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As .7 approaches, here’s an under-the hood guide on how trade happens!

Hey everyone! Looks like we’re going to launch .7 any day now, but I wanted to showcase a few either new or vastly improved/updated elements of the game. The first one is trade. It’s been upgraded and tweaked, and now it’s a powerful part of the game but even though the underlying process is pretty complex, it’s easy for the player to use and direct trade how they want! Let’s dive in:

First, a primer of how trade (now) works in AotSS. It’s really pretty fundamental. Your noble merchants on each planet have 2 uses: to build and expand the retail sector on a planet, and to coordinate and organize the gigantic trade fleets that move thousands of tons of materials throughout the Empire. Without merchants, a planet can not create trade fleets, meaning they can not buy materials (this is not a good situation to be in). In addition, a planet can have one of 4 trade states: no trade, import only, system hub, or province hub. As long as a planet has a starbase, they can receive goods, but not create Trades. If they don’t have a Starbase, they’re out of luck. If they have a trade port, they can send materials (called supply trades) as well to their local system or province Hub, but not create economic trades. An outpost would have a trade port so they can forward their materials to a home Hub. Next comes system hubs. System hubs are meant to collect all trade in their system. If their Influence is large enough, they will be able to be part of a Trade Group, which is anchored by a Province Hub. Only Province Hubs have the infrastructure needed to deploy interstellar fleets and send supply trades to the Empire homeworld. Hubs can create as many fleets per month as their level of Starbase, so a level III base would be able to create 3 different economic trades (supply Trades have no limit) and it takes 10 Merchants to create a Trade Fleet (not applicable to supply trades). These Merchants are tied up while administrating these fleets, and are not available for the retail sector during their use. That’s the trade system at its most basic level.

So, let’s look at our neighborhood that we’re going to focus on today.

We’re going to focus on the planet Luminescence of the Percunatel system today.

So the first thing that we’re going to look at is the situation on the planet. What does the viceroy think is most important to the planet at this time? Every material is given an Importance by the viceroy that runs from 0-100, where 0 means there is very little need for that material at this time (and in the near future) while 100 means that the viceroy is desperate for that material, for whatever reason.

So let’s look at L’s situation at the start of the game:

Luminescence’s situation. You can see that she has a trade hub (system) and has a desperate need for basic materials (that’s the 100 under Import Needs in the system info block)

So what’s the deal? Why does the viceroy need basic materials so badly? Let’s dig deeper into the planetary situation…

Oh boy. They’re cranking through basic materials very quickly, with all those factories it’s no wonder! Looks like the planet will be out of basic materials in about 15 months. And without basic materials, things start to fall apart and infrastructure starts to decay. This leads to bad things like riots and people leaving the planet. Let’s see what we can do to help! Maybe ask the viceroy to build some mines?
Woof. With an overall basic material mining rating of 44, that’s going to be a tough proposition. We could ask the viceroy to lower the factory overdrive to use less materials, but it’s far from certain that they would go along, especially since this is a pretty ambitious Viceroy. Guess we should focus on making sure that the planet can get them through trade, huh? Let’s dig in and see how that works.

The first thing that the trade manager does is go through each planet and determine what the needs are, how badly the planet needs them, and what the viceroy is willing to do/pay to get certain materials.

RESOURCE PRICES FOR CELESTIAL EMPIRE IN GALACTIC YEAR 3,050.1
FOOD ENERGY BASIC HEAVY RARE
0.1 0.6 0.3 0.4 0.7

Ok. So prices globally for Basic Materials throughout the Empire average $.3 BC (billion credits) per unit. (Remember that a unit is about 100 tons; we’re talking planet-scale quantities.) Let’s see the analysis for Luminescence by the viceroy that is conducted at the start of every turn: (By the way – this is not in-game text – this is generated by an error logger that is accessible for anyone playing the game!)

TRADE ANALYSIS FOR PLANET LUMINESCENCE OF THE CIVILIZATION CELESTIAL EMPIRE
VICEROY HUMANITY: 7 INTELLIGENCE: 76 CAUTION: 77
Viceroy Carlitian Perry on planet Luminescence is calculating Importances….
Food Importance: 0.0
Energy Importance: 0.0
Basic Importance: 100.0
Heavy Importance: 0.0
Rare Importance: 0.0

So this tells us that the viceroy with a low Humanity probably won’t care that much about things like food or energy and will more likely focus on things that build empire like basic/heavy/rare materials. Food doesn’t build warships, after all. The viceroy has a fairly high Intelligence and a high Caution, which is important.


Total Import Budget for this month is calculated at $8.3 based on a GPP of $415.2 less trade expenses this year of $0.0 and a percentage dedicated to trade of 21 %.
The yearly import budget is $127.3.
Viceroy allocates $0.0 MCs towards food imports this month.
Viceroy allocates $0.0 MCs towards energy imports this month.
Viceroy allocates $5.4 MCs towards basic imports this month.
Viceroy allocates $0.0 MCs towards heavy imports this month.
Viceroy allocates $0.0 MCs towards rare imports this month.
After allocations, there is $2.9 remaining this month to use for adjusting import bids, or if not used, to return to the yearly import budget.

Next, the viceroy determines the monthly import budget. While they are allowed to deficit spend, more intelligent viceroys will hesitate to do that unless very necessary. So in this case, Viceroy Perry has set aside $8.3 BC for trade purposes. He then looks at the relative importance of each good and allocates a tentative budget to each one.


