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Just a quick update – Life is personal, and programming is hard!

Hey all!

This is Steve, lead developer of Alliance of the Sacred Suns. This is a quick blog to talk a little bit about the relative lack of updates from me! Basically, it’s hard having a baby, especially when you’re still working full-time as well as trying to complete an alpha for a game.

Although Ethan has been a great baby, he’s still a baby, with baby needs and baby volume, and with my 50 hour a week job, it’s been difficult for me to find time to develop. Oliver and Ogi have continued to work on the writing and the graphics, and I’m happy to say that I’ve found a new balance, my wife has been supportive with my efforts to rebalance everything, and have been able to successfully work on the game again.

We’re back on track and be ready to hear a lot about what we’re doing in the near future. I just wanted to muse a bit on how much your life changes when you have a kid for the first time and how much harder it is to get up in the morning! So this is a combination thanks to the team for carrying on and an apology that I haven’t posted more stuff in the last month or so. I promise to make up for lost time :-p

We’re going all-out on the .5 build for this month and it should be ready by the end of November. We’re starting to look at a target date for an alpha release that you can purchase. We’re not yet ready to set a date but we’re getting closer to that decision. We’re also in the process of redesigning our web site so we’ll have a one stop shop for all things AotSS in the near future. As always, you can catch up with the updates on the forum or this blog. Thanks for everyone’s patience – as some of you may know, it’s hard being indie!

-Ave imperator!

-Steve

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Writing Sol Invictus, the God of the Empire

Hi everyone, Oliver here. Today I’m going to be talking a little bit about the challenges and opportunities of inventing a religion for the game.

In many games, you have an in-game religion or set of gods that either definitely are or definitely aren’t real, within the game’s fiction. Fantasy games, in particular, do this all the time – all their pantheons, even the mutually exclusive ones, tend to be unproblematically there, working approximately as advertised. Any philosophical issues thereby brought up tend to be swept under the carpet, in time-honoured style (Judaism was originally henotheistic in this kind of way, about three thousand years ago, and indeed the word ‘Baal’ – now thought of as naming a demon in Christianity – means ‘lord’ in Hebrew and originated with a Canaanite god known to the Israelites simply as ‘the Lord of the Canaanites’). This didn’t seem like a satisfactory solution for Alliance.

Having the Empire’s religion simply be true would be a cop-out from the idea of faith, to start with. You don’t need to have faith in Tolkien’s Valar, for example, any more than you need to have faith in your refrigerator – they’re just there. But we didn’t want to simply opt for an absentee God, either – the player’s natural assumption in that case would be that the religion is simply false and cynical. Much as the Alliance of the Sacred Suns universe is full of falsehood and cynicism, we didn’t want to do that, either. It would be too easy.

What we chose to do, in the end, is take a third way, more interesting than either of those alternatives. In Alliance, you are personally acquainted with Sol Invictus (the God of the Solarian religion), without it being clear whether he actually is all he claims to be. On the face of it, it’s quite possible – he has a plausibly Godly agenda, he has unexplained knowledge, he speaks with the narrator’s voice (something that just happened naturally when I was writing the first dream scene in which you encounter him) – but there are tensions at the very heart of the idea of the sort of God who picks favourites and pursues agendas within his own creation, and you can get the chance to tug at one or two of these, depending on how you play the game, and see how he responds and whether you find it convincingly Godlike or not.

This, of course, means I have to convincingly write the voice of God.

Wish me luck!

Oliver

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First glimpse of the military system

Hi all, Oliver here, with our first mockup of the military screen!

mil-sys-planet-mockup-v4

This mockup – which Ogi produced in Unity, meaning that the finished article will look a lot like this – shows a massive battle happening on a planet. Your forces, arrayed down the left-hand side, are ranged against the enemy, in red on the right. Each Force can have up to six units – which might be anything from ground-pounding local militia to massive starships and superweapons – each of which has its own Captain, under the command of the Force’s General. At the bottom of the screen, just above the ‘selected Force’ panel, you can see a tooltip for a unit, showing its strength (or damage dealt last turn, as this is a battle!), its health and the damage it took last turn, its icon (currently a khaki blob, but we’re working on it) and its Captain. You have to think carefully about who to put in charge of your units and Forces – military skill can turn the tide of an entire war, but a disloyal Captain might leak secrets to the enemy, making your Force much more vulnerable to interception and attack, while a disloyal General might run off with the whole Force!

As well as your commanders’ loyalty, though, you have to consider the loyalty of their troops. Every Force has a single homeworld, and the affection of the Pops on that homeworld for you and for their commander determines the loyalty of the troops they support. You can think of the troops as simply their homeworld’s Pops, abroad. Thus, if you oppress a Force’s homeworld, you’d better watch out – sedition in the ranks can lead to civil war. If, on the other hand, you have a Force from a world that loves you to pieces, you can be relatively sure that their General won’t be able to run off with them – unless they impress them sufficiently with their charisma and command ability. Even where the Force is posted matters – a Force far from their homeworld will be much less able to join in rebellions there. All these considerations – inspired by the troubles of the classical Republic of Rome – will impact on your military decisions as Emperor.

Now to return to the battle screen , you can see that at the top of the screen, just under the Action Points counter and button, you can see the planetary Devastation and the balance of power. The balance of power shows which way the war is going – wars on planets can take a number of turns to complete, as each turn represents a month, creating a strategic back-and-forth as you redirect your fleets and try to prosecute or stymie an invasion. Devastation represents the horrors war inflicts on the poor, suffering population of the planet. It drives waves of refugees from the planet, dramatically depresses its economy, and outright kills Pops. Certain units will cause more Devastation than others – in particular, Xyl forces will wipe out every human they come across. Wars can have wide-ranging consequences in Alliance of the Sacred Suns, far beyond diplomacy and conquest, and as Emperor you will have to find a way to handle them – for better or worse.

I hope you enjoyeed this preview of the military system – until next week, Ave Imperator!

Oliver