Posted on

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

Posted on

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

Posted on

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

Posted on

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

Posted on

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

 

 

 

Posted on

DD #3: Economy, Production, and The Circle of Life: Part 1

Hey everyone!

Today, I wanted to talk a little bit about how the production side of the economy works, and specifically what the materials do, and how they are used.

So first, an overview of the system. There are 3 main materials that represent various minerals, materials, goods, and resources, collectively called ‘basic’, ‘heavy’, and ‘rare’ materials. Basic materials are used for virtually everything in the game – from building and maintaining infrastructure to building everything from mines to spaceships. Fortunately, basic materials are fairly easy to produce and mine. Heavy materials are used mostly for space installations and ships, so any Projects that have space-based applications will use a lot of heavy materials, as well as upkeep. Rare materials are mostly used for science and for energy stations, as well as labs. While they are rare, they are not generally used much, especially for agriculture-based planets.

So how do you get these materials? Easy – they need to be mined. All planets have a basic, heavy, and rare material rating, that represents how easy it is to get materials from the planet. This is done by miners, using mines. The more mines on a planet, that are staffed by miners, with high skill ratings (and backed by a Viceroy with a high Mining aptitude) the more materials that can be mined. These are raw materials that are then stockpiled for use. A certain percentage of the goods are set aside for maintaining existing infrastructure, and another percentage of goods are set aside for trade, while another small percentage is set aside for retail (explained earlier, if you are allowing basic goods to be traded). Now we get to the second part of the process, which is creating Build Points (BPs) that actually go towards construction of infrastructure, ships, etc.

BPs are split into their three types – basic, heavy, rare. Each structure that you build in AotSS takes a certain amount of BPs. For example, to build a new farm takes 30 basic BPs, 5 heavy BPs, and 0 rare BPs. By contrast, to build a new power generator (High-Tech), it takes 70 Basic BPs, 40 Heavy BPs, and 15 Rare BPs. These BPs are generated each turn and accumulate based on the build plan of the viceroy. The actual math to determine how a BP is generated is rather lengthy, but the basic calculation is to take how many factories are online (meaning they are staffed, one Pop to one factory), take the amount of raw materials that are allocated (based on the build plan; this can be overdriven as well if you have an aggressive viceroy) and take into account the engineer’s ratings and the viceroy’s Engineering aptitude (if any) plus their House’s engineering skill, take a industrial multiplier (kind of like the overdrive in MOO3) that the viceroy can use to overwork their engineer pops to get more build points at the cost of unhappiness and possible revolt) and voila! BPs fresh out of the oven. Next, the BPs are allocated to the planetary build plan.

The build plan is basically how the viceroy chooses to allocate the BPs that are generated monthly. So, for example, if the viceroy focused on farms, they might allocate 50% BPs to farms, 25% BPs to infrastructure (houses, apartments, and the like), and 25% to high-tech. So each month, farms would get half of the BPs, infrastructure would get 25%, and so on. Focuses can swing these build plans, and are one way you as the emperor can change the build ratios of a planet.

You also need to be able to pay for the upkeep of each level of development on your planet, which takes materials. If you are running out of materials, your most high-tech structures will start to decay and shut down, putting your Pops out of work (and they won’t be happy about it). Eventually, your farms will shut down, your food supply will dry up, and you’ll be living on stockpiles and/or trades until you get your development rebuilt. In game terms, there is a percentage chance that increases slowly each turn a level of development can’t be maintained. Once it’s shut down, it effectively needs to be rebuilt and restaffed.

So that’s the process in a nutshell. As the emperor, you want to make sure that your planets have enough raw materials to ensure that their factories can run at maximum efficiency. You also want to attract engineers and miners with high skill ratings, and you want to install a Viceroy who comes from a strong engineering and mining House (probably Ilioaia or Hawken) (Now you start to see why you might want to keep certain Houses in your good graces – it’s hard to build a manufacturing powerhouse world if you can’t get a Viceroy who’d be suited to run it!) You will be able to bring ‘prefab’ factories to planets in emergencies, but this is a Project and will cost much more in materials and coin than building factories would in the first place, but if you let your factories go this may create a ‘death spiral’ where you don’t have any factories left to rebuild! Don’t let this happen.

Well, that’s about it for now! Have a great day and we’ll talk soon in DD#4 about how food and energy work and how they factor into your Pops!

-Steve

Posted on

Screenshot day! Updated screenshots from .5.0.0

Hey everyone!

Well, I’ve been sick so I haven’t been able to record a video (my voice is kind of shot) but I did want to show some of what we’ve been working on the last few weeks! Below is a mosaic of some new stuff in AotSS… enjoy!!

 

-Steve

Posted on

Developer Diary #2 – Economic System: Retail, aka Buy! Buy! Buy!

Hello everyone! In advance of the LP that will be out later tonight, I wanted this week’s DD to be focused on a new concept that’s really pretty neat, I think, and certainly unique to 4X-type games. I will be going over the economic system in detail, but because it’s pretty intricate, I will be going over chunks at a time, so as to dive more in depth into each system. First, retail!

