Steve here, to talk about what will be by far the primary feature in this weeks’ update: a complete revamp of the help system, starting with this update. I wanted to talk a little bit about what it will look like, what’s coming, and why it took so long to add!
First, a look into help in general in games, and where I stand on it. As a developer, I think I suffer from ‘game immersion’ where you play a game literally for years – you know every nook, cranny, and line of code. You know exactly how to do everything in the game, what everything does, and you can visualize what’s happening ‘under the hood’ – so you know why something did or didn’t happen, even if there’s no feedback with that info.
Here’s the obvious issue; your players don’t have that same feedback and insight. So what you know to be gameplay working correctly might come across to a player as a broken feature, a bug, or something that just doesn’t do anything. If that happens enough, they will most likely quit out of frustration, and will have a negative impression of your game! Fairly enough. This issue multiplies when you’re trying to do something ‘different’ whose game mechanics are not common.
As an example: If I’m playing Dominus Galaxia, a great MOO1 update currently in development, as a 4X gamer I already know many of the concepts I’m working with. Research, colonization, economy, build queues, combat, diplomacy, etc. Even though I haven’t read a manual of the game, I can still get around and use and play it with very little help because I have a grounding in the basic concepts. Maybe I need help with specific UI conventions, or some new twists on features, but generally I can pick up the game and play with little help.
A game like AotSS, on the other hand, has several unique concepts that are not common to other 4X/strategy games (Projects, Actions, trade system, production system, etc). While the ‘back of the box’ feature list would lead one to believe that these games are similar (Colonize! Expand! Explore! Exploit!), in truth the systems are different enough that it’s much harder, if not impossible, to ‘pick up and play’ AotSS as it currently stands.
When developing a game, it’s a lot more fun to add features and AI than it is to document it, and I think almost any game developer would agree with that. So help and documentation often get kicked to the back burner, but with the growth and sales of AotSS, I have enough feedback to see that the game can’t grow and gain an audience without stopping to plan and implement a real, thorough, in-game help system. So at last, players can wrap their arms around this huge game.
So what will the help system look like? It will be made up of 6 key components, 2 of which will be implemented this week and 1 which is already in:
Tooltips for every single icon and value, explaining in greater detail what the value is AND how it can be affected (key change) – In for .7.1
A larger help screen for each panel that explains what you do in this panel and how to do it – In for .7.1
A grand vizier window that reviews current goals, opportunities, gives advice, and game progress – In as of .7.0.3
A grand vizier chat for each screen that gives advice on what to do with this panel and some strategies – TBA
An in-game Alliancopedia (working title) that goes into detail into concepts, history, Houses, etc). – TBA
In-game links to the written documentation and tutorial videos – TBA
Hopefully, this will be enough to get players up and running. With AotSS poised for growth and on the verge of being known to a wider audience, the last thing I want is some influencer trying to play the game and not having a clue about what to do. Plus, the game has evolved enough that customers need and deserve a comprehensive help system.
So here it is. I would love your feedback as it evolves!
This will be a pretty short diary, but I did want to touch on a topic that has come up a few times lately and I wanted to make sure that people understood the design behind it and the gameplay that will result.
Even though AotSS is a turn-based game, it has a living world around it. You can do nothing, and planets will still grow and develop, Houses will expand and/or execute their grand strategies, Characters will (soon) look to fulfill their personal goals, etc. and this will happen with or without you. Unlike many other 4X games, since you’re already starting from a base (you have an established empire that you’re trying to rebuild/corral) it’s a different style of gameplay than you having to build your empire from the ground up. AotSS will never be a game about maximizing build queues, it is a game about maximizing your relationships and best placing your talent throughout your Empire in a way that benefits you and benefits those you most want to benefit (e.g. Characters & Houses).
The idea of APs completely changes the game and makes AotSS what it is. Think about it. In most other 4X/GS games, you can really do everything. Even in Paradox ‘real-time’ games, you can pause and execute 200 orders if you so desire. APs give you tradeoffs and don’t allow you to control your universe in a way that you can with most other games. One big balance point is how many APs to give the character every turn? Too few, and there’s almost nothing you can do from turn to turn, and too many would almost defeat the purpose.
