AI War 2 v1.002 Released! “ARSes, Instigators, and Tech Vaults, Oh My”

Release notes here.

This has been a very busy week!  Personally I was doing semi-successful broadcasts of myself playing the game on Steam, and then the world’s longest AMA on reddit, and originally before that just looking into a ton of correspondence with players and press, answering questions, etc.

Meanwhile, Badger and Puffin have been going great guns with all the stuff they added to this new build.  A lot of it is just general polish stuff that gets noticed as the player count increases — and that stuff is definitely notable on its own. 

But there’s also some new quick starts, an experimental revised pursuit targeting mode, and a bunch of revisions and improvements to the titular three AI structures.  There are also a number of balance fixes, and a surprisingly high number of typos that nobody caught until now.

The release 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.  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 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 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

AI War 2 v0.950 Released! “First Press Build”

Release notes here.

After three long years, we’re finally at the point where we’re ready to start showing this off to the press in a non-preview fashion.  This build does still have some bugs and some rough edges, but they’re minor in the main and we have a week to finish up that sort of thing along with achievements.

As a mostly one-man shop now (plus awesome volunteers who keep increasing in number) there’s only but so much lead time I can give, and I wind up feeling like I want every last everything to be perfect.  As it stands we have about a week until 1.0, and I’m really pleased with how things feel.  Seems like our growing list of players are, too, from the sound of things.  So that’s good!

What’s new in this build?

  • We finally have AI taunts in the game!  This was something people really liked in the first game (when the AI says something mean to you when it does something clever or you do something stupid), and that has returned in a major way.  In the first game I think we had a dozen, maybe two dozen, taunts in total.  Now there are over two hundred.
  • Ships can now load into transports from other planets (traveling to the  planet of the transport first of course).
  • Awesome new quick start scenario by community member Nuc_Temeron.  We love the clever things you folks think up, and are always interested in including things like this for players to experiment with.
  • More tutorial tweaks, thanks to Puffin.
  • Add a new Watch planet hack; this works only with local hackers and on planets without enemies. It’s much cheaper, but the vision only lasts until the AI recaptures the planet.
  • A whole bunch of bugfixes, some of the most significant ones relating to the new ability to select and control fleets from the galaxy map.  That should now work properly in all cases, and not have the selection/hover issues it did briefly.
  • Also some bugfixes to the metal usage reports, so that’s more accurate.
  • The energy usage in the resources bar can now be clicked and gives you a detailed breakdown of where you’re earning and spending energy!  This is… a surprisingly big win, in terms of making it clear what the state of your empire is.
  • Bunches of improvements to the “strong against” version of the R-click view, to make it more correct and clear.
  • New icons for the tech menu!
  • Lower difficulty levels (less than or equal to 5) now have a variety of things making them easier than before.  There were definitely some complaints about it still being too hard at those lower levels.
  • Also a fix to make dire guardians appear properly, and some of the guard posts on the planets that would have dire guardians no longer be hyper-aggressive towards you.  So this should make deep-striking a lot easier in the late game in particular, and thus help with some of the difficulty that a few people were reporting.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

Reminder: Launch Is Coming Up October 22nd!

We’re now in the process of tidying things up for the 10-year anniversary of AI War Classic appearing on Steam  for the first time.  We’re getting really close!  I understand a lot of you are really enjoying the game now, which is super duper awesome.  If that’s you, and you haven’t written a review yet, would you mind just dropping a couple of brief thoughts on the store page for the game?

There’s a sea of other indie titles out there now, and I’m anxious about my career to put it kind of frankly.  Please be honest, obviously, but if you’re enjoying the game it would really be a big deal to me personally if you’d let other people know; that stuff makes a big difference in our ability to get featuring on the store, in how people choose to purchase or not, and so on.

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 v0.900 Released! “Custom Fleets With Empty Slots”

Release notes here.

