC and the free multiplayer update will reverse or at least delay that trend.  There’s more that we want to do beyond the “minimum required to finish this  up.”

The Very Short Term Future

The Scourge are very battle-tested at this point, but we’re sure that with a large influx of new players we’ll find more things to fix or improve.

The Fallen Spire also feel quite polished at this point, but it’s hard to know if it’s balanced well for all difficulty levels.  So we’ll probably have a lot of tweaks regarding that.  Our testers were all pretty skilled.

There are things we’d still like to add to the Fallen Spire, and we’ll probably do that while also getting started on the beta version of multiplayer. But for now we’re going to stop working all the nights and weekends.  We can get plenty of done without that, now that we’re past this initial milestone.  Badger is already digging well into DLC 2, to make things easier on himself schedule-wise later.  So the hope is for us to not really hit a crunch period again like we’ve had the last month.

One of the shortest-term things is that we want some more varied and descriptive icons for some of the new turrets and ships, and so that will be coming out later today.  There just wasn’t time, we were all falling asleep in our chairs.

Lots more good stuff to come soon!  We’re really proud of what has been accomplished in the last few months, and we hope that you get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

Please Do Report Any Issues!

If you run into any bugs, we’d definitely like to hear about those.

The release of this game has been going well so far, and I think that the reviews that folks have been leaving for the game have been a big help for anyone passing by who’s on the fence.  For a good while we were sitting at Overwhelmingly Positive on the Recent Reviews breakdown, but there have been a lot fewer reviews lately and so that has definitely had a material negative effect.  Go figure.  Having a running selection of recent reviews definitely is helpful, but at least we have a pretty healthy set of long-term reviews.  If you’ve been playing the game and enjoying  it, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d drop by and leave your own thoughts, too.

More to come soon.  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 super detailed, 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

AI War 2 has left early access!

Chris here! By any sane metric I can think of, AI War 2 shouldn’t exist. And yet it’s more than I ever imagined it could be.

(Store links: Steam, Humble, GOG)

When we first set out to make this game three years ago, it was far less ambitious. Even that was going to be really hard. Somehow, in the process of falling down the stairs over and over again during this period, we wound up with a game that seems to be superior to the original.

This game shouldn’t exist, but it does, and I’m both proud and stunned.

The Secret? Community

The intro to this post runs the risk of sounding like I’m tooting my own horn, but it’s not actually about me. I’m not capable of making — even just designing — this game on my own. I don’t think anyone is, really.

The fact that this game exists isn’t a testament to me having some brilliant insight or a singular vision that I doggedly pursued. The reviews of the game are lovely, but give me entirely too much personal credit.

The state of this game is thanks to dozens of people critically thinking about this game — what this one and the original means to them and to others — and then a process of relentless, continuous, arduous iteration and improvement.

MVP Award: BadgerBadger

This section is long, and in some ways tangential, but if you read it you’ll understand why I’ve put it here so prominently. You have this guy to thank as much as me or Keith for this game existing.

Badger has been involved since the kickstarter, with questions and comments and key insights. For a lot of the first year, he was responsible for something like 80% of the bug reports and feature ideas on our idea tracker. When a lot of other people were just bouncing off the game and waiting around for Keith LaMothe and I to figure things out on our own — understandable, really — Badger was there providing really key insight and ideas.

But that was barely the start for him. After a while I was essentially like “so, do you just want source code access, given how much you’re doing here?” Because he had started doing some mods — nanocaust and macrophage, at the time, IIRC — and it was clear he would be less hand-tied if he had more access.

What happened next was essentially us getting a developer — volunteer, no less — who contributed as much to the design of the game as I did, in my opinion. Not only did he single-handedly conceive of and implement the nanocaust and macrophage, but he also did the dark spire and marauder impelementations, among many, many other things.

Some of the most brilliant and devious things that the AI has in this game compared to the first one? Badger. Some of your favorite UI detail screens, like metal flows? Badger.

Not to mention all the bugfixes, balance tweaks, and… just oodles more. This game wouldn’t exist in anything like the state it does now without Badger. Any credit for my “singular vision” on the game is doing him a major disservice, but he’s a quiet sort of guy when it comes to taking credit, so I wanted to take this chance to call him out in particular.

Growing Volunteer Developer Corps

So, Badger is not remotely the only person I need to call out as being absolutely indispensable.

RocketAssistedPuffin has also been involved heavily for the last year plus, and has taken over huge numbers of things that I never would have had time for. After I implemented the new tech system one way, he’s the one who figured out how to make it substantially more balanced. Most of the voluminous “balance change” sections on the release notes are from him working with other players or just reasoning things out himself.

Puffin has also had a ton of ideas on how to make things better in all sorts of sections of the game, and there was a period of about three months late last year where he and Badger were basically doing ALL the development on the game and I just pushed out releases of what they were doing. I was going through a really painful divorce and had a ton of anxiety and couldn’t face work, and these two kept things alive and improving.

But it never stopped there. Those new tutorials you like? Puffin. I wrote the bulk of the “How To Play” in-game wiki sections, but the most basic and understandable ones for new players were… again, Puffin. I’m excellent at writing encyclopedic entries that fill you in on huge numbers of details, but he’s the one who distilled “what’s the most central stuff you need to know, as briefly as possible” so that people can actually get into the game in any reasonable timeframe. Compare his work here to the tutorials I did in the original game, and it’s night and day.

And I’m still selling Puffin short, frankly, because he’s done so many things over such a long period that I can’t remember it all now.

More recently, we’ve had folks like WeaponMaster and Asteroid joining in and adding lots of bugfixes and quality of life improvements that I never would have had the time to do myself. Things like hovering over galaxy map links to see information on them were Asteroid. Endless tricky bugfixes were WeaponMaster. I’m selling them both short, but the release notes are filled with things that they either implemented or suggested or both.

And it doesn’t stop there. Quinn stepped in an made a bunch of additions. Keith laid the original groundwork for the entire game simulation and multithreading (he was the main programmer and designer for the first year and a half, and actually on staff during that time).

And there were so, so many others. And more each month!

Volunteers Beat Modders, I Think

I’m pretty free with the source code access, because I’d rather have a consolidated community of people helping rather than a bunch of mods that you have to hunt down and find.

So a lot of the folks that have turned into volunteers are what would have been modders on most other games. They would have made their own thing that you had to install and then wonder about the cross-compatibility of.

This game does have a ton of moddability, and for anyone who wants to “just” be a modder, that’s absolutely fine with me. But for a lot of the mods that are getting the most love, I’m happy to share source code access with those folks so that they’re in no way hobbled, and so that their work can go out as additional content that every player can find via in-game options without having to hunt through Steam Workshop or whatever else.

It’s an unorthodox approach, but a lot more team-oriented and lets us do quality control on each others’ stuff, “mods” included, which is a big win. If someone wants to steal the source code for this game, they can just decompile it like any other game for the most part. I’d rather put my trust in people and see things flourish rather than retain a stranglehold out of fear or pride.

What Did I Actually Do, Then?

All of this help from others let me focus on some of the really tricky architectural and design problems, which led to things like us even being able to HAVE a simulation of this size, and to have it perform as smoothly as it does.

