Poll: Would you be okay with us removing shields/forcefields?
about 7 hours ago
– Sat, Mar 17, 2018 at 01:39:00 AM
Basically my assertion is that this needs to happen, and I want to see if people agree. I am referring to the big forcefield bubbles.
1. These are at least some drain on the CPU, how much is up to debate.
2. These are a huge and ongoing source of micro or frustration on the part of players thanks to needing to keep their stuff under it. There is likely no perfect solution to this, and anything we try likely causes more CPU load.
3. By their very nature, they tend to look bad or at best kinda funky. A bunch of big balls of forcefields all over the place can only look but so many ways.
4. They make everything else feel less powerful by their very existence. If the survivability of certain ships depends on shields, then that strikes me as a problem with that ship.
5. They just feel... antiquated, to me, personally. It takes away from the feeling of space naval battles from so much sci-fi lore. Neither Star Wars nor Star Trek have shields that protect other units, EXCEPT as a big MacGuffin in the case of the shield around the second Death Star. I just finished reading the Bobiverse books, and a while back I was reading The Lost Fleet, and it really strikes me how there are never giant shield bubbles there. Any sort of naval engagements never have that, either.
6. Just in a general sense, I really, really feel like we're borrowing trouble with shields in general, and I greatly regret having ever added them to the first game. I feel that these will continue to take up dev time that could be better spent in other areas of the game, making the entire experience more fun if they did not exist.
I know that these were a thing in the first game. And we do already have them in the second game. But part of good game design is knowing when to trim fat. Can they go? Will you be upset?
This discussion is also on our forums: https://forums.arcengames.com/ai-war-ii/poll-would-you-be-okay-with-us-removing-shieldsforcefields/
P.S.: Answers of "let people use them if they want to turn on an extra option" are not okay, because that would destroy balance and reintroduce all the other problems if we have that. This is black and white, they are either in or out. :)
Character Bios, General Backstory, and -- Updates!
3 days ago
– Tue, Mar 13, 2018 at 11:41:15 PM
Chris here! Long time, no speak. We have been very, very busy making things increasingly awesome.
Big Picture, What's Going On?
The GUI focus group was a big success, and we've found ourselves with an excellent volunteer GUI designer on our hands; he's Eric Edwards has been shaping things up really well for us in discussion and documents, and I'm translating that into the game starting pretty recently. This will take another week or two.
Badger continues to be our main playtester beating on the balance of the game, and he's had a lot of great insights lately. He's also been a volunteer coder doing TONS for us in the last few months, and those influences are showing through very well. Things don't feel quite right yet, but between these ongoing refinements and the complete revamp of the GUI, I am feeling like we're going to be ready on both fronts within a few weeks.
On the visual side, Blue has repainted ALL of the ships in the game (130-something models) in the newer PBR style overlaid on the cel-shaded style, and Craig/Pepisolo has gotten almost all of those graphics integrated now. This is super exciting! Part of this also has involved getting better intra-squad formation visuals, and making them more efficient as well, which is also now done.
On the voice recording side, we have 24 voiced human characters at this point. All of their recordings are pretty much done, and about a third of them are integrated. It really brings the battlefield alive. There are two human roles -- the science officer, and the Ark chief of staff -- which both need a lot more lines written for them. In the former case, I still need to cast that role, too, although I have someone in mind. Most of these actors have about 70 to 100 spoken short lines, basically like barks in an FPS game. They're from all over the world, and it really gives a sense of humanity being united against the machines, as well as some personality to the specific kinds of ships they oversee.
The last voice recording role is for the AI itself, and it's by far the most voluminous. Some of that has been recorded, some of it is still being written with the help of backers, and there are hundreds of lines for this role alone. Nathan Frisson is voicing the AI, and doing a fabulous job of it; though none of that is integrated to the game just yet.
Anyway: lots of progress all over the place, basically.
Character Bios and General Backstory
For the most key characters (the councilors, mainly), I've also rendered visuals for them. I'm quite pleased with the design of them, and their suits (notice the little AI War icon that I digitally embroidered on them, heh). The below backstory is available in the game itself now in a (presently ugly, but functional) screen that gives the extra info if you want that sort of thing.
The short answer to the question of how this story relates to the first AI War is that this is a full reboot. It's related in the sense that Keaton's Batman is to Nolan's, and that's it.
We're still a few weeks away from launching a wide-scale beta that we hope you'll participate in (though of course everyone here can check the game out at any time, naturally). But in the meantime, I wanted to give you the above update and then share the bios/backstory and character graphics below:
Thanks for reading!