More refinement, and one major new feature.  First let’s talk about the smaller stuff:

  • The science menu is looking better, with more icons on there.
  • The standing order buttons now show their hotkeys for you.
  • There’s a new “flagship movement mode” control option for all your mobile flagships and battlestations.  This lets them either ignore or obey things like pursuit mode — it’s circumstantial which you’d prefer, per fleet, so an option was warranted.
  • There’s a new “tutorial” which basically is just directing you to the extended in-game “how to play” stuff, which sometimes people were otherwise missing.
  • Dyson Antagonizers now come in over time, so you have a chance to deal with them before they start causing trouble.
  • The AI taunts are all processed and split out by Pablo, and we’re working on integrating those and choosing the best takes.  Some more voice lines by the chief of staff (lady talking to you as things happen) are coming early next week.  Actually, technically both will be integrated around then.
  • Oh, there’s also a new tip under the modding section that explains how to make your own Quick Starts, which is both super easy as well as something we figure a lot of non-modders may want to choose to do for themselves or to share with others.
  • Now, on to the big  one:

Custom Fleets (Aka the Remedy For Control Groups)

The release notes for these are here

Essentially there are now 9 new fleets, each with 7 empty slots, that you can build off the sidebar of any of your command stations.  Three are cloaked, three are fast, and three are regular.

What are you going to do with those new fleets?  Well… anything you want!  Including nothing, frankly.

So, here’s the problem we solved with this:

  • Essentially, sometimes people wanted to have really specialized fleets.  As in, a fleet with all cloaking stuff, or one with all melee stuff, or whatever.
  • And even though you can swap ship lines between fleets you capture, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll have enough slots or enough ship lines of the right type to make a full fleet.
  • So a fair number of people were either wanting old-style control groups, where you can just make arbitrary groups of ships from across any fleets; OR they were wanting sub-fleets.

Why not just do one of those two things?

  • The problem with old-style control groups is that a lot of the UI conveniences and automation just doesn’t function with that.  I thought I had a solution that would let me do something along those lines, but it was going to be really messy to set up as a player.
  • The problem with sub-fleets is that that adds another level of indirection, and greatly complicates the UI.  Really you don’t need your melee ships to also be part of the larger fleet of “whatever they were in,” if you want your melee ships to be assigned to a unique control binding  and ordered around as a unit; you just need them to be in a new organizational unit all on their own.  Aka, a new custom fleet, a new bucket, but previously there were not enough buckets.

Is this some sort of temporary workaround?

  • No! Fleets are meant to be the primary organizational units of your stuff in AI War 2. 
  • This solution basically gives you some blank organizational units that you can use to subdivide your forces further than you used to be.
  • In other words, it keeps to the ethos of the organizational style of the  game — which  has a LOT of UI advantages to make your life easier — while at the same time giving you more control.

Why have nine possible blank fleet templates?

  • This is per-player in multiplayer, and based on how people tend to play this should be more than enough subdivision.  With 7 slots in each one, you can make three separate cloak-themed fleets (maybe one is etherjet tractors, the others are more strike-oriented?) if you need to.
  • That’s HUGE, because it allows you to cover three different fronts  with just cloaked units alone.
  • Then you have three that have fast flagships, typically for raiding or melee or some other units that need to move around the map quickly.
  • And then you have three that are just… “whatever.”  They’re average flagships, and you can do whatever you need to with them.
  • When you pair that with all the various flagships you pick up over the course of the game, you ought to really be able to customize things as much as you could possibly want, even when fighting on several fronts at once.

Isn’t it a pain in the butt to have to manually configure fleets like this just for control groups?