I got to build lots of mechanics that other people then actually turned into specific units. It also gave me time to focus on some really nagging problems that just made the early versions of the game… unpleasant.

If I hadn’t had the time to think and talk to people about all those things, we never would have seen all the game evolve this way; I would have been mired in content development and other items just to get the basics out for the game.

The original design for this was something that Keith and I put together as a pair, but it only worked out so well. It was a good foundation, but needed… a lot of help. We both pushed that forward a lot, until the money situation got to the point where he (and all the other staff, eventually) had to step away, and I carried on “alone” (but with all those volunteers).

There came a couple of major turning points where I was reflecting on why I was so unhappy with this game as it existed, and listening to the various gripes that playtesters had, and then I was able to spend a month or three implementing something drastically new.

Fleets are the most notable of those, and they were initially met with a lot of mixed feelings and distaste because only part of my idea was there on the first public launch of those. Only in the last month or so has that feature completely come into its own, and that also had a lot to do with continuous feedback from people in early access telling me what they needed and what they did and didn’t like.

We also had a number of points during development where we just couldn’t escape certain performance problems, because there were suddenly battles that were an order of magnitude larger than the first game (which was itself the largest strategy game simulation of individual units that I’m aware of on the market until this sequel). So I got to focus on a whole bunch of crazy improvements and data structure inventions and even GPU shader tricks in order to make all this stuff work.

Without the rest of the community helping, there’s no way I could have had time to work on all that sort of thing, even in three years of development. A game of this scope shouldn’t run this well — it shouldn’t be possible — but it is because I was given the gift of time by so many others.

A Decade In The Making

It has been 10 years to the day since the first AI War came to Steam, and it’s been 3 years of developing this sequel.

We didn’t do any work on any AI War games from late 2014 through late 2016, but the rest of that time has been spent at least partly working on the original game or this sequel.

From version 5.0 of the original game through version 8.0, Keith was pretty much the sole developer on that while I focused on other things. He built out a ton of creative and clever things that made a return in this game, and also pushed the concept of what the AI could be — adding in some traditional decision-tree style logic in places in addition to the more decentralized-style AI that I had come up with back in 2009. That one that originally made waves on slashdot and reddit and hackernews and so on.

I’ve worked as the producer and design lead on this sequel, among my many other roles, and so the fact that there seems to be a “singular vision” is hopefully a sign that I did a good job in that role. But the degree to which this is a product of dozens of people’s work, over an extremely long period of time, really can’t be understated.

That’s what I meant all the way back at the start. This sort of thing shouldn’t have happened. It’s just so… unlikely. A ton of people came together over a decade and helped make something unlike anything else on the market.

That’s before even getting into other major (former) staff contributors like Daniette “Blue” Shinkle doing the vast majority of the art and coming up with the way-prettier style of ship that evolved AFTER the kickstarter, the awesome score by Pablo Vega, and 25 voice actors who did a fantastic job as various humans and the AI.

And good grief, I’d be remiss not to mention Erik and Craig and all the other folks at Indie Bros, who helped manage so many aspects of this game, as well as often doing work like helping clean up voice lines, etc.

A Few Common Questions

If you’re interested in what is coming in the very short term, there’s a post for that.

Similar if you want to know what the plan is for multiplayer.

For kickstarter backers (or anyone else who is curious), there’s an FAQ as well as roadmap of stuff for the next few quarters relating to kickstarter stretch goals.

And I just have to once-again plug this awesome After Action Report by zeusalmighty.

My Deepest Thanks

I never wanted to make this game, because I didn’t think I could. The original AI War seemed to be the high water mark of my career, and I spent a lot of time trying to make peace with that. But when the market shifted in 2015 and 2016 and finances started getting tight, it became clear that returning to the game that started it all was what made the most sense.

Thanks to all of the kickstarter backers for believing that we even COULD build this game. Keith and I felt like we could do something that would make you happy, but probably not something that would top the original. It took two extra years of development and an enormous village of people to make THAT a reality. So thanks to everyone for their patience and support during that time.

I also want to say a big thanks to everyone for their understanding during my divorce, which happened shortly after entering Early Access for this game. That made everything so much harder, and took me out of commission for a full three months or so where I just couldn’t work much. I had to learn how to be me again, and come to terms with being a dad with shared custody rather than a full-time father, and all of that was incredibly hard.

But the good news is that, as has happened with this game itself, a lot of things in my personal life have turned out unexpectedly, improbably well in the last year. After deciding to date again (after 18 years off the market, wow), I wound up meeting the woman who is now my fiancée surprisingly quickly (all things considered). Kara and her daughter have made my entire world so much richer than I realized it could be, and my son finally has the sister he’s wanted for so much of his life.

I feel incredibly fortunate, and a lot of my ability to get back to work and not crumble under the weight of anxiety and expectations for this game were thanks to Kara’s support and presence. The reality of her life as a doctor and surgeon also helps to kind of put my own work into perspective, sometimes, in the best way.

However this turns out financially, and despite my anxieties about my future as a game developer, I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve all created together, and I feel surrounded by all the right people both at work and outside of work. This has been the hardest three year period of my life, but the end result has all been worth it.

Thanks to everyone, and I hope you enjoy the game — both what it is now, and what’s to come.

Very Best,
Chris

Whatever happened to that Chris Park guy?

Right – so I took a 90ish day sabbatical from work. What the heck was that all about? I said I’d update you guys on that (and be coming back to work properly) in January, so here we are. This was a really tough video to make, but overall I’m doing well these days.

There is a new release that also just came out today, so things are getting back into gear production-wise, which is good.  That release is the cumulative work of the volunteers over the last month, they’ve been amazing.  Coming up this next week I will be able to actually get cracking on some creative work of my own, for the first time in basically a quarter.

Thanks again for your patience with me during this, everybody.  It really has meant a lot.

AI War 2 v0.781 Released! “Destruction Diversity”, Steam Trading Cards, New Release Date.

Release notes here.

Took an extra day compared to what I was planning for this release, but there’s a ton in here!  First of all, there are a ton of balance improvements that Puffin has put together in order to diversify what gets a damage bonus against what.  There’s a lot of tuning in that area of the game in particular.

Quinn added in the ability not just to delete savegames, but also to delete campaigns, which is super welcome.  A few other tooltip improvements have been made to clarify a few things, and a few tutorial improvements, and a fix for that really irritating bug with the flickering sidebar.

Marauders are a lot more aggressive, cross planet waves are a lot more sneaky, astro trains are a lot less plentiful, brownouts are a lot more painful, and there’s now a cooldown on how quickly you can rebuild something that was just destroyed.  Thanks to Badger on huge amounts of that.

Outside of that, we’ve also done some new kickstarter-exclusive background art thanks to Cath, and then I’ve created new marketing headers for the game (finally!) as well as new Steam Trading Cards.  Here’s a sneak peek!

New header:

Compared to the old one:

And then here’s a sneak peek at the Steam Trading Cards (which won’t turn active until the game releases into Early Access on Monday):

And this is what the associated backgrounds look like:

And this is just for fun:

New Release Date?

Yep!  We’re now releasing on Monday, which is the 15th, instead of Thursday the 18th.  Why?  Rimworld announced their 1.0 will be on the 17th.  And we, uh… wanted to give them some personal space. ;)  Big congrats to them, by the way.