With a monthly shortfall of -23.3, 0.0 food units are requested from the viceroy this month.
With a monthly shortfall of -2.3, 0.0 energy units are requested from the viceroy this month.
With a monthly shortfall of 12.6, 137.3 basic units are requested from the viceroy this month.
With a monthly shortfall of -3.0, 0.0 heavy units are requested from the viceroy this month.
With a monthly shortfall of 1.9, 20.7 rare units are requested from the viceroy this month.
New Trade Request generated! Taking export budget into account, Luminescence requests 9.75 units of Basic at a max price per unit of 0.6.
No trade generated for rare – adjusted unit need was zero.
No trade generated for heavy – adjusted unit need was zero.
TRADE ANALYSIS COMPLETED FOR Luminescence…

OK. Now the various state and local governments have weighed in on what they feel they need this month based on projected output and usage. This is presented to the viceroy as a ‘shopping list’ of sorts that the viceroy can use or ignore based on what they see fit. In this case. the government feels that rare materials would be nice to have as well, but Viceroy Perry disagrees. He will take their need into consideration, but he is not willing to obliterate his export budget and put out a request for 137 units of basic (or 21 units of rare, which is much more expensive!) so after weighing the factors (which also includes what his House directive is – if their directive is to stockpile resources, then he might be much more willing to overspend) Perry decides to put a trade request out for almost 10 units of Basic, and he is willing to pay up to $0.6 per unit (remember basic is going for about $0.3 per unit, so he’s pretty desperate) This trade request will go out to the entire trade group that Luminescence belongs to (the Podaga trade group) as well as New Terra (with a civ hub they can reach all Provinces)

Now that the trade request is out on the ‘open market’, what happens now?

Looking within PODAGA TRADE GROUP….
Connected to civilization trade hub, so checking that trade hub as well…

So each trade hub is looked at one at a time, and if the trade hub is connected to the civilization hub (New Terra) than a check is made there as well. Basically, think of it as a market across the Empire where different worlds are competing for a limited set of trade resources, and they’re posting trade proposals across their own Trade Hub as well as the Empire’s capital. Remember that distance adds costs to trade fleets, so if you live out in the hinterlands you’d better be prepared to pay a lot to get traders to go that far. This is the Trade Hub where L resides, so we’ll look at that process now.

Checking civtradehub: New Terra.

Checking on valid trades for planet Voluspa….
There are no active trade proposals on Voluspa.

Checking on valid trades for planet Illitch….
Trade for basic materials denied due to zero basic surplus.This may be due to lack of production or an excess of caution on the viceroy’s part.

So each trade hub (province, system, New Terra) goes through all the trade requests that they can reach (must be in their Trade Hub or a province hub connected to the capital) They loot at trades on 2 levels: First, can they actually fufill what the request is asking for? To determine that, each Viceroy when looking over a proposal considers their own planet’s needs – are they looking to raise money, hoard materials, some of both? Is the Viceroy a Trader? Their culture also comes into play as to how aggressively they will seek out trades and try to fill them. In Illitch’s case, New Terra (the hub currently being checked) is not willing to part with ANY basic materials, probably because they have a high Caution and/or their House (well, your House, but if this were an AI House it would try to act to the House wishes as long as they don’t have a grudge or a stupid low Honor). So this Viceroy will not trade ANY basic materials to ANYONE this month. This is updated every month, but for now the port is closed with regards to basic.

Checking on valid trades for planet Luminescence….
Trade for basic materials denied due to zero basic surplus.This may be due to lack of production or an excess of caution on the viceroy’s part.

Checking provincetradehub: Voluspa.

Now the Province Hub, Voluspa, is checking out the trade requests, and making their decisions.

Checking on valid trades for planet Illitch….
Basic material request found for Illitch! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Basic materials requested: 2.2 units. Basic materials allocated for export on Voluspa: 51(includes 3 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 2 Basic units of basic for 1.2 MCs requested from Voluspa to Illitch.

Checking on valid trades for planet Luminescence….
Basic material request found for Luminescence! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Basic materials requested: 9.8 units. Basic materials allocated for export on Voluspa: 51(includes 3 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 10 Basic units of basic for 5.4 MCs requested from Voluspa to Luminescence.

Bingo! Voluspa’s viceroy is not so tight-fisted as the NT viceroy when it comes to their materials, and they have released 51 units of basic for (potential) sale. As you can see, that’s only 3% of their total stockpile, so it’s not like they’re giving away the farm, so this is probably a pretty Cautious Viceroy. So Voluspa has agreed to review the trade. It now goes into ‘review’ status. Basically, review status is where once all of the trade proposals across the Empire have been looked at and determined what planets could handle them, they ‘compete’ to take the best deal (i.e. the most profitable). Coming soon: Part 2, where we determine what trades make the cut, how fleets form, and how you (the player) can manipulate the trade system to your advantage!)

Until later – Steve!

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.7 inbound! And a new Kickstarter coming soon!

Hello, everyone! Long time no see! Even though I’ve been quiet, I’ve been working a lot on the game and after almost 5 pages of addons, changes, tweaks, fixes, and improvements, I’m just about ready to launch .7!

With that, after save and load functionality is added (the very next major feature to be added – well, technically save is already there, but it’s internal) I feel the time is right to launch a Kickstarter. With all the changes and fixes in .7, I am happy enough with the product that I feel that it is right to present as a Kickstarter.