  • You could make that argument, but honestly I think this is LESS of a pain in the butt.  Here’s why:
  • If you’re just needing a really quick selection of things like “all the melee units on the planet I’m looking at,” we already added hotkeys for things like that.  For ad-hoc selection of ships at the local area, using things like C+M to select all the melee ships will more than cover you.  It’s by far the fastest thing.
  • So the only real purpose of “control groups” in this sense is for NON-ad-hoc situations: aka long-term permanent or semi-permanent groupings of forces.
  • Given that a lot of the big complexities that old control groups had that fleets solve revolve around “what happens when ships die and get recreated into the fleet,” we get to bypass those complexities with the custom fleets just like we do with any other fleet. 
  • If we did custom control groups again, we’d be right back into the boat of things like “does this get automatically selected if it’s created under xyz circumstances,” etc. 
  • And what we found through lots of playtesting is that players were constantly surprised by the answer to questions like that regardless of  what we chose to have the logic be.  It just had too many edge cases, whereas fleets are always really predictable in how they are selected and how ships inside them act.
  • You can also name fleets, unlike control groups, which  is pretty handy.  So you can have something like your “North Melee” group if you want to, and even if you’ve got that bound to a control group or not, you can easily remember what that thing is for (for now) and rename it again if you need to.
  • Plus all the other conveniences with fleets, like changing around build orders, having higher ship marks from a fleet that has gained levels via fleet EXP, and so on.  There’s a bunch of stuff this keeps you having access to, and it also keeps the interface for managing that all the same across the board.
  • I do realize that it’s different from the control groups that you’re used to in a lot of other RTS games, but no other RTS game has this huge number of units in it, nor the rapid recreation of units, nor the need to split your units over such a wide space.  There are some others that come close on some or all of those fronts (Stellaris, Sins, AI War 1), but none of them really match what’s going on here if there are a bunch of factions and you’ve got a ton of fleets and are fighting galaxy-wide while defending yourself.
  • The bottom line is that we had to invent something a bit new in order to get at what you want out of the behaviors of fleets and units, and to keep micromanagement down, and yet to give you customization at the same time.
  • When I think about this, I think about it kind of like the city management screens in Civ IV; those start out a bit automated, but you can swap things around as needed. And that could be tedious if you had to do it all the time, but you’re usually setting up a given city for a very long time (or at least a middle-tier timeline) when you make changes to it.  So their management screens wind up being the  most efficient way to handle the setup, despite the fact they’re different from what  other games did  before Civ IV.
  • Anyway, since I know there will be at least a few people who are put off by the fact that this is different, I wanted to explain the reasoning for this, as well as note that we’ve explored all the alternatives.  There’s nothing else that we’ve considered or been pitched so far that is remotely so clean, that respects your time, that communicates to you so clearly, and gives you the flexibility that you’ve been asking for.  Hope you guys like it. 🙂

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

Launch Is Coming Up October 22nd!

We’re now in the process of tidying things up for the 10-year anniversary of AI War Classic appearing on Steam  for the first time.  We’re getting really close!  I understand a lot of you are really enjoying the game now, which is super duper awesome.  If that’s you, and you haven’t written a review yet, would you mind just dropping a couple of brief thoughts on the store page for the game?   

There’s a sea of other indie titles out there now, and I’m anxious about my career to put it kind of frankly.  Please be honest, obviously, but if you’re enjoying the game it would really be a big deal to me personally if you’d let other people know; that stuff makes a big difference in our ability to get featuring on the store, in how people choose to purchase or not, and so on.

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 v0.899 Released! “Intel Objective Difficulty Ratings”

Release notes here.

More refinement!  Lots of good stuff here.

  • The intel sidebar has a bunch of colorization improvements, as well as difficulty estimates based on things like what ships are at the planets on the way to the objective.  These sorts of things really should help new players (and frankly, anyone) choose ideal targets.  Huge kudos to Badger for thinking of and implementing this.
  • Logistical command stations now automatically watch adjacent planets to them, now further differentiating them from military and economic command stations — as well as making it so that you don’t have to spend hacking points to watch every planet on your hinterland.
  • There’s a fifth tutorial in place now, thanks to Puffin, as well as some improvements to the existing ones.   Please do keep up with the feedback on these, we really appreciate it.  And I did notice folks starting in and adding in  guides in the wiki — DemocracyDemocracy in particular — so huge thanks there, too!
  • Fixed a fairly long list  of bugs and minor balance issues.
  • Added three new ship variants, two of which are new citadel types.
  • A variety of galaxy map improvements and other ui improvements, including the control group number still being visible but no longer replacing the count of contents in the fleet leaders.