Thanks for reading!  More to come soon.

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

AI War 2 v0.779 Released! “Quick Starts” Plus new trailer!

Release notes here.

This marks the first build of the game that is available to press to preview.  How nerve-wracking!  There’s still a lot we need to finish up in the next two weeks prior to Early Access when it comes to polish and bugfixing, but we have to actually let people see the game at SOME point.  I’m really pleased with how this particular build is feeling, though.  There are still known issues, but the fundamentals are really strong.

One of the cool new things in this build is the addition of quick starts, which folks have been asking for forever.  It basically provides a really handy way to get into the game without having to ever touch the lobby and all its complexity.  Which is doubly good right now, because the lobby is still a mess of temporary UI.  The quick starts will be hugely useful long after the lobby is polished, though, because they allow for easy choices of cool scenarios.

If you want to create a quick start option of your own (please feel free!), you can simply go through the following process:

  • Create a game with the settings you want.
  • Save it.
  • Write up a little description about it, and put a name for it.
  • Send it to us on the forums or mantis.

It’s very straightforward!

There are also a number of changes in this build to make things prettier and to fix a fair list of bugs.  More to come soon!

Oh right… we also have a new trailer!  Huge thanks to Pepisolo for going all-out on this one.  He really put in a ton of time, and it shows:

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

Early Access Approaches: Showreel Video from AI War 2 v0.774!

We’re getting very close to our Early Access release!  We currently plan on that being October 18th, or something very close to that.  Looks like a target we can actually hit this time, finally, too.  Things are looking up!  If you’re reading and you don’t already have a copy of the game, you can wishlist it on Steam to get notified when it goes live, or you can order it on backerkit if you want to play right away.

Here’s a video showcasing some of what’s new in the most recent release.

That video does a great job of showing off the visual improvements and the AI logic improvements in particular.  I love watching the ships kite around in the clips later on in there in particular.  But there’s really been a gargantuan amount of stuff happening lately.  The most recent release notes are worth a read in particular, if you want to know the very latest news.

Basically, if you haven’t been following things closely… things are just coming along really, really well.  We still have a ways to go before we’re ready for Early Access, but the schedule seems manageable finally, and it should be a really positive showing that we have at launch there.  No multiplayer right at first, but that will come in a few months.  Just too much to polish on single-player first, basically.  We had working multiplayer months ago, but disabled it for now because we kept breaking it while making gameplay changes, and it would be a better use of time to just finish fixing it back up all at once after the gameplay settles out.

We should start having some press preview (not REVIEW) builds in another week and a half or two weeks.  Very excited but nervous about taking that plunge.  The full game should be out by Q2 of 2019.

Oh, by the by: there was some back and forth for a while about “is this diverging too far from AIWC” and then “is this just going to be a graphical/performance upgrade of AIWC.”  Two extremes, I know.  But now we’ve landed in a happy medium space, where the game is a clear improvement from AIWC, but also not remotely just a clone of it.  I’m super proud of the strides this has taken forward during the Era of Discovery phase that we entered in August, because I feel like this has really brought the game into its own.

That’s all for now — thanks for reading and watching!

Chris

Pivoting AI War 2: Bring The Fun!

Hey all — Chris here.

We’ve hit a juncture point with AI War 2. We’ve built a lot of cool things, learned a lot, and now it’s time for a soft reboot. The current plan is to pivot the gameplay to very closely resemble the original AI War, but on our new engine, and then build up from that foundation.

Achievements So Far

So very much is going right with this game, from a technical level and an engine standpoint.

  • The game is crazy moddable.
  • It’s multithreaded to take full use of modern computers.
  • The 3D aspect is working out well.
  • We’ve figured out a variety of new tricks that definitely do improve on the first game, and can be kept.
  • The UI has already been dramatically improved by the introduction of a tabbed sidebar in the main view, and streamlining of several other mechanics that felt very difficult in the past. Eric (as a volunteer) has been a godsend for the UI, and we have pages and pages of more designs from him that we’re going to be working on in the next two months or so.
  • Badger (as a volunteer) has been an incredible tester, volunteer developer, and general help to getting us this far at all; he’s created the Nanocaust faction, as well as a new and better implementation of both Human Resistance Fighters and Human Marauders, among many, many other things.
  • Folks like zeusalmighty, chemical_art, Draco18s, and Magnus have been wonderful sources of thoughtful feedback, commentary, testing, and even map creation.
  • We’ve got art for over 130 distinct units (not counting different mark levels), and we’re set up well to finish off the rest of the art despite the staff changes noted below.
  • We’ve got over 1500 lines of spoken dialogue from more than 25 actors, focusing primarily on the human side at the moment; we have a few hundred lines of AI-side taunts and chatter, some of which is recorded but just not processed yet.
  • There are hundreds of high quality sound effects for a varied battlefield soundscape (with distance attenuation if you’re far away, and positional 3D audio if you’re down in the thick of it), all routed through a tuned mixer setup for optimal listening to all the various parts.
  • We have a set of music from Classic that is over four and a half hours long, and the new music from Pablo is partly in, but mostly set to be mastered and integrated within the next week or two.
  • There’s also a ton of map types, many of them new, and with a lot of sub-options to make them even more varied.
  • We’ve created half a dozen custom Arks as backer rewards, we have another four in various stages of completion, and there’s a lot of cool variety from those folks.
  • With a lot of the other custom art-related rewards (custom flagships, fortresses, and gold merc paint jobs — 21 backers affected in all, when you include the custom Ark folks), since we’re having staffing changes in that particular area, we’ve offered alternative options to those backers, yet said we’d honor the original reward if they prefer. We’ve had a mix of both responses, both of which are fine, and things are proceeding well there.
  • Other backer rewards are either already delivered (game keys of all sorts, many of the custom Ark rewards, backer badges, antagonistic AI voice line writing), or something that are still on the todo list but easy to handle prior to 1.0 (custom wallpapers, planet names, cyber ciphers, antagonistic player voice lines, custom AI personalities, and other non-art merc bits).

New Teaser Trailer!

On that note, here’s an excellent new teaser trailer that Chris and Craig created together. It’s light on details, but it’s just a teaser, after all:

 

The Sticking Point

The new game just isn’t living up to the first one’s legacy. We started out with a lot of design shifts away from the original AI War, and the design just hasn’t been as robust or fun as the original.

  • In AIW2, so far, there was no real sense of logistics. Things felt too simple.
  • The combat was basically getting you to just “fleetball” all the time, though that wasn’t our actual intent.
  • The defensive options felt too limited no matter what we tried, and player Arks wound up sitting away in a corner with their offensive fleet having to return home frequently to help with defense.

The Two Paths

We’ve done quite a lot of engine work to make the actual game that runs on top of it mostly data-driven, so we have a pretty decent amount of flexibility here. For the last few months, we’ve been chasing various issues in gameplay, trying to tidy those up, but it just kept feeling less and less “like AI War.” So, we had two options:

  1. Keep doing that and hope for the best, particularly that it magically starts feeling “like AI War” again.
  2. Go back and actually make AI War again, at least the base game, and then build from that foundation rather than starting way off somewhere else.

As you have likely already gathered, we’re going with option 2. As players, Keith and I have been really let down by how different certain sequels felt from their predecessors, and we really didn’t want to do that to you folks.

