AI War 2 v0.782 Released! “Viewport Visibility”

Release notes here.

(Singing) I can see clearly now, the HUD is small…

Right!  I’m very excited about this one, it has a lot of long-desired pieces of polish in it.  And some bits that were not long-desired, but are exciting all the same.

  • The settings menu is better organized, and doesn’t have any more non-functional bits in it.
  • The camera controls, in terms of how sensitive each bit is, can properly be configured again.
  • Tooltips can be sized in general, so that their text is not so huge if you’re on a huge monitor.
  • Same with the sidebar!  And the top bar!  And notifications!  The whole HUD, really!
  • The default size of most HUD elements and tooltips is somewhere around 80% as large now as it used to be, since most people felt it was too large.  But now you can configure them!
  • Rather than having one monolithic “GUI Scale,” which really is a bit nonspecific, there are four or five key areas you can size independently.
  • And you can now scale the icons of ships!  They’re also smaller by default, now.  Same with the wormhole names.
  • You can actually skip drawing the 3D models of ships entirely, if you want to — for instance if you’re on a right potato of a GPU.  The game is fully playable in a just-icons fashion, if you wish.
  • Tooltips now SAY LESS, aside from being better-sized.  This is a huge thing I’ve been wanting to do for a month or so.  By default, they no longer explain game rules or give extra-comprehensive stats on every aspect of a ship.
  • However, you can now hold Ctrl to see the full tooltips that you’ve been having up until now.  Or you can toggle those to always be the full tooltips, if you like.  But frankly the abbreviated ones are a lot easier to work with.
  • Most of this stuff, so far, basically makes it so that you can see the main view a lot better, without the HUD and icons crowding you out.
  • We also fixed a bunch of bugs and clarified some things that were unclear.
  • And improved the tutorial a bit, particularly with some mis-spellings.
  • There are also a couple of more difficult quick starts now available, thanks to Puffin.
  • And your starships won’t be getting murdered by ion cannons anymore. 🙂

More to come soon!

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 v0.781 Released! “Destruction Diversity”, Steam Trading Cards, New Release Date.

Release notes here.

Took an extra day compared to what I was planning for this release, but there’s a ton in here!  First of all, there are a ton of balance improvements that Puffin has put together in order to diversify what gets a damage bonus against what.  There’s a lot of tuning in that area of the game in particular.

Quinn added in the ability not just to delete savegames, but also to delete campaigns, which is super welcome.  A few other tooltip improvements have been made to clarify a few things, and a few tutorial improvements, and a fix for that really irritating bug with the flickering sidebar.

Marauders are a lot more aggressive, cross planet waves are a lot more sneaky, astro trains are a lot less plentiful, brownouts are a lot more painful, and there’s now a cooldown on how quickly you can rebuild something that was just destroyed.  Thanks to Badger on huge amounts of that.

Outside of that, we’ve also done some new kickstarter-exclusive background art thanks to Cath, and then I’ve created new marketing headers for the game (finally!) as well as new Steam Trading Cards.  Here’s a sneak peek!

New header:

Compared to the old one:

And then here’s a sneak peek at the Steam Trading Cards (which won’t turn active until the game releases into Early Access on Monday):

And this is what the associated backgrounds look like:

And this is just for fun:

New Release Date?

Yep!  We’re now releasing on Monday, which is the 15th, instead of Thursday the 18th.  Why?  Rimworld announced their 1.0 will be on the 17th.  And we, uh… wanted to give them some personal space. 😉  Big congrats to them, by the way.

Thanks for reading!  More to come soon.

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 v0.780 Released! “Just Some Cleanup” Plus GUI modding tutorial.

Release notes here.

As the first build since we started our press preview period, I wish there were some grand exciting features in here, but alas it’s just bugfixes and UI polish.  Mostly UI polish.  Frankly it makes the game experience that much more pleasant, though, so it’s worthwhile stuff to be sure.  It’s just not flashy.