A Kickstarter will allow me to work on the game more, add more art and special effects, allow the game to be promoted more (which will bring in more money that will allow more improvements – you see the cycle!) Let me be clear: I have 2 loans out on the initial development of the game – I have not made a penny on the game that I can ‘pay’ myself; all proceeds have basically gone to pay back loans on the game. So this is more of a passion project than something that’s going to buy my second home. But I do want to finish it and I feel the end is within reach with a large push in 2019. So look for more updates soon on when that will launch and how you can help!

Thank you for your patience!

Steve

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Home again: An update of development (and why the pause)

Hey everyone – been a while, right? So I’ll get to the good news right off the bat: I’ve been working on the game for a little while and have started on 3 key features: pops opinion feedback (in other words, why is my stability dropping on a planet?), the character/House AI, and the save/load system! Those are my 3 huge priorities before I call .6 complete. There will be some other tweaks, including more planets, an easier font typeface for some parts of the UI, the completion of the financial main screen, etc. but those are the big ones.

So that’s all well and good, you say, but where have you been? Good question. It started a few months ago with a 2-week trip out of the state for work, and I didn’t have a chance to do anything with the game at that time. When I got back, I had some issues that I had to take care of from a family standpoint – nothing major, but necessary. By then it was June and when I finally had some time to restart development, I realized that I wasn’t looking forward to it like I always had. In the past, I’d stay up until 2-3 AM working on something (I’m a night person) and not think twice about it. Now, I almost dreaded going to the computer. And I realized something at that point – I was burned out on the game.

You have to understand that I’ve been working on Imperia/AotSS more or less by myself (from a coding standpoint, anyway) for almost 4 years. In that time, I’ve had some artistic and game design support, most notably by Oliver, but for anything to actually be done in the game, I had to code and implement it. Even the smallest indie studios that release commercial-quality games typically have 4-8 people working full-time. The smallest I can think of that make games that people who would play AotSS would be Zero Sum Games (one person; StarDrive series) and Arcen Games (two people; AI War, The Last Federation, etc) but even they do it full-time as their main job. I am not in a position to make KatHawk Studios a full-time proposition (for now, anyway) so I’m caught in the position of assuming 100% development responsibility for a project that I can’t devote 8 hours a day to. So I’ve worked around the gaps in my life that don’t involve family, other social events/duties, and work. That leaves very little time for… me. And I think that finally caught up to me.

Since then, I’ve been refreshed and gotten the nice break that I needed, but of course I could have been more forthright about where I’ve been. One thing that I’ve always struggled with, even professionally, is taking relatively small issues and letting them spiral because I have an unreasonable fear of the results. In this case, all I would have had to do is post a blog saying that I was taking a month or two off and I’m sure most people who understand the development situation would understand. However, since I let it get to this huge thing in my mind, it became harder and harder to respond. So I take full responsibility for not explaining things sooner, and I’m sorry for that.

So that’s the first part. The second part is this: I have taken out some small loans to fund AotSS. This project was never about me making any substantial amount of money (I have not made a single dime on this project – all monies received have gone towards development, profit share, or loan repayment) and I don’t expect that to change. However, I do have to raise some money to keep development going (art, mostly) and continue to pay off the company debt. It’s not much, just a few thousand, but it’s not nothing either and I can’t use my personal income to pay it off instead (kids aren’t cheap, folks!!) So I have basically a few options left:

  1. Raise the price on AotSS
  2. Start a massive advertising/marketing campaign to increase sales
  3. Take out another loan
  4. Start a Kickstarter
  5. End the project and write off my losses

I don’t want to do #1; in fact, my plan is to keep the price at $7.99 even into .7 as a good will gesture. Naturally, this will not help my cashflow, but it’s the right thing to do.

#2 is a necessity, but I’m not a marketer and the person who really did that well (Oliver) is no longer an active part of the project due primarily to his own projects and life goals. And of course, actual advertising takes money which I am not flush with. So any sort of marketing would have to be guerrilla in nature.

(Huge shout outs at this point to eXplorminate and Space Game Junkie; y’all have been tremendous in your support!)

I really don’t want to do #3 since I already have 2 loans outstanding and unless I was going to do this full time (in which case I would bite the bullet and really do it right and take out like $150K to staff up and office out) I need to keep the debt load where it is.

I don’t want to give up 4+ years of work and let down numerous people and customers either, so I can’t face #5 as an option.

That leaves #4. I once swore that I would not do a Kickstarter – the idea of people paying for a project that they might never see gave me chills. However, as I study my options in my unique development situation, it may be the last resort. Many people have reached out to me over the years asking whether I would do one, and I always told them ‘no’. I am proud of the fact that AotSS is self-financed and funded, and I never asked for a penny for Imperia because I believed (and still do!) in the game and idea. But business considerations have made it to where I need to bring in some revenue to pay for art at a minimum. We don’t need a lot (relative to game development costs), but I estimate it will take about $5,000 to finish the game at a basic level.

So after much deliberation, I will do my best to do #2 and #4 to keep AotSS and KHS going. I don’t have any firm details about backing levels, but I can tell you that virtually all of the rewards will be game-based. I know for sure I will have unique characters for backers and for higher tiers, custom Houses, and things like planets and systems and provinces can also be named. Beyond that I have a few ideas but I’m still deciding on them. Once the project launches on Kickstarter I will let everyone know. Also, anyone who has already purchased will get a KS reward to be determined.