So the target feeling is that you as the player are not trying to control the empire and the galaxy, but influence it from turn to turn. Enough so that you can gradually shift your strategies over the course of a year or two, but not so that you can completely burn your strategy down to the ground in one ‘turn’ and start completely over. That’s not how life works, and it is highly illogical that a star-spanning empire can be driven and turned direction like a Maserati, but that seems to be how too many games give you that kind of power. Running an empire should be about almost hanging on for dear life, trying to nudge something or someone JUST A LITTLE BIT so that you have an advantage in the next nudge you want to make. Change should be numerous nudges, with the occasional Imperial hammer (military action, Projects, etc) to nail down an important piece of strategy.
That said, you can’t just sit around and do nothing. There is a game mechanic called Power Decay. Each turn, your Power drops about 3-5%, depending on several factors, and more if you’re more powerful. This represents the fact that at the end of the day, humans are very much a ‘what have you done for me lately’ bunch of people, and the longer you sit ensconced in your palace, not doing anything of note, the less Power you are willing to be given by others. After all, Power is as much perception as reality, at the end of the day!
So if you want a game where you can control all around you, AotSS isn’t that game. You won’t have the ability or the resources. But if you want a game where your results come one chisel and hammer at a time, where hard choices have to be made, and the realization that not all opportunities can be take advantage of, then AotSS just might be the best game you’ve ever played!
Look for the big .7.0.3 update Tuesday, with (at last!) save and load functionality, some bug fixes, and the start of a Grand Vizier screen!
This is Steve with another blog post about an important topic of AotSS. This time, we’re going to talk about viceroys, since they play an incredibly important part of the game and in order to be successful, you need to understand how they work.
First, what do Viceroys do? Basically, they head your planetary government and are the House who holds that planets’ representative to the Imperial government (you).
Viceroys have a thankless job, really. They are accountable to 3 levels: their House, you, and their Pops who are living on the planet. Any one of those entities could cause issues for the viceroy, but it is essential that a good Viceroy understand how their Pops feel about them. They must also try to set forth the goals that their House Leader has set for their House, whether it’s raising cash, creating more infrastructure, building up the planet, or generating more materials for the House to use; this may or may not be at odds with what you want that planet to be doing and how the Pops feel about it!
So let’s talk about about the plight and month in the life of a viceroy on a fairly minor planet, and some of their considerations:
So what’s the situation? This is a small system capital, with no other planets in the system worth a damn, so it is unlikely there will be any neighbors soon. The planet has just under 100M people, but even though it has a system trade hub, there are not enough merchants to generate even one trade fleet! In addition, the planet is hemorrhaging money, and is a serious drain on the Empire (it’s a holding). Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
Woof. The planet’s base GPP is only $11 billion credits, and its retail sector is barely making an impact (probably due to the lack of merchants – see the efficiency is only 4/100! Also, there is no trade going on, and the infrastructure of the planet (it’s a desert planet to begin with) is very expensive. Looks like Viceroy Malhin has decided to focus on admin buildings since the base ADM is so low (3 ADM, which is terrible for a system capital – ideally they should be at 50+) with secondary needs for food (makes sense, on a desert planet) and mining (might make sense – depends on the planet mining values) There are plenty of open jobs for engineers and miners, but there are a ton of administrators that are unemployed, so it makes sense that he would prioritize the admin sector. He has decided to run the manufacturing sector at almost 80% of capacity – that’s quite high, and will result in higher build points, but over time engineers will get more and more unhappy. Let’s take a closer look at the viceroy’s information now:
Here’s a close look at the good viceroy’s character screen. For our purposes, we’ll consider his admin skill, his traits, and his personality matrix to try to understand what he might do. He has an admin skill of 1 (not to be confused with the government skill which can go from 0 to 200; we’ll look at that in a minute) which isn’t great for someone who is running a system capital, no matter how crappy. On the positive side, he has high Honor and Empathy, which mean that he will tend to take care of the Pops under his rule (hence the high Food build). He has a low Charm trait, meaning that he’s basically not a great politician, but fortunately he’s a decent guy so his people are generally OK with him (40% Love, no Fear).
