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Approaching .3…

Hi all, Oliver here. Just a brief post today, outlining where we are and what we’re doing! Sunday 1st is our scheduled production deadline for Imperia Alpha 0.3, and Steve and I are both hard at work nailing down what’s left of that milestone.

Steve has been working on the trade system – planets in each trade zone now bid for goods, and automatically create trade fleets to dispatch them, all of which you can see on the map. He’s going to be polishing that up and adding tooltips this week, along with implementing the characters’ secret attitudes towards one another and a bunch of other stuff under the hood. For testers, there’s a very detailed log showing what the AI is considering when making trades, and what personality traits they are using. We haven’t added House affiliation yet when making these decisions, but when the House system is fully installed that will be a factor as well. He will also be adding the Project Bar and begin adding the Project data so that testers can start using the Project system in .4.

On my end, I’ve been polishing up the core of the AI’s strategy tree – which determines what each character wants and how they try to get it – and building a simplified model of the Threat Assessment AI in Python, to test out our design for that as it stands. Using test articles like this is a really good way to refine the design without having to mess with the game itself, and since Steve is doing all the proper coding, it saves him a lot of time, too. Initially we were going to model it in Excel (!), but the extra functionality you get with Python means it’s much easier to do it this way.

Come next milestone, which all going well will come at the start of June, the Threat Assessment AI (in whatever form it takes after this round of prototyping) will be implemented, along with the core of the Strategy Tree and a fairly minimal set of Actions and Projects. Imperia will go from being a fancy-pants galaxy simulator to an actual game for the first time since it was all written in XNA, and I for one am stoked about it.

We’ve also been recruiting alpha testers and UI artists, which is rather exciting. Having set out most of the UI in fairly Spartan ink-and-paper sketches over the past few months, it’s quite something to see them rendered professionally. Hopefully we’ll have some shiny new art to show you in the next few weeks, too!

Until next time,

Oliver

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Call for Alpha Testers Now Live! Do you want to experience Imperia?

Hey everyone!

With the release of our milestone schedule, we’re making great progress towards releasing .3. As such, we now have active builds that need testing. We are looking for 4-5 testers that will take the job seriously. Although the job is not paid, we’re not looking for more than 2-3 hours a week, most likely, depending on how diligent you are. You will however, get all the latest builds of Imperia (good and bad) and… you will get 2 free retail copies/downloads of Imperia as well. There may also be additional goodies as well… (i.e. SWAG)

To apply, please send me an application via Email at steve@imperia5x.com with your name, country, best contact E-mail, and system specs, as well as why you want to be a tester (~100-200 words. Include relevant experience). If you are selected, we will send you further information about the process of reporting bugs/version events.

If you are interested, please have your application sent by 4/24/16. We will close off tester applications at that time. If you were previously a tester, please send a new application to let me know you’re still interested, but if you were in good standing you will be automatically added (outside the additional 4-5 new)

The game is progressing daily, and we are releasing a new build every Sunday night. Major builds will be released every 30-45 days. If you have a question about the timetable, please email me or Oliver (oliver@imperia5x.com)!

Can’t wait to get your feedback!

-Steve

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Building a world: The writing process for Imperia

One of the key ways we’re trying to make Human Space real and interesting is through ‘snippets’: short pieces of writing, perhaps tucked away in tooltips, that talk about the places, people, and events that made the world the way it is in 3050 AD. In today’s blog, I want to talk a little bit about my writing process and what I’m trying to achieve with these snippets.

The format for the snippets arose pretty organically from what we wanted to do with them: they would be short extracts from in-universe texts, that would first and foremost establish atmosphere, but on top of that hint at historical events, characters, and institutions by allusion. By going with this kind of always-partial (in both senses of the word) narration, we can make the writing much more interesting than some horrendous info-dump: as Pavlos rightly pointed out, ‘lore’ is boring.

More than that, this format helps reinforce the sense of distrust, corruption and ambiguity that we want Imperia to evoke. We have a canonical timeline of events in the history of the Empire, but you’ll never get to see it. What you will see is a range of different sources’ takes on events, replete with their own spin and particular disingenuities, from the Technik manifesto Technology for Humanity‘s techno-utopian fanaticism, to the sanitised Imperial party line of the Continuing History of the Empire, along with numerous one-off sources such as recorded conversations. Using these ‘sources’ also provides another avenue for extremely condensed storytelling: citing the time, the place, the author, and so on, in a single line can suggest a world beyond what the text describes.