 
So, to understand where retail fits into the planet economy, you have to know that all planets have a Gross Planetary Product (GPP) that is comprised of 4 ‘parts’: the ‘base’ GPP, retail revenue, trade revenues, and import costs. This GPP is used throughout the year to set an import budget (to allow the viceroy to know how much they can/should spend on imports) and to improve the ADL (Average Development Level) of the planet by building infrastructure. While most of the ‘economy’ is based on goods and materials, the GPP of the planet is important for one critical reason: it funnels tax money back to the empire (and by proxy, you), the province governor, the system governor, and the viceroy. Since money and power are two lifebloods of AotSS, it is critical that both the Empire (and you) and Houses have as much as possible. Poor planets are worth very little, and provide very little wealth and power to Houses who Hold them.

 
With that in mind, let’s talk more about retail. So in AotSS, retail is somewhat abstract, and is based around 4 things: merchants, their skill, the planet’s ADL, and the number of Pops on a planet. (There are some other things that can affect this, like Viceroy skills and traits, or planet traits, but these are the main levers.) Basically, the idea works like this:

 
1. CALCULATE THE MONTHLY ALLOCATIONS TO THE RETAIL SECTOR: A yearly percentage of a planet’s stockpile of food and energy (and basic if the viceroy or emperor allow it; heavy and rare materials are mostly used for military and space technologies and would not be widely available for retail as we know it). For this example, let’s say 4% is the hold percentage that the viceroy has selected for their planet. So by using the formula (x * .04) / 10 (for 10 months per AotSS year) we can calculate how many goods are put ‘on the market each month.

Let’s work our way through an example on the planet Argus. If we assume, say 10,000 food units are in Argus’s planetary stockpile, and we’re holding 4% yearly, calculating the monthly food units available for retail on Argus comes to 40 units (10,000 * .04) / 10 = 40.

2. DETERMINE THE MERCHANT EFFICIENCY: The next step is determining how effective your merchants (and remember, these are merchant POPS, not individual merchants, representing a million units with an average skill level and culture between them) are in actually selling the goods to the citizen Pops on the planet. So while I’m not going to give the exact calculations, I will give enough information so that you understand how best to utilize retail. The merchant efficiency (ME) is calculated using the merchant skill and total merchants on the planet to determine a ratio from .01 to 3.0. To get the best ratio, you need either a lot of Merchant Pops or highly skilled Merchant Pops (there is a bonus to efficiency after 50 Skill, 50 is average, and below 50 is a malus).

For the purposes of this example, let’s say the ME on planet Argus is .35 (there are only 20 Merchant Pops, and their average skill is 41). 

3. DETERMINE REVENUES FROM EFFICIENCY: So now you’ve got a set amount of food out on the market, and you have an efficient (or not so much) merchant corps distributing it throughout the planet. Great! There’s 2 other things that determine how much the planet actually wrings from a given retail network: the good price on that planet, and the ADL of the planet. Since ADL is derived mostly by the types of Pops that are on a planet, you’re going to have scientists and engineers who make more money going out to expensive restaurants and buying nutritious organic food, not your miners and farmers. So: the higher the ADL, the more money made.

So for our example, on Argus it’s a nice planet and there are a lot of scientists, government folk, and engineers, so the ADL is 17 (pretty high). After determining how much of the food is actually sold, the result is 11.5 units (Available Food Units / Merchant Efficiency) * (Average Merchant Skill / 50). That’s a lot of wasted food. So the last step is to determine how much revenue is made from those 11.5 units planet wide. We simply multiply the amount of goods by the current food price on the planet (we’ll say $.10 to keep it easy), and add a variable for the ADL (17) and… congratulations! Your merchants made $19.5 billion crowns (BC) from food this month!

4. DETERMINE THE PLANET’S CUT: Great! You now have your merchants out on the planet, hopefully finding a market for the finest food and finding buyers for every bit of goods you have allocated. One last thing: what part of that amount goes to the GPP? Easy. There’s a commerce tax that is set by the viceroy that determines how much of the profits the merchants make stay in their pockets. Keep the tax low? Not as many revenues, but your merchants will love it (and will stay, increasing their skills, and a planet with such a progressive tax structure for humble merchants will attract other, good merchants as well). Jack up the tax? You’ll get a quick spike in revenue, but be prepared for merchants, grumbling about oppressive fees, leaving for greener pastures. And your other Pops won’t love it either as their favorite retail establishments close up shop as well, leading to unrest and lowered Popular Support. So smart viceroys do not increase this tax too high unless there’s dire need. This is changed every year at the start of the year, like all other taxes and the Imperial Budget.

So for Argus, the viceroy set the commerce tax at 15%, so the empire’s cut (what goes to GPP that month) in food is only $2.9 BC. That’s our final number!! Remember that the same calculations are made for your energy sector and (if you have allowed it) basic materials as well.

So what happens to the goods that don’t sell? Well… they’re gone. That’s why it’s important to not set your retail allocation very high especially on a new planet. You won’t have the Pops or Merchants to support tons of retail, and the goods that are unsold are basically wasted. And if you waste too many goods, you risk running low on food or energy (or Basic) which creates its own issues. So don’t be greedy – you can overrule the viceroy on any given planet, and usually they’ll be OK with it unless you try to set the value too high, but be judicious. Also, you have the option to allow your Basic stockpile to be released to the retail allocation and since prices on basic units tend to be much higher than food or energy, this can be a quick way to boost your retail sector.