Most of the flashy stuff will be coming during EA at this point, since prior to that it’s all about polish and bugfixes and balance one way or the other.  Well… and added art for the ships that are still missing that.  That’s going to be exiting.

Anyway, more to come soon!

Also, if you’re into that sort of thing, here’s a tutorial on how to mod UI elements:

It presupposes a fair bit of knowledge I’ll admit, but for our existing crew of modders and volunteer devs it should clear some things up.

Thanks for reading!  Next build will likely be Monday.

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 v0.779 Released! “Quick Starts” Plus new trailer!

Release notes here.

This marks the first build of the game that is available to press to preview.  How nerve-wracking!  There’s still a lot we need to finish up in the next two weeks prior to Early Access when it comes to polish and bugfixing, but we have to actually let people see the game at SOME point.  I’m really pleased with how this particular build is feeling, though.  There are still known issues, but the fundamentals are really strong.

One of the cool new things in this build is the addition of quick starts, which folks have been asking for forever.  It basically provides a really handy way to get into the game without having to ever touch the lobby and all its complexity.  Which is doubly good right now, because the lobby is still a mess of temporary UI.  The quick starts will be hugely useful long after the lobby is polished, though, because they allow for easy choices of cool scenarios.

If you want to create a quick start option of your own (please feel free!), you can simply go through the following process:

  • Create a game with the settings you want.
  • Save it.
  • Write up a little description about it, and put a name for it.
  • Send it to us on the forums or mantis.

It’s very straightforward!

There are also a number of changes in this build to make things prettier and to fix a fair list of bugs.  More to come soon!

Oh right… we also have a new trailer!  Huge thanks to Pepisolo for going all-out on this one.  He really put in a ton of time, and it shows:

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 v0.778 Released! “I’m Talking To HIM, Not You!”

Release notes here.

This one fixes all of the super-duper critical bugs that I’m aware of.  There are plenty more bugs to go around, and we’ll definitely be getting to those.  But right now it’s a balance between the UI work, bugfixing and balance tweaking, and other needed refinements.  I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about just spending tomorrow on the UI.

Thursday — the day after tomorrow — is when our big press push goes down, so if there’s anything super duper critical hopefully we can get that in the next day or two.  The sidebar and the profile screen and the lobby/start options are my main foci for tomorrow, and hopefully I can just work on those and ignore mantis for the day.  I can dream, right? 😉  I expect Thursday and Friday are going to be heavy bugfixing days.

Anywho, the biggest bugfix in this new build is that orders were getting scrambled up between units in a variety of ways.  We pool the orders (as of a few weeks ago), and what was happening is that a given order could be added back into the pool twice… thus meaning that multiple ships then get the order back out of the pool and use it for different things.  Then each of THEM could put it back in twice, leading to four ships having one order that’s all scrambled up and not fully what was told to any of them.  So that led to ships eventually just acting outright insane.  Shooting nothing, flying into the bottom left corner, abandoning orders in the middle of a routine flight from A to B… you name it.  Thankfully that’s all sorted now; thanks for your patience with it!

Anyway, hence the title of this build.

There were various other bugs fixed as well, and a notable new feature: the ability to order your bloody engineers around!  Before they just did whatever they felt like.  Now you can actually tell them to go work on something specific, and you can even lock them in to just boosting the performance of a specific dock — same as in Classic.  Except in the new version it’s even better, because even while they are locked in, they can do other things within their range if the dock doesn’t need boosting right this instant.  That’s a minor thing, but fairly valuable.

More to come soon. 🙂

Reminder: RocketAssistedPuffin has stepped into a volunteer balancer role, and he is not only looking for feedback, but he’s actively integrating lots of things that other people are suggesting on our forums and Discord, as well as things that he’s finding and coming up with himself.  The more feedback the better, for sure.

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 v0.777 Released! “First Impressions”

Release notes here.

