AI War 2 Launches into Early Access!
about 2 months ago
– Mon, Oct 15, 2018 at 11:32:11 PM
Hey folks! Chris here. :)
This is a really exciting day, because we've finally hit the point where the game is ready for Early Access, and it's actually OUT.
Note that anyone who backed the kickstarter should have had their keys as of last October at the very latest, so if you're missing that then please be sure to check out your account at backerkit to get your key: https://aiwar2.backerkit.com/
If you like it, please leave a review!
I want to go ahead and get this out of the way before getting into anything else. It's really safe to say that reviews are a big part of the lifeblood of games on Steam, and if you're enjoying it then the best way you can help us out is to tell other people.
So far, so good!
In terms of the reception and initial launch sales during EA, things are looking good so far! It's only been an hour and a half or so, but we're currently sitting at #7 on the top sellers list.
AI War Classic got up a little higher than that at a couple of points in the past, and so did The Last Federation, but it's still early yet and the market is tougher now, anyway.
Anyway, I'm not about to complain. Our new art for the header looks really killer on the main rotator, too!
My big goal for this is for it to help us fund the sort of ongoing development that the first game had. We had 6 years of development, with 6 releases, on the original game. I'd love to see that sort of longevity again.
And that's where I come to... so far so good! Things are looking up on that front (based on all of 1.5 hours' worth of data, granted).
In the sense of this game, compared to what this game had a while ago? Well, we've got a lot more polish, more content, more interfaces, better usability... a whole lot of stuff. Not the lobby yet, frustratingly, but that will be soon.
In the sense of this game, compared to the original game? Well, the factions here are absolutely nutso amazing compared to what the first game was able to do. There are "quick start" options that are easy to select and which have a lot of interesting scenarios already laid out for you. No need for the scary lobby, with those. Obviously lots of visual and audio improvements, but the mechanics themselves have also been made a lot more digestible while still retaining their strategic depth. Not to mention all the technical leaps forward, like the insane amount of multithreading, or GPU instancing, etc.
Should you play now?
I certainly think so! We've had a lot of people wanting to wait until a more-final version of the game, and we're to that point now, mechanically-speaking. The lobby is still a hacky mess, but all of the other interfaces are pretty mature. We plan on making more visual improvements to them just for beautification purposes, and there are more interfaces that we do want to still add, but overall we're getting there.
For ships, we do plan on a laundry list of new mechanics and new ships to go with them... but the roster is already pretty large. The factions add a ton of replayability on their own.
Anyway, a big part of the reasoning for Early Access is for us to gain feedback as we proceed from here and polish things up, add the last content, and so forth. We've been fortunate to have an increasing number of testers over the last month, plus continual help from Badger and Puffin, and more recently from Quinn as well.
Speaking of, keep an eye out for kickstarter wallpapers to drop soon -- Cath did an awesome piece that is going to be a kickstarter/backerkit exclusive. :)
This will be the one temporary showstopper, for some of you. Because of all the rework we wound up doing over the last two years, trying to maintain multiplayer stability during that whole time was just not feasible. So multiplayer has been disabled for a while, and we'll resume working on that in January. I want to spend the rest of this year on polish, bugfixing, and those fun new ship mechanics that everyone can enjoy.
1.0 Release Date?
The plan right now is for Q2 2019, and that seems very much like a date we'll be able to hit. After two years of constant slippage, it's nice to be able to say that with a feeling of confidence. All of the heavy R&D/prototyping pieces of work are behind us.
Loyalty Coupons on Steam
Something you may notice on Steam is a 25% off coupon that you get in your inventory if you've previously bought AI War 1, The Last Federation, or Bionic Dues. This is basically like getting the Early Bird Launch Backer tier here on kickstarter. We have a ton of customers that we have no other way of reaching (we only have contact info for about 10k out of half a million customers), and this is a way for them to actually get notified.
I hope nobody feels frustrated by this, but it is definitely a major tool in getting the word out that the game even exists. If you have a coupon that you can't use or don't wish to use, feel free to pass it on to someone else who wants it. Won't offend me in the least.
For the next week or so, it's probably a matter of bugfixes and balance tweaks, paired with me working on the lobby. Then I plan to start hitting those new ship mechanics up like crazy, and I'm still debating whether or not to try adding a procedural element to some ships. We're also talking about alternate end conditions of various sorts, but nothing is guaranteed on that right now. I think it's promising, though.
Lastly: Thank you!
We still have plenty more to do, but it's thanks to everyone here that we've made it this far. You kickstarted us in every sense of the word, and I just wanted to reiterate how grateful we all are for that.
Talk to you soon!