So some of you may be asking – can the retail sector cause prices to change? No. Remember that on a global scale, retail in this futuristic economy is not as all-encompassing as what we know today. Even 15% of stockpile allocation of a given good on a planet is extremely high, and that’s a yearly allocation. It’s not enough of a lever to move prices one way or another. But don’t fret. It’s possible, and I’ll describe how to manipulate prices of goods on the next DD.

So that’s a decently detailed explanation of how retail works. Now the real question: How can you, as emperor, affect the retail engine on any given planet? Several ways, in fact. Here’s just a few – you can use your imagination for others (that’s why it’s called strategy!)

  • Create shortages within a trade group of a certain good. The higher the price, the more the profit
  • Expand your trade infrastructure to attract more merchants
  • Look for ways to keep your merchants happy! Low taxes, high ADL, a benevolent (high Humanity) viceroy, and a nice planet (terraforming) all help.
  • Attract, shall we say, more noble folk (Pops) to your planet
  • Train your merchants! You will eventually have the ability to build Academies on planets that train Pops, and lower-class Pops will look to use those Academies to become another Pop, and existing Pops will use them to improve their skills
  • Change your retail allocation – but be careful, you don’t want to flood the market with unsold, wasted goods and decrease your stockpile!

A tooltip will give you your monthly allocation of goods and the merchant efficiency so you know how you’re doing there. Remember, if it’s low, you need either a) fewer goods b) more Merchant Pops c) better Merchant Pops d) lower Population.

That’s all for today! LP coming in hot – look for it as well! And next week: How goods work in the economy, what each good does, and how you can manipulate them all like a champ!

Excelsior!

-Steve

Posted on

Developer Diary: In-Depth – Trade System

Hello everyone! As we prepare for the first EA release in a few months, I will be writing some extensive diaries and focusing on specific systems that are already in the game, so you have a better idea of exactly how they work. The first system that I am going to explore in detail is trade. We wrote a trade primer several months ago, so this is going to build on that and focus on more detail, including using internal error logs to help readers understand how the system is thinking when trades are considered!

First, a short reminder of how the trade system works, macro-scale. There are 3 types of trade ‘hubs’: Empire, Province, and Secondary. Trade can only happen within these spheres of influence (SOI) that they generate- if a planet does not have at least a secondary hub, it can only receive goods, not create profit-generating trades of its own. If a system is not within any SOI, it can not receive any trades at all, just emergency goods shipments sent by a special Project from the Empire (at great cost, both materially and politically) Province spheres of influence are much larger than Secondary spheres, but any number of Secondary hubs can be built (one per system limit). The more merchants there are in a hub, and the more skilled they are, the more influence a hub can have. It is possible, though not likely that a planet with only a Secondary hub, but with many skilled merchants, can generate an SOI almost a large as a Province hub with fewer and less-skilled merchants. Contiguous SOIs create a Trade Group, from which any trade can take place as long as a system is within them. Empire Hubs can trade with any hub regardless of distance; Province Hubs can trade with any other Province Hub regardless of distance. You will be able to initiate Projects that increase a hub’s SOI permanently (this represents creating fueling stations in deep space, more docks, transfer stations between outlying systems, staff, etc.) Fleets are generated by Merchants that are at these hubs, and usually it takes 15 Merchants to create a trade fleet. While a trade fleet is active, these Merchants are not available for other trades.

So now that the areas where trade can occur are established, let’s talk about how they are generated. Basically, trade happens in these steps:

  1. A viceroy of a planet determines what the needs of their planet are. This depends heavily on the current production of the planet, what the Focus of the planet is, and their Humanity, Intelligence, and Caution. Humanity determines how likely they are to take care of their people as opposed to their projects, and make sure that things like Food and Energy are well-taken care of. Intelligence lets the viceroy make better decisions about what is most beneficial for the planet, and Caution influences how much of a planet’s total budget for trade they are willing to use (Viceroys with low Caution will blow the budget out early in the year, while more Cautious Viceroys will ensure that there is a reserve throughout the year). Here’s an example of a planet determining their needs through an internal error log – note: you do not see this log as a player but we use it for balance and to make sure all the systems are working as they should!
TRADE ANALYSIS THREAD FOR PLANET ISCANDRANIA OF THE CIVILIZATION CELESTIAL EMPIRE
VICEROY HUMANITY: 25 INTELLIGENCE: 57 CAUTION: 87
Viceroy Hiraniamalie Guerin on planet Iscandrania is calculating Importances….
Food Importance: 0.0
Energy Importance: 0.0
Basic Importance: 24.5
Heavy Importance: 0.0
Rare Importance: 0.0
Total Import Budget for this month is calculated at 20.5 based on a GPP of $52.0 less trade expenses this year of $0.0 and a percentage dedicated to trade of 45 %.
Viceroy allocates $0.0 MCs towards food imports this month.
Viceroy allocates $0.0 MCs towards energy imports this month.
Viceroy allocates $11.8 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 8.7 remaining this month to use for adjusting import bids, or if not used, to return to the yearly import budget.
With a monthly shortfall of 0.4, 0.2 food units are requested from the viceroy this month.
With a monthly shortfall of 0.2, 0.2 energy units are requested from the viceroy this month.
With a monthly shortfall of 19.3, 44.1 basic units are requested from the viceroy this month.
With a monthly shortfall of -7.1, 0.0 heavy units are requested from the viceroy this month.
With a monthly shortfall of 5.8, 13.2 rare units are requested from the viceroy this month.
New Trade Request generated! Taking export budget into account, Iscandrania requests 13.33 units of Basic at a max price per unit of 0.9.
No trade generated for rare – adjusted unit need was zero.
No trade generated for heavy – adjusted unit need was zero.
TRADE ANALYSIS COMPLETED FOR Iscandrania…