As an aside, I’ve been personally having a rough time coming up on this release, so a lot of this content is developed by the volunteers (ever increasing in number, to my extreme gratitude).  I haven’t been nearly as productive this week  as I’d have liked, although I do tend to discount things like marketing work and whatnot as not being “real work,” so some of it’s just that.

But there’s a very palpable sense of fear that I have coming into this release, just because… well, it’s been a rough few years, and the market is  so saturated now, and the original game was something that people loved so much and expected us to surpass with this title.  It feels like expectations are super high, the noise in the market is super high, and I have no idea if that will translate into actually being able to make a living making games again; I say “again,” because despite laying off all the staff, I haven’t been break-even (let alone profitable) on making games for… oh, four  years now, I suppose.  That’s hard.

So I’m really heartened by all the various positive Steam reviews lately and over the last year, and I’m hoping the press has a similar reaction.  I’m heartened by all the folks saying how they are finally feeling like the sequel is so much better than the original, and personally I agree, but it’s hard to not let people for whom the sequel doesn’t live up to their expectations set up camp in my head.  I knew going into this that I could never please everyone, but the question is  if I can please enough people, and keep pleasing them over time with more free additions and paid expansions, that I get to keep doing my dream job.  Right now I don’t have an answer to that, and I won’t until the 22nd, so it’s setting off my anxiety something fierce.

To compensate, I’m trying to get enough sleep, focus on specific tasks ]that I know need doing rather than the big picture, and in general just tidy up.  It doesn’t help that the Early Access release last year was by all accounts a big success and then I immediately got asked for a divorce and things spiraled down for a few months where I couldn’t work.  Things are incredibly much better now, and I’m actually really grateful for the turn my life took despite that temporary huge hardship, but that stuff still gets into parts of my brain and sits there.

You know, I’d really like to do this for a long time.  It’s been 10 years so far.  I’d enjoy just making a living and making more games for another 10 or 20 or even 30 years.  Hopefully with a lot less stress than the first 10 years had.  Fingers crossed.  Things honestly look to be heading that way, but it’s hard not to be worried about it nonetheless.

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 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 v0.898 Released! “Galactic Linkages”

Release notes here.

Mostly this one is about refinement, but it has some major quality of life additions on the galaxy map, most of those thanks to Asteroid.

  • You can now adjust the scale of icons on the galaxy map (this one I added), and the default is a bit bigger.  The smaller size was nice last version, but a little TOO squint-causing on most monitors.  Now the default is larger and you can tune to taste.
  • You can now hover over the links between planets and see intel about them, which explains all the various things that you otherwise had to memorize (why a dashed line, why red, etc, etc).  Huge thanks to Asteroid for implementing this.
  • Also, linkages that are having an actual wormhole wave coming now show up with an animation.  Again thanks Asteroid!
  • Nanocaust ships and Macrophage ships can now stack!  Hooray for performance in those games that have those factions in huge numbers.  Big thanks to Badger, this required a hefty extension to the core mechanics there.
  • The stacking code was not working well at ALL with transports, causing all sorts of problems.  Thanks to a lot of folks for help there, but particularly to WeaponMaster for figuring out the problem areas.
  • The colors of some of the factions are now clearer in the quick starts — big thanks to Puffin for that one.
  • Several other bugfixes, balance tweaks, UI improvements, quick start improvements, and so on thanks  to all of the above folks.  Everybody has been really busy.  Thanks all!

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 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 v0.897 Released! “Commanding From The Galaxy Map”

Release notes here.

