AI War 2: GUI Progress, Main Menu Updates, Shields Verdict, Beta News, Trailer Help Request, and more.

Progress report! The rest of the staff haven’t even seen this in actual practice yet, since I can’t check anything into our source control since this overhaul temporarily breaks EVERYTHING. But it’s an amazing new experience coming up based on these changes, plus others not yet shown.

Actually if you’re curious, you can check out my trello for some more details on what is coming: https://trello.com/b/tz2k8Q15/chris-ai-war-2-todo

New main menu! I was tired of that ship going by, and didn’t want some generic battle or other ship just sitting there. During the kickstarter, I really liked the red and blue planet aesthetic that we had going on, but it was highly unrealistic of course.

But that got me thinking about doing something more stylized: a blue circuit-boardy or borg-like planet (wound up going with the former) that is larger and more sedate feeling, and then a smaller and more burned-out or desert version that is glowing more red (wound up going with the former). The one represents the AI, the other the humans, and in both cases it’s showing how Earth sentience has symbolically moved on and lives on even though Earth itself was destroyed. I particularly like how the human planet almost crashes into the AI one, but just barely misses.

The symbolism of the asteroids rushing past the two planets is hopefully also obvious. I thought it was just a neat thing to do, and it seems very appropriate for the game and like something that would be mesmerizing just to sit and look at, which is always fun. When I added the little blue satellite line around the AI planet, that really brought that part together for me.

The Verdict On Shields/Forcefields (For Now)

Shields/forcefields are indeed gone for now, although we might bring them back in a limited capacity on the human side only.  So far that doesn’t seem to be needed, though, and that’s largely because of the impressive new power of tractor beams and turrets, and some of the new gravity mechanics that you can get a bit of a hint of in the new sidebar, above.

Anyone With Trailer-Making Skills Want To Help Out?

We’re running at full capacity even with awesome volunteers helping us out in a variety of areas.  We already have two trailers in progress at least conceptually (one in practice), but we’d really like to have at least a third in order for the game to be presentable in a variety of ways that people might find appealing.

I recall that Minecraft had a trailer-making contest and they had people who made way better trailers than either some marketing firm unfamiliar with the game could, or the developers themselves could.  I can’t really offer a bounty or anything on that, but if there are folks who want to come explain the “AI War experience” in general in trailer form, please feel free to email me at chrispark7 at gmail.

Oh, the other catch on that: we’re running low on time (about a month and a half until launch), and the visuals aren’t going to be fully finalized for another few weeks.  !Fun! 😉  Such is life, though, and at least the game itself is coming together really fantastically.

That Beta…

Obviously any of you can play the game right now or tomorrow or the next day, if you want to.  But we’re trying to get to a state where we can invite a huge number of you in and have you have a good and coherent near-final experience with the game, balance aside.

We’ll need your help figuring out where balance breaks down, because the game is huge and people have wildly divergent playstyles.  Plus it will be more bughunting time that then Keith and I can spend fixing issues from.

We’re not there yet, but one of the main things holding that back is the introduction of the new GUI, which is finally coming along.  Eric designed that much faster than I was able to implement it.

Anyway, please do stay tuned on that front — we hope to have a couple of dozen of you come in and really hit this thing hard during the beta.  Out of the few thousand of you that currently have a copy, surely we’ve got a few dozen for that… 😉

Thanks for reading!

Chris

AI War 2 v0.714 Released! “Shields Down”

Release notes here!

The main change this time is definitely the removal of Shields (forcefields from AIWC), the rationale and discussion is too voluminous for this post, but if you’re curious the main discussion was here and here. (Edit: sorry, I was writing this in a hurry, and I forgot something very important: Thank you for all the feedback!)

Many of the other changes between 0.712 and 0.714 (0.713 was an internal version) were to adjust to this post-shield universe, and the result has been a lot of fun in testing. Here are a few of those changes:

* Snipers no longer have infinite range. Instead, they have about 50% longer range than anything else. So instead of shredding your unshielded missile corvettes instantly upon your arrival, AI snipers will have to wait for you to get in range. If you send in the corvettes expect heavy losses, but once you close the range the corvettes can do a decent job of killing the fragile snipers. Alternatively you can let the corvettes hang back and send in the fighters and bombers to do clear the way.

* To facilitate such “fighters go to point A, bombers to point B, corvettes to point C” tactics, the [ and ] keys now cycle through quick-selecting each of the types of units you have on the planet. So you can “press ], right-click A, press ] again, right-click B, press ] again, right-click C”, or something like that. And if you then see a bunch of fighters bearing down on your bombers, press [ to get back to the bombers and pull them away from the fighters.

* The planet area has been increased yet again, so there’s more room for you to keep the enemy away from key targets.

* Tractors are now much more powerful; again to make it easier to keep the enemy from getting in range of things you don’t want it to shoot.

* Tractors, Gravity generators, and Tachyon arrays were generally overhauled to provide obvious paths for upgrading your defensive setup’s ability to stop the enemy from getting places you don’t want it to go.

