AI War II

Created by Chris Park/Arcen Games

Finally a sequel to the award-winning, genre breaking, asymmetric strategy cult classic. The most sentient AI in gaming.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Space Game Junkie Podcast recording LIVE tonight at 8pm EST.
about 2 months ago – Tue, Mar 26, 2019 at 11:31:23 PM

Chris here!  It's been a few months since I last did the podcast guest thing, and it's nice to be getting back on that horse, so to speak.  This is a favorite show of mine to guest on, and they've moved to a new format with live chat and streaming going on during it.

Here's the details:

Chat Room - https://discord.gg/ZvY7dhk
YouTube Stream - https://gaming.youtube.com/spacegamejunkie/live
Twitch Stream - https://www.twitch.tv/spacegamejunkie 

If you miss the show, don't worry, you can still watch it later on without issues.  The main thing you'd be missing is the ability to put questions in through the chat room, assuming the moderators are going to be passing some of those along.  I don't know about you, but I can't read the chat room while also speaking coherently, so I tend to put it out of my sight as much as possible and rely on the hosts to bring up anything that people want me to address.

Version 0.900

Work on that new version is coming along well, but it's HUGE in terms of how much code is being changed and how much it adds for players to find, do, etc.  I keep coming up with more things I want to address, too, and Puffin and Badger also keep coming up with really good points.

Because of those shifts, most likely we'll do a 0.850 release first, sometime next week, and only in the beta branch on Steam.   It will likely be buggy as heck, and it will definitely be suboptimal in a lot of ways where we're not remotely finished with some new aspect of the GUI or whatever.  There are some GUI subscreens that are needed for the full 0.900 experience that there just isn't time to do before next week, but it would be good to be getting testing and feedback for other kinds of bugs in the meantime.

Hopefully then we can spend a few weeks finishing the 0.900 work list, polishing whatever is wrong with the beta versions just from the sheer number of code changes, and so on.  Various thing that might interest you in the new version:

  • Squads are going away, as I know people weren't fond of that.
  • Hopefully by 0.900, but not right away next week, we'll have some replacement icons for ships.
  • There's a bunch of new ship variants available right out of the gate.
  • There is a new concept of Fleets, which is... kind of Stellaris-like in a vague way as I understand it, but also just kind of its own new thing.  It will lead to waaaay larger effective ship caps for you, way more varied battle groups and defensive groups, and in general also a lot less micromanagement.
  •  You can read about some of the details here, but those details are at least somewhat out of date, now.
  • You can read the kind of stream-of-consciousness flow of what's actually changing here, but bear in mind that so many things are half-done that certain things are out without their replacements being in place yet.  So please refer to the first document to see what is in general planned, despite the fact that some plans have evolved a bit as implementation has been ongoing.
  • One TLDR problem that this new update addresses is basically I didn't like how exploration felt in this game.  The factions and whatnot are awesome, but the feeling of actual exploration was completely missing from me and it has nothing to do with the amount of content.  Throw in more content and it would have just felt more cluttered.  Instead it was a matter of how exploration plays out really being suboptimal.  So scouting is one thing that is being completely redone, but that's not the only aspect to exploration that needed work.
  • The other big TLDR problem that this new update addresses was that there were a lot of various things when it comes to managing your empire -- in this sequel and the original -- that either couldn't be done very easily, or at all, because of the UI or general design.  You had too much or too little control in various ways, a bunch of stuff that needed to be automated in the first game because it was a pain, and a bunch of interfaces that were painful or text-heavy because of the underlying design.  There are actually a substantial number of further improvements in these areas that are being discussed by Puffin and Badger and I that aren't in either of the documents above, but those will most likely come starting after 0.850 next week so that you can comment on those as we go.

This project has been a strange one, because for a goodly while I've really loved the tech that we've built for it, and I've loved the AIs and the factions and a bunch of that sort of thing, but the actual act of playing this game... hasn't really done it for me.  I remember having similar feelings about the original game around this same time of year in 2009, as I was pushing on towards a 1.0 in May of that year.  