This one has a ton of stuff in it.  The core focus for me, personally, was on making the last things more attractive that we’d need for our upcoming trailer, as well as to get the main menu improved so that it makes a better first impression.  The menu itself still needs better button visuals, but look how pretty (in a highly dithered gif):

We also got some more voice acting work done in preparation for the Early Access launch, although it’s not implemented yet.  And some of the worst of the sidebar glitches are now fixed (though there are still numerous more there to fix, as well as some key bugs elsewhere to fix — I will be getting to those soon!).

You can now click wormhole names to go through the wormhole, which I know is something that people have wanted for a long time.

A variety of balance changes are in, including turrets getting nerfed and guardians getting buffed.  Fewer guardians go along with waves now, and Arks do a lot more damage.

Several ships have real graphics now that did not before.  Such as the spire!  They use subsurface scattering and are colored now, rather than being ugly white:

They went from some of the ugliest units to some of the prettiest.  They have new models, too.  The sentry starship also went from very hideous to really really cool looking, too.  Those are what you can see moving past in the main menu now, actually.

There are two new AI types, and various changes to the AI types in general.

The bug with schematic servers having a bunch of duplicates is fixed.

And lots more!  Badger and Puffin were really busy on this one, and Craig was working on audio editing in addition to his work on the trailer, and Eric worked on tidying up tons of the voiceover writing as well as writing new ones, and Quinn put in several fixes including the garbled background story placement.  So many people helping out — thanks everyone!

More to come soon. 🙂

Reminder: RocketAssistedPuffin has stepped into a volunteer balancer role, and he is not only looking for feedback, but he’s actively integrating lots of things that other people are suggesting on our forums and Discord, as well as things that he’s finding and coming up with himself.  The more feedback the better, for sure.

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 v0.776 Released! “A Legible Galaxy Map”

Release notes here.

The title of this release is only partly sarcastic.  The old galaxy map was one of the chief complaints that people had about actually playing this game; it was something I’d put off dealing with for quite some time, because I wasn’t sure how to deal with some of the challenges presented by it.  This release goes through literally everything I was hoping to do with it, and the results are better than I’d hoped.

That’s not to say there isn’t still room for improvement — I’m sure it will be refined for quite some time, and expanded from here.  But at this point, it’s something that can be visually parsed and understood, and there is a lot of cross-compatibility with the tabs on the sidebar and the notifications up on top.  I really wanted to avoid having a bunch of search functions and markers.  Instead, just by hovering over existing elements on the GUI, I wanted those things to automatically act as filters on their own.  I’m happy to report that is functional and does the job well.  It’s crazy superior to the first game’s search function in terms of how quickly you can use it to do something like find all the scouts, or all the planets with some sort of capturable on them.

Especially if you hold Shift to hide the tooltips while you just want the hover effect to work — knowing that you can hold shift to hide tooltips is actually kind of critical now, and probably something we should put in the tutorial.  Basically you can really make use of the sidebar as either a set of filters OR as a way to see tooltips, and shift is the toggle between those functional modes, unless you want to try to dodge around tooltips to see the middle of the screen.

You can also see what sort of defenses versus mobile forces you have at planets, and in general seeing what you vs the AI have is far better now.  It’s just a whole different experience.  I literally couldn’t tell where players even owned planets half the time when they sent in savegames for me to find a bug in, and that’s… wow that was a problem, you know?  Now I can instantly see what’s going on, and I hope you’ll find it equally easy.

Assuming things are in the ballpark of correct here, and there aren’t any egregious things that annoy people on the galaxy map anymore, I’m going to move onto the sidebar and lobby for now.

There were some other major improvements in this build, too: icons in the header notifications now are distinct and actually tell you what is happening properly.  The guards get properly aggro’d when you shoot any one of them at a post.  Several nullref exception fixes.  MAJOR command station rebalance, to make more than just the Military ones useful.  Hacking has been reworked heavily under the hood and is so much easier to tune now.  Three more AI types implemented.  And more!

More to come soon, too.

Reminder: RocketAssistedPuffin has stepped into a volunteer balancer role, and he is not only looking for feedback, but he’s actively integrating lots of things that other people are suggesting on our forums and Discord, as well as things that he’s finding and coming up with himself.  The more feedback the better, for sure.