And here are some other highlights:

* Several metric tons of voice work!

* A bunch of new space backgrounds.

* You now start with a Flagship. It’s weaker than the normal ones but this way your early battles aren’t lacking the basic sorts of support you’ll normally have available later in the game.

* Your initial neighbors are much easier to conquer (you’ll get chewed up if you simply blob-roll the whole thing, but you’ll generally still win the battle).

* Unit counts have been doubled.

* A bunch of bugfixes, and some more balance work.

Enjoy!
Keith

AI War 2 v0.711 Released! “Re-Mark-able”

Release notes here!

The entire UI system has been basically overhauled. The xml definitions are largely the same, but under the hood it’s very different. The new approach makes it much easier to use in conjunction with the Unity WYSIWYG editor, which is very helpful when working with complex interfaces. The main menu has been redone, and other new stuff (credits screen, modal popups, etc) has been done via the new system.

Tons more updates to the unit visual models by Pepisolo and Goldenwolf.

BadgerBadger added the “Human Resistance Fighters” special faction; a fleet that will occasionally help you in close battles. There are also other changes to special factions by BadgerBadger (the Zenith Trader can now recover from being Devourer’d, etc).

54 of AIWC’s music tracks have been added to this game; you can disable that in settings but it’s helpful while we wait for the rest of the new soundtrack.

Lots of progress on integrating the voice acting.

The upgrade system for player units has been thoroughly revised:
– Now when you research Mark 2 Fighters, for example, your repair units will actually upgrade your Mark 1 Fighters to Mark 2 Fighters, and your Fighter cap will go from 10 squads to 20 squads (instead of 10 Mark 1s and 10 Mark 2s like in previous versions).
– You can now research normally up to Mark 4, instead of Mark 3. The Advanced Factory, rather than giving you Mark 4 where you already have Mark 3, instead just gives you +20% to your fleet ship caps.
– Experimental Fabricators no longer give you Mark 5 of a particular ship type, but give you a new experimental variant fleet ship type that’s based on Mark 4 of a normal ship type. For example, you can get the BombBox, which is like the Bomber but without any kind of reasonable survivability or speed. It hits a whole lot harder, if you can get it in range. Another example is the less-extreme Interceptor, which is like the Fighter but faster, less durable, and generally better at reaching and shredding armored Bombers before they get too close.

Turrets now cost power again, and are galaxy-capped instead of planet-capped. Both changes work more smoothly with the new upgrade system than they would have otherwise.
– You also start with Mark 1 Needler turrets unlocked, and even placed around your starting planet’s wormholes, to make sure you know that turrets are something you’re going to need.

The AI now has more variety between planets because each planet only picks from a small set of guardians, turrets, and fleet ships to defend itself. There’s a big difference between attacking a planet that “chose” Plasma Guardians and Sniper Turrets than one that focused on Needler, Laser, etc stuff.

Other rebalancing, including making “using the right weapon against the right defense” more important and generally making enemy gravity generators less frustrating.

And more; details are in the notes linked above.

Enjoy!
Keith

AI War 2 v0.707 Released! “Activating Mk2 Grinding Machine”

Release notes here!

Before I talk more about the release, I should note that the GUI focus groups ( here ) are being an enormous help. Thanks so much to everyone helping there! We’re nearing a final design for various pre-game screens (main menu, lobby, etc) and look forward to getting those implements while the discussion expands to include the in-game screens when it’s time for that.

Ok, back to the release itself:

This one is actually part 2 of a release; part one was last weekend.

These notes get a bit difficult to write because there’s a lot of “we worked on everything!” going on lately. If you want to know what changed, the wiki notes linked above are your best bet.

Nonetheless, here are some highlights:

1) Tons more units have been wired up with their proper models and formations (continuing thanks to Pepisolo and Goldenwolf for that)

2) The settings menu has been reorganized with the many different settings divvied up amongst tabs. Thanks, Badger!

3) The bottom-left menu has been heavily redone. Doesn’t look any prettier, but I hope it’s easier to use and less confusing. Among other things, it now responds to the F1-F9 keys instead of the 1-9 keys, so it doesn’t have conditional conflicts with the control group numbers. This also allows it to return to always-shown status (and only one base menu, instead of two context-specific ones, which caused a lot of confusion).

4) Lots of balance changes. Notably, the Warden Fleet is now much less in your face and much less powerful. It was doing its job of countering player attacks, but it was doing it too well.

5) Many performance improvements, most notably the organization of individual squad ships into subsquads that save on lots of unity transform updates.

6) The title screen is now much improved based on forum feedback.

And a lot of other stuff.

Enjoy!
Keith

AI War 2 v0.704 Released! “About that Flair”

Release notes here!