We want this to be the sequel you truly wanted, that takes the original game and then goes forward in a refinement fashion. Total Annihilation turns into Supreme Commander, not SupCom becoming SupCom 2. Age of Empires 1 begets AOE2, not AOE2 morphing into AOE3. All of those games listed are good, but there’s a reason that the second in each series is typically more acclaimed than the third.

Future Growth

We do know that some of you backed for something more radical in departure from the original game. Why have the same old experience again? That’s certainly a valid point, and that’s why we talk about this as being a foundation for future growth.

Look at how much the first game grew from version 1.0, way back in 2009, through six expansions and version 8.0 in 2014. They’re radically different games. That said, we were constrained at every turn by an engine that was designed for street racing, and that we were trying to take offroad. That just doesn’t work.

The new engine for AI War 2 is so robust and flexible that we can take it street racing, offroad, or underwater. Maybe we can have our cake and eat it too, at least eventually? Based on the underlying engine, there’s nothing stopping us from having n factions, xyz ships, and all sorts of new sub-games and mechanics on top of it if the response to the baseline is positive enough.

One example: We’ve floated a variety of crazy ideas about hacking in the last few weeks, for instance; and while those are Way Out Of Scope right now, there’s nothing stopping us from implementing those exact systems or something like them a year or two from now, once we know the baseline game is fun and feels “like AI War.”

Second example: in the preliminary design document we’re working on, check out the section way at the bottom about using Arks as champions. That’s something that we want to attempt sooner than later, and it could be an enormous leap forward on the “radical new ideas” front. Same with the mercenaries section in that document.

Schedule Changes

At this point, we’re looking at Early Access (the “fun point” fulcrum) being sometime in July. That will give us a lot of time to further implement Eric’s UI and refine some visual elements and whatnot while we’re at it. Obviously, schedules change, and this is a tight one on the side of Keith’s core gameplay work.

THAT said, the transition toward the fun point is going to come in 5 overall waves of core features from Keith. The 1st wave being minimum set of units to have a functional, winnable and losable game; the 2nd focusing on core variety; 3 and 4 focusing on various toys on human and AI sides; and 5 wrapping up the last toys as well as adding the minor factions noted on the design doc as being pre-fun-point. (Nemesis and Spire are both post-1.0)

Hopefully we’ll have a general idea of our progress, and people’s reactions to it, throughout those five waves.

After Early Access starts, there’s a bunch more stuff to add and tune, and we think the 1.0 can still be October. Some of the stretch goal content (Spire, interplanetary weapons, possibly some merc stuff) may be after 1.0, but that was always the plan, anyhow.

Staff Changes

All the above said, this is not coming without cost; it’s a major financial blow to the company, and unfortunately we can’t afford to keep our longtime artist Blue after April. She’s been with us for five years, and will be sorely missed, but we’ve known for a while this might be something that had to happen (as did she).

We’re basically folding back down into a quasi-one-man company, although that’s giving me too much credit. I’ll be the only full-time employee, at any rate. Keith is part-time and has been for some time. With the AI War 2 project being almost a year over schedule, something had to give. For myself, I’ve taken on a lot of debt, and am about to take on more.

We Remain Committed

You better bet that the game is going to come out; we’re working hard to make this truly shine, not just as a half-baked, unenjoyable mess. We’re determined that this will arrive at 1.0 as something that we can be proud of and that you can enjoy for many hundreds of hours.

This Isn’t an Engine Overhaul

We want to emphasize this! The AI War 2 engine framework isn’t changing much. The engine we built basically kicks butt, with all the moddability and support for advanced UIs and multi-threading, and so much more.

What’s changing is what we do with that engine, back towards something we know was fun on a different (much worse) engine. That solid baseline will be something we can have confidence in, and will be a great place from which to grow.

Example question: “Is the engine is flexible enough to go back to the original vision of mobile Arks as your king unit, and no stationary home command station?” Answer: an emphatic YES. The engine is so flexible that you can designate a king-unit option in XML and select it through the interface. That king-unit could be a squadron of fighters if you want, or the largest spirecraft with steroid stats. All of that can be done, at this very moment already, without any need for more than XML edits.

The 40+ Page Design Document

Measure twice, cut once. We’ve just spent the last week going back and planning things. Here’s the detailed design document.

In general there are a few upcoming stages:

  1. Working on getting it to match the AIWC base game. (The Pre-Fun timespan.)
  2. Players declare it is as fun as the base game of AIWC was. (The “Fun-Point.”) We may take it to Early Access at this point?
  3. We start bringing in more features. (The “Post-Fun-Point.”)
  4. We release the game to 1.0, probably in October.
  5. We do more stuff to meet our obligations as well as our personal goals. (The “Post-1.0 period.”)

At this point, Keith and I are feeling like the feature set as planned for the pre-fun-point is pretty darn huge on its own, and then there’s a variety of stuff planned for pre-1.0 that makes it even larger. We weren’t trying to expand the scope, but such is life.

There are also a number of ideas of varying tentativeness for after the fun-point that we want to try, such as bringing Arks in as a champion style. Things like that should really make the game feel like it has been taken to the next level compared to the first.

Looking for Modders!

Did you know:

  • ALL of the game data is in XML in AI War 2?
  • Adjusting ship stats is as easy as using a text editor to change a few numbers?
  • Adding new ships is just a copy-paste and then edit situation in those same XML files? You can use temporary graphics, and we can do real ones later.
  • All you need is Visual Studio 2015 Community Edition (which is free) or similar in order to edit tons of pieces of code for the game.
  • You can program map types with ease, GUI things with pain (that’s just UGUI for you), and make AI tweaks and similar somewhere in the middle of those two poles?

We’ll provide as much help as we can in getting you the info you need, and documenting all of this as things go on. If you have questions about where anything is, you can always ask Keith or Chris. Badger probably also knows, and before long we hope to have a solid stable of folks who know this well enough to help others.

Further, I feel it’s worth pointing out:

  • If you disagree with us about something relating to balance, you have the option of tuning the numbers yourself in your local copy and then showing us why we’re wrong. (Of course you can still ask us to do it, as has always been the case — but we’re no longer a bottleneck.)
  • If you make something particularly cool, then with your permission we’re happy to integrate that into the main game as an option that people can access without having to download something separate.
  • We wouldn’t have some of the cooler features that the game has right now, like the Nanocaust or some of the more interesting Dyson Sphere behaviors, if it wasn’t for Modder #1 — Badger. We know there were more of you who wanted to get involved in that sort of capacity, and now’s as good a time as any.

What do we WANT from modders?

A good question was raised: what are we really asking of modders, here? Honestly, that depends on the modder.

Some folks like putting in interface bits to solve personal pain points that they had with the original interface. Others have ideas for creative extra factions — for instance the Nanocaust — and we’d love to have those be something that you’re working on as we move toward 1.0, rather than as we move toward 2.0. If it’s all the same to you, anyway, it’s more valuable to us sooner than later, if that makes sense?

But in general, it’s kind of a “hey, if poking around at games like this is your sort of thing, we’re throwing a party and you’re invited.” We’re happy to show you around the house, not just throw you into the deep end of the pool without floaties.