Early Access Approaches: Showreel Video from AI War 2 v0.774!
3 months ago
– Tue, Sep 25, 2018 at 01:08:11 AM
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!
Thanks for all the help! Major performance improvement pass now complete. :)
5 months ago
– Thu, Jul 19, 2018 at 08:11:08 PM
The details are in the two most recent release posts, for My Friend The Marauder and the newer Mathematics Milestone. And then there's a further rabbit hole into the voluminous release notes from each of those.
Quick Aside: Review Our Stuff!
We're still running our #loveindies giveaway through the end of tomorrow. Sign up to potentially get a free copy of AI War 2 or Stars Beyond Reach. On the subject of #loveindies, 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. Like most indies, we could really use the support. Reviews make a material difference in pushing us out of the obscurity of the sludge that often surrounds indie titles on the storefront these days.
Please note that you don't have to leave a review in order to enter the giveaway; and you shouldn't leave a good review if you don't think good things. Reviews don't help your chances in the giveaway, blah blah blah let's just clearly keep things ethical.
Back On Topic
Since we had two recent kickstarter updates that were asking for help, I felt like it was a good idea to actually follow up with a note that we actually DID get the help we needed.
After I open-sourced the multithreading code, BearPerson came in and made short work of fixing up the core issue it had. He then noted that our actual larger problem is in our timing code. We haven't fixed that yet, but now we know where to look on that one, and Keith's on the case.
On my end, I've been focusing on the visualization layer and making that more efficient. And I have to say, I'm just so excited about that. I'm the only person who has really had a chance to play the game with the new improvements on that front, since I just pushed that release out about 10 minutes ago. It's night-and-day different, at least to me. What felt sluggish in various small ways (switching between planets, for instance) is now instant and crisp. Startup times for the entire program are faster. Etc.
It took even more work than I'd been expecting, and I had been expecting plenty of work, but it was well worth the time. As part of that, we're also now using SIMD hardware accelerated vector math. And the game looks better than ever, thanks to some little graphical tweaks I've been making as I went. For instance, I still love this new animated forcefield visual:
New Friends For Players
Another thing that is unrelated, but super cool of late, are the new allegiance options for factions (we don't even call them minor factions anymore). You can have marauders, macrophage, nanocaust, or even the devourer on your side, now! Or hating everyone, hating just you but not the AI, etc.
The situations you can get up to with all that are pretty crazy, and Badger is the one to thank on that front. It was a super good idea by him and some of the folks on the forums to do that, and then he implemented it.
Basically you can now treat this as a simulation sandbox (ala The Last Federation) and just watch while factions smash each other to smithereens. Or you can put yourself in there as Unicron's little buddy or The Borg's sidekick, essentially. Super cool stuff, and potentially both fun/funny as well as interesting learning scenarios as well as legitimate strategic opportunities.
Either way, even if you're not making the nanobot scourge your friend, it's pretty telling just how much busier and multi-faceted this game can become than just the fight between you and the AI that the first game had. You really have a good shot of seeing a conflict between two factions you hate, exploiting either the distraction or the opening that causes, and making new inroads from that.
If you don't enable these factions, then the game stays pretty much like what you remember, just upgraded a bunch of different ways. If you turn these on... well, it's a whole new era, I feel like. Today is a good day.
Example of Awesome Modding - and Multithreading Help Wanted
5 months ago
– Wed, Jul 11, 2018 at 08:49:48 PM
Are you a programmer interested in helping out on a multithreading issue? Be sure to see the bottom (or this forum thread).
Case Study of Modding: Marauders
Before talking about the release or multithreading, this is a great time to talk about the power that our Modder #1 (and volunteer developer to boot), Badger, has been able to exert thus far. He's made a ton of factions, but right now let's talk about Human Marauders, which were in the first game as well.
If you don't remember them from the first game, that's because they weren't too exciting; marauders were units that would periodically show up from the gravity well edge (not a wormhole) and cause some trouble. They were hostile to the player only, and were generally pretty insignificant. It added a tiny bit of spice, but not much.
He started from scratch when implementing these in the new game. His version of Marauders are hostile to everyone. They will attack any system they deem "weak enough to take," then drop in from the edge of the gravity well. If they destroy all the defenses, then they start building Outposts, turrets and additional ships. They're already starting to defend the planet as their own. If you leave the planet alone, the Marauders will keep making outposts, and each outpost will get stronger (ie it will build stronger defensive ships and more turrets).
Once an outpost hits Max Rank, it starts to build Raiders (powerful starships). Once the Marauders have built enough Raiders, they will attack adjacent-through-wormhole systems that they think are "weak enough to take." If you leave outposts at Max Rank, the marauders will be able to attack more and more often -- their "Attack Budget" gets bonuses based on how many Max Rank Outposts there are. Also the Max Budget gets increased every time they capture a planet.