In addition, if anyone out there is interested in helping with the project on a part-time level, let’s talk. You can email me at steve@imperia5x.com and let me know what you would be willing to do, your skill set, etc. I primarily need some programming help (C#/Unity knowledge required) and a new artist who genuinely loves this project and what we’re trying to accomplish. Art would be paid per asset project; all other assistance is negotiable. (But obviously, if you’re looking to make $60K on this, keep looking. 🙂

Once again, I’m sorry about my communication and lack of progress. I’m human, and I don’t have a lot of support at this point WRT actually creating and coding the game. I’m not looking for sympathy, but I do want y’all to understand the situation. And believe me, I’m far from the only small indie to struggle. It’s an inherent risk in developing a game of this complexity. If I simply wanted to make money, I’d churn out puzzle games on mobile platforms. I have the expertise to do that. But it’s not my passion. This project is, small blips notwithstanding, and I will see it to the end.

Somehow.

-Steve

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.6.3.0 Out Shortly!! Tons of new Features

Hey everyone!

Just wanted to drop the most recent changelog between .6.2 and .6.3. It’s a doozy, so if you haven’t updated in a while or wanted to see what we’ve been up to, here it is!

Changelog for 6.3.0
• Added target Character’s relationship to all Character Cards on Action Character Selection Panel. In other words, you’ll be able to see what the character thinks of all the characters on the panel prior to selection
• MAJOR: Revamped Trade System. You will now have to build up your trade network – it is much more scattered than before, as well as different levels of trade activity. Starbases and Hubs and Ports all now cost upkeep (Infrastructure) to maintain as well.
o There are now 4 Levels of trade ‘readiness’: No Trade (no starbase, no port, no hub – no commerce at all can take place
o Import Only (starbase but no port) – the planet can import goods from the Empire or other planets but otherwise cannot trade
o Has Trade Port (starbase and port, no hub) – the planet can make trades with other planets, and can send goods to system hubs only
o Has Trade Hub (starbase and port and hub) – the planet can makes trades with other planets, and can send goods to a higher hub (system  province  empire)
o UI changes to represent: new hub graphics, updated UI for Economic System Governance Mode blocks, and updated Trade Info window on Planet Governance Mode
o Supply Trades can now include all materials, not just Basic, Food, and Energy
o The computer is more lenient when deciding whether to do a trade
o Hubs no longer have to be on a capital world (but generally it’s a good idea since capital worlds have more infrastructure and ways to pay for the base)
o Rescaled the reach of Hubs to take into account both the Merchant Power present there and the size of the Starbase. It is possible now to have a Province Hub stretch across an entire constellation if it’s built to Level 4 and you have a strong Merchant presence
o Added Projects for Build Trade Port, Build/Upgrade Starbase, Build System Hub, and Build Province Hub.
• MAJOR: Economic changes throughout. Rescaled all output and use to make for much smaller numbers – rescaled Projects and Action costs. Also rescaled output. This has the effect of making the game more manageable, making changes more meaningful in output, and making trades more helpful and thus more likely to occur.
o You can now go negative on a planet’s GPP if there is more upkeep and costs than income. If a planet is negative GPP, it will not send any money to the Empire, nor the leaders who make up the COC chain.
o If you have enough money in your Domestic budget to make up any shortfalls on planets, there will not be unrest (though they won’t be thrilled either). If you don’t… the largest planets will be funded first, and so on. Small, poor planets will be the first to start with high Unrest. Riots are not modeled yet, but they’re just around the corner. Start practicing now!
o There is now a difference between Holdings tributes depending on who is holding the planet. If it is Held by the ruling House, the distribution is as before (75% for the Empire, the rest divided). If it is Held by another House, the Empire receives a variable amount as a tribute depending on the existing relationship, but usually no more than 30%. Thus, Holdings that other Houses own are not generally going to bring in much money.
o New Colonies and Outposts have a malus to GPP for 20 turns to represent essentially ‘repaying’ development loans and costs to make the planet ready for colonization/mining.
o Updated UI with tooltips explaining how base numbers are generated
• MAJOR: Production system changed. In conjunction with the Economic changes, you can now set the production output of your factories for a planet or a system through an Action. You can overwork (Overdrive) your Engineer Pops, to the detriment of their Happiness and Love. Useful when you need to build things quickly, or when you are facing a shortage of materials and need to cut back. Of course, as always, your leaders have to agree to do it…
o Reworked to use the Viceroy Skills as a large factor for output of food, mining, etc. Previously the House Tradition of the Viceroy would determine this. The HT is still used, but as part of the Skill calculation. Also uses several traits to provide bonuses to the calculation
• MAJOR: New music and sound effects throughout, with a new theme and several new tracks that shift based on your Love/Fear level
• MAJOR: Migration system reworked. Now Pops will have a max range that they will look to migrate to depending on their Class. Farmers and Miners will generally stay in-system or a close star, Fluxmen and Engineers will look throughout a Province, and Academics, Merchants, and Administrators will have a multi-province range.
o Also changed the way Planet Value is determined for migration purposes. Now, available jobs are more weighted, so even if there’s a much nicer planet nearby, a Pop will think twice if there are no or very few jobs available.
o Updated the Migration UI to reflect the rebalance of Planet Value
• MAJOR: Started installation of Character/House Strategic AI. In conjunction with the Intel Tab on the Character Screen, all Characters will have a Ultimate goal (power, wealth, survival, etc.) and depending on their resources/abilities/relationships, will look to different Action chains to determine what they will do and what their reactions will be. You will be able to see their Ultimate goal in this first pass in .6.3 in the new Intel tab
• Fixed bug where the trade system would not be ‘loaded’ until a turn had passed.
• Fixed and updated the stars – now there is more variety and they look very nice, with only a minimal performance hit
• Reworked the way Pops are generated. Now there is more of a emphasis on Farmers and Miners, with smaller amounts of more specialized Pops, as fits the lore and backstory. The House/Culture that a Pop is generated from also now affects the generation
• Reworked the way Trade Infrastructure is generated. There is now generally much less Hubs throughout the Empire, and some Provinces may not even have a Hub! You will have to decide how much to rebuild or build a specific trade network, and who reaps the benefits the most
• MAJOR: Added Economic Screen. First build shows planet GPP, and total expected Empire budget for the current year given no changes. Updates will add the budget sliders that can be set every year, as well as a surplus that can be set aside from a budget
• Removed excess information from the Production Screen – that info has changed to Viceroy Skills and is out of date
• Added Viceroy Skills. These are skills in Mining, Engineering, Economics, etc. that directly affect how a Viceroy can govern their planet. They are derived in part from a Character’s Intelligence, Drive, Admin skill, House traditions, and some randomness. They can greatly affect a planet’s operation.
o Added tooltip extension on Character tooltip to show these skills. You will need to have at least a Medium Intel level in order to see these values
• Added ‘Get to Know Character’ Action. Basically if accepted you will talk with and get to know the Character in question, which will increase your Intel level with them and possibly increase your Relationship with them
• Updated UI for Project Bar – with the increase in Projects it was necessary to widen the bar. Now the Project Bar can show up to 18 Project choices at a time
• Updated UI for Overview Planetary Gov Mode – now Infrastructure, Total/Max Population, and Total/Max development is shown as filling bars to more easily show the ‘limit’ of the planet.
• Added additional conversation lines and a few more tags
• Fixed a lot of small UI bugs that were, ah, bugging me. Heh.
• Fixed some typos
• Added the long-lost ‘Rival’ relationship icon tooltip

