BackerKit

AI War II

Created by Chris Park/Arcen Games

AI War II
E7f7abde6e6887afed842c74252b8db4 original
2,545 backers pledged $97,205.00 on Kickstarter

Raised in Kickstarter
$97,205.00 / 2,545 backers
Raised in BackerKit
$6,251.00 / 2,596 backers

Learn About Our Project:

Miss the campaign?  You can still get in on the action and help us reach further stretch goals with BackerKit.

THANK YOU!  Not only did we hit our original funding goal in 22 hours, but we made it through a full four stretch goals beyond that.  

We'll continue providing updates through kickstarter -- of course -- but if you want up to the minute communications, please head over to our forums for the game.

Right at the end we hit one last stretch goal with the help of paypal backers: Interplanetary Weapons. (It's the only way to be sure.)  That goes along with the awesome Nemesis, Spire, and music goals that were already hit.

You've all been amazing, and we look forward to a fantastic 2017 with you. :)

-- Chris and Keith

AI War II is a grand strategic RTS against an overwhelming, inhuman enemy who has conquered the galaxy.  The enemy has made only a single error: underestimating you.

You must steal as much technology as you can, and take enough territory to fortify your bases and launch your attacks.  But every conquest you make turns the attention of the AI ever more in your direction... so choose your targets with care.

Multiplayer!

We designed AI War II from the ground up for both solo and co-op play (up to at least 8 players), and put the emphasis on your smarts instead of your reflexes.

What Makes The AI Awesome?

The AI has a distinct advantage over you in a grand strategic sense, but when it comes to combat and tactics it plays by the same rules as you... and it's very devious.

The core conceit of the AI is that most of the time it's not aware of you.  But pieces of its empire become aware of you at various times, and you have to then deal with those pieces in battles ranging from tiny skirmishes to thousands-strong epic encounters.

We've written in depth about our core approach to emergent AI, which keeps it from becoming predictable.  However, on top of that we've layered a lot of specific tactical tricks to counter a wide array of player tactics.

Variable Difficulty!

The game has options to tailor the game to your skill level and playstyle:

  • Whether you're a masochistic ultra-hardcore grognard
  • Someone who enjoys RTS games.
  • Or just a space game fan!

Generally speaking, if you're winning all the time, the usual suggestion is to 'up the difficulty a notch.' Most players tend to enjoy the game best when victories are hard-fought or just barely lost. It's not about winning or losing, but about finding the right balance so that each campaign is an epic story of accomplishment.

Sidebar: The very highest difficulty is meant to be unwinnable -- and so top players enjoy their occasional victories at that level, then help us update the AI to prevent their prior tactics from working.  We have a super fun time with that arms race, and it makes the AI at the lower difficulties more interesting, too.

Key Design Shifts From AI War Classic (The Original Game)

  • The Ark: your central command is now mobile, and can directly hack the AI. What could go wrong?
  • Making the AI's responses more fluid and aggressive.
  • Reworking armor and attack multipliers into new, intuitive defense mechanics.
  • Splitting Energy: globally-held Fuel drives your fleets, while per-planet Power allows for meaningful planet customization.
  • Reinventing Cloaking: the old long-term stealth ability becomes a dangerous assault mechanic.

Design Documents:

  • First of all, we have the  Design Document, which outlines what the launch build of the game is intended to be.  This is useful even if you've never played AI War Classic.  Notably, this explains the Key Design Shifts above in considerable detail.
  • Then we have a separate Appendix A - Relationship To AIW 1 document detailing specific differences from original to sequel.
  • For those considering the Personable AI reward (and for those who are simply curious) we have Appendix B - AI Traits, detailing the currently-planned traits that can be mixed and matched to create new AI personalities.
Key Technical Mumbo Jumbo
  • Lots and lots of multithreading to make awesome use of modern computers.
  • XML modding for game content, and advanced C# modding for several key logic zones.
Misc:
  • DRM-free copies also available on launch, and day-one OSX and Linux in addition to Windows.
  • Robust scaling of the 3D graphical complexity so that it can look great while running well on older machines, and look even better on newer ones.
  • Already approved for Steam -- no Greenlight needed.
  • Come chat with us and other backers on our Discord server!
  • Feel free to sign up for our mailing list if you'd like the occasional update about new games or other major happenings.