Oh good grief this one is huge.  From one day’s work, too.  Let’s get down to it!

The Title Feature: Commanding From The Galaxy Map

Okay, so a funny thing happened when I added fleets to the game a few months ago: people started expecting to be able to select them on the galaxy map.  It was a completely natural thing to expect, but it wasn’t something I’d ever thought of, and the first game certainly didn’t work like that (ships didn’t even appear on the galaxy map).

I also didn’t realize for a while how crippling it felt not to have this ability.  To be able to SEE those fleets of yours, but then you click them and it just does… nothing.  The galaxy map had always been for information, and generally the ships shown there were for enemy structures you might consider capturing.  What was to interact with?  Until fleets.

So, yes: now we have the ability to select fleets, drag a band-box around them, use alt and shift for subtractive and additive selection, and so on.  This all pairs nicely with the cross-planet move orders stuff that Badger has done more recently.

You can’t issue direct attack or assist orders from the galaxy map at the moment, and I’m not sure I want to add that.  Generally the things shown are your own fleets and then enemy capturables; rarely something of an enemy that you’d want to directly attack.  Even if it is something you’d directly attack, it’s usually something defended by a bunch of other stuff you should deal with first rather than charging directly at.

What you can do is select stuff with ease from the galaxy map, and then click over to a planet (double click takes you in), and then right-click to move to a specific spot on the planet or give an attack order there.  OR you can select stuff on the galaxy map, and give them move orders at a planetary level from there.

Will we need more refinement on this?   Almost certainly.  I imagine there are various modifiers and conveniences people will be looking for.  But this is a huge step up already, so we’ll slot those other things in as we have time.  I’m mostly probably going to be gunning for the sidebar and for achievements, next, personally.

Galaxy Map Visuals

It’s not quite an overhaul, per se… but everything feels very different now.  You can see more ship icons at each planet, but they aren’t as large and in the way.  Planets themselves are smaller.  There are dotted lines between enemy planets and your planets where they can’t attack you via wormholes (wow this feels amazing to see).

The way planets are selected looks better, and their text is positioned and sized better.  You can see selected fleets on the galaxy map even if you didn’t select them directly here.  You can see what kind of command stations you’ve built on each planet at a glance based on the planet icon. 

The intel tab highlights just the specific relevant planet for the thing you might want to capture or hack, not ALL the things of its type.  You can hover over the planet/local/ships tab icons again and highlight which planets have THOSE things.

Oh, yeah: and the galaxy map stays where you put it.  Zoom and positioning and so on, as you move between planets, rather than recentering you over and over again.  Wow that one feels huge, too.

Hey, We Have Four Tutorials Now!

I actually feel like this is a big disservice that I’m only getting to this at this point in the release notes.  This is huge news!  We do have more tutorials needed, and the last two of these in particular are hot off the presses and Puffin was feeling as tired as I am I think, so please be understanding of that and helpful in your feedback.

But boy, this is such a huge relief to me, personally, to have some solid tutorials in there again.  We’ve had the written “How to Play” bits, but some people just want the interactive stuff.  I get that, so now we have both.  Video tutorials will come soon, but I’ve kinda lost my voice at the moment and I’d rather have all the new GUI improvements and general quality of life improvements in there.

I really have to say, enormous thanks to Puffin on this. 

Badger took the hit the first time around and did the very big long tutorial that was available at the start of Early Access.  And it was good!  People seemed to really like it.  But then I went and Changed Everything ™ with fleets and so on, and the tutorial that he made just became about 80% obsolete.

This time around, Puffin has stepped up and saved my bacon and is doing a series of smaller bite-size tutorials on the same general subjects, but in the new mechanical framework of the game.  Back when Badger added the first one, we could only HAVE one tutorial, so he had to make his big and cover all the stuff.  But from a design standpoint, we decided this time around it made much more sense  to have smaller bite-size ones on specific topics so that people could skip the bits they already understand, or don’t want to learn about right now… or revisit some specific topic they forgot, as the case may be.