The important stat for a Viceroy is their Intelligence, basically how smart they are and what they consider when faced with multiple priorities. Rosko is pretty stupid, meaning that he will often make a poor choice when faced with a task; i.e. recruit certain Pops to the planet, create an intelligent build plan, or run the economy and make good trades that make sense for the planet. It also explains why he’s running his manufacturing sector flat out when there’s not really a critical need (and he’s in the negative with net production of all materials!) So ol’ Rosko will probably need to be micromanaged to some extent to make him useful, but that’s probably not the best way to spend your APs with a sprawling empire to run.
On the down side, he’s avaricious (basically a highly material person) which explains why he has managed to accrue a $28 billion personal account even though he’s on a backwater world, a sybarite (meaning he’s highly likely to take bribes) and superstitious (meaning that he is very likely to change his planetary strategy after an event of some kind). This last won’t matter as game events aren’t in (yet!) but the first two certainly will.
He already has a friendly relationship with me as the emperor, and characters who run Holdings that are of your House are already highly disposed to do what you ask them, unless it really goes against their personality or they really, really, REALLY hate you. So I probably won’t need to bribe him, even though it would most likely work.
Let’s take a look at Rosko’s skills:
Well, the low Intelligence is borne out by his skill values. Remember that they go from 0-200, where 50 is average, 100 is skilled, and 150+ is exceptional/genius level in a skill. From left to right, his Government Skill is 28 (used mainly for determining ADM that can be pulled out of a planet’s administration infrastructure), his High Tech skill is 4 (used for adjusting the High Tech/energy production on a world/system), his Academic skill is 0 (determines how effective Academies are on a planet, how many Pops they can take, and how likely Academics are to want to migrate there), his Engineering skill is 10 (determines how effectively the planet can generate Build Points and attract Engineers), his Farming skill is 7 (determines how effectively the planet can generate food and attract Farmers), his Mining skill is 9 (determines how effectively the planet can mine materials from the surface, how quickly the planet exhausts its reserves, and attract Miners) and the Economic skill of this savant is 10 (determines how much GPP the planet generates, how effective trades are with other hubs, how effective the retail sector is, and how much Merchants are willing to relocate there).
This is not a smart man. Small wonder that the planet is struggling to make money and mine enough materials to stay positive. In addition, he’s wasting some nice Trade infrastructure – a Level II starbase will allow at least 2 trade fleets to run each month, but merchants don’t want to set up shop on his planet (he’s an economic idiot, meaning on a local level he’s not passing laws that help merchants, making it harder to open/stay in businesses, etc.) so they’re steering clear. So what’s the effect of all this foolishness? Well, let’s first take a look at the planet details to see what context all of this is being placed in:
Well, that’s not exactly Gaia, now is it? 8 regions are desert, 2 mountainous, and the rest are so inhospitable that they are uninhabitable. The bio level is 43/100 which is on the very low end of what you would want a planet to support a large population with. Food will be difficult to grow. Energy reserves are pretty good (65) which is what you would expect from a desert world, and heavy materials are pretty abundant (68) but basic and rare materials are in very short supply. In short, this is a crappy world, and getting the most out of it will take a lot of work. And it is clear that this viceroy does not have many of the answers.
Which is where you, the astoundingly wise emperor, come in! You have several choices! You could:
Replace the viceroy with someone else who is currently not in a post in your House. Brutally effective, but it will create Fear in your Empire, and specifically in that planet/system.