Thanks to fixing up a ton of usability issues, AI War 2 is well placed to deal with the first game's most common complaint: the killer learning curve. AI War is meant to be a hard but fair game, and the start menu should not be enough to defeat new players.

We’re coming at the problem from a few different angles. Usability changes will help smooth the difficulty curve once they’re in-game, as will quickstart options that allow you to jump into the game without fiddling with settings.

One thing we will not be doing is dumbing the game down.  The point is to remove your need to fight the interface, so you can focus on fighting the AI.

 

We are pleased to announce that AI War 2 is built from the ground up to be open and easy to modify, while still maintaining multiplayer stability. Players can modify ships and structures, the design of AI personalities, and create tutorials, scenarios, and vignettes of their own.

You can write your own C# code (just as we do) to hook into various parts of the game, such as map-generation, which allows for much more robust modding than we had originally planned. Modders asked for this, and we listened!

The design document has a list of modifiable components that we identified before we even started making the game.

The project hit 100% funding in just 22 hours -- WOW!  And our awesome backers carried us through a further FOUR stretch goals by the end.  We have full writeups for the SpireNemesis, and Interplanetary Weapons if you want more details.  We'll see what we can do about those solar systems post-campaign. 

Bear in mind that the project funding total listed doesn't include the paypal contributions, which are what pushed us the last bit over the finish line.

 

Please note: rewards for backer tiers are as-shown in the sidebar.  If you increase your pledge for the purpose of add-ons, that does not increase your baseline rewards.  THAT said, if you pledge at least $260 through any combination of tiers and add-ons, we'll send you a copy of Stars Beyond Reach.

 

By popular request!  Simply add an extra dollar amount to your pledge equal to the addon(s) you want, and then in the backer survey we'll ask you what exactly it is that you were adding on.  Note that you can choose multiples of individual items (three cyber cyphers, etc) if you wish.

Extra Launch Copies
$20: One extra copy of the game at 1.0 release.
$35: Two extra copies of the game at 1.0 release.
$50: Three extra copies of the game at 1.0 release.
Add an extra $15 per extra such copy beyond the first 3.

Extra Early Access Copies
$30: One extra copy of the game at the Early Access release.
$58: Two extra copies of the game at the Early Access release.
$85: Three extra copies of the game at the Early Access release.
Add an extra $26 per extra such copy beyond the first 3.

Extra Alpha Copies
$48: One extra copy of the game at the private alpha release.
$94: Two extra copies of the game at the private alpha release.
$138: Three extra copies of the game at the private alpha release.
$180: Four extra copies of the game at the private alpha release.
Add an extra $40 per extra such copy beyond the first 4.

Expensive Oddities 
  • "Personable AI": If you've backed at a tier that is at least $160 (taunts), then add $40 to your pledge and you can note in the survey that you also want the "Personable AI" rewards in addition to whatever your chosen tier rewards are.
  • "Cyber Cypher": If you've backed at a tier that is at least $160 (taunts), then add $40 to your pledge and you can note in the survey that you also want the "Cyber Cypher" rewards in addition to whatever your chosen tier rewards are.
  • "Bronze Merc": If you've backed at a tier that is at least $100, then add $70 to your pledge and you can note in the survey that you also want the "Bronze Merc" rewards in addition to whatever your chosen tier rewards are.
  • "Silver Merc": If you've backed at a tier that is at least $250, then add $170 to your pledge and you can note in the survey that you also want the "Silver Merc" rewards in addition to whatever your chosen tier rewards are.
  • "Gold Merc": If you've backed at a tier that is at least $350, then add $270 to your pledge and you can note in the survey that you also want the "Gold Merc" rewards in addition to whatever your chosen tier rewards are.

 

 

Arcen (that’s Ar-KEN) Games started in 2009 with a lone programmer on a mission. Most real time strategy games at the time lacked artificial intelligence worthy of the name. Once you understood how the AI worked, the challenge, and most of the fun, disappeared. So Chris Park decided to make his own.

It would promote strategy over tactics, reward players for experimenting, and constantly surprise them. The game needed to be fun for Chris even if he knew the game backwards and forwards.

From its origins as a one man product, AI War Classic morphed into a community driven cult classic. Critical praise for the original is glowing, and it was one of the best-reviewed PC games on metacritic in the year of its launch.

Seven years, ten games, ten expansions to those games, and hundreds of patches to those games later Arcen Games is a proud independent game studio with fans all over the world.