When I’m writing one of these snippets, I start with the item to which the snippet will be attached – usually a House, planet, or constellation of a particular culture – and work out what aspects of that subject matter I want to show off here. It might be two contrasting sides of a culture, or some hint at how a House made their money. Then, I consider what source or sources to invent for it. And then, obviously, I write it, trying as best I can to get into the mindset and the writing style of the sources’ authors. Often the best way to communicate something is through the juxtaposition of two or more short snippets – two conflicting accounts can suggest a third truth underneath, or snippets from sources speaking at different times can illustrate some social or political change without having to describe it outright. The incidental details, too, are very useful – they can say all sorts of things about Imperial society and cultures in passing. Some cast new light on other snippets elsewhere, when you compare them with one another. Sometimes the whole story is in the citation, and the snippet is just a little piece of atmosphere, or a red herring. The overall idea is to provide a very high density of little hints, in a format you can read in ten seconds, and let your imagination do most of the work.

Next time, it’ll be Steve on the blog again, talking about the planets and how detailed they are – until then, Ave Imperator!

Oliver

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So what’s Alliance of the Sacred Suns all about? And what’s with the 5th ‘X’? (UPDATED!)

IMPORTANT NOTE:  This blog has been significantly updated, to the point where I am considering posting it as a new blog since much has changed.

PREMISE:

Alliance of the Sacred Suns is a 4X game where you have just reached your majority as an 18-year old trying to rebuild humanity’s old empire after a cataclysmic war forced humanity to move to a new quadrant of the galaxy. It is over 1000 years later and you are thrust into a position where, after a string of weak emperors, everyone from planetary viceroys, to system and sector governors, to scheming Primes (basically cabinet heads) is forward to taking advantage of your inexperienced and timid rule.

But you have no such intentions.

You were born with a strange ability: to read and change the minds and thoughts of others. As a leader, this ability is very valuable to determine who you can trust. Your goal is simple: to restore the Empire, to reclaim your standing as Emperor of Human Space, and – perhaps – to guide Mankind into a new and immortal era.

But there is another threat, looming beyond the light-years: the Xyl. Hybrid life forms that first appeared over Earth’s skies over a thousand years ago and forced humanity from their dying world after 2 bitter years of total war in the Exodus of 2033.

Nearly 400 years later, after humanity had found refuge in another corner of the Milky Way Galaxy – escaping through a star-gate of mysterious origin – the Xyl attacked again, and this war stretched out over 2 decades. Finally, humanity managed to introduce a nanovirus that appeared to stop the alien threat, but the ancestors of the year 3050 may have sealed humanity’s fate – just in slow motion.

CONCEPTS:
In AotSS, you do not have unlimited power. Unlike virtually every other 4X game out there, you can not do anything at anytime. You have a small pool of Action Points that you spend to do basically anything, from planning empire-spanning Projects, to communicating with characters in the game, to meeting with your cabinets, to even going hunting. As you age, your pool will gradually increase, reflecting your increased familiarity with how to ‘make things work’ as an Emperor. Most importantly, the Action Point limit puts the kibosh on micromanagement, allowing us to simulate your empire in unprecendented depth without thereby forcing you to spend hours optimising every last trade fleet. Your choice of where to intervene becomes a matter of careful deliberation – the Emperor’s time is precious!

Project are another major difference from other 4X games. In Imperia, you might simply change a planet’s name by clicking the button, typing in the name, and that’s that. In reality, changing an entire planet’s name would have serious repercussions! So what you might have used to simply ‘do’ in other games now require Projects. Projects are massive undertakings that can only be done with stellar-level hardware and resources. Projects allow you to do things like reorganize sectors, change a system or sector capital, build or upgrade starbases, change what a planet produces, etc. Where this mechanic radically differs from most 4X games is that it is your Characters who actually enact the Project – they contribute a portion of their available administrative clout or ‘ADM’ (gained from their position as viceroy, system governor, etc) as well as providing the financial backing to enact the Project. Characters who back a large part of a Project will expect favors and prestige, therefore you must balance allowing Characters who stand against your Empire to grow more powerful, with how important the Project is to your long-term strategies. ADM represents all the planning, infrastructure, transport, ships, manpower, etc. to do planet-shaping things, and abstracts nicely the concept while eliminating micromanagement.