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 v0.775 Released! “Unit Stacking”

Release notes here.

Surprisingly large amount of stuff in this one!  Unit stacking is every bit the godsend I’d hoped it would be, performance-wise, and I’m really pleased with that.  We don’t have any remaining savegame cases where performance dips below 100% for long on my machine, and the targeting cycle keeps to sub-second times in every instance now for me, too.  That’s a really big win, and lets me finally stop looking at anything performance-related for a while.

This also has a lot of tooltip/icon tweaks to show you when ships contain something in general, which is really nice.  Before you couldn’t tell that the guard posts were filled with nasty confetti waiting to pop out and bite you!

We also have some automatic strength calculation code in place now, which may mess with the way the AI spends its budgets and how it feels about opportunities and risks.  It’s meant to fix that up long-term, and overall it seems positive already, but that may break a few things in the short term.

There’s some new hotness possible with unique variants of ships for specific AI types, like giving extra-awesome snipers to the sniper type, and unlocking them from the start, etc.  It’s actually a really powerful system that can be used for a lot of things, but I’ve basically just set up some example entries for now.

Puffin has reworked quite a few units pretty heavily, making Fusion Bombers and V-Wings both a lot more interesting and effective.

Badger swung in and fixed a bug when entities were transforming types, so upgrading command stations will probably work now — please just let us know.

Lots more to come this week!  Though, frustratingly, I have to be out on Thursday.  So nothing on that day.  But all the others!

Reminder: RocketAssistedPuffin has stepped into a volunteer balancer role, and he is not only looking for feedback, but he’s actively integrating lots of things that other people are suggesting on our forums and Discord, as well as things that he’s finding and coming up with himself.  The more feedback the better, for sure.

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

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

We’re getting very close to our Early Access release!  We currently plan on that being October 18th, or something very close to that.  Looks like a target we can actually hit this time, finally, too.  Things are looking up!  If you’re reading and you don’t already have a copy of the game, you can wishlist it on Steam to get notified when it goes live, or you can order it on backerkit if you want to play right away.

Here’s a video showcasing some of what’s new in the most recent release.

That video does a great job of showing off the visual improvements and the AI logic improvements in particular.  I love watching the ships kite around in the clips later on in there in particular.  But there’s really been a gargantuan amount of stuff happening lately.  The most recent release notes are worth a read in particular, if you want to know the very latest news.

Basically, if you haven’t been following things closely… things are just coming along really, really well.  We still have a ways to go before we’re ready for Early Access, but the schedule seems manageable finally, and it should be a really positive showing that we have at launch there.  No multiplayer right at first, but that will come in a few months.  Just too much to polish on single-player first, basically.  We had working multiplayer months ago, but disabled it for now because we kept breaking it while making gameplay changes, and it would be a better use of time to just finish fixing it back up all at once after the gameplay settles out.

We should start having some press preview (not REVIEW) builds in another week and a half or two weeks.  Very excited but nervous about taking that plunge.  The full game should be out by Q2 of 2019.

Oh, by the by: there was some back and forth for a while about “is this diverging too far from AIWC” and then “is this just going to be a graphical/performance upgrade of AIWC.”  Two extremes, I know.  But now we’ve landed in a happy medium space, where the game is a clear improvement from AIWC, but also not remotely just a clone of it.  I’m super proud of the strides this has taken forward during the Era of Discovery phase that we entered in August, because I feel like this has really brought the game into its own.

That’s all for now — thanks for reading and watching!

Chris

AI War 2 v0.774 Released! “Five Thousand Days”

Release notes here.

Holy guacamole am I excited about this one.  Buckle up, because this is going to be a long post.  I’m going to post a video in a separate update later tonight, too.

Bugfixing!

Let’s start with the “boring” but important: looooads of bugs have been squashed in this one.  Most if not all of the carnage wrought by the performance overhauls of the last few versions has been smoothed out.  Plus a variety of longstanding issues.  There are still bugs to hunt for sure, but it’s finally a net-positive compared to the last two weeks.  I’m really excited about that.