Thanks to Puffin, I’m able to work on all these things like the galaxy map improvements while he’s doing those tutorials.  And frankly, I’m not the best one for explaining the game since I know it so well and tend to be either too detailed or not detailed enough.  I did the tutorials for the first game — AI War Classic — and everyone has been raving about how much better Badger’s ones were for AI War 2.  This makes sense to me, but has tended to add to my anxiety when trying to do tutorials myself.  Not that I wouldn’t have done them… but boy it has been a huge relief to have someone else do that so that I could focus on concrete polish stuff.

Bugfixes, Balance, and  UI Improvements!

There’s a hefty number of these, too!  Badger and Asteroid and I have been busy, and WeaponMaster has pointed out several things for this one after sifting through code, too.

The strength/weakness code gives a more succinct and readable result now, and more changes are planned — thanks Asteroid!  Decollision has had a few things fixed up, thanks to items WeaponMaster found.  NRSirLimbo made some excellent suggestions that led to Badger finding some substantial bugs in the metal tracking code, and that also lets you view metal flows while paused.

And… a bunch of other little stuff.  This release was nuts.  I’m really happy with where the game is getting to.  Puffin also did a bunch of internal achievements work that isn’t visible yet because I have yet to do the UI for it, but that was also a big win.  I’m heading off for the weekend, now, so hopefully folks enjoy!

Repeat Notice: Tutorial and Scenario Designers Wanted!

We’re going to be working on our own tutorials based on this system, but I’d definitely love to see a really robust number of scenarios from other folks, too.

Everybody has a different perspective, and maybe you want to teach some specific tactic or even set up kind of a small contained puzzle-like challenge cage-match with 5 planets against the dark spire and nanocaust with a quest you design with unusual victory conditions.

I think that sort of thing is just super fun, and it’s a way to play the game in a more bite-sized fashion.  Some of those sorts of things  aren’t even really tutorials, they’re more advanced challenges or puzzles.

But anyway, the tutorials system is a pretty robust framework that allows for all sorts of different scenario designs that I’d love to see people really lean into.  I’ve been explicitly trying to make this as easy as possible for non-coders to do — all you need is a text editor — and the idea of seeing what creative things people come up with to both teach and test players is exciting.

It’s more or less the same idea behind modding, where people add various map types or ship types or whatever else, except this time it’s custom scenarios for teaching or testing.

Back Monday!

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 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 v0.896 Released! “Strength and Control”

Release notes here.

This one has a lot of little UI improvements, many of which center around hotkeys.

  • Some of the sidebar hotkeys are more natural now (F for fleets, etc).
  • A number of the controls in the controls configuration menu have been recategorized or clarified.
  • You can now hold the R key while looking at ship stats in order to see either the strengths or weaknesses of that ship type versus other ship types.  This is a preliminary sort of thing, but  it’s something a lot of people have been wanting and getting started with it is good.  Big thanks to Asteroid for that!
  • The mercenaries have been renamed to Outguard instead, and coming up before too  long we’re going to be changing how they work. Basically to make them both more thematic (end of the world for humans we’d see more natural cooperation, seems like), and something that people use more frequently.
  • Ships should hopefully no longer wiggle back and forth when they’re doing slight kiting movements.
  • You can now tell if an AI has a warp gate adjacent to a planet of yours based on the thickness of the line between your planet and theirs.

Overall this was a pretty small release, but it lays the groundwork for more stuff coming soon.

Repeat Notice: Tutorial and Scenario Designers Wanted!

We’re going to be working on our own tutorials based on this system, but I’d definitely love to see a really robust number of scenarios from other folks, too. 

Everybody has a different perspective, and maybe you want to teach some specific tactic or even set up kind of a small contained puzzle-like challenge cage-match with 5 planets against the dark spire and nanocaust with a quest you design with unusual victory conditions.