So let’s see what happened here. First, the viceroy determined the importance of each trade good for that month, up to a 100 point scale (100 is critical; 0 means no need ACCORDING TO THE VICEROY!)  In this case, since the viceroy has a low Empathy, they are not prioritizing food and energy, even though there are small shortfalls in those areas. They are prioritizing basic materials (the materials from which everything in the game is built from and maintained) and requesting 44.1 basic units to build a surplus IF POSSIBLE. Note that even though there is a shortfall with rare units, the viceroy is not prioritizing them, either because there is a decent surplus or because they do not forsee a need to use rare materials due to the Focus on the planet, their plans, etc.

Second, with the importances of the trade goods determined, the viceroy then proposes up to 3 trade proposals that are ‘broadcast’ throughout their SOI. In this example, the viceroy has allocated $11.8 BC (billion crowns) of their yearly trade budget, and because of their high Caution and reasonably high Intelligence has kept a reserve. They are asking for 13.33 units of basic materials and is willing to pay up to .9 BC per unit. Keep in mind that a ‘unit’ on this planetary scale is several thousand tons of materials (or several million kW of energy supplies, including oil, fissiles, battery power stored, etc.) Since even though there is a need for rare and heavy, the viceroy determined that the much greater need was for Basic. they did not allocate any money from the planet trade budget to buy anything but Basic.

OK! So each planet goes through that calculation, and from there a galaxy-wide list of trade proposals are generated!

2. Now, it’s time for the trade hubs to ‘go shopping’ as such. They start to look through the trade proposals that are within their SOI and make 2 passes: first, to see if they have enough goods to actually fill the trade request, taking into account the importance of that good for their own planet, and the amount of their stockpile they are willing to part with (influenced by Gluttony and Caution traits). Here’s what that looks like for the empire trade hub, New Terra. Since it’s the imperial hub, it can reach most all planets, so it’s a long list for the viceroy to consider.

I have highlighted the planet example listed above. Iscandrania, so that you can follow the trade flow through one specific example:

Looking within NEO-SIRIUS TRADE GROUP….
Checking civtradehub: New Terra.
Viceroy trade tendency for hub New Terra is 65; caution is 11
Checking on valid trades for planet Iscandrania….
Basic material request found for Iscandrania! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Basic materials requested: 13.3 units. Basic materials allocated for export on New Terra: 1,981(includes 17 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 13 Basic units of basic for 0.9 MCs requested from New Terra to Iscandrania.
Checking on valid trades for planet Dreamland….
Energy request found for Dreamland! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Energy requested: 0.9 units. Energy allocated for export on New Terra: 5,772(includes 29 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 1 Energy units of energy for 0.8 MCs requested from New Terra to Dreamland.
Heavy material request found for Dreamland! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Heavy materials requested: 0.1 units. Heavy materials allocated for export on New Terra: 4,328(includes 87 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 0 Heavy units of heavy for 1.9 MCs requested from New Terra to Dreamland.
Checking on valid trades for planet Falacer….
Basic material request found for Falacer! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Basic materials requested: 0.9 units. Basic materials allocated for export on New Terra: 1,981(includes 17 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 1 Basic units of basic for 2.9 MCs requested from New Terra to Falacer.
Heavy material request found for Falacer! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Heavy materials requested: 0.7 units. Heavy materials allocated for export on New Terra: 4,328(includes 87 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 1 Heavy units of heavy for 1.9 MCs requested from New Terra to Falacer.
Rare material request found for Falacer! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Rare materials requested: 0.1 units. Rare materials allocated for export on New Terra: 233(includes 23 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 0 Rare units of rare for 3.9 MCs requested from New Terra to Falacer.
Checking on valid trades for planet New Jove….
There are no active trade proposals on New Jove.
Checking on valid trades for planet Huanxiang….
Energy request found for Huanxiang! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Energy requested: 5.9 units. Energy allocated for export on New Terra: 5,772(includes 29 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 6 Energy units of energy for 0.8 MCs requested from New Terra to Huanxiang.
Basic material request found for Huanxiang! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Basic materials requested: 2.2 units. Basic materials allocated for export on New Terra: 1,981(includes 17 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 2 Basic units of basic for 2.3 MCs requested from New Terra to Huanxiang.
Checking on valid trades for planet Wuxiaci….
Rare material request found for Wuxiaci! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Rare materials requested: 0.4 units. Rare materials allocated for export on New Terra: 233(includes 23 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 0 Rare units of rare for 3.9 MCs requested from New Terra to Wuxiaci.
Checking on valid trades for planet Verdancy….
Basic material request found for Verdancy! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Basic materials requested: 0.1 units. Basic materials allocated for export on New Terra: 1,981(includes 17 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 0 Basic units of basic for 2.4 MCs requested from New Terra to Verdancy.
Heavy material request found for Verdancy! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Heavy materials requested: 0.1 units. Heavy materials allocated for export on New Terra: 4,328(includes 87 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 0 Heavy units of heavy for 1.2 MCs requested from New Terra to Verdancy.
Checking on valid trades for planet Adawia….
There are no active trade proposals on Adawia.
Checking on valid trades for planet New Ceres….
There are no active trade proposals on New Ceres.
Checking on valid trades for planet Orcus….
Basic material request found for Orcus! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Basic materials requested: 3.2 units. Basic materials allocated for export on New Terra: 1,981(includes 17 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 3 Basic units of basic for 2.0 MCs requested from New Terra to Orcus.
Heavy material request found for Orcus! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Heavy materials requested: 1.4 units. Heavy materials allocated for export on New Terra: 4,328(includes 87 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 1 Heavy units of heavy for 1.7 MCs requested from New Terra to Orcus.
Checking on valid trades for planet Conlong….
Basic material request found for Conlong! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Basic materials requested: 0.7 units. Basic materials allocated for export on New Terra: 1,981(includes 17 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 1 Basic units of basic for 2.3 MCs requested from New Terra to Conlong.
Heavy material request found for Conlong! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Heavy materials requested: 0.4 units. Heavy materials allocated for export on New Terra: 4,328(includes 87 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 0 Heavy units of heavy for 1.3 MCs requested from New Terra to Conlong.