Pablo Vega joined very early on and provided an awesome musical score for the game. He has since scored every other game we have put out.

Keith LaMothe is helming this new vision of AI War 2 as both lead designer and lead programmer. Fans of the original game know him well, as he basically was the force of nature behind AIW Classic from 2011 onwards. Chris may have started the AI revolution, but Keith gave it many of its most dangerous weapons.

Daniette "Blue" Mann has been with the company since 2013, and her graphic design talents are behind our increasingly-awesome interfaces in years past, as well as some of the coolest bits in our move to 3D.

 

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Alpha v0.119, Ship Batch 1 of 7: 24 Ships!
6 days ago – Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 12:44:31 AM

Chris here!  We've had several releases since I last did a blog post announcing one, and that was mostly due to me simply not having time at the end of a long day each time.

What We've Been Up To

That said, the prior versions were not really fully reflective of how much work is going on lately, even so. The new planetary sidebar is an awesome thing (even in a somewhat early state), and the new shot lerping and smooth rotation of ships helps to improve the visual polish a great deal. There's still a lot more visual polish things for me to do (and some visual performance ones) prior to the Early Access launch about a month from now, but it's proceeding on a good pace.

Less visibly, behind the scenes Blue has been cranking out new ship designs with great gusto, and Cinth has been wiring them up so that they can be used. Keith has been doing massive amounts of underlying code work to support the various systems that all sorts of ships need in order to function. These things were frustratingly invisible, but now they're starting to bear visible fruit.

This Release!

Version 0.119, which is now out, is the first of seven ship batches that Keith has planned for during alpha. Overall there are 24 new ships in this one, so I believe that about triples the number of ships the game previously had. There are about 70 overall types of ships planned for during the pre-Early-Access alpha. After that, there's another 60ish ships planned prior to 1.0.

.

Art For Ships vs Logic For Ships

Progress is happening well on all of that, although when it comes to actually having ships in game (playable) versus art-is-done (looking like the actual ship) is a mishmash. Some of the ships are in the game without having graphics completed (or wired-up) yet, and those just show with their name and little rock-shapes.

Some actually do have their art done, but they've been left as rock-shapes because Keith was in a hurry I think. Others have their art done, but the actual logic for those ships won't be ready until another few ship batches from now.

Art Schedule

From the look of things, we should have all of the alpha ships done in the next month (visually speaking), so that should coincide well with the Early Access date. For the post-alpha stuff, I don't have an estimate on how long that will precisely take, but I'm guessing 3+ months after EA starts.

Backer Art Commisions

And then lastly, there's 21 specific art variants that high-level backers commissioned; 10 custom arks, 1 ark or flagship (up to the backer), 2 derelict fortresses, 4 flagships, and and 4 gold-merc-backer-level merc ship paint jobs. These are things that we'll start discussing with those backers once all of the other ship art is in, so that they can see what is there already when they're trying to decide what they want to ask Blue to cook up. :)

TLDR

All in all? Things seem to be on schedule. We're behind in some areas (I had planned on doing sound effects before now), but ahead in others (some of the modding and balance capabilities are more advanced than I'd expected at this point).

Thanks for reading!

Chris

Alpha v0.114 "Major GUI And Icons Overhaul" FINALLY released!
30 days ago – Fri, Mar 31, 2017 at 11:26:51 PM

Chris here. This is the largest single release we've done since starting the alpha with folks, and by a fair margin. The release notes are nuts, but worth a read.

That said, right off the bat: "seriously Chris?? TWO WEEKS since the last build for the game?" Don't worry, that's not something we're going to turn into a habit. In addition to simply packing this one with stuff, we also had that recent hacking attempt against us which slowed us down a tad, and some personal life things outside of our control. But the biggest slowdown, by far, was the new icon system kicking my butt again and again.

Movie poster: "And then his butt... kicked back."

(Wait, that's not right.)

Icons!

At any rate, the icon system that is now in place is an in-progress version that has resulted from a lot of experimentation on my own part, along with experimentation by Blue, as well as lots and lots of discussion from players.

Note that I'm locking the original topic about icons, and I'd like to have a new discussion that starts from the common baseline of what is in 0.114. I'm reasonably pleased with what is here, although the flair in particularly could look a little more visually polished.

Overall there are some polish things that need to happen with several areas of the icons, but in a generalized sense I think the core goals of showing clarity and yet not being cluttered is working well? Before we get into polishing things like the flair too much, we want to make sure that we're on the right path here.