I'm not sure if 1.0 is still feasible for May of this year or not, but one way or the other this is going to take a titanic leap forward in terms of just letting us all get on with it and enjoy ourselves at the appropriate level of strategic thinking, versus being bogged down in minutiae or not having the tools we need to properly exert control over a giant galactic empire.

Did I mention that this will probably up your effective ship caps by like 10x?  So for those folks who have been feeling like things felt too small here compared to the original game, I definitely heard and agree with you.  The Fleets concept was something Eric proposed over a year ago, and it's bringing in some code bits that Keith put together over two years ago but which have never seen much use since then.

All in all, it's an exciting time, and my enthusiasm for the project has really skyrocketed with the realization that some of those "intractable" problems actually do have solutions that can be resolved -- and in the short term, even!  A lot of the most key bits are already halfway implemented.

Thanks, as always, for your support!

Chris

v0.816 Released! "Aggressive Busting and Stacking"
3 months ago – Wed, Mar 06, 2019 at 12:30:09 AM

Release notes here.

This is the last build before the 0.900x phase of the game's development process, and it's a big one!

First off, what's new in this release?

  • A bunch of changes have been made to balance, as usual.
  • Several new ship mechanics have been added, such as a new "Bunker Buster" and "Charger" mechanics.
  • Several new capturable units have been added, such as Zenith Matter Converters, Distribution Nodes, Advanced Factories, and Spire Archives.
  • The AI has had a variety of upgrades that should make it properly more aggressive in a variety of circumstances where it was previously holding back.  Consider yourself warned. ;)
  • A bunch of bugfixes, including finally the fix for that "game command issued noise" sound effect playing when inappropriate.
  • A bunch of changes to stacking of AI units to make it work better, and also feel more like a real game feature rather than just a performance optimization (it was always meant to be both).
  • A huge raft of changes to various minor factions, generally keeping up the arms race that seems to be perpetual with all of them.  Smarter, stronger, more interesting, you get the idea.

Next up... what's that about a new phase?

  • The new phase is called The Arrival of Fleets, which should give you some ideas on what is planned.
  • The goal with it is to take the game from "that early access feel" to a true 1.0 game.
  • As part of that, along with the goals of making the game feel more like the first game, we're actually going to be diverging a bit more from the first one in a mechanical sense to converge on it in a "spirit of the beast" sense.
  • Yes, that is vague.
  • I want you to see it in practice before I try to explain it too much, because the document I wrote to outline my plans was 12,000 words long.  Badger and Puffin and Eric have read it and commented quite a bit, and my hope is that we'll have a version you can actually play within the next week.
  • THAT said, I haven't actually done a full hours analysis yet, so no promises, but we're going to be working on it as fast as we can.
  • No you can't read the document yet, but I will have it for you to read as the release changes come out.  The document is the result of your cumulative feedback over the last three months, and my musings on it as well as suggestions from a variety of you, and it's enough of a change that I want you to be able to feel it in practice rather than us all armchairing it ad nauseum.
  • If this absolutely hits the fan and is terrible, then we've only lost a week, but so far the guys I showed it to are really excited about it to their surprise (and mine), so my hope is that after it comes out we go into revision and refinement as part of the new phase, not a rollback.  Fingers crossed, eh?
  • But either way it's just hard to have you read a 12k word document and digest that and try to form a big opinion when it isn't something you're treating like a job.  Fifteen minutes of just playing in the new system will be so much more informative for you.

We'll be back soon, but in the meantime you can watch this space in horror/fascination as you see things out of context and partially explained and implemented as we do the release notes. ;)

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 Launches into Early Access!
7 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.

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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!

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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).

What's New?

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.

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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. :)

Multiplayer?

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.

What's Next?

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!

Chris

Early Access Approaches: Showreel Video from AI War 2 v0.774!
8 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.  

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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

Thanks for all the help! Major performance improvement pass now complete. :)
10 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:

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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.

Cheers,

Chris