Manage the viceroy build plan to one more of your liking, perhaps skewing towards mining? Friendly way, but eats up APs that you could be using for (many) other things
Find someone from another House (who is willing to serve) to take the reigns of the planet, possibly a courtier from House Ilioaia with their huge mining tradition? If that House is not friendly with you and their members won’t work with you, you’ll have to do something else…
Make a Designation Project for the planet. This is sort of a scorched-Earth way of bending a planet to your will, but it will take a lot of the decision work out of the planet’s growth and future plans
Stay the course and hope that the Viceroy will learn from experience over time (coming to a version soon is character skill growth if they are in positions where they can learn)
Give the planet as a Holding to a House who might do more with it. Maybe Ilioaia won’t allow their House members to work for you, but give them the planet and they’ll put one of their own in charge who might be able to at least take the loss off your hands and get some of those materials into New Terra eventually. Of course, this will upset the other Houses, so choices must be balanced…
Reassign the Viceroy to a less-critical planet. You can do this instead of simply removing them, but you have to find them a new posting within 3 months or it will be treated as a broken promise with Fear effects (and the character won’t be thrilled either)
Or find your own way to deal with it! Experiment!
Hopefully you can see a taste of what a Viceroy means to a planet, some of the decisions they make, and the options you have to deal with a low-performing Viceroy. This is some of the high-level strategic gameplay that AotSS is aiming to develop and create.
Well, it took a little longer than I intended, but finally .7 is out the door and ready to be played! Now, please remember that this is still an alpha version, so there are still plenty of things to do and fix! I wanted to give you a revised update of what’s to come and what the broad timeline is. I do want to say that I will be changing the update schedule to have one or two updates every few weeks, and more if people want it. The updates tend to be very large downloads (working on that) so once I get the assets cut down in Unity, that should help the file size significantly!
Anyway, the very first priority with .7 is to finish adding the economic system and riot system. They weren’t quite ready to go so with the first update you’ll see riots and the affiliated Actions/Projects that you can use to fix them. That should be about a week-2 weeks. Also, you’ll have working sliders and a new category of Actions: Economic. This is where you’ll be able to set tariffs, embargos, etc. These are not ‘choicable actions’ meaning that a character won’t have a choice about whether they happen, but you’ll still see their reactions (and any relationship change) in them. Also, obviously, any major bugs will be fixed during this time.
Next comes the save/load system. That’s a huge priority for me and in truth, there’s already save capability – the trick is loading. Really, the only issue is structuring the scene flow so that the program can redraw a new galaxy with saved data. The vast amount of data is deterministic – in other words, it generates based on some core saved data, so that should cut down on save game sizes. I hope to have that working within 2-3 weeks after the economic/Riot systems have been added and tested.
After that, I’m going to start adding the intel system, Challenges, and secrets, along with the required AI and Command Mode. This is a huge system that will also be integrated with the Character AI. Basically, you’ll be able to deploy and train Inquisitor squads that can be sent to planets to either gather information (spying, essentially) about a given planet/system/province, or they are there to actively investigate a potential Plot that you might have intel about on either you or another character. They are also used to execute black ops on specific characters, which include assassination, smear campaign, bribery, extortion, blackmail, and theft. Inquisitors basically gather op intel on a specific character for a period of time – until they have enough intel, they can’t act at all! Once they have a baseline amount of intel, they’ll be able to execute certain black op Actions; the more intel they can gather, the better their odds of success. If they are interrupted, they can try again, but the intel they have gathered will decay, and they may have to ‘re-intel’ what they’ve already learned.
Challenges are in the game, but nothing happens with them as of yet. With the Challenge addition, you will be able to challenge another character in the game, and then there is a 6 month period where you ‘recruit’ Characters to support your Challenge. Your challenged character is doing the same, and at the end of the period, whoever has the most support wins the Challenge. Winner gets a proportional increase of Power and Love from their respective Pops, while the loser loses Power, Love, and may have to give up their post to the winner depending on the Challenge.
Secrets are scraps of Intel that you might get from either gossip or from your Inquisitors. They are parts of a puzzle that the more you attain, the more info you have to potentially stop a Plot. I will be writing a full blog about this concept soon, but it’s really cool!
So after that is added, .7 will round out with the Science/Reform system. In AotSS, you don’t research like you do in a typical 4X. Your academics don’t research hard science as much as they do doctrines that allow you to take or unlock more Actions and more powerful Projects, especially with military and planet development. The thing is that your Cultures may approve or disapprove of the Reforms that you are undertaking, and they may react poorly if they have an Idea that is at odds with that specific Reform, so you do have to keep in mind who will react if you start researching world-killing lasers.