While your word as Emperor is law, there is no way to force how long an Project actually takes to plan, execute, and complete. And this is where the other major system of Imperia comes in – the character system.

Characters populate AotSS(much like Crusader Kings games) – they have their own stats, age, wealth, traits, and ambitions, like you or me. They can be manipulated to do what you want – if you’re cunning. You will often find yourself bribing or sweet talking a system governor who is holding up an important economic stimulus in their system, or perhaps calming down a sector governor who you just took away an entire system from to give to a closer sector, or promoting a loyal viceroy all the way to a sector governor who will be absolutely loyal to you – the character system in Imperia is a powerful and immersive aspect of managing your empire. Character stats are hidden from you until you reach a certain intel level (increased from interacting with them through Actions, or placing your dread Inquisitor squads in positions to gather information), and even then the number is a wide range until your intel increases sufficiently. This is a problem when a character’s love or fear of you is reported as 88 (out of 100) but it it actually a 41! The rule of thumb: Watch what characters actually do, not what they say. They also gain traits that affect their decisions and relationships with you as they age. They can die and retire, or be ‘retired’ by you – either by forcing them out of office or by more ‘direct’ measures. Don’t get caught!

The containers that are populated by Characters are called Houses. These are multi-generational organizations that have been around for centuries, and they often have their own Holdings of planets or systems. In fact, the Celestial Empire consists of the sum of the member House’s Holdings (most of which are held by the ruling House, yours). There are 3 sizes of Houses: Great Houses, which typically have Holdings, a personal military, and a vast amount of resources; Minor Houses, which are still formidiable but generally do not have Holdings, nor the great resource reserves that Great Houses enjoy, and Common Houses, which are all the ‘normal’ Houses that do not have a special history or any real power in the Empire.

Great House Leaders are, other than Primes, the most powerful and important characters in Imperia. Anger a Great House enough, and they may try to break away from the Empire – or to take it for themselves!

You yourself have a starring role as well through Influence. As you make choices through your rule, you will start to gain different types of Influence. Benevolent Influence is the ‘good’ Influence, which calls people to action for your Empire and the pride of humanity. Tyrannical Influence is the ‘evil’ Influence, which is used to threaten and intimidate characters into doing your will – but using it will have other repercussions. In addition, craven characters will gravitate to emperors who stray into Tyrannical decisions, and vice versa – you may have to make some tough choices about removing (or trying to!) governors who can’t stand your alignment!

The game is about less micro and more about making the large-scale decisions that shape an Empire. You will not be building 10 Science Labs to accelerate research; instead you will designate a planet as a Scholarly Conclave and try to install a viceroy that is aligned to the need for research, allowing that planet to grow organically – they will build Academies and attract academia themselves, with a few nudges along the way. You will not be building transports and endlessly clicking materials to go from planet to planet – instead, you will set up trade hubs that serve as collection centers and build starbases of appropriate sizes to move materials and food along from your Imperial capital to sector capitals to system capitals to normal colonies.

From an ‘explore’ standpoint, no longer do you have to build and design scout ships, set a destination, and micromanage exploration and colonization fleet. Would a real emperor do that? Projects cover just about everything you would want to do as an Emperor on a exploration level, from surveying new planets and unexplored systems to creating outposts to creating colonies. You just create a Project on an unexplored planet or system and your people will do the rest (eventually).

As mentioned earlier, planets are not micromanaged. They are very complex entities whose actions are governed in part by their population, the stats of the planet itself, its viceroy, and most importantly its Focus. All planets have at least one Focus – examples would be a farming world, a manufacturing center, a heavy military world, a scientific conclave, a prison planet, etc. Focuses basically shape how a planet will evolve. Depending on the size of the planet, up to 2 additional ‘secondary’ Focuses can also be assigned to more round out a planet’s development.

The population of your Empire will ultimately decide whether you live long and prosper (ha) or die at the business end of a pulser. Populations have their own unrest, age, type, job class, popular support, and needs. Each 1 million people are considered one ‘pop’ (similar to the Victoria system, but much more granular) and they can change jobs, age, die, have kids, migrate to other planets, or even leave your Empire altogether! They can also starve, grow angry, and revolt. They have their own cultures and House affiliation, and careful massaging of public opinion will be needed to ensure your vital Reforms pass without trouble.