AI Defenses

Badger spent a lot of time reworking both how the AI initially defends its planets, and how it chooses to do reinforcements… and a few things relating to offensive waves, as well.  The net result is that the AI planets really feel a lot more like they did in Classic, which makes me very happy.

Oh, quasi-related, the AI targeting (your units and theirs) is better yet again.  They won’t get caught up with metal harvesters forever anymore, etc.  And so many bugs fixed that were causing them to go the wrong place or chase the wrong thing, etc.

Map Generation Stuff!

Badger also made several new map variants for clusters, and made it so that you can finally choose how many planets your galaxy contains.  The default is still 80 at the moment… but in general I’m leaning towards raising that in the future, and making the minimum planet count and maximum planet count higher than they were in the first game.

More planets does not equal more CPU load for us, most of the time; assuming the same number of units in both scenarios, having twice the planets would actually be a quarter of the load in a lot of cases (many bits of work have a squared cost to them based on unit counts at a single planet).  Given that we’d of course have more units if we had more planets, we could still do something like 50% more units in the galaxy but at only half the cost of what a smaller galaxy would be; something to that effect.  Anyhow, that’s all just xml data at this point, so it’s easy to change later.

Quality of Life Improvements!

You no longer need to build hackers or science labs to deal with those resources on your own planets — your command stations now gather those resources, too.  You still need those units if you want to gather resources on planets you don’t control, and to do hacks on AI planets.  But you no longer need to shuffle around those guys in the basic areas.

Similarly, ALL of the objectives are finally actually showing up on the sidebar.  It was previously not telling you about data centers, or Advanced Research Stations (ARSes), etc.  There are also some additions to the tutorial, and to the beginner objectives, which also help out a lot.  There’s nothing on the galaxy map that you need to pore over the map to find anymore; it’s all right there on your objectives tab of the sidebar, waiting to be clicked to take you straight to the planet in question.

Oh right, and you can also see the number of squads per category in the ships tab of the sidebar; I’ve already gotten so used to that that I forgot it was new in this release!

Lots and Lots of Ship Renames

A lot of names for things in AIWC, or early-AIW2, have been changed.  But it’s not just cosmetic; their functions are different, and we didn’t want folks to be confused by something working differently but having the same name.

There are also some units that were just generic, like “Laser Turrets” and similar… what did those do again?  Just… basic damage, I guess?  (Yes).  Those now have distinct roles instead, and took up new names in order to reflect those roles: Laser Turrets are now Nucleophilic Turrets, for instance, meaning that they do more damage against targets with higher energy usage.  They still do great as general damage dealers, but now they have a specific niche bonus.

Advanced Research Stations (ARSes) have been renamed and split into a trio of units, too.  They are now Fleetship, Starship, and Turret Schematic Servers.  It’s kind of a lot to explain if you’re a fan of the first game and want to know what’s different, so here’s a link to the details.  But the short of it is that there’s more to capture now, and the capturing starts earlier in the game.  This gives you more units to command, and gives you more choices in what to capture versus just having to take what you find.

Lots more to come this week!

Reminder: RocketAssistedPuffin has stepped into a volunteer balancer role, and he is not only looking for feedback, but he’s actively integrating lots of things that other people are suggesting on our forums and Discord, as well as things that he’s finding and coming up with himself.  The more feedback the better, for sure.

Balance Tweaks!

Hoo boy has RocketAssistedPuffin been busy.  He’s been really fleshing out all of the units so that they fit better into the world.  The nanocaust is a lot more threatening to starships now, for one thing.  Armored Golems got a bonus tesla coil.  The Cursed Golem got a buff.  Plasma weapons got a bit of a redefine, and split into two groups (burst area damage ones, and single-target ones).  Lots of really good stuff.  Oh, and the Botnet Golem now fires 50 shots per salvo instead of 16.  GOOD GRIEF, PUFFIN! 😉

One that I snuck in there, which Keith suggested a week or two ago, is the return of brownouts.  They work just like in AIWC: if your energy balance goes negative, then all your forcefields shut off.  Note that the actual shield health doesn’t go down on anything, just the projected bubble goes away.  So the survivability of the shield generators themselves isn’t affected… but they won’t protect anything anymore.  Some of the most exciting wins that the AI would get against players in AIWC involved last-minute brownouts, and it was a big thing for players to juggle when being invaded (in a good way, not a micro way), so I’m definitely pleased to have that back.