Hooray! Since New Terra has a s*itload of Basic in stockpile, they have put the proposal in their ‘shopping cart’, so to speak. This only means that they are willing to part with the resources. At this point, no analysis has been done regarding profitability, or whether they want to trade with that viceroy (their Houses are enemies, they personally hate each other, etc). That comes next.

3. So we have a list of possible trade partners. (By the way, a trade can be picked up by multiple parties). Now we need to look at profitability. This is a complex equation that simplifies into ‘the farther away trade partners are, the more energy and ships are required, meaning that the convoy will need to haul either less goods at a very high price (special delivery) or more goods at a lower price (shipping in bulk). Each viceroy has a ‘cutoff’ amount beyond which they will not consider a trade – it is not profitable enough for them! This is very heavily influenced by their Humanity and Gluttony. Let’s take a look:

Now determining trade profitability for the Celestial Empire.
Viceroy Gluttony: -15 Trade Aptitude: 0 Humanity: 41
Trade hub New Terra’s viceroy will not consider trades with less than $1.1 MCs per trade.
Viceroy is considering trade with Iscandrania for Basic. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.6 MCs, with total profit of 7.8.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is provisionally accepted, pending sufficient fleet availability! Final cost of trade, including fuel and shipping: $25.1. Total expected profit: $7.8.
Viceroy is considering trade with Dreamland for Energy. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.5 MCs, with total profit of 0.4.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Dreamland for Heavy. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 1.2 MCs, with total profit of 0.2.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Falacer for Basic. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 2.2 MCs, with total profit of 2.1.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is provisionally accepted, pending sufficient fleet availability! Final cost of trade, including fuel and shipping: $3.7. Total expected profit: $2.1.
Viceroy is considering trade with Falacer for Heavy. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.8 MCs, with total profit of 0.6.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Falacer for Rare. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 2.2 MCs, with total profit of 0.3.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Huanxiang for Energy. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.1 MCs, with total profit of 0.6.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Huanxiang for Basic. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 1.6 MCs, with total profit of 3.4.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is provisionally accepted, pending sufficient fleet availability! Final cost of trade, including fuel and shipping: $7.3. Total expected profit: $3.4.
Viceroy is considering trade with Wuxiaci for Rare. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 1.6 MCs, with total profit of 0.6.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Verdancy for Basic. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 1.0 MCs, with total profit of 0.1.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Verdancy for Heavy. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.0 MCs, with total profit of 0.0.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Orcus for Basic. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.9 MCs, with total profit of 2.9.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is provisionally accepted, pending sufficient fleet availability! Final cost of trade, including fuel and shipping: $10.2. Total expected profit: $2.9.
Viceroy is considering trade with Orcus for Heavy. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.3 MCs, with total profit of 0.4.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Conlong for Basic. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 1.2 MCs, with total profit of 0.8.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Conlong for Heavy. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.0 MCs, with total profit of 0.0.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.