Short Term Goals

We’re going to be aggressively pursuing the Fun Point, with Early Access to follow; and meanwhile building up and refining the UI, controls, and so forth to be the best that they can be.

Long Term Help

On the further volunteering end of things: if you want to help out with any sort of balance testing or custom unit design using the mechanics that we decide on as final, then the XML is easy to edit, and our doors are always open on our forums and on mantis.

Thanks for your continued support!

Best,
Chris

AuGMENTED Goes Gold

It’s here! Arcen Games are proud to finally announce the launch of the first Starward Rogue expansion: AuGMENTED. Available now!

This is a bumper content pack for Starward Rogue featuring the following list of goodies:
* A new gold floor with unique challenges and rewards
* 4 new music tracks composed by Pablo Vega and The Overthinkers
* 3 new mechs: The Zephyr, The Paladin, and the Warhog
* 90+ new items
* 30+ new enemies
* 125+ new rooms
* 8 new room obstacles such as the pulse trap and the flamethrower turret
* 10+ challenge rooms (a new room type exclusive to the gold floors)
* 6 new minibosses
* 9 new bosses

We are also introducing Starward Rogue: Gold Edition which is a package deal featuring both the base game and AuGMENTED. Both AuGMENTED and the Gold Edition will also be on 10% discount until January 31.
It’s been a lot of work, but AuGMENTED is something we’re very proud of over at Arcen Games. Thanks, everybody. Hail to the Hydral! :)
We also wanted to make a special thanks to Windless Zephyr for inspiring the Zephyr mech, and also for providing us with so many episodes of your long-running Starward Rogue series! :)

Plans and Status Updates for AI War 2

(Crossposted from kickstarter.)

Chris and Keith here! Apologies for not having made any kickstarter updates since June, good grief. We’ve had daily or weekly interactions and updates on our forumsblogyoutube dev diary, and release notes pages for anyone who wanted the full firehose info dump, but that’s no excuse.

Schedule Slippage – Overview

Let’s get to the toughest topic first. We had originally planned to have an Early Access release on Steam in May, and then a 1.0 release of the game this month, October. As you are no doubt guessing, a 1.0 release this month is not in the cards.

With the Early Access launch-pushback in May, we went ahead and gave out the keys to all of the early access backers at that time, even though the game wasn’t available for purchase on Steam yet. We’re going to do the same thing with the “launch” backers: we’ll have your keys to you later this month, even though the game isn’t in a launch state and won’t be launch on Steam just yet.

In both cases, you’re still getting your key when we said… but, well, the game is not in the state that you would want just yet. So at best that’s a half-kept promise. Obviously schedule slippage is not exactly uncommon with kickstarters or game development in general, but we are still very sorry about that.

Where We Are Right Now

Code:  

  • All of the core code for the game is done.
  • Multiplayer is currently broken for some reason, but should be quick to fix.
  • Massive amounts of work on frameworks for a flexible UI and extra modding capabilities have been put in place.
  • There are actually a number of extra goodies in there, like multi-squad formations and some other surprises.

Gameplay and Interface:

  • Balance leaves a lot to be desired.
  • In a general sense, the “feel” of the first game isn’t quite there yet.
  • There’s no tutorial, which makes starting to play quite hard.
  • The lobby interface is very sparse.
  • The overall GUI is ugly, but becoming increasingly usable through iterations. Our goal is for it to be better than the first game in terms of incorporating a lot of the longstanding requests people had for that game.
  • The Spire, Nemesis, and Interplanetary Weapons stretch goals are delayed, possibly until after launch.
  • Unexpectedly, we have a whole new minor faction in the form of The Nanocaust, created as the first mod for the game by BadgerBadger and integrated into the official builds by us.

Art: 

  • All of the ship models and textures — all two hundred and six of them — are complete as of last week.
  • The actual integration of those ship models and textures is only about halfway complete, give or take.
  • The ship model and texture work includes all of the Spire, Nemesis, and Interplanetary Weapons stretch goals stuff — so the art for those are already done, at least.
  • The far zoom icons are done, although we will probably change some of the “flair” parts of them as we get closer to release.
  • We have done a number of pieces of concept work for the GUI in terms of figuring out a style, but none of that is integrated into the game yet (no point until the actual underlying elements stop shifting around so much), and there’s still more concepting work to do in general.
  • The visual post-processing stack is still evolving at this point, to give the game a more sophisticated look and avoid the “circus lights in abundance” feel that sometimes hits right now.
  • The visuals for different shot types are still on the todo list.
  • The visuals for how ships die are also still on our todo list. There’s a balance there between performance of particle systems and the frequency (read: very high) at which ships die that we have to work out.
  • We’re still working on inside-one-squad formations that look awesome, although some of those are already in place. Basically making them look more like actual naval or air force military formations rather than just grids of ships. This has been pretty cool to see evolve.
  • The “ships flying around inside one squad with flame trails everywhere” approach has just turned out not to be feasible on modern hardware without impacting our ability to have really large-scale battles, unfortunately. There are some special tricks we could do to still make this happen, but that would get into some budget that we don’t have. This is a real shame, because this was something we showed off a lot in the kickstarter videos, but in pretty much every other respect our art is exceeding what was shown in the KS videos, so this has been a pretty decent tradeoff — and something we can return to in the future.

Audio: 

  • A lot of the sound effects for different shot types have been selected and set up, but are not integrated into the game yet. So the battles don’t sound as variegated yet as they will later.
  • Another bonus that we’ve chosen to explore thanks to the urging of backers is extra voiceovers for human ships when you give them orders and when there are various alerts. We’ve done about 30% of the recording with a variety of voice actors for this, and we’ve integrated maybe 5% of that into the game so far. It’s something that brings more of a feeling of commanding actual humans rather than just lifeless ships, and it’s something you’ll be able to disable. It’s also something that we’ve got a system for making sure it doesn’t over-saturate you with the same voice cues over and over again, too.
  • As far as AI taunts or human taunts that you can give back, we have not yet started recording any of those yet.
  • The music is partly in place, but overall only a few tracks thus far. Pablo tends to work in a massively parallel fashion, and so a lot of his tracks are at various stages of completion rather than him finishing one piece fully and then pushing it out and repeating. Bear in mind he has to compose them and then perform them and then do all the audio engineering and mastering on them, so this process gains a lot of efficiency.

(The GUI is being gradually blocked out and iterated-on in that fashion before being made pretty.)

Upcoming Schedule: October through November

During the next two months, more or less through December 6th, there’s going to be a flurry of extra work going on to try to get the game to a point where all of the AI War Classic enthusiasts are able to come to the new game and feel both somewhat at-home as well as like they’re in the next era of the game.

Exactly what that means is a bit unclear at this point, but we know it focuses on usability, balance, the interface, and possibly tutorials. The reason for the lack of clarity is that there’s a big back-and-forth between us and you in this section — this is a huge game, and so we need feedback on things that are unclear or break balance, and then we’ll respond to those items, and repeat.

There are a number of things we already have planned to work on through the early part of October prior to us releasing the “launch” Steam keys, and then after that point we hope we’ll see an uptick in the number of people who are giving us feedback.

Upcoming Schedule: December

After the December 6th date, or thereabouts, we hope to have things in a state where a LOT more people are comfortable jumping onboard and testing and giving us feedback.