Help us out real quick: GUI Polls!
about 1 month ago
– Wed, Feb 07, 2018 at 05:58:00 PM
Chris here! We need your feedback. Please join the GUI Focus Group discussions listed below and then have your choices recorded in the polls.
We don't need you to spend an inordinate amount of time on this, but one of the key things we're trying to figure out with the GUI is where to innovate and where to stay consistent with the first game. The GUI with the first game was something loads of people complained about, but at the same time it's something that people are very accustomed to, so it's a balancing act.
Here are the most important ones:
"Start New Game" P1: Galaxy Map
"Start New Game" P2: Lobby
And then also notable mainly because it's the first thing you see when starting the game:
For the polls, no login is required at all. For the discussions, you do need to sign up for an account on our forums, but we'd love to have you there in general.
Wondering what else has been happening lately? Well, the release notes are always a good start, but we've also been doing other things not noted there just yet.
Here's a snippet from a recent hotfix with some changes from Keith that made my jaw drop a bit. Things like "Made the AI more willing to operate on planets 'under the shadow' of a nearby huge human fleet if those planets were completely empty of hostiles" just really make me happy, because it shows just how far the AI is able to go in our even-more-multithreaded game compared to the first one.
There's also a ton of stuff going on with ship visuals, ship icons, the settings menu, various hotkeys, formations, performance, tooltips all over the place... and lots more. Longtime Arcen fan and friend Admiral is cooking up NAT traversal code that will make multiplayer not require port forwarding anymore (and there was much rejoicing), and in general there's a lot of exciting things all happening at once.
I'm really pleased with how the recent stuff with subsquads and on-GPU ship bobbing within them is looking on the Multi-Needler Corvettes:
1.0 is planned for April: let's make it the best it can be! To do that, we need your feedback NOW, not after the game is out and already reviewed and whatnot. It would be nice to release in a great state rather than have to fix things in post-release that you could tell us about now. :)
Thank you for your time and support!
Two quick requests for help!
about 2 months ago
– Tue, Jan 23, 2018 at 11:33:53 PM
Chris here! Things are proceeding well toward beta, but we did a kickstarter for a reason: we wanted your involvement early. Hopefully that's also why you backed us.
With that in mind, there are two areas in which I'd like you to consider giving your time or expertise, if you're so inclined:
NAT Punchthrough discussion - and request for programming help.
Forming a GUI focus group.
No biggie if you can't help or that isn't your thing, and we're not in desperate straits or anything when it comes to those topics. But lots of folks lament how they didn't get to affect games that "did it wrong"... and we're offering a chance to help get in there and make sure we "do it right." ;)
2 months ago
– Mon, Jan 15, 2018 at 08:07:36 PM
Keith here, with a gameplay video (from Chris) and another update on development progress.
Here's the video of Chris trying to take a planet away from the AI, and the AI eradicating the annoyance:
Next, the update. Last update was November 25th with version 0.607. 51 days have passed since then. Many of those were spent on holiday travel and such, but either way we're now up to version 0.701 and rapidly approaching Beta (which we hope to start before the end of the month), aiming for 1.0 release in April.
One key change that has accelerated progress in the last few weeks has been the volunteer assistance of community members BadgerBadger, Pepisolo, and Goldenwolf. Badger has done a tremendous amount of cleanup in the visualization-layer code (that Chris has not had time to address) and has helped in many other ways. Pepisolo and Goldenwolf have been mowing down the work of integrating Blue's models into the game. It's a painstaking process, but they're doing an excellent job.
So thanks very, very much to Badger, Pepisolo, and Goldenwolf!
Some other highlights from what's changed since the last update:
- Another new camera! This one's much better than either the fallback "top down" camera (which never shows much from the side, obviously) or the "angled" camera we had been using (which rotated weird and was generally kind of clunky). Regrettably this one uses closed-source 3rd party math, but the other camera types are still moddable.
- The Lobby has been completely revamped into a more intelligible arrangement. Not pretty yet, but much more usable.
- The Unit Tooltip has been revamped away from the icon-based experiment to a more straightforward text display that uses color and styling to communicate in a clearer fashion.
- Fixed some key issues preventing UI scaling from working well with textboxes. It now works consistently down to 30% scale. It could go lower but that would normally be an unintentional value that would leave you with an unclickable interface.