So what does this mean? First of all, the viceroy of New Terra has a negative Gluttony score, meaning that they are not very greedy, and aren’t looking for a huge profit margin. They have a 0 trade aptitude, meaning that they have no special skills in trade that will increase profit per trade (or decrease it), and they have a decently high Humanity, meaning that they will be more likely to accept lower-profit trades, especially on food and energy. So in Iscandrania’s case, they will be making enough from the trip even though it is a longer-based trip to make it worth the expense of merchants, fleets, and energy (remember that it costs the sending hub Energy to create a fleet, and the longer the trip, the more energy it costs – and energy ain’t free) So they have accepted the trade request, will be charging a total of $25.1 BC to ship 13 units of Basic. This will generate a profit of $7.8 BCs after paying for the energy for the trip, as well as the cost of the basic supplies themselves. Note that the viceroy likes some trades, but not others, so it’s worth going through the trades that were denied to see their ‘thinking’. Almost there! Now since there are enough fleets for the Imperial trade hub to send all this stuff, this example is done, but if there’s not enough fleets for all the accepted trades, there is one final step.

4. So let’s say there’s 5 trades that the viceroy likes, but they only have 3 available trade fleets! Bummer! So now hard choices have to be made. Generally, the most profitable trades will win out, but sometimes a high Empathy viceroy will green-light a trade for food or energy at less profit.

So that’s trade in a nutshell! This system still needs to be balanced a lot along with the general economic model, but hopefully it will answer some questions about how trade works. If you have other questions, please ask in a comment and I’d be happy to answer them! I will also post a video soon with this information in video form, for a more visual representation. Thanks for your time!

-Steve

Posted on

Update, apology, explanations, and the rebirth of AotSS!

Hello everyone! Well, it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything, and I’m sorry. Let me get that out of the way up front. I’ll be apologizing a lot so buckle up, folks.

Anyway, I could give you a lot of reasons why there hasn’t been a lot of activity on AotSS for the last 4 months or so, but in the end it comes down to burnout. As you may now, I have a new now 9 month old who is very healthy, energetic, and BUSY! I also have a full-time job that takes 50-55 hours a week depending on what’s happening, and I’ve been battling through some personal issues. So with all that going on, I’ve been working on Imperia/AotSS for almost 4 years in some form or another. Most of it is very low-level work on a hobby, but obviously the last year has been more focus on providing a product from our studio, KatHawk Studios.

So, as a human, when you have a lot going on around you and you have something that you’ve been hammering on for years, sometimes you just need to step back and take a break. And that’s what I did. Where I failed is to not keep those of you interested in the game in the loop. That was selfish of me and I deeply apologize for that.

So with that being said, I’ll start with the bad news first: Oliver has left the project. Completely understandably, since there hasn’t been anything moving on it for quite a while and you reach a point where you need to see some progress. I apologize to him for the lack of progress and I wish him nothing but the best and I certainly hope circumstances change in the future and he comes back at some point. Because..

The good news is that I’m restarting development of AotSS semi-full time. I have obtained additional funding sufficient to complete the entire game to 1.0 without ‘needing’ sales to fund development. Even though Oliver has left, we have an essentially complete GDD so I will be able to finish what is essentially our vision. There is a tremendous amount that was part of the game design, and while we will include about 70% of it in the initial release, some will have to wait for a future time. When you have a huge project, you must get to ‘what makes this game ‘this game’? and ‘if I cut this, will it change the core ‘feel’ of the game? With that in mind, I will be breaking down the new release schedule shortly, including pricing and the thinking behind it.

With the restart, some other things will be happening. We will be updating our web site by next month. We will be adding our forum, the blog, a news feed, and our eCommerce system for digital download of early release versions of AotSS. We will also increase activity on our forums, our Twitter, and our FB pages. Our KHG channel will have updates weekly, some a ‘developer’ update, some ‘game play’ and some LP, but you will get some sort of content weekly. To keep myself honest, I will be posting an update schedule shortly here on what channels will have what updates. But I vow not to leave anybody else in the dark on this project going forward. I am also always accessible on my email at steve@imperia5x.com or the twitter channel of @KatHawkGames.

So what about that early release schedule? We’re going to release our first version publicly around September 7-10th. It will be priced at $7.99. Why so cheap, Steve? Glad you asked! I’m not a fan (at all) of doing the ‘make early adopters pay through the nose to get in early’ model. Since this is a new property, and bluntly, I haven’t been consistent with my timetables, I want to give people the chance to come in on the ground floor at a very low price so that the risk is as low as I can make it. You will have a full game, but a lot of features will not be there. I feel that this is a good compromise between ‘release it for the people who want it early’ and ‘stay true to my promise of quality and not screw over your fans’. I got excited all over again when I get comments asking how the game is coming along, and we were mentioned on a lot of ‘strategy/4X games looking forward to for 2017’ lists – including 2nd on eXplorminate’s poll of ‘which indie game are you most excited about in 2017’?  That’s pretty cool.

So I’m excited again, and you should be too. Let’s do this together.

So without further ado, the release roadmap!