Right now feedback has been really limited to only coming from a few people, largely because the game has been too unapproachable and too unbalanced. So that’s on us.

But we just absolutely cannot go to launch, or even to giving out press previews, with that little feedback. Our goal is to get our side of things to where we can start getting your feedback — from more and more of you — while at the same time seeing more and more of you enjoying simply playing the game without having major complaints.

Upcoming Schedule: January

Once the new year rolls around and we’re into 2018, hopefully we’re pretty close to where things are so polished that we can start handing out keys to the press and getting some previews. We don’t know if that will be at the start of January, or later into that month, but either way the goal is sometime in this time period.

At this point in time, when we start sending out press keys we plan to disable our backerkit preorders store and our paypal preorders. This is also likely when the “Coming Soon” page on Steam will go live, although we might conceivably do that in December.

Upcoming Schedule: February

This period might start sometime in January, if things are going really well, but either way it bleeds into February. Basically this is the “press review period.”

During this time we’re not taking any new sales for the game, and press are able to play and review the game. We hope that you folks are also playing the game and enjoying it and giving us feedback on how to make it better during this time so that we can apply some final polish to it prior to launch.

This time period is pretty critical for a number of reasons. Firstly, it gives press a chance to have reviews ready for launch, which can help a lot with purchase decisions. Secondly, it gives the game time to “settle” and hopefully have a lot fewer changes required despite a lot of backers playing it.

Thirdly, it gives a period of exclusivity where only backers and the press are able to actually get the game. People have an increased desire for things that they cannot have, and the press prefers writing about things that the general public cannot yet have, so we wind up with this funky period because human psychology is what it is. Hopefully this doesn’t feel manipulative to you, but we’re being upfront about why we’re doing this — basically it will increase the strength of our launch week (which is critical) and the number of reviewers who will play it during this month (also critical).

Upcoming Schedule: March

Obviously these dates get less certain as time goes out further, but the idea is that about a month after the press gets their hands on the game, we launch the 1.0 on Steam.

The exact day will partly be determined by what is going on with other game releases by other developers, what conferences and conventions are in that time period, what store-wide sales might stomp our launch, and so on. We won’t have visibility on what the exact ideal release date is until probably 6 weeks prior to choosing the day; and even then we might need to shift the day forward or back a week or so because of something else in the market that comes up.

Launch Discount

Speaking of the importance of a good launch week, one of the things we’re going to need to do is have the traditional 10% launch discount for the first 7 days. This is potentially contentious, because that’s a $2 discount that all of our existing launch backers (early birds aside) are not getting.

If this is something that angers anybody to a huge degree, then Chris will refund the $2 discount to those individuals out of his own pocket. So please put away your pitchforks. ;)

That said, I think we all have the same vested interest in seeing this game do well and go on to have lots of post-launch support (which require sales to fund), and expansions, and so on. Basically we all want to see the same sort of arc that AI War Classic had, I think?

The market is a lot more hostile now than it was in 2009, however, and the launch weeks are more and more critical to having any sort of momentum. The more we’ve looked at the data and talked to other indies, the more it has become clear what a problem it would be to not have a good leadup to launch (that month with the press), or not have a launch week discount that buyers have come to expect.

The backers and preorder customers here are the customers who have made this game possible in the first place, and so the 10% launch discount can really stick in the craw of some people when situations like this occur. We’ve witnessed the backlash against certain other games and developers when a development like that comes up out of the blue, which is why we’re telling you now, way in advance, and offering that $2 refund to non-earlybird launch backers if anyone is angry enough to take us up on that.

THAT said, in general we’ve been taking the approach that Prison Architect did, where “you pay more if you buy earlier,” which is counterintuitive in a lot of ways, but something that we’ve talked about the mechanics of with backers for a year or so now. Obviously the alpha and early access tier backers paid a whole heck of a lot more than the launch folks did, and those backers both help to support this game getting made at all, as well as having the game earlier and being able to influence the game’s design from an earlier stage.

We could go on at length about this particular topic, and we feel guilty about that as well as about the general schedule slippage here, but hopefully you read our reasoning and it makes sense — particularly if you’ve been watching the PC market as a whole lately.

(The above image is a good example of us still needing to do some work on the post-processing pipeline, although it’s already much better than that as of today’s release of 0.522.)

Backer Rewards Status

There are a variety of backer rewards in a variety of states of completion right now. For practical reasons, it’s pretty much breaking down like this:

  • Now that we’ve finished all of the ship art for the base game, we’re starting in on fulfilling backer rewards that are ship-art related. We’re working first with the custom Arks, since those are the most numerous and most complicated of the backer rewards, and then we’ll be moving on to the others that are art-related.
  • For things that are design-related (custom AI types, ship stats, etc), we probably won’t get to those until December. It’s better if things are more stable and you can play the game more before you get into that sort of reward.
  • For the audio taunts and the text and lore bits, I’m expecting that probably January would be the timeframe, just to balance with our workloads.
  • As far as all of the digital rewards, other game keys, etc, those are available now and you should already have them. The wallpapers aside, which again will likely be January.
  • To reiterate, the last of the AI War 2 game keys (those for “launch” backers) will go out later this month, and anyone else at a different tier should already have theirs.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully that covers the questions of where we are, where we’re headed, and why. The blogs and dev diaries and release notes show where we’ve been recently. Again we apologize about the delay, but we’re doing our best to mitigate its impact on you, and are feeling good about how it will impact the project as a whole.

As always: any questions, please let us know!

Best,

Chris and Keith

AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News

Please see our latest update on Kickstarter for all the details.

What’s The TLDR?

1. We’re going to delay the actual Early Access launch on Steam until something like late June or early July. Previously it was intended to be May 29th.

2. BUT, for all the “Early Access” level backers from Kickstarter and BackerKit, we’re going to give you your keys on May 29th anyway, as promised.

Seriously, there’s a lot of details there, and if you have any questions please let us know.  Thank you so much for your continued support as we take this game to bigger and better places than we had anticipated.  Speaking of, we just dropped a massive new release an hour or so ago. :)

AI War 2 is a GO! Thank you! Here’s what happens next.

Chris here! On behalf of Keith and the rest of us: you folks seriously rock. We’re grateful for all the support you’ve shown us and this project, which has really brightened the end of a hard year.

Now for some housekeeping and general timeline information. This is a long post broken into sections, so feel free to skip around if you don’t care about the minutiae of the release schedule. Some bits are more relevant for some backers than others.

What Happens Next?

Right Now: Two Quiet Weeks

First, there’s a two-week period where kickstarter collects funds and makes sure that any failed pledges get resolved if they can be. This lasts until the very start of January, at which time they’ll release funds to us.

This actually works out really well, because it’s right over the Christmas and New Years holiday weeks. We’d normally be quiet during that period anyhow, spending time with our friends and families, and I imagine a fair number of you will be doing the same.

During this time we’ll mostly be interacting with you either in the comments section here, or on our forums for the game — which we encourage you to join! Updates-wise it will be pretty quiet, but we’ll still be around and you can talk to us as easily as ever.

January 2017: BackerKit Surveys

BackerKit is basically a symbiotic logistics platform that works with Kickstarter to make Keith’s and my lives way easier. It does all the organization that we’d otherwise have to do in spreadsheets, and will save us literally days (if not weeks) of time in getting keys and other backer rewards to you.