 

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News Of The Week

Hello everyone! We’ve been hard at work on the game, and we’re going to start putting the weekly updates on the web site so that if you don’t subscribe to the forum or Twitter, you’ll still have access to the latest stuff! Anyway, on to the good stuff!!

.6.3.0 is coming out in a few days (probably Wed) and it will have a ton of updates from .6.2.0!! Among them:

  • Fixed and prettier stars
  • Music!
  • Sound effects!
  • Updated economy UI
  • Updated trade system
  • Updated migration system
  • Vastly updated production system/UI
  • New Actions
  • New Projects
  • Many many bugs fixed
  • Faster new game load times
  • Economy screen
  • Intel tab for characters is starting to be updated
  • Initial AI for characters/Houses in place – you will be able to see their main goals and what ‘path’ they are taking to get there
  • Updated economy system
  • Moar tooltips explaining the ‘hows’ in production
  • And more!

Full changelog will be posted soon. But that’s a quick hit of the changes. I will make a new video Friday with the .6.3 gameplay. If you haven’t played in a while, you’ll be very surprised at all the changes!

Also, we expect to be moving on to version .7 in the next 5 weeks or so. If you’re on the fence and like what you see, you only have a few weeks left to get it at the initial alpha price of $7.99. It will be going up to $12.99 once version .7 drops!!

Thank you for your interest!

-Steve

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The 5 Levels of AotSS, Explained. AKA ‘Who Are You Playing Against, Anyway?’

 

Good morning everyone! Just so you know, as we get closer to launch, you will see more and more blogs explaining various things about AotSS, and this particular blog was inspired by a comment on the YouTube channel – basically, the question was ‘Who are you playing against?” It seemed like a silly question, right off the bat, honestly… until I thought about it. It’s actually a complicated question, and one that is significantly different from most 4X games. So I want to talk about it here.
There are basically 5 levels, each more or less sitting on top of each other, and part of your challenge as Emperor is to determine which level needs attention at any given time. As the game continues to develop, more of these levels will become more emergent, which will give you more interesting choices as the player to decide how best to use your very limited time!

LEVEL 1: You

Yup, everything starts with taking care of ol’ number 1. You are an entity in the game, much like Crusader Kings, and if you die, humanity’s screwed, so you need to keep yourself healthy, learning new skills, stay (relatively) popular (or feared, either works) by your Pops, and striving to keep yourself out of bad situations. For example, just because you CAN travel to a planet where you have a 5% Popular Support doesn’t mean you SHOULD travel to said planet. Improving your skills and keeping your popular support high enough to avoid widespread revolt is the absolute foundation of AotSS, and almost every decision and action you take should address that in some direct or peripheral way.

