BETA AI War 2 v0.867 Released! “Smarter AI, Better Mark Level Spread, Player Economic Boom”

Release notes here.

Reminder: to play the beta, you MUST go into your Steam properties for the game, go under the Betas tab, and choose the “current_beta” option.  Otherwise you’re going to be stuck on the pre-fleets version of the game.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about regarding fleets, then reading this link is a really good thing to do or you are likely to be mighty confused.

So what’s new in this build?  This is obviously an incremental one, headed towards the non-beta full release of 0.900 that we’re aiming at in the next… weeks?  That timeframe is unclear, and will be based on testing feedback, which has been rolling in well so far; but there will be loads of incremental beta releases during this period.  Anyway, what’s new:

  • There are a whole heap of bugfixes in this one, and a lot of them make the factions or AIs work better and smarter.
  • There are also some explicit improvements to the AI intelligence, specifically around waves in particular and how they use those.
  • And some other cases where things like Raid Engines just really were Not Okay ™ on third party faction worlds because they weren’t designed for that sort of thing.  So those factions and the AIs just kind of agree “okay, let’s just remove the raid engine from that planet and all move on with life.”  Raid Engines are more of a special present for you, the player. 😉
  • Reprisal Waves in particular have seen a big improvement, and now work more like the first game.  Basically, it was way too easy for you to see a target AI planet that you were no match for, and just spend a lot of time whittling it down.  Reprisal Waves were always supposed to stop you from doing that by having a mechanic whereby the AI essentially goes “okay, that was cute, now swallow my boot heel.  If you’re coming back, you’d better be prepared for real and not try to cheese me through economic-powered attrition.”  In this game that wasn’t really hitting back hard enough, so some people were doing the whittling thing, especially with Fleets now being more of a streamlined thing.  So this loophole hopefully being closed should  be a big deal in terms of people really having to play smart and not just use their  economy to bludgeon something out of their reach.
  • There were also some really notable cases where AIs were not releasing their reinforcements from guard posts or similar when they should have been, or releasing them way too early.   In some ways that was like the AI holding one hand behind its back for no good reason.  Expect to be suplexed now, properly.
  • There are multiple styles of how you can have your planets named, now!  There are various ones named after stars, cities in various countries, the original list from Keith and I, and some tongue-in-cheek humorous ones.  You can also add your own (and if you create something cool that you’d like us to add for others, we can do so).  I need to remember to make a how-to document on that feature, but it’s pretty nifty.
  • Hacking is no longer quite so tough, particularly on superterminals.  It was pretty insanely over the top difficult.  But really there were a variety of hacking changes that should be a lot more pleasant.
  • Puffin also made a lot of balance changes, making transport centerpieces way more useful and less likely to suicide (partly thanks to Badger for his suggestions there, as well as all the AI work he did).  But then there was also a big change in the tech costs for things like Arks and Citadels in particular, making those way less costly so that you can actually reasonably afford them.
  • Then when it comes to mark levels, hoo boy a ton has changed.  Previously the AI only used marks level 1 through 5, but you could get up to mark 7.  This was… really backwards.  Now the AI uses all 7 mark levels, and you still can, too.  Especially with the reductions in tech costs, you’re more likely to be able to get more high-level stuff, too. Though the XP upgrades for fleet mark levels are still to come, and that will push you even higher in that regard.
  • THEN, even beyond that, mark levels are now a heck of a lot less extreme in how they ramp up.  The mark 2 units were literally over twice as good as mark 1 units, which was a holdover from AIWC that really didn’t make any  sense anymore.  And then there was a more gradual growth up to mark 7, but it was still a huge amount of power creep with strange spikes.  Now things are far more gradual, and so mark 1 units aren’t immediately useless.  And mark 7 units don’t immediately mean you overpower everything.  It’s supposed to be  important that you increasing mark levels on fleets, as are the mark levels of AI planets being higher or lower when you choose to fight them, but the balance was just all off because it was built on the premise of the first game which… is just different in a wide variety of ways.   The new balance might not be perfect yet, but it should be a lot more satisfying than before and also should make it so that your really huge power jumps are where they should be: getting more fleets.  Or upgrading something that is in a ton of fleets all at once.
  • But going even further than that when it comes to lower mark levels being useless or a liability up until now… those were always supposed to be useful as at least being cheap chaff… but the cost for a mark 1 unit was the same as a 9x more powerful mark 7 unit, so you could just absolutely tank your economy on stupid stuff that was no help.  Even with the mark levels being more balanced now, the lower marks now get cheaper as you unlock higher mark ships of any sort in a given fleet — the more the difference, the cheaper the lower marks get.  So you can actually make some fleets that have one  really good ship type in there and then a ton of super-cheap chaff, if you want, which is definitely useful as a way to  be a bullet sponge against certain types of AI forces (nothing AOE, but something that fires directly, for sure).  The AI doesn’t get this benefit, it’s just for players.  In the first game, higher mark levels got more expensive, but in this game that approach could wind up bankrupting your economy if you simply upgrade a tech innocently, so the discount approach for older stuff had to be taken instead.  And it’s fleet-based rather than global in order to encourage… more unique and interesting fleets, and to give you more opportunities to show your cleverness with how you upgrade your fleets.
  • Keeping on with the idea of making fleets something that feel good in their default-ish state without you needing to turn off a bunch of units (like the old-expensive mark 1 units), we’ve also implemented the first of a new type of ability: Raiders now make all the other ships in their fleets, other than the centerpiece, at least as fast as they are.  So if you have some awesome Raiders for doing fast strikes, and then a bunk of slow space tanks that were absolutely a horrible combo before… guess what?  Now you have awesome fast raiders AND supercharged wicked fast space tanks to go with them.   Suddenly that particular fleet isn’t a bad combo, it’s this new and more powerful thing because of the strange mixing.  We plan to do more things along those lines, to really keep emphasizing the procedural and cool combinatorial elements of the game.
  • Also, there’s a new interface thing where you can click your metal resource text in the top bar and see your metal outflows, which is really useful.  It’s a preliminary version and may have some bugs, so feedback is appreciated.
  • Last week I was thinking about some large systemic changes to the game in order to try to solve some problems that are persistent but really more isolated.  This week, thanks to tons of feedback, we’ve all been thinking more along the lines of ways to improve the specific pain points (aka, make you want to use all the units in every fleet if we can, for example), but without going through this in a really extreme fashion.  It was already a lot closer to being correct than I was giving it credit for, and some more creative thinking has really led to some new approaches that I think will be a lot more palatable.
  • With that said, I’ve still been reluctant to focus on the fleet management screen so far, because if you’ve got that and are happily turning off a problematic unit then you probably won’t tell us about it and we can’t make it awesome. 😉  But that will be something I add next week, I think.  Even so, trying to keep that to the simple model I outlined, or something close to that, by simply making all your options useful in some way rather than a complete economic drain like something like autobombs might be now.
  • Beyond that we need to get the revised tutorial in place and make sure that as much of the balance  is sane as possible, and then I think we’re ready for 0.900!  We then have a ways to go on polishing and adding things (like subscreens for seeing more about your empire) heading into 1.0, but that will be a really big milestone and in theory that could be next week.  Maybe I just jinxed it, but it sure would be nice; I guess it depends on what people find over the weekend.  I think we’re getting out of the territory where the beta versions are more complicated to get into than the non-beta versions, and where they won’t be going through as drastic of shifts as they have been over the last few months.  Certainly my fingers are crossed for that, but it seems like we’re getting into that ballpark.

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.



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