For a lot of the higher pledge tiers there are extra things that we need to ask you, because there was something creative that you get to design. So there will be questions about those bits when relevant, and we’ll get the process started with each of those.

These surveys can’t go out until the funds close from kickstarter, since we won’t be 100% certain who has a failed pledge until then. But I’m working on the survey design this week (and started it last week).

I’ll give you a heads up prior to these going out so that you know to expect them, but they should arrive in the first or second week of January.

Boring but important details:

  • You will not need to create a BackerKit account to answer your survey.
  • The invitation email will contain a link to your personal survey. It is important to submit your responses as quickly as you reasonably can since we need this information to process your rewards.
  • If you need to change your survey responses, or add or remove add-ons, you can click on the link in your survey email again or request your survey link under “Lost your survey?” on our BackerKit project page. (This page will only start working after we send the surveys out.)
  • You can just message/email us and give us your information… but answering your survey will help us get your rewards out to you quicker and let us spend more time making the game (hint, hint).
  • If you used Facebook to log into your Kickstarter account, the BackerKit survey link will be sent to the email you used for your Facebook account. If you have another email address that you’d prefer to use, please message us.

February 2017: Alpha Keys Get Sent Out

We don’t have exact dates on this set up yet, but basically if you backed at a tier that gets you alpha access (or add that as an add-on on backerkit later), then you’ll be getting a Steam key for the game during February.

That key will remain live permanently, but the game itself won’t be purchase-able on the storefront at that point.

Leading Up To Late May 2017: Alpha Period

During this alpha period the game is in no way feature complete, it will have all sorts of bugs and in-progress bits, and so forth.

  • Some folks backed at an alpha level just to give us more financial support, and probably don’t intend to actually play during the alpha period. That’s fine! Your key won’t expire if you hang onto it, or you can go ahead and register the key with Steam and not play it until Early Access or later.
  • For a lot of the others who backed at this level, we know you’re looking to get in “earlier than early” to start giving us feedback things as they are going through their embryonic stages and taking form.  So that process starts in February, essentially.  It’s an exceedingly incomplete product during this time, but you can help us refine individual pieces with your feedback, and our design document lays out exactly where we’re headed.

During this period we’ll have updates to the Steam version of the game that range from a few times of day at one extreme to once a week on the other extreme.  Most of the time it’s every few days, as you know if you’ve followed any of our past titles in similar time periods.

May 2017: Early Access Keys Go Out

At this point, the core of the game is feature-complete.  Every last feature from stretch goals in particular won’t be in at this time, but the game is playable from end-to-end and hopefully has a lot of things polished up from the alpha backers’ commentary.  I expect lots of open tickets still in our bug tracker at that point, though, and that’s fine.

This is the time that the game will also appear for public sale on Steam and Humble, for $30 at that time.  So we should be getting a much wider array of feedback from then on.

Leading Up To October 2017: Early Access (Beta) Period

Then it’s a matter of finishing the last features, having a ton of polish work, lots of testing, and so on.  A lot of the creative collaborative bits with other high-tier backers will happen during this time period.

October 2017: 1.0 Launch Keys Go Out!

The price for the game will drop to $20, and the game leaves Early Access at this time. This is also when the keys for all the launch backers go out.

If you like what you see during Early Access so much that you just can’t wait until this point, then there should be a way for you to upgrade your pledge on BackerKit without you having to buy a whole second copy of the game or something.  We’ll take care of you!

November 2017 and onward: Post-1.0

What exactly happens here is hard to predict at this point, but we know we’ll still be at it in some fashion.

Some of the highest-tier creative rewards will likely be fulfilled in this period, so that those folks can see the full initial game release as they choose what they want to add with their creative tier bit.

We’ll also be into general post-release support, of course.  And hopefully we’ll be expanding this further with some post-1.0 stretch goals that we can still reach via BackerKit.

We may then look to further crowdfunding or DLC to start adding massive expansions to the game, or who knows.  It’s pretty early to say on that at this point, and we’ll be consulting with players heavily on that.  We want to do something that makes the most sense for everyone, and that people are happy with.  Our focus right now is on 1.0, so we’ll revisit this question late next year.

Who’s Working On This, And When?

This is a recap of things that we stated in the main kickstarter page, the FAQ, the Risks and Challenges section, and in comments and updates in response to various backer questions.  So hopefully you already know this, but it’s worth reiterating here just so that there are no surprises down the line.

Keith LaMothe

He’s the lead designer and lead programmer, and you’re going to be hearing from him a whole lot more than me during this whole process.  You’re in super good hands with him, as you probably know by now if you’ve been reading his updates.

Chris Park

(That’s me.)  I’m acting as the producer on this one, and doing various front-end programming and graphical work.  I will not be working on this project on a daily basis for nearly so long as Keith.  That was never built into the funding, isn’t needed, and won’t be affecting anything on the timetable negatively.  Keith is your man: you don’t want or need two cooks in the kitchen.

For my own part, I’ll be doing my AI War 2 work to support Keith, and then with the rest of my time I’ll have to do something else.  As strange as it may sound, I’m actually going to be working on VR titles supporting both the Rift and Vive.  That’s a whole other story, though — but when you see that happening, please don’t be surprised.

As stated repeatedly on this campaign, there will be no mixing of funds, no usage of AI War 2 funds for anything unrelated to it, and so on.  We’ve done simultaneous projects at multiple points in our 7 year history as a company, and it’s worked out really well for us.  Any questions on this, we’re always happy to answer them.  Some other developers have done some seriously shady stuff in this area, and we want to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

Daniette “Blue” Mann

She’s our art director, and is doing most of the art for the game.  Things like the special effects are not her, and I’m doing most of the animating this time (not that she can’t do it, but the division works well), and I’m doing a few things like normal maps and the shader code and tuning and lighting and post-processing effects, etc.

But when it comes to ship and icon modeling, texture work, GUI art, and so on, that’s all Blue.  The actual GUI design itself is a tag-team effort between her, myself, and Keith.  Balancing attractiveness, readability, organization, and functionality with each of us representing different aspects of that.  And actually players representing a pretty fair stake in that, too, particularly during the alpha period.

She also won’t be needed on AI War 2 nearly as long as Keith, but she will be involved on it for longer stretches than me.  There’s a lot of modeling and texturing to do!  Some of the higher backer tier folks will be working with her at various points to do custom Ark variants and things like that, too.

Pablo Vega

He returns as composer thanks to our first stretch goal being hit, and his wife Hunter is already featured in the vocals of at least one track (that one was originally for Stars Beyond Reach).  His involvement is as a contractor for a very specific set of work, and so he’ll be around to do that work and then will focus on other things.

Dave “Dio” Sperandio

He has been doing the mastering for a lot of our music during the last year or so, and boy does he bring out the best in Pablo’s music.  He’ll be involved in the briefest way of all of us, but will basically crank up the quality of Pablo’s music to 11.  He does the same for Pentatonix and Lindsey Sterling, so he’s, uh… quite good. ;)

Erik Johnson

He handles PR, marketing, press, and a lot of general business development work for Arcen, and he’s going to be doing the same here (and already has been).  He’s consistently invaluable, and frees up a lot of time for Keith and I as well as opening doors and increasing visibility in general.