 
LEVEL 2: Your Pops
A Pop is the basic unit of population in the game, and it is the smallest entity that you can see results and interact with, albeit not directly. Pops do just about everything in the game – they settle new planets, they manufacture materials to build more stuff, they fight wars, they grow food, they mine minerals, they accumulate knowledge, they generate Admin points, etc. They also act as an additional pressure point for characters in the game to support your initiatives when your popularity is high. This is all good stuff.
What’s not so good is when Pops are unhappy or there’s tension between 2 (or more) Cultures on a given planet. Then bad stuff happens, like strikes, desertion to other civilizations, riots, and even full scale takeovers of a planet. Not good stuff. And even worse: If enough of them are unhappy with your rule, your reign may become very short, Emperor. So you can’t just ignore the signs of discontent smoldering around your Empire, unless you enjoy watching the world(s) burn…

 
LEVEL 3: Your Houses
Especially Great Houses, but Minor Houses can become a pain as well, these institutions can make or break you as an Emperor. At the most basic, Houses who hate you will strongly discourage their members from being a part of your government, which may make it difficult for you to find competent Viceroys with skill sets you need. Remember, at the heart of AotSS is about finding the right people for the right post. There are very few ‘amazing characters’ with high stats across the board, and even a great-looking character may have a hidden cost (psychopath, backstabber, etc) So the more people you have available for a given position, the better.
At a more advanced level, having Houses on your side means they will trade with you, share more of their Holding revenue with you, and be at your side when other Houses attempt to expand their territory or even attempt a breakaway war against you. Keeping your empire as strong and united as possible is a huge part of the game (esp. for Level 5) and while you (almost) can’t make everyone happy, you do need to have several strong allies, or else Houses will band together to achieve goals. Remember, Houses have relationships with each other and some Houses are mortal enemies who will never join together, but the vast majority are more or less neutral towards each other, and are simply looking out for what’s best for them, not necessarily you or your Empire. Don’t forget about your Minor Houses! If you can’t find an ally among the Great Houses, maybe you can construct one from a Minor… and perhaps even lift them up to become a very, very grateful new Great House… at the cost of another Great House… who will most likely be very, very angry at this state of affairs. Be careful!

 
LEVEL 4: Breakaway Civilizations
The Celestial Empire, nee the Terran Alliance, once stretched across the parsecs before the Xyl came for the second Xyl war. As a result of that war and the interregnum of weak leaders that followed, many colonies and even whole provinces simply lost contact with New Terra over the ensuing centuries. At this point, those systems, planets, and Pops have developed whole new cultures and technologies after half an eon of living alone without Empire support, and with the Empire’s resurgence under you, some of those civilizations are looking to get some back by taking back some of the current Empire. Most of the civilizations are angry with the Empire, but in order to deal with Level 5 and ultimately ‘win’ the game, you will have to expand into uncharted space and see what’s out there. You will need a strong and united Empire with as many able bodies as possible to fight, so it is to your advantage to try to reclaim systems and provinces that once belonged to the Empire, long ago. Whether through diplomacy, espionage, or old-fashioned military force, a significant investment at this level could make or break your long-term game. Because at the end of the day….

 
LEVEL 5: The Xyl Rescension
Without giving too much away, at some point (50+ years) in the future you will have to deal with the return of the Xyl, and they are not happy about your continued existence. Humanity battled them to a draw 500 years ago, and they are finally back to finish their job, which is to bring their ‘god’ back into this universe by using the power of billions of human souls… and there aren’t too many sources of human souls around anymore, if you catch my drift. All that you do in the previous levels of play lead to this level, and you will be given clues throughout the buildup phase as to when the first Xyl attacks may happen and the size of the overall force, as well as the countdown to Rescension that, unfortunately, due to an unknown (to them) flaw in the Xyl’s Rescension gate, will end life in the entire universe. So yeah, you gotta deal with that as your endgame. Pretty important.
So there it is. Your 4 increasingly complex and expanding levels of play. They will build upon each other – you will probably spend the first 10-15 years or so reshaping your empire, building up your military, researching technologies and Progress projects to advance your capabilities, sorting out your planets and systems, and possibly tending to your Houses’ affairs before you go charging out for any galactic adventures, but you are certainly not forced to wait – that’s the freedom of play in AotSS: nothing’s stopping you from pursing any strategy you want, when you want!!
Good luck, Emperor!
-Steve

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Update on AotSS – Release Date Announced, New Video Released!

Hey everyone!

Well, I have some exciting news – AotSS version .6, aka Archimedes, will be released Tuesday, January 9, 2018!!

The cost will be $7.99 for the initial entry. This means that you will get Archimedes and every other build going forward, including patches and content additions after 1.0. Why so long, Steve? Good question!

As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of projects that promise much and deliver much less. If anything, this version of AotSS will include more than the original plan called for, including some basic House AI and more Actions and Projects (and corresponding UI) then called for originally. I want to make sure that I deliver a product that I’m proud of, and given my irregular work schedule, this is what it will take to not only deliver the build, but update the web site, add secure ecommerce, and do some basic cleanup of my sites and consolidate everything under the wordpress site under the www.allianceofthesacredsuns.com domain, since there are several sites floating around.

I have also released a new video that you should see if you want to get an idea of development – its here: https://youtu.be/0DLUH1JX6cI There is a slight echo but it is workable. I will release a new video every week until first alpha release with additional feature spotlights.

Later today, I’ll be writing another blog talking about a very good point that a commenter had in the video – who are you competing against, anyway? It’s a multi-layered questions and one that I feel deserves a larger answer, so I’ll talk about that later today!

Until soon… Excelsior!!

-Steve

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Update – ‘Archimedes’ is still on schedule for early October initial alpha release!

Hey all!