The good news is that if we want to shift around what pieces of icon are where, it's now something that I can do with some trivial code (or in some cases just xml).

The short explanation of these:

  • You can now see what a ship is via a combination of a central player-color icon and (sometimes) a non-player-color "flair" under it.
  • You can see the health for squads under them.
  • The mark level is still shown below them, but is done in a sprite fashion now. And the color of the mark level on the squad shows its action status (Free Roaming Defender, etc).
  • If it's under a forcefield or cloaked, then the mark level gets an additional glow around it to show that. It's subtle, but helpful.
  • If the squad is selected or mouseovered, then the main player-colored-icon part gets a border.

 GUI!

Keith has been doing a ton of work on the GUI, adding in new menus and generally making things more-sane. It's still all temp graphics and so on, but the idea is to get the usability higher, which I think is very much happening there.

Another big thing that he has been working on with this is an Objectives window, which is inwork still (naturally), but is something I believe he wants to have a pretty major role in the game later on. A lack of direction was something that was the biggest stumper for new players in Classic, even those that got through the tutorials.

The idea is to help solve that via the Objectives window, as well as making that useful for veteran players to check some intel (via what objectives are available for them). At least, that's my understanding -- don't hold us to that. Keith can explain it better, as it's his brainchild and I'm probably misrepresenting that bit by accident. ;)

Other Stuff

Oh man, it's been so long I can't believe some of the stuff that is in this build. These were forever ago, but they're just coming out now. In no particular order:

  • Keith fixed a bunch of bugs, and I fixed a few.
  • We did a lot of internal work on our release process, to make releases easier and more reliable. AND to make it so that hopefully we can remove files from the steam builds, which is useful for the external modding project that comes with the game. (Keith, don't forget to check that worked for you).
  • Some more work has been done to improve functionality in the custom LODs that I created for the game. Although there's a central problem with it right now that is causing them to not calculate their distances properly. So it's putting a lot of extra load on the GPU now compared to what it will next build.
  • The wormhole graphics have gone through like four more iterations, heh. They're a lot less neon now, and more attractive and more efficient.
  • If you're playing on a non-US-English OS (linux or otherwise), the game should now work properly for you.
  • You can hold Z to see the range of ships, or shift to show the orders your ships have. I'm already aware of an error in the display of your ships' orders when they're headed for a wormhole.
  • The cursor on the gamefield plane is now a lot more attractive and clear.

It's been a really stressful couple of weeks for me, but I'm really happy with the end result. Expect much more rapid releases coming up next week -- although for now I'm off for the weekend, heh. Looking forward to relaxing a bit.

Just in case there's some major issue in this build that prevents you from playing, there's a new beta branch in Steam for the older 0.113 build of the game. You can revert to that if you want to play it for whatever reason, anyhow -- hopefully the new build is far preferable on all fronts, though. Knock on wood! :)

Cheers,

Chris

 

Recent Progress: Special Forces, Modding, And Explosives
about 2 months ago – Fri, Mar 10, 2017 at 11:54:41 PM

Chris here!  Check out the new explosion effects that I'm working on, in the animated gif above.  Still a ways to go before that's fully out in public, but it's coming along really well.

I'm sure most people here don't follow our dev blog (hey, you have busy lives), but whenever you want to do a deep dive and see all the nitty gritty of what we're working on, that's there.  There's also the copious release notes, which detail all of the changes as they happen.

We're currently in progress on version 0.110, which probably won't be out today.  I had thought it would, but I'd rather not do a big dump of new stuff right before the weekend in case it causes problems for anyone.

The XML modding capabilities of the game are becoming a lot more flexible as of that upcoming version, which is a really welcome surprise that I'm excited to see Keith has put in.  The xml files are what drive and organize all of the other non-code types of modding content, which I made a video about yesterday to go along with the new 0.109 build that put in those capabilities.

Also in that last version, Keith put in a ton of new stuff for the Special Forces, which you may remember from The AI From Within: Part 4.

Earlier in the week there was a whole lot of miscellaneous central stuff by Keith that benefit the game as a whole, and a variety of graphical overhaul work by me.

In general we've been doing a lot to work on performance, compatibility, game logic, bugs, the AI... and so on.

Anyway -- the forums are also a place for you to get up-to-the-moment information anytime you should so desire.  In an effort to keep this update brief, I feel like I'm really skimming over most of what has happened, but suffice it to say I'm pleased with our progress.