- Wormhole names now show in the color of the faction controlling the other side. This is an improvement over AIWC and makes it much easier to stay oriented. The name color logic is fully moddable, as shown by Badger's mod to make the color glow red when you know a wave is going to come through it.
- Hovering a planet on the galaxy map now shows a predicted path from your current selection to that planet. Just catching up with AIWC on this point, but it's a very helpful thing.
- You can now pick faction colors in the lobby, and the list of available colors has been heavily revamped to only include colors that are reasonably easy to distinguish from each other.
- Added a lobby option for starting with basic build queues: The Ark will build all fleet ships, the Starship Constructor will build all starships, and all of the above rally to the Ark and join its control group. Saves time for starting up a new game, and it's easy to mod this option or add others like it to function basically as "start-of-game macros".
- You can now pick a difficulty level in the lobby, to specify just how thoroughly you want to be eradicated.
- The Special Forces have dramatically improved in fearsomeness and intellect. They've been renamed to the "Warden Fleet", which is an entirely separate faction from the main AI (the "Sentinels") and thus shows in a different color and has different lobby settings and moddable logic.
- AIWC's "Threatfleet" mechanic has been ported in, revamped, and renamed the "Hunter Fleet", another separate AI faction with its own color, settings, logic, etc. So basically you have two roving fleets to deal with: the Wardens defend the Sentinels, and the Hunters just prowl around looking for an opportunity to ruin your day.
- The Sentinels now have a separate "hunker down" case between "we are strong enough to defeat these invaders, attack!" and "these invaders are too strong, abandon the planet!". And if they do decide to retreat they're much smarter about not picking wormholes blocked by your shields.
- You now just always start with the first planet rather than it being an option, because the old "have to fight for your first planet" default was endlessly confusing.
- Planet gravity wells (the "play area" around each planet) are now much larger, which feels much less like a cage-match and much more like AIWC.
- All units have had their overkill-prevention logic improved further. Subsequent reports of the Devourer Golem ransacking entire galaxies are, of course, unreliable.
- Shields are now much less common and it's now much harder to just bubble-wrap your fleet against all harm. Not even your Ark has a shield anymore. At the same time, the AI's planets are not nearly so swathed in shields. Fighting is now more destructive (and interesting) for both sides.
- Starships are now all cap-of-1 units, so instead of 5 MkI Assault Starships and 4 MkIIs you get 1 of each, and so on. The strength of each cap is the same, so a MkI is now 5 times stronger than it was, and this helps set Starships apart from Fleet Ships like fighters and bombers.
- You no longer start with any Starships unlocked; what you pick has a pretty major impact on how you play the game. Shield starships give you shield coverage (now rare) for your long-range units, and Siege starships make it much easier to crack AI shields, but Sniper starships can whittle down the enemy from any range and Carrier starships send out drones to harass the enemy. On the third hand, the short-ranged Assault and Stealth starships have much higher dps and ability to kick-down-the-door on the offense. You start with enough Science to unlock the first tier of 3 of those 6 types, or to unlock the first 2 tiers of one type. It's an interesting choice.
- You also no longer start with any Turrets unlocked, but turrets also no longer cost power to run, so you can place the full complement of any researched turret type on all your planets just for the up-front metal cost. Science spent on turrets is not science spent on offense, but the benefit is increasingly important as you gain more planets and make the AI madder.
- Modders can now define custom fields for each type of faction, and players can pick an option for each of those fields in the pre-game lobby. This allows you to define different behaviors based on the selected "difficulty level", "intensity", "personality type", etc for your custom factions.
- A ton more logic has been moved from the core DLLs to the external (moddable) C# projects, including almost all of what remained of the AI's closed-source logic.
- Shields now show a glow on the facing that was hit.
- Now when ships die there are per-ship explosions and a "burning and dying" animation phase. Combined with the shield hit-effects these really increase the visual feedback of battle.
- Flak and Lightning AOE shots now actually show their explosions.
- There's now finally a "You Lost" or "You Won" display when the game's over. Much more effort was put into the You-Lost display, since it's obviously more commonly seen, but the other will see more improvement.
- Units under construction now show a kind of green wireframe (or yellow if they're not building for some reason).
- Bloom went away... and then came back again, but in a different way to find a better middle-ground.
- We incorporated new starfield styles more like the ones during the kickstarter, and you can pick whether to use those or the more recent dimmer ones, or both.
And a ton of other stuff, including bugfixes and performance improvements. And switching to a newer version of the Unity 3D engine. There are detailed release notes here and here.
Thanks again for all your support and patience, we're getting there :)