(.5) Currently in Testing – No Public Release (beta testing active)

(.6) ‘Archimedes’ Release – $7.99 – Release in early September through our web site
Will have all main screens, trade/economy/Pops/migration/unrest/popular support/planetary development systems, character Power system, alert bar, AP system, Focuses on planets (agriculture, mines, military, government, etc), about 30% of all Projects, core Houses/Cultures, economic screen, about 50% 3D planets, some sounds, about 15% of all Character Actions, ability to remove/fire Viceroys and Governors, love/fear systems for characters, basic win and lose conditions (win when Popular Support > 80% throughout your Empire; lose when Popular Support < 20% and depose/assassinate check fails), full turn engine cycle.
IMPORTANT!
No Character Decision/Goal AI (economic and role AI will be present, such as intelligently managing planets/systems)
No Music (or maybe 1-2 temporary tracks)
No Save System
Balance will be an issue

(.7) ‘Newton’ Release – $14.99 – Release in early December through our web site
Will have all of Archimedes, and:
– Music (a few tracks)
– More sounds
– Basic character decision AI (2 ‘ultimate’ goals: Survival and Status) out of 9
– 60% of Projects (approx. 50 in final release)
– 40% of Character Actions (approx. 100 in final release)
– Some mid-tier cultures, all inner cultures and Houses
– Science system implementation begin (about 50%)
– Continued polish on UI and UI for science system implemented
No Save System. It will be present in this version but not activated until .8.

(.8) ‘Hubble’ Release – $19.99 – Release in March 2018 through our web site
Will have all of Newton, and:
– Save System implemented
– All cultures implemented
– Emperor screen (diary) partially implemented
– Science system completed
– Intel system start implementation (Inquisitors, secrets, plots)
– Expanded character decision AI (added 2 more ‘ultimate’ goals: Generic (‘normal’) and Wealth)
– All 3D planets and nebulas implemented
– Most sounds
– More music (4-5 tracks)
– Very basic Xyl plot starters
– 80% of Projects
– 50-60% of Character Actions
– Continued balancing
– Bug fixes

(.9) ‘Sagan’ Release – $24.99 – Release in June 2018 (Steam Early Release Candidate)
Will have all of Hubble, and:
– Combat system partially implemented
– Religious system partially implemented
– Emperor screen fully implemented
– Intel system fully implemented
– All cultures and Houses implemented
– Expanded character decision AI (added 2 more ‘ultimate’ goals: Human Needs and Power)
– All sounds added
– All UI elements added
– More music (7-9 tracks)
– Intro/win/loss videos
– Xyl ‘ending play setup’ partially implemented
– 80% of Character Actions completed
– All Projects added
– Continued balance and bug fixes

(1.0) ‘Copernicus’ Release – $29.99 – Release in August-September 2018 (Steam Release)
Will have all of Sagan, all Xyl plot, and all remaining systems/music/sounds/’puff’ – the ‘basic full game’ as described in our GDD.

So that’s the plan. I’ll write a follow-up blog in a few days with more detail and possibly some new UI screens. Until then… stay safe out there, it’s a big universe!

-Steve

Posted on

Updated development video now out! Check it out here!

Hey everyone!

As promised, the new video is out, and while it’s a bit longer than usual (almost 50 minutes!) it’s chock full of content and showing some of the new graphics, UI, and systems we’ve been working on. We are targeting more frequent updates – every two weeks or so, just to keep ourselves honest if nothing else. There should also be 2 blog posts a week ideally, but at least one no matter what. We’re working on cleaning up the forums – we had an attack of spammers a month or so ago, and we’re just about done cleaning up all that nonsense. We hope to have a tentative early access release date pretty soon, where you’ll be able to buy in on the ground floor and be eligible for all future updates. We’re getting closer, as you can hopefully see from this video. I’m personally excited to be working on the game actively again and I think you’ll be impressed with the strides we’ll be taking over the next several weeks!

Anyway, the link is here:https://youtu.be/0u1D2FvLHig

Don’t forget that we have our own channel that you can subscribe to for updates in real-time. Hundreds have signed up, why don’t YOU?? 🙂

Until soon,

Steve

 
Posted on

When designers turn human: An introspective look into crafting a dream

Hello everyone; long time no see! It’s been a little while since I’ve written a blog, and this blog is going to be a little different. It’s not going to have any new features about AotSS, nor will it have a timetable or cool screenshots. We’ll have those shortly. No, I wanted to take a bit of soapbox time to talk about where I’ve been and why.

So, the first thing people need to remember about programming: it’s hard. Even for people who have degrees in this sort of thing, it’s hard. And I don’t have any kind of programming certificate, degree, or even a course. Everything I’ve learned has come from teaching myself, except for one computer science class in high school. I was very, very good at programming – was nationally ranked, in fact (yes, they have contests for programming in high school!) – but I didn’t think I could pursue it as a career since I didn’t much care for the math part of things. So I went to college, and put aside my programming.

Throughout the years, I kept coming back to programming for fun. I taught myself C++ with an Ivor Horton book that must have weighed 10 pounds. But I loved to learn, and slowly I put myself through pointers, address memory, OOP, classes, structures, and advanced topics like recursion and data structures. I had some knowledge at this point, but no game. So I started to imagine a world where humanity was hanging on by a thread, having been invaded by aliens that came through a stargate that humans built themselves – the ultimate Trojan horse. You were the supreme human commander, responsible for fighting the aliens (even then, called the Xyl) on Earth and holding them off long enough to accomplish your other objective: to assist the surgical team that went through the stargate using coordinates discovered during recovery of the plans to build the gate, only to discover that they were part of a galactic competition to determine the next master race of the universe for the next 100,000 years. That game design was called Perihelion, and I designed it almost 20 years ago. It seems quaint now, but back then I was roaring with excitement to program it and show it to the world.