Well, despite a hurricane, a super busy time at work (when you sell cars and you’ve just had a massive flood, you tend to be very busy), and a very tricky stack overflow bug that took days to hunt down, AotSS Archimedes release .6 is still on track for an early October release. It will still be $7.99, and purchase of Archimedes will allow you updates throughout the lifecycle of the game. I’m not a huge DLC fan, so rest assured there will be plenty of updates (more Projects, more Actions, more dialog, more planet types, more Houses, etc) that can come for free! Details on how to purchase will come next month; we’re still working on revamping our website.

Also, we are restarting the alpha tester program. We’re far enough along now that there is a lot going on with the program and it is now impossible for me to track every little permutation. While there should now no longer be any show stopper/crash bugs, logic bugs, UI errors, data inconsistencies, etc. are something that need to be looked at. Balance is another huge aspect at this point. Other than adding a few data views, Archimedes is essentially feature-locked at this point, so testing can begin. If you’re interested, please email me at steve@imperia5x.com with your contact info, a brief background of your game interests, and any relevant experience. If you were a prior tester, I will be reaching out to you to see if you’re still interested, so no need to write. (If you were a tester for the previous (non-Unity) verion of Imperia, you will need to contact me as I no longer have that contact list.).

I will be releasing a new LP tomorrow as well. This will be a true LP, walking through some of the strategic choices and what you can do so far in this version of AotSS. As always, remember that this is a pre-alpha – there is a lot left to add!

Thanks for reading!

-Steve

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Video Development Diary #2 is out!

Hey all!

Thanks for everyone’s patience on the video thing. I’m terrible about always wanting to add one more thing or fix one more bug, and I have to remind myself that it’s just a pre-alpha and people will understand. (ha!) Seriously, though, it’s a good overview of the new stuff that we’ve been working on. There was so much that I didn’t cover, I’m going to do another video on Sunday. Anyway, sorry for the echo sound, but there’s some good stuff in there. Check it out!

Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/xhIZidSxZOw. Enjoy!!

-Steve

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Update and DD #4 – How a Universe is Created, and what it means to you!

Hello everyone! Wow, what a week it’s been! We went from living life to evacuating our home within 45 minutes due to Hurricane Harvey. While we didn’t end up suffering any damage, it certainly did a number on Houston and Texas in general. We’re fine, but this is a storm that we’ll remember for a long time. (And oh yeah, as I write this Irma is about 4 days away from the US. Joy.)

Anyhoo, I wanted to wrap up the economic series of DDs by talking about the planets themselves. Now, everything around AotSS revolves around power. At the end of the day, those that have it, make things happen, and those that don’t, can’t. So the most important building blocks of power are…you guessed it, planets.

When I sat down to design Imperia years ago, I knew even early on that I wanted detailed planets. Maybe not Aurora-level detailed, but certainly more detailed than 3 stats and a planet type. I feel that in a good 4X game, a player should see planets (and systems) not as disposable entities but as things that they care about and actively guide throughout the game. Cheesy as it may sound, I feel that a successful 4X-type game allows each planet to tell its own story, to write its own history, and to contribute its own glory.

In Imperia, once I met Pavlos, the design really started taking off. Pavlos brought the idea of planets down to a science, and proposed no less than 14 different star types with 15 different planets that could be generated. After months of working on different generation models, we designed a model that is both true to science and playable.

To start with, each star is generated randomly and can be a single, binary, or trinary star. This affects things like gravity and what types of planets are generated. Stars also have a spectral class from OB all the way to a D star, with our good old sun (‘K’) and red giants (RG), supergiants (SG), small blue stars, white stars, brown dwarves, neutron stars… they’re all here, and each modeled by size, traits, and metallicity. These determine what types of planets and how many minerals are on each planet.

Once stars are generated, they are placed into constellations. This is another ‘true to life’ way of generating stars in a realistic manner. Not only does it provide a way to create provinces in ‘grouping areas’ but it makes it easier to find systems when you know what constellation it’s in. The game has 30 constellations, each named by the game lore, but the only one that’s guaranteed to show up in any given game is Enosis, your home constellation.

So now that you’ve got your stars and your constellations, what about planets? Well, planets (and asteroid belts and ice belts) are procedurally generated from the type of star that is currently being generated from. There are only certain types of planets that can be generated, and each type has a weighted chance of being created. So you won’t find a SuperEarth planet in a Red Giant, for instance, but you might find a Barren or Ice planet. Each system has 5 spots, from closest to farthest from the star, and the planets types are generated as well based on how far the planet ‘slot’ is from the star. So closer to the star, you will have lava and barren planets, while farther away you will have more ice and ice belts, as well as gas giants. Again, just like science.

So once the planet type is generated, we’re not done! Next comes size and axial tilt (determines habitability) to determine how habitable the planet is to humans. Basically, the closer it is to a star, and the more tilted it is (violent weather changes), the Bio rating of a planet is generated, based on the base type of planet, size, location, and some variability.

Next, the industrial multiplier is generated. Certain planets are easier to build things like factories and mines (like desert planets and barren planets) as opposed to gas giants and lava planets, both for mineral richness and tectonic stability. This effects output of mines and factories.

Next, moons! Moons provide a few traits to a system, and tides, that sometimes improve the Bio of a planet.

Now we drop minerals and energy resources onto a planet! Again, each type of planet has a range of minerals that it may have, depending on the type of star and the metallicity of the star. Some planets are very likely to have a lot of energy (gas giants, lava, greenhouse planets) but lower levels of minerals, and vice versa. Since a huge part of the game is building up a strong resource economy, and since mining outposts and colonization projects take a lot of resources and time, finding the best planets and systems is part of your responsibilities as emperor to direct!