Finally, .7 will end with expanded House to House diplomacy and more intelligent House AI. Currently, Houses have relationships but they don’t really change and there is no specific alliance or war code for Houses who are opposed or allied with each other. This will be added in .7 leading up to .8.
And as always, the UI will be improved, more tooltips will be added, more Event pictures and descriptions will be added and the Grand Vizier will have more influence, including giving suggestions as to what to do next, how a character might react with a specific Action, and giving you a monthly report on what has happened and some advice based on that.
That’s what’s coming during the .7 development roadmap – No ETA, just ‘coming as soon as I can code it!’ Hope that sounds exciting – thank you for your interest in AotSS – please let me know what you think!
For this second installment of trade, we’re going to finish explaining how trade works and go into some detail of how you can use trade to your advantage!
When we left, all of the trades in the Empire had been reviewed for the ability to fufill; i.e. does a planet have the resources to fill the order, and do they want to? In other words, just because a planet has 50 Rare materials, that doesn’t mean that they want to export them all (every planet has upkeep) So, with that in mind, a viceroy must determine what’s best for their planet. It might be that they are aggressively trying to raise cash so that they are looking to sell more inventory and bring their planet to profitability (having a money-losing planet unnerves Pops, who don’t want to live on a planet that can’t sustain a profitable economy) or they’re just greedy bastards who want to take more of the personal cut (Viceroys typically get 5% of all income on a planet, AS LONG AS IT IS PROFITABLE, which increases their Power and ability to do things like assist with Projects).
So let’s look at the next step, determining profitability.
Now determining trade profitability for the Celestial Empire.
Viceroy Gluttony: -4 Trade Aptitude: 9 Humanity: 52 Trade hub Juthrbog’s viceroy will not consider trades with less than $1.6 BCs per trade.
So Juthrbog’s viceroy is now examining trades that they have put under review by profitability. They make a determination of how profitable a trip needs to be in order to accept it. Remember, Viceroys have a limited number of fleets that they can deploy at any one time, and they are real objects in the world – if a fleet takes a very long time to get from planet A to planet B, those ships will not be available for quite a while, so the viceroy has to make a cost/time/benefit analysis to having those ships unavailable for a while. In future builds, Viceroys will also make decisions based on relationships with the requesting Viceroys, meaning they will ‘cut a break’ with Viceroys that they have an allied or friendly relationship with.
In this case, they have a Gluttony state of -4, which is about normal (0 is considered ‘average’, and the scale is -100 to 100), so they’re not particularly greedy. They have almost no trade aptitude, (0 to 200) which means they will usually not select the ‘best’ deal and be weighted for other things, like helping their friends and ensuring that food and energy go to planets that need it, emphasized by their Humanity of 52 (pretty high). So they’ll basically take deals that help other planets more, all things being equal, and not look to make much profit. In this case, however, Juthrbog is not reviewing any trades this month, so the program moves to the next hub.
Viceroy Gluttony: -45 Trade Aptitude: 102 Humanity: 43 Trade hub Meide’s viceroy will not consider trades with less than $2.7 BCs per trade. Viceroy is considering trade with Juthrbog for Energy. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.0 BCs, with total profit of 0.0. …. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
So Meide’s Viceroy has a very low Gluttony, but a very high Trade Aptitude, meaning that they will tend to take smart, profitable trades even though they have a pretty high Humanity. So, their floor for a trade is $2.7 BC’s (billion credits) per trade, as opposed to Juthrbog’s at $1.6 BCs. Juthrbog requested 2 units of Energy for $0.7 BC’s total (for an average of $0.35 BC/unit, less than what Luminescence was offering, remember?) With the distance this trade will have to travel, and the low amount requested, this trade would actually LOSE money, so not surprisingly, it is kicked to the curb swiftly by the incredulous Meide viceroy.
Viceroy Gluttony: -86 Trade Aptitude: 99 Humanity: 33
Trade hub Voluspa’s viceroy will not consider trades with less than $0.2 MCs per trade.
Viceroy is considering trade with Illitch for Basic. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.3 MCs, with total profit of 0.6.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is provisionally accepted, pending sufficient fleet availability! Final cost of trade, including fuel and shipping: $2.2. Total expected profit: $0.6.