Fun fact: If you take out all the defenses on a swath of AI planets around your empire (but haven't actually captured or defended the planets) then the Marauders will rapidly take all of them over and potentially become a real threat. To you... and the AI and other factions.
TLDR: Instead of just launching quick raids, these Marauders are here to take their own stab at conquering the galaxy.
People have been giving lots of balance feedback on the Marauders, as well as positive impressions for that faction on Discord.
This also illustrates two pretty key points:
The marauders are an example of what can be done with the modding tools of AIW2, but which was basically impossible for AIWC even for us as developers. Gives a bit of context as to why making this sequel was important.
- It's also a really good example of how a "Decent but not exciting" AIWC faction turned into something way cooler in AIW2, so buy AIW2 to get cooler stuff. ;) There are a lot of factions like that (all-new ones and revised ones), even though we're pivoting the core mechanics to be more like AIWC. For anyone worrying that this is just AIWC HD, please fear not!
AI War 2 v0.749: "Release The Hounds"
Just out today. Release notes here.
Where to even start? This release is pretty sizeable.
There's been a bunch of balance to minor factions.
- Mercenaries got some extra oomph.
- AI Waves were previously capped at 100 units (cough, whoops), but now will gleefully flood your planets properly.
- There are auto-build options for your convenience now available in the game settings.
- The salvage and reprisal mechanics from the first game are added back in.
- Golems are now available again -- five of them, anyway!
...and all of that stuff is just what Badger, a volunteer, has put in this release. To say we're indebted to him is an increasingly sharp understatement with every week. Holy smokes.
On my end of things, I upgraded the game to Unity 2018.2 and mono-.NET 4.6. Some performance improvements were possible from this, and a lot more multithreading options. A few boosts happened out of the gate, and I was able to explore (and then discard) the Lightweight Rendering Pipeline as an option.
I spent a fair bit of time on the multithreading problem, but at this point I've been hitting a wall where I can't get the performance any higher. I'm sure with more time I could figure it out, but in the meantime there are bigger fish for me to fry in terms of performance blockers (namely the front-end vis layer's extreme performance hits, which I talked about two releases ago).
Multithreading Help Wanted
Last release I asked for some help on the multithreading problem, which was clarified here. At this point, I've basically hit a wall in my ability to improve the threading without getting really excessive in my expenditure of time. There are a variety of other things that really need my attention right now, so I'm having to put this on the back burner.
That said, I've open-sourced our multithreading code and our core sim loop, so if there are any kind souls who want to take a look at it and help more directly with revisions, that would be super appreciated. I know folks were a bit hampered by being blind to the code before.
How to get at/test code:
1. Make sure that Steam has updated you to the latest build of the game (0.749 or later).
- 2. Inside the install folder for the game, open the AIWarExternalCode. There you'll find a AIWarExternalCode.sln visual studio solution.
- 3. You can open that with visual studio community edition 2015 or 2017, and then it should let you compile directly to the GameData/ModdableLogicDLLs folder.
- 4. Running the game after having compiled a new version into that folder will run it with your changes in place.
- 5. If you want to use a different IDE, or even no IDE and just compile manually, you can do so. Badger has scripts for doing so on linux, for example.
- 6. The actual scripts of relevance are in the AIWarExternalCode/src/Sim folder (and its subfolders), which has a variety of C# files that I've added comments to. There are other files that call into and out of those files, but all of the multithreading bits and the main-thread-bits that call them are all there.
- 7. I've made a mantis ticket on our bugtracker that has the savegame, plus instructions on how to see the issues.
Any help is appreciated! And I'm happy to answer questions. I have made a forum thread that is probably the best and easiest place for us to discuss this.
Right, That Wraps Things Up
Anyway, that's enough out of me. There's a lot of excellent progress.
Thanks for reading!
I again wanted to mention: we have a new Steam Developer Page. If you go there and follow us, you'll be notified about other upcoming releases (including this one, of course).
Any C# multithreading experts in the crowd?
5 months ago
– Fri, Jul 06, 2018 at 02:09:34 AM
In the latest release, I talk about some of the various performance profiling work I've been up to this week. It's a lot!
There's a particular multithreading issue that is eluding me so far in terms of the best solution, though, and I thought I'd check here if anyone in the backer crowd has experience in that area. We've got a lot of programmers amongst us, so I figured it was worth asking rather than just me banging on it on my own. Feel free to email me at chrispark7 at gmail.
All will be well either way, don't worry. :)