Happy weekend!

Chris

Developer feedback requested: Ship Icons.
about 2 months ago – Thu, Mar 02, 2017 at 08:46:01 PM

Chris here!

We'd like your feedback, whether you're in the alpha or not, on ship icons, if you want to provide it.  This is one of those cases where early folks get to help shape the game, and we're trying to meet a complex set of criteria that a lot of people have strong feelings about.

The lazy approach for us would just be to do it the same as the first game.  It was ugly, but it worked.  I think we can do better, though -- and since this is a usability issue at core, we need your help to really make sure we're on the right track with that!

Thanks!

Alpha Begins!
2 months ago – Mon, Feb 27, 2017 at 07:02:38 PM

Keith here.

Alpha!

We're pleased to inform you that the latest in Nightmare Death Machinery is now ready for alpha testing! If you're an alpha backer, you should have received your key by email now (or it may only be visible in backerkit). Please give it a whirl and send us a postcard (or comment) about your particular mass extinction event.

If you're not an alpha backer, and want to be (see the "PLEASE NOTE" part below, to make sure), you can accomplish that by emailing BackerKit at support@backerkit.com if you ARE already a backer, or simply make a preorder here if you are not already a backer.

PLEASE NOTE: the game is in an extremely early state. Earlier than early, as Chris said. The upside for you is that most stuff is still up for discussion and feedback. The downside for you is that the interface is abominable, the balance hardly existent, and everything terribly incomplete.

Getting Started

1) Check your email for your key. If you cannot find that email, even searching the usual places your email system hides important things (spam, etc), please check on backerkit directly. If you cannot find the key on your backerkit page, please contact support@backerkit.com.

2) As mentioned during the campaign, the game is steam-only through the early access period (and we're not even in early-access yet, actually). There will be a drm-free version at release, but maintaining separate distributions throughout the whole testing period would take a lot of effort and bandwidth costs, and really slow us down. So if you don't already have steam, download it.

3) In steam, on the library tab, in the lower-left corner, click "Add A Game" and then "Activate A Product On Steam". Then follow the instructions and provide the key when asked.

4) When the game is added to your library, select it and click the Install button.

5) When it's installed, run it, and the mass extinction event will begin shortly :)

How To Play

Normally, we wouldn't have to tell you. The game would tell you, and the interface would be all nice and intuitive.

But it ain't nowhere near there yet ;)

So while you're welcome to just go in blind, and you'll probably get successfully annihilated in due time, you may get a better picture of what's there if we just tell you.

Since this is documentation, we're putting it up on our wiki:

https://wiki.arcengames.com/index.php?title=AI_War_2:Earlier_Than_Earlier_Alpha_Play_Instructions

And also instructions on the modding workflows (such as they are, and what there is of them) :

https://wiki.arcengames.com/index.php?title=AI_War_2:Earlier_Than_Earlier_Alpha_Modding_Instructions

Those pages are still under construction, so if it still says "(work in progress)" that's because you got there too fast ;)

How To Help

Right now, don't worry too much about intensive bug finding and whatnot. Just see if the game runs on your particular platform, and try to have fun. You probably won't have a lot of fun because the game is in such a placeholderish and incomplete state, but you probably will lose! If any of you fail to lose, please submit a bug report right away.

Speaking of bug reports, our mantis is the place to do that: https://www.arcengames.com/mantisbt/

Be sure to select "AI War 2" in the Project dropdown.

We're happy to read other feedback here in the comments, but it's most likely to be put to good use if submitted on our forum: https://forums.arcengames.com/private-alpha-discussion/

When it comes to me, the feedback I'm most interested in right now is: What bothers you most? Not the little stuff, but the biggest things. Obviously, a lot of that is due to the game being in such an early state, but I always want to know where the major pain points are during any given part of the testing. I may or may not be able to address them soon, but often I can, so it's good to know.

When it comes to Chris, the type of feedback he’s mostly looking for right now are performance-related or outright crashes.  You can see the list of things he already has in progress on his todo list.  A lot of the visual or gameplay-feel things you’d be most likely to mention are already on there; but if something isn’t please feel free to bring it up!

Onward!

Chris and I need to get back to work, as there's a ton of stuff we'd like to have gotten in for the first alpha and are still working on, but we'll be listening to feedback. Thanks so much for your support, it's very exciting to have reached this point :)