Icon Overhaul

Part of the reason why this release took so darn long (6 days!) is that I redid almost all the icons in the game.  Well, we kept 56 of them, and added 105 new ones, and took out… I don’t know, 50?  So “almost all” is a stretch, but in practice that’s what it feels like.  The icons for most of the units beyond the basics have either been reworked to be more legible, or have been made unique for the first time; a huge number of units previously just reused icons temporarily, but now none do.

This makes the galaxy map AND the planet view AND the sidebar a lot more legible.  One thing that was often pointed out was that Turrets were basically illegible before, but frankly I found guardians and starships equally unintelligible.  I guess they only seemed clear by comparison to the turrets.

We actually upgraded our icon system a fair bit in order to accommodate this, now including a third “overlay” layer that can go onto your two-tone team-color icons.  The overlay is just colored however it’s colored, and goes over any part of the icon that we want it to as we design them.  The result is that now “starships” all share a same backplate, and then little sub-images make it clear what KIND of starship it is.  You don’t need to be able to see the details of the little sub-images, even, because their vague shape and color is enough to differentiate them.  But they all have sensible details if you get up close.

Here, let me just show you:

One of the coolest things about the icon overlays is that I can do things like what you see with the Military Orbital Command Station you see there: it has a colored shield icon inside it, rather than some sort of little flair or whatever off to the side.  But then if you look at the turrets on the sidebar, or the starships also there, you can also see the icon background is the same, but the little marker is different.

The bump to usability this has caused is just crazy, and I’m super stoked about that.

Shot Visuals Overhaul

Basically, almost all the shots in the game got a rework, and they look better both up close and far away, AND perform better.  It’s about time these felt like a proper space battle!

One of the nice things about this change is that it actually helps with the ability to read the battlefield.  You can tell quite a bit about who is shooting, and what kind of shots they have, based on the colors and shapes you see going past during battle.  This was my major project over the weekend, and it really makes things feel so much better.  The nature of shots is something I came up with for this game, too, and they’re insanely performant.  I’ve had 30k shots onscreen at once (plus 10k ships) at 120fps on a GTX 1070.  Our shots are done in a way that their deformation is on the GPU and yet we’re still able to make use of GPU Instancing, so the CPU load of them is comparably low.  That code isn’t new, but we’re making much better use of it now.

More??

The last of the pre-Early-Access ships have now been added to the game.  Auto-Bombs have been added as a player-only ship, thanks to Puffin.  The Warbird Starship and Parasites are in, making a return from the first game also thanks to Puffin.  SuperTerminals and Co-Processors have been added in thanks to Badger, leading to yet more targets out in the galaxy to go for.

Performance!

Yep, we made even more strides on that front.  There ARE, however, still some savegames that are frankly intractable performance-wise.  They’re late-game situations with huge AIP counts, and basically should be losing situations.  But rather than just getting it over with, the simulation slows down and the targeting loops take up to 50 seconds at the moment on my machine.  Normally a targeting loop takes under a third of a second.

So what to do?  Well, I’d hoped to get this in this release, but I wound up just getting the framework in.  Tomorrow’s release will hopefully have them: Unit Stacks.  Basically, there will ALWAYS be a point at which a galaxy is able to become intractable if players push things far enough.  That’s just a given, since hardware isn’t infinitely powerful.  We had players spawn 30 million ships into a campaign in the original game using cheats, for instance, and that gives you a framerate of 1 frame per 20 minutes in that game, roughly (I’m not kidding).