I think that sort of thing is just super fun, and it’s a way to play the game in a more bite-sized fashion.  Some of those sorts of things  aren’t even really tutorials, they’re more advanced challenges or puzzles.

But anyway, the tutorials system is a pretty robust framework that allows for all sorts of different scenario designs that I’d love to see people really lean into.  I’ve been explicitly trying to make this as easy as possible for non-coders to do — all you need is a text editor — and the idea of seeing what creative things people come up with to both teach and test players is exciting.

It’s more or less the same idea behind modding, where people add various map types or ship types or whatever else, except this time it’s custom scenarios for teaching or testing.

Other Fixes And Improvements

There are a number of bugfixes and balance tweaks that seemed to be the highest-priority items that people had brought to our attention.  Thanks to Badger on the bulk of those.  And the build menu now has icons thanks to Asteroid!

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 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 v0.895 Released! “Major Progress On Tutorials Framework”

Release notes here.

This one actually has some key bugfixes as well, including a change to how stacks work that really has an enormous impact on balance.  The AI may be too weak now, since more of your shots actually hit stacks now since that bug was fixed.

There are also some new hotkeys for placing multiple ships at once when constructing them, and some on-screen indicators for what those hotkeys are when you go into build mode.

We’ve also built out a TON of the stuff for the tutorial framework itself, although there’s still plenty more to do.  But we did get enough that…

First Tutorial Is Ready!

This is a very small tutorial that just focuses on how to move around and things like that, but it’s similar to what was in the old tutorial (for this game) as part of a larger tutorial.

This version is a little bit cleaner and slightly more informative since we’re able to cover more in more steps with less work, and we were able to easily adjust it to do some colorization to aid in readability.

But one thing that’s really notable here is that this is a micro-tutorial on a specific topic, by design.  This way we can have a variety of small tutorials of this sort that are topical and that you don’t have to play again and again (or even at all) if you want to skip ahead a bit.

In talking to folks, it became clear that they really want to be able to just “get on with things,” and that means different things to different people. So by making it really seamless and  convenient and a series of micro tutorials, we’re able to hopefully meet the desires of a lot of you at once.

And of course we’ll also do some videos later on, kind of in a Let’s Play style.  And we have the in-game wiki with lots of written explanations already.  And the game is full of tooltips to help you contextually learn in general.

So hopefully whatever your learning style is, we’ll be hitting it.  We don’t want anyone to feel forced into a style of tutorial they don’t like (whether that’s reading, interactive, or video; everyone seems to want different things, which is okay).

Repeat Notice: Tutorial and Scenario Designers Wanted!

We’re going to be working on our own tutorials based on this system, but I’d definitely love to see a really robust number of scenarios from other folks, too. 

Everybody has a different perspective, and maybe you want to teach some specific tactic or even set up kind of a small contained puzzle-like challenge cage-match with 5 planets against the dark spire and nanocaust with a quest you design with unusual victory conditions.

I think that sort of thing is just super fun, and it’s a way to play the game in a more bite-sized fashion.  Some of those sorts of things  aren’t even really tutorials, they’re more advanced challenges or puzzles.

But anyway, the tutorials system is a pretty robust framework that allows for all sorts of different scenario designs that I’d love to see people really lean into.  I’ve been explicitly trying to make this as easy as possible for non-coders to do — all you need is a text editor — and the idea of seeing what creative things people come up with to both teach and test players is exciting.

It’s more or less the same idea behind modding, where people add various map types or ship types or whatever else, except this time it’s custom scenarios for teaching or testing.

Other Fixes And Improvements

There are a number of bugfixes and balance tweaks that seemed to be the highest-priority items that people had brought to our attention.  Thanks to Badger on the bulk of those.  And the build menu now has icons thanks to Asteroid!

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 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 v0.894 Released! “Desaturation And Cross-Planet Move Orders”

Release notes here.

The visual look of the game is pretty notably different, in the sense that the  whole affair looks more “serious” now.  The borders of icons are thinner, and the saturation is 80% of what it used to be (by default).