The types of planets in AotSS are:

  • Asteroid Belt
  • Barren
  • Greenhouse
  • Desert
  • Terran
  • Ice
  • Ice Giant
  • Gas Giant
  • Ice Belt
  • Lava
  • Irradiated
  • Super Earth
  • Ocean
  • Brown Dwarf
  • Organic
  • Dust Ring
  • City

Some of these planet types are created rather than generated, especially City (think Trantor/Coruscant) and Organic (think living planet) but most can be found out there in the void. What will you find?

The last part of planet generation is the concept of regions. Now, regions are interesting in that most of the time, the player will not be aware of their existence. If you play a flight simulator, and you want to turn the plane left, you don’t have to know the lift forces acting on the ailerons, nor do you have to know the yaw forces acting against the body to provide lift, drag, and spin. Nope, all you the player have to do is turn the mouse/stick to the left, apply some rudder, and voila! The plane turns left. Good simulations work under the radar, while immersing the player in their model of reality without them actually having to know how it works.

AotSS’s region system works in much the same way. When a planet is generated, it’s not one contiguous planet. Just like Earth is not all grassland, mountains, etc. most planets are an amalgamation of different terrain and biome types that put together create the overall planet structure and resources. Small planets might just have 4 regions, while large terran planets have as many as 20, and gas giants might have 36! (Of course, the vast majority of them will not be habitable!) Each region is generated procedurally, and depending on the planet type, your planet will have some of the following types of regions:

  • Plains
  • Mountains
  • Lava
  • Volcanic
  • Ocean
  • Forest
  • Grassland
  • Jungle
  • Barren
  • Uninhabitable
  • Frozen
  • Desert
  • Helium Islands
  • Dead

Each type of region is more conducive than others to support life. That said, with the proper infrastructure ANY planet can sustain life, but your Pops don’t have to like it (one reason why it’s so important to build outposts in the right places – build it too far from other planets and you’ll have a hell of a time convincing miners and engineers to come join, even if you are paying top dollar, if it’s on a raging inferno planet)

So each region has its own type, but it also has unique modifiers for activities in the game, such as farming modifiers, bio modifiers, manufacturing modifiers, and even for ground combat (attack and defense mods). A plains region is going to be more attractive to a Pop than a lava region, obviously, but when a planet is colonized cities will be built in the regions that are most conducive to high production.

Cities, you say? Of course! Regions also have an infrastructure rating, from uninhabited to tiny outposts to small towns, all the way to super cities and megalopolises. The more resources your viceroy puts towards infrastructure, the larger your cities can grow, which will allow more people to be housed comfortably. That’s the key. Each region has a maximum safe population level at which Pops will not grow discontent. You can exceed it, but then Pops will start to get unhappy with living stacked on top of each other, so they will eventually move to another region, or if there’s not another region with jobs and there’s a better planet nearby, they’ll simply leave. Building more infrastructure will prevent this.

So planets are not just a box of ratings and values, but a tapestry of regions that collectively form the planet. Again, as the player, you won’t see most of this. You’ll know how many regions the planet has, what types they are (percentage wise), what the base development level of a planet is, and the base population level it will support, and as infrastructure is built, you’ll know how many more Pops the planet can support without Pops going haywire. Regions can be bombed from space or destroyed during ground combat, so losing a region with a Large City and numerous developments such as academies, factories, etc. will really hurt a planet’s output. But the region system is why you will have one Terran planet with an 80 bio rating that has so-so farm output, and another Terran planet with a 75 bio rating that has awesome farm output, because the second Terran planet has a lot of ocean and plains regions with high output farming modifiers, while the first Terran planet has a lot of grassland and jungle. Still great for life, but not so great for farms. With mountains, however, it might be great for minerals! This is one facet of how planets tell their story and start to become unique.

And yes, Pops migrate around the planet looking for a better job, or a better opportunity (*just like us! Hmmm) I haven’t decided yet if I will allow the player to see this – it’s happening on a scale that you as the emperor wouldn’t control (you’re not able to manipulate regions; that’s your viceroy’s job) but it might be nice to see the living world a little closer. But yes, if you have a region on a planet that just opened up a new batch of farms, your farmer that is living with 4 other people on the other side of the world just might move to that new region for the same job, but now he’ll be a lot happier. As Emperor, you can create an Infrastructure Project on a world where you can send a massive construction armada to build more cities and towns, but this is much more expensive than to allow the planet to grow organically (a certain percentage of the planet’s build points ALWAYS go towards expanding infrastructure, and automatically go where growth is creating the most problems). You can ask the viceroy to focus on infrastructure as well.

So what happens if you don’t have enough materials (basic and heavy) to maintain your planet’s infrastructure? Well… it starts to decay. And Pops don’t like that so much. So it is incumbent on a good Viceroy to make sure that they beg, borrow, trade for, mine, or steal whatever they have to to ensure enough materials are on their planet to keep their lights on, their buildings up, and their roads from collapsing.

Well, that was a long post, but the region and galaxy creation system are what I consider a defining feature of AotSS. We give you a richly detailed world to work in, culturally, literarily, and scientifically. What happens in it is up to you!!

Excelsior, Your Majesty!

-Steve