His amount of day to day involvement fluctuates heavily based on what is going on with the project at the time.  For the next while he gets a breather, after a hard couple of months of kickstarter work. :)

“Cinth”

He has worked with us as a contractor on a variety of projects, most notably Starward Rogue and In Case of Emergency, Release Raptor.  He has a variety of talents ranging from balance work and unit design to “technical art” skills such as taking models from Blue and making sure that they have the lowest possible poly counts (Maya does strange things sometimes that he’s then able to straighten out with tools in Unity or by hand).

A lot of the model optimization is going to fall to him, which saves Blue and I a ton of time.  We’ll still be using LODs and all that jazz, but making sure that all of it is as efficient as possible is one of the things he’s able to focus on.  And then beyond that he’s able to save Keith a fair bit of time with help on numbers-crunching for balance work, and organizing/collating feedback on that sort of thing from forum-folk.  He does the odd bit of coding now and then, too.

Ben Mcauley

He’s the main voice actor that we’ll be working with, although we may expand the roster some.  I may do a bit myself, we’ll see — I’ve had some success with that in the past with voice modifiers on to be an evil presence.  Ben can be heard throughout In Case of Emergency, Release Raptor as a variety of robots, and he’s also the voiceover in the original kickstarter’s trailer.  (Reminder: that trailer talks about things from the first kickstarter, NOT this one — things like solar systems, tech upgrades, etc, are not here… yet!)

When Can You Expect To See Progress Updates?

During these next two weeks it will probably be pretty quiet, but we’re happy to answer questions on the forums or in the comments.

After we hit January and are past the holiday period, we’ll keep doing updates that explain some features and what we are up to.  Not the epic written updates that Keith was doing during the campaign (those took a lot of time for him to write!), but we’ll do random showcases of things in video and written form.

With a few exceptions to that. :)  Keith is planning to continue the AI series, maybe one post every two weeks, until he’s covered everything from the overview post.

After we hit alpha, then we’ll be posting incredi-detailed release notes with every build.  Those get overwhelming fast if you’re not following along with each one, so we’ll be posting roundup summaries every couple of weeks or whatever people most prefer.  I’ll pepper in some videos there, too.

There won’t be any shortage of you being able to find out what is going on — instead it really depends how far down that rabbit hole you want to go. ;)

Now Back To Work!

We’ve made some good progress on the game during this kickstarter, but overall our progress has been slow because of having so much kickstarter-related work to do.  Now we actually get to go back to Making The Game, which is our favorite part.  (It’s kinda why we’re here.)

Thank you again everybody SO much.  It means a ton to all of us.

Best,
Chris

Click here to view the original kickstarter update.

 

BackerKit for AI War 2 — missed the kickstarter? Look here.

TLDR: Here’s our BackerKit store page!

Chris here!  If you missed the kickstarter campaign for AI War 2, you’re not alone.  Sometimes news just takes a while to percolate around, and that’s no reason for you to be unable to get into the alpha or whatever tier if you want to kick in for the project.  Not only that, if you want to help us hit some more stretch goals post-campaign.  We’ve hit four with the main campaign plus paypal backers, but with BackerKit I’ll bet we can hit some more.

At any rate, if you’d like to participate, BackerKit made the unfortunate decision to call these “preorders,” which is quite a slur in my opinion. ;)  Never preorder games that are going to be made the same way whether or not you preorder them!  Listen to TotalBiscuit and Jim Sterling and many others as to why.

Nomenclature aside, we see these “preorders” as being a continuation of the campaign for people who missed it.  You can get in early, yes, but you can also help to fund extra features that otherwise would not happen.  If you prefer to wait until launch, of course we’ll be right here at that time, too.

The greatest chances to help shape the game are during alpha and early access, but we have a long history of evolving our games (AI War Classic is a prime example of that) well after their 1.0 launch.  Whether that’s through DLC or further crowdfunding or free updates or what, we don’t yet know.  Partly we need to talk to our backers and forumites and figure out what makes the most sense for everyone.

Thanks for all your support!

Chris

AI War 2 Kickstarter: Paypal at last!

Update October 22nd, 2018: The kickstarter and backerkit periods are well and truly past now, and you can buy the game on Steam or on Humble, or via our Humble Widget.  They all have paypal options!

Update October 31st, 2017: Note that a number of older options have been removed, since we’re now closer to launch.  So this page has been cut down quite a bit in terms of what all is on here.
Chris here.  Well, gee!  I am super slow off the starting line on this one, and I apologize for that.  People have been asking for a way to pay with PayPal on our current kickstarter for AI War 2 for a while (to put it mildly), and I have not delivered until now.So what the heck are all these options down here?  Well, they basically correspond to the backer tiers on the kickstarter, which you should see for details.  Unfortunately paypal only lets me put 8 options per dropdown, so the first three dropdowns here are all just individual backer tiers.  To see what the heck it is you get with each one, please visit the kickstarter page.  The name of the tier here matches the name of the tier there, to try to keep things as clear as possible.

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The items below are just a continuation of the items above, to reiterate.  If you select one of the items below, you’re already getting everything from the items above.  However, in the items below we do start getting into backer rewards that are not additive in some cases, so if you want to back at one level and receive a “lesser” reward, please use the comments to tell us.  If there are questions, you can always email us at arcengames at gmail dot com.


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Yet again: the items below are just a continuation of the items above.  These are the really expensive tiers, and definitely read the kickstarter for details on what the heck these are all about.

A number of these have quite strict backer limits, and we’ll be enforcing those on a first-come-first-serve basis.  If the backer limit is exceeded, then we’ll look at the timestamps for when people chose those tiers, and refund the people who were too late.  In a rare exception, if we determine it’s feasible, we might be able to let the extra person keep that tier, but we’ll have to discuss the internal costs of fulfillment on our side.

Frankly all these notes about backer limits and how we’ll handle those apply to the middle backer tiers, although right now there’s a good amount of room in all the tiers that didn’t already sell out.

Related note: we won’t be strictly enforcing the early bird backer limits.  When those sell out we’ll also remove the option, but if a few extra people get the Early Bird pricing, that’s okay.  Our only concern with the backer limits and when we might have to refund you is the things that cost us substantial money/time to fulfill, and looking at what is feasible for us.

I apologize that this is all potentially so confusing: it’s a big part of why I’ve been putting off posting this in the first place!

Add-ons

Now the easy stuff!  Add-ons are just extra thingies that you can get in addition to your backer tier itself.  This is actually easier to handle with paypal (or backerkit) compared to kickstarter itself, go figure.  These are all things you can get as many copies of as you want, no limits:

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Lastly, in kickstarter the tiers are when you pledge AT LEAST a certain dollar amount.  You can always kick in extra if you want to help reach the next stretch goal, but you don’t need any extra backer reward.

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And now, the big ‘ol chart of stuff if you want to read about it here instead of on the kickstarter:

Questions?

We’re always happy to field questions at arcengames at gmail dot com (easiest way to get our attention), but there are also quite a few common questions that are answered in our AI War 2 Kickstarter FAQ.  Things like delivery dates, what the difference is between an alpha backer and a launch/1.0 backer, and so on.

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