If you want the saturation back up bright and cheery (or even more gloomy), then you can adjust those values in settings.  If your monitor is extra bright or dark compared to a baseline, you can also now adjust the general brightness up and down.  These settings affect the entire screen, GUI included, so this keeps the colors consistent between the GUI and the playing field, which is really nice.

Cross-Planet Move Orders

So you have a group of ships selected that are on multiple planets.  Some of them are on planet A with you, and others are on planets B and C.  You want to issue a move order to a specific spot on planet A and have them all go there.  This now works.  Previously, the ships on planets B and C would just ignore the orders.

This is something people always wanted in AI War Classic, and is finally now possible thanks to Badger implementing that here (though Keith and I did lay a lot of groundwork, we never took it this final critical step).

This also means that you can have ALL your ships off on some other planet(s), visit a hostile enemy planet, and queue up movement orders on their planet… and your ships will route there and then keep going.

This should also work for attack orders, but there may be some issues with that at the moment.  Thinking about it right now, I think that potentially if there’s an attack order against a ship that is not on the current planet, then it treats that as an invalid order and clears it out (normally that’s a good thing if your target ship runs away from the planet you are trying to attack it on).

I am guessing we just need to make it say something along the lines of “if there are wormhole orders, then treat all orders after those orders as valid no matter what” in order to solve this issue.  Anyway, so we’re making good progress, but there are still nits and things here and there.

Tutorials

Speaking of making progress, our tutorial engine is coming along swimmingly.  There really aren’t as many TYPES of conditions for progressing tutorial stages as I had once been thinking there were.  A lot of them involve “go to this place” or “look at this thing” or “build some specific things” or “kill some specific things.”

All of that is able to be generalized pretty darn well, which will be my main task for tomorrow.  The tutorial framework is practically complete except for that particular element, in terms of the truly core components. 

There will be more that we want to add over time, but by the end of tomorrow I think we’ll have enough conditions and whatnot in place that we can recreate what the old tutorial used to be if we wanted to (not that that tutorial makes sense anymore, given it was pre-fleets and teaches a lot of things that no longer exist).

Among other improvements to the tutorial framework (such as making it all xml-driven and VASTLY easier to update and create tutorials), you also now have to click the tutorial text to advance it to the next step, rather than it advancing without you just because you meet the conditions.  That was endlessly confusing for people in the past.

Don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty of latent requests for the tutorial system that I’m sure I’ll be adding for months, so I don’t expect to be done tomorrow or something.  But being able to hit a big baseline goal like that so quickly — ability to recreate the old tutorial if it made sense now — is a definite win in my book.

Repeat Notice: Tutorial and Scenario Designers Wanted!

We’re going to be working on our own tutorials based on this system, but I’d definitely love to see a really robust number of scenarios from other folks, too. 

Everybody has a different perspective, and maybe you want to teach some specific tactic or even set up kind of a small contained puzzle-like challenge cage-match with 5 planets against the dark spire and nanocaust with a quest you design with unusual victory conditions.

I think that sort of thing is just super fun, and it’s a way to play the game in a more bite-sized fashion.  Some of those sorts of things  aren’t even really tutorials, they’re more advanced challenges or puzzles.

But anyway, the tutorials system is a pretty robust framework that allows for all sorts of different scenario designs that I’d love to see people really lean into.  I’ve been explicitly trying to make this as easy as possible for non-coders to do — all you need is a text editor — and the idea of seeing what creative things people come up with to both teach and test players is exciting.

It’s more or less the same idea behind modding, where people add various map types or ship types or whatever else, except this time it’s custom scenarios for teaching or testing.

Other Fixes And Improvements

There are a number of bugfixes and balance tweaks that seemed to be the highest-priority items that people had brought to our attention.  Thanks to Badger on the bulk of those.  And the build menu now has icons thanks to Asteroid!

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 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