And looming out there, making their presence known through your psychic abilities, are the Xyl. They have returned… but when? And will humanity be able to stand against them when their seeds have shattered across the quadrant?

You must pull together the Celestial Empire once more, research military and social technologies that will aid your efforts, unite your Houses against a common enemy, and prepare your subjects for war… a war that no one knows is coming… but you.

That is, if you’re not killed by your people first… in Alliance of the Sacred Suns, the 5th X is… eXist.

Good luck, Your Grace.

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The Updated Roadmap: When will the first playable release be, and Early Access notes

Hey all!

Steve here with some exciting news (well, we think so). With the finalization of the game design, and active development planned out, we can be much more accurate with our milestone builds, so even though giving out dates is always an exercise in disappointment, we’ve put a lot of time into scheduling out the releases, and we’re prepared to give at least tentative release dates for each build. So without further ado, here’s the alpha release schedule!

CURRENT BUILD AS OF 4/4/16: .2.1.0.5

.3 BUILD: Adds new UI, command modes, updated Character Screens, Projects, Trade, Holdings, Houses, Cultures, core Actions, Relationship States between Characters, start of AI Strategy Tree implementation. TARGET DATE: 5/1

.4 BUILD: Adds Constellations, complete System UI, Planet UI, all Military/Economic Submodes, Political Submodes, Pops/Demographic Submodes, Main Game Screen, House Setup Screen, Emperor Setup Screen, Pop Ideas, Additional Actions and Projects, Power Mechanic, Religions, Other Civs Generation, End Game Manager, Music/Sound. TARGET DATE: 6/1

.5 BUILD: Adds Celestial Council, Budget system, Finance Prime, Save/Load, additional Core Actions and Projects, Emperor UI/Diary, Psychic System & UI, Begin implementation of Aitvaras Master AI, Character Attention AI, Threat Assessment AI, Opportunity Spotting AI, Council AI, Music Engine for dynamic music. TARGET DATE: 7/15

.6 BUILD: Includes Intel system & UI, Inquisitors, Secrets, Intel Prime, Secondary Actions, Secondary/Intel Projects. TARGET DATE: 8/15

.7 BUILD: Includes Military system & UI, Military units, Military Projects & Actions, Generals/Admirals TARGET DATE: 10/1 (Proposed Early Access Date)

.8 BUILD: Includes Reform system & UI, Reform/Military Projects, Reform Actions, Military Research system & UI, Academies TARGET DATE: 11/1

.9 BUILD: Includes Deals system & UI, tertriary Actions, Begin implementation of Dealmaking AI,  Xyl AI, Videos TARGET DATE: 12/15

1.0 ALPHA BUILD: Add Xyl mechanics & UI, Optimization, all end-game videos, intro video

FINAL TARGET FOR 1.0 ALPHA: 2/1/17

So the plan for now(TM) is to have a viable playable release with the release of the .7 Build. This would contain about 80% of the game elements, and most of the AI. Obviously with a game like this a lot of balance is needed and that will take a lot of time, which is where early access comes in. I have made my stance clear about early access/Kickstarter projects for years now (for those new to this blog: I’m not a fan) because I don’t like the idea of releasing half-assed products for money. We haven’t made a final decision yet about what we’re going to do with regards to that – so we have a question for you.

Now that you’ve seen the feature schedule, we’ve added a poll that asks what build you would consider the earliest ‘playable’ release, if any. We think it’s .7, but we’d like your input. We want to do a lot of things like this, similar to Games2Gether, and get our community’s thoughts!

Thanks for your continued support!

-Steve

 

 

 

 

 

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Come Visit Our Community on the Imperia Forums, And Other Places Besides!

Hey everyone!

We’ve seen quite a bit of activity since we’ve started active development again, and we’d like to invite you to our forums if you want more ‘real-time’ updates and involvement! Our forums are located at www.imperia5x.com and will be more active with our development schedule.

We’d love to hear your voices – you don’t have to register to read the forums, but part of what makes Imperia unique is we truly do listen to the players and that’s one reason we’ve been so open with the development! Plus, it’s a great way to get information in your hand more quickly if you don’t subscribe to this blog (another great idea, BTW!)

We also have a Facebook page and a Twitter handle @kathawkgames. We’re quite active on these platforms so any way you want, you can check out what we’re up to!

See you around!

-Steve