Viceroy is considering trade with Luminescence for Basic. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.3 MCs, with total profit of 2.7.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is provisionally accepted, pending sufficient fleet availability! Final cost of trade, including fuel and shipping: $9.8. Total expected profit: $2.7.
…. There are excess potential trades for number of available fleets! As a result, the trade from Voluspa to Illitch is denied due to other trades being more profitable!
OK, now Volupsa is up. They’re looking at several trades here, including with Illitch and Luminescence. Now, remember that Volupsa only has 1 available fleet? (they only have 18 Merchants, and it takes 10 per active trade fleet) So they need to make it count!
With a super low Gluttony, this Viceroy is not really interested in profit for himself, so it comes down to which trade is smarter for the planet? Illitch is requesting a trade for 2 units of Basic for $0.58 BCs per unit. Pretty good offer, but the volume is low.
Luminescence, however, is asking for 10 units of Basic for $.6 BCs per unit. Better offer, and more volume. That’s why the total expected profit is much higher ($2.7 BCs vs. $0.6 BCs) Even with requiring more fuel and ships to sent 10 units, it’s still an equal profit per unit for both trades, so volume wins out. Even though both trades were accepted, since Volupsa can only create one trade fleet, the trade from Illitch is denied in favor of Luminescence! Yay!!!
So all’s well that ends well. Volupsa made a profitable trade, Luminescence is getting basic materials that they need, and they didn’t pay an exorbitant price. As more House diplomatic dynamics are fleshed out, there will be more emphasis placed on relations between Houses and the Empire, and between Houses with each other.
So that’s great and all, you ask, but how can I use this to my advantage? Ah, young Emperor, you have asked a great questions. Let me explain.
The most important concepts to understand is that YOU DO NOT CONTROL TRADE. You can direct its flow, and you will soon be given the power to embargo planets, systems, or even whole provinces from trade, but until that time your power lies in creating the infrastructure required to trade. If a system does not have a trade hub that is not connected to a larger province hub, they can only trade with planets in their system with a trade hub. A connected and large, province-spanning Trade Group, however, connects ALL systems within its borders as long as the system has a hub. So in the example above, the Ipabog system is cut off from the Podaga trade group because they don’t have a system hub. However, when/if they build one, their proximity to the hub influence of both Percunatel and Podaga (the big purple circles) will ensure that they will be added to the Podaga trade group once they have a system hub built. That will have several effects:
* The Pops in Ipabog will be happier since they will have access to more goods (their Retail Sector will improve, which increases Happiness and generates income)
* 2 more planets will be added to the trade group, meaning that there are more possibilities for trade proposals, and thus more competition for better trades
* For you, this means that materials generated in the Ipabog system will now have a way to get to the Podoga Province hub, which means more supply fleets will be generated, meaning more materials for the Empire!
So in order to facilitate trade, you need several things to happen: * You need merchants, who are drawn to larger trade infrastructure planets (the bigger hub and starbase, the better!) With more merchants, you can… * …Have more trade fleets, and a larger retail sector, which can generate more income, which allows…. * …Your planets’ Average Development Level (ADL) to increase (representing more affluence and development), which allows… * …More Pops to move to your planet, since they see wealth and opportunity, which allows… * …More Factories and Mines to be built, which create… * …More excess Trade Goods (materials) that can be sold at a profit by… * …Merchants, who are drawn to larger trade infrastructure….
And that’s the circle of trade, when it’s executed right. Of course, you need competent Pops and Viceroys to make this work, which we’ll explore in this evening’s blog detailing Viceroys.
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.
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:
So what’s the deal? Why does the viceroy need basic materials so badly? Let’s dig deeper into the planetary situation…
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!)
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!
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:
Raise the price on AotSS
Start a massive advertising/marketing campaign to increase sales
Take out another loan
Start a Kickstarter
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 email@example.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.
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
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
Updated economy UI
Updated trade system
Updated migration system
Vastly updated production system/UI
Many many bugs fixed
Faster new game load times
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
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!!