So anyway, there has to be a “pressure release” valve somewhere.  People will always exceed what we have planned since there aren’t strict unit caps.  In the first game, we mostly got around that by having AI Barracks and AI Carriers, and what we called “cold storage” for AI units that were on idle planets.  The new game is a lot more efficient in general and hopefully won’t need those sort of measures.  But something a bit more elegant has occurred to me, and is my focus for tomorrow: as I said, Unit Stacks.

Basically when there are too many ships on a planet, the game will go through and combine like with like, bringing it down into realms where your computer can do the math in a timely fashion.  Each stack of units that gets combined will have a little multiplier number right on its icon in the main view, and on the side view won’t show differently at all.  There are a few more nuances there, but mainly it will just keep the performance from ever getting runaway bogged down and the game from having an over-abundance of icons in a meaningless way.  Basically I was thinking about Civ IV as an inspiration.

But more on that tomorrow!

So What’s That “5000 Days” Title Mean?

It’s a bit of a lame joke on my part, relating to the fact that I changed some of our 64bit integers into 32bit integers.  If you want some technical junk, read on.  Otherwise, feel free to skip this section.

Basically, Keith and I both come from business software backgrounds.  In such an environment, we’re familiar with situations where the limitations of a 32bit integer have been hit (that’s about 2.2 billion).  So basically, if Amazon used a 32bit integer to track orders, then after 2.2 billion orders their system would break.  Evidently in 2015, they shipped about 5 billion orders via Amazon Prime, so that gives you some sense of scale of what we’re talking about.

Well, we were tracking ships, and shots –and even the number of fifths-of-a-second a campaign has lasted — all as 64bit integers in order to avoid that sort of problem.  I don’t know the name of this number, but this is the largest a 64bit integer can store: 9,223,372,036,854,775,807.  Is that quintillions?  I think that’s what that is.  Anyway, that’s an unimaginably huge number, as if 2 billion were somehow comprehensible in a meaningful sense to us.

64bit math, even comparison operators and addition, take a lot longer compared to int32.   In this table, it’s showing the nanosecond costs of various operations of ints (32bit) versus longs (64bit) in C#:

 

As you might notice, the mere addition of a long is 5.6 times slower than the addition of an int.  To check time, there are lots of situations where we have to do things like “if ( Now > LastShotTime + 5 ).”   So the shift to an integer is a nontrivial amount of speed boost when spread across the literally millions of operations that we do of that sort in one second during gameplay.

The downside, however, is… bum bum bum… there’s now a time limit on campaigns in AI War 2.  I’m sorry to tell you this, but you cannot run a given campaign of the game for more than about 5000 straight days (24/7/365) before it will break.  (Note that this is NOT something to be concerned about, it’s a joke I almost regret sharing, probably most games have a similar limitation, it doesn’t limit things across campaigns, etc, etc).

To put this into perspective: 5000 days is 13.69 years.  Of continuous running, just one campaign ever, never turning off the power or adjusting anything.  Arcen isn’t that old.  I didn’t start coding the original AI War until just under 10 years ago, and it didn’t release until almost exactly 9 years ago.  I will go out on a limb here: if you can’t win your campaign in one hundred and twenty thousand hours, I think you need to choose a lower difficulty for your next campaign.  Also: do drop me a line, since it’s now the 2030s.

The joke, as it is, is basically at Keith’s and my expense.  We both somehow felt quite concerned about the limitations of a regular int, as if we’d hit the cap on that and the game would die.  (As it stands, even in the new version I have it cycle back around if it passes 2 billion shots or ships created in one campaign, so that it can’t break on that; yes I’m that paranoid).  The idea that we’d ever approach those sorts of numbers really shows that even the gut feel of math-inclined programmers can really be way off when it comes to what a billion means.

Well, I’ve thoroughly derailed these release notes now…

The End!

That’s it!  There’s lots more to read in these release notes, but I don’t have anything more to say about them here.  There should be another release tomorrow.  Lots more to come in the next few weeks.

Thanks for reading!

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