This one (0.703 and 0.704) includes a wide variety of changes:
* A ton of work on getting multiplayer functional again (still a ways to go, but it’s much further along).
* A variety of quality-of-life improvements like edge-scrolling working despite UI elements, and selecting builders with B unsuppressing the build menu if you had suppressed it.
* Fixes for some multithreading issues that were causing the game to bog down exponentially faster than they normally would in certain intense situations (more coming on that front).
* Fixes for some bugs that were killing the OSX build.
* Alterations to make the “main menu ship” more visually interesting without you feeling like it was pressed up against the screen.
* Tooltips in the lobby (and making them show on top of other things).
* A couple more batches of unit models integrated.

But the main and most obvious change is that all the ship icons have been redone. You know those color strips under a bunch of the icons to tell the different turrets apart (same with starships, guardians, etc)? Those were the “flairs”. Bye-bye flairs! Now all the turrets, etc, get a unique icon.

That said, the icons have to communicate a ton of information, so please tell us how they’re doing at that.

Enjoy!
Keith

SMF — Simple Machine Forums — For Newbies

Loads of people use social media and are excellent with computers, but that doesn’t mean that the archaic form of communication known as internet forums means much to them. In many ways, forums have more in common with the BBS days of yore than they do with modern social media or email or word processing, so it’s worth going over how to use forum software even for someone who’s not remotely a tech newbie. Enjoy. 🙂

And yes, this relates tangentially to AI War 2, because this video is mainly for Dune, my dad, since this software is new to him and he’s helping out specifically with some forum conversation steering and moderation.

We also have a number of other kickstarter backers who might be intimidated by forums, I have no idea, so there’s always the chance this is useful to one of them.

AI War 2 v0.702 Released! “Activating Mk1 Grinding Machine”

Release notes here!

During the development cycle of various AIWC expansions I reached a phase where I started naming the releases “Sanding Machine”, “Mk2 Sanding Machine”, and so on. It was a polish phase, albeit a violent sort of polishing.

We’re not to the sanding stage yet here, but “Grinding” or maybe “Crushing”, like this: https://youtu.be/0bSmO9N25Yk?t=1m32s

Tons of changes in this version. I almost named the release “Plasma Siege Cannon”, after my favorite change (Plasma Torpedoes are now AOE with an awesome explosion animation), but the visual improvements are much broader than that. Probably most of those are from volunteer BadgerBadger, and they’ve made a MASSIVE difference.

There’s also a neat gameplay change: when I took the shield off the Ark, I unintentionally made the game a lot more annoying as that led to your Ark being pushed around by any enemy shields (previously it could usually push them around, having the bigger shield). That’s a legitimate behavior: when an enemy shield touches a unit, the unit gets pushed out of the way.

But the Ark now has the “is_chuck_norris” flag (not actually called that): when an enemy shield touches the Ark, the _shield_ gets pushed out of the way.

This allows for interesting, daring, and probably foolhardy tactics for busting up enemy turret balls much faster than normal: turn your Ark into a bowling ball and deprive the turrets of their cover. Never mind the fact that you just threw your King in amongst all the enemy pieces.

Enjoy!
Keith

Swizzle Lists! A nonintuitive data structure for AI War 2.

It really seems like there ought to be a quicker explanation for this, but to explain the fundamental goals, the pitfalls, and the usage constraints of this data type… well, data types are hard to explain if they’re off the beaten path. This one is really useful, but also pretty strange.

edit: Aaaand Badger figured out the bug, which was not in this code, while I was making the video. Hopefully someone else finds this useful or interesting. 😉

Using Mantis Bugtracker, And What Everything There Means

Primarily for new moderator/admin Dune, but we know a lot of folks find this sort of thing interesting, so here it is for everyone.

If any other indies are using a bugtracker, this isn’t a bad approach to take, incidentally — we’ve handled almost 20,000 reports over the last 7 or so years in this. The first two years were spent with bug reports going through our forums — yuck! Definitely glad not to be doing that anymore.

AuGMENTED Goes Gold

It’s here! Arcen Games are proud to finally announce the launch of the first Starward Rogue expansion: AuGMENTED. Available now!

This is a bumper content pack for Starward Rogue featuring the following list of goodies:
* A new gold floor with unique challenges and rewards
* 4 new music tracks composed by Pablo Vega and The Overthinkers
* 3 new mechs: The Zephyr, The Paladin, and the Warhog
* 90+ new items
* 30+ new enemies
* 125+ new rooms
* 8 new room obstacles such as the pulse trap and the flamethrower turret
* 10+ challenge rooms (a new room type exclusive to the gold floors)
* 6 new minibosses
* 9 new bosses

We are also introducing Starward Rogue: Gold Edition which is a package deal featuring both the base game and AuGMENTED. Both AuGMENTED and the Gold Edition will also be on 10% discount until January 31.
It’s been a lot of work, but AuGMENTED is something we’re very proud of over at Arcen Games. Thanks, everybody. Hail to the Hydral! 🙂
We also wanted to make a special thanks to Windless Zephyr for inspiring the Zephyr mech, and also for providing us with so many episodes of your long-running Starward Rogue series! 🙂