Only one problem: I had no idea how to start a project of this magnitude! I was 22, and the Build engine was still being used. Programming games was still something of a black box process – there was no Unity, no DarkBASIC, no YouTube tutorials to walk you through creating levels, and certainly no iPads to download manuals and upload code – no, you had paper books and phones to call friends for help. So after a few false starts, I gave up on that for the time being.

Years passed – I grew my management career, got married, settled down, and looked at what life would be past 35, then 40, and wondered if I had truly given things a fair shot with game design. So I went back to the drawing board about 6 years ago, taught myself Visual Basic, and designed a strategic space combat program based on the Honorverse. You could command ships of different sizes and in the prototype, you had to detect and engage the enemy using gravity signatures generated from impeller wedges. It was surprisingly fun, and I did end up posting it in a few places, but obviously I couldn’t do anything real with it because a) Honorverse and licensed properties and stuff and b) it was still very rough, and I wasn’t comfortable with showing it off. However, for the purposes of this blog, for the first time in almost half a decade, I’m showing off screenshots of my first ‘real’ game project:

As you can see, even though it was Visual Basic and the graphics were basically one step above spreadsheets, it was a really fun game. The ships had very intelligent AI – they had numerous tactics that they could use, and their captains had a fear/bravery rating as well as an intelligence rating that would determine which tactics they would use, what range they would fire at, etc. Not bad for a first project, but I wasn’t happy with it, so I stopped working on it, and another few years went by.

About 5 years ago, I designed a solo board game called Star Requiem: Humanity’s Last Stand (https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/122248/star-requiem-humanitys-last-stand) that was based on a continuation of the history that I had started with the Perihelion design. I actually finished that game, and was working on a computer version when I had the idea to design a new game around what happened after humanity fought the Xyl to a standstill. What would their culture look like? How would the remnants of the human race spread? How far would society slide backwards? What would happen to technology? What would losing 70% of your entire species in another war do to a species? That’s what I set out to answer, and I knew from the very beginning that the game would be based on the last emperor – a child, with very little power, destined to bring humanity back from the brink of the final Xyl assault to destroy humans once and for all. And I knew at the core of the game would be the Action Point system: as Emperor, you would only be able to do certain things depending on where you were, and only so many actions per month – you were not omniscient and not a being with unlimited time and energy. I was so excited about the premise that I couldn’t wait to start! I taught myself yet another engine (Windows XNA) and set to work on what was to become Imperia.

So about 6 months into that project, I started posting pictures and almost immediately, people were interested in the concept. Very interested. I got offers to help and eventually took one from an artist named Pavlos who helped me refine the ‘hard’ science and the look and feel of the game. We reached a point where I had enough of a game and there was enough interest that there was one question: did I want to create a studio and actually sell this thing?

Well, the old self-doubt crept in, and I hemmed and hawed for months, until finally I decided to take the plunge. I made the agonizing decision to basically scrap what was complete with Imperia (basically it was about 60% done) and convert to a totally new engine and language. After some research, I settled on C# and Unity. After learning yet ANOTHER new language and engine, I was ready to work (Note to prospective indie programmers: Pick a popular language and stick with it. I wish I had!).

So it’s been a little over a year since that decision was made. I took out a loan, hired another artist (Ogi Schneider), and partnered with an amazingly intelligent and creative man named Oliver Milne who really helped flesh out the backstory and universe of Imperia, eventually to become Alliance of the Sacred Suns. And even working part-time, even having a baby and all that brings, even with challenges from my primary job, we kept chugging along. We were slow to milestones, but we were learning, and understanding what we could do and how much we could do in a given month.

And then January 2017 hit, and that old feeling came back that I’ve fought for almost 20 years:

Fear.

Fear that my best wasn’t going to be good enough, that this project was an immense undertaking for one person to program, that the concept of AotSS was so ludicrous because it’s not quite a 4X, not quite a TBS, not quite a political game, but parts of all 3. It’s certainly unique, but would people actually like it? I started to doubt my abilities to finish this game, doubt the premise, doubt the 4+ years I have spent getting to this point, doubt all the time and energy invested in programming, testing, designing, fixing, bug-chasing, and still feeling like there was so far to go. It was like that dream you have where you’re trapped in a room, and the door keeps moving farther and farther away from you, no matter how fast you run towards it. and you can’t go backward. What do you do?

I stopped. I was paralyzed, feeling despondent that I couldn’t reach that door, like it was taunting me. It was depressing me, literally. I couldn’t face programming. I’d code for about 20 minutes, then it felt like the screen was laughing at me, daring me to attempt to add a new feature, whispering ‘What’s the point? Nobody’s going to play your stupid game anyway…’ and I would give in to the voices and break off. It felt like an overwhelming task – like eating the elephant, except my elephant regenerated every morning, even bigger than before, but all I had was the same damn spoon to work with.

And that fear started affecting other parts of my life – it affected my confidence, my focus, and it impacted almost every part of my life. I could almost hear the little voice inside me every day: ‘So you’re going to give up on this one too, just like you’ve always done. All. Your. Life.’

No.

The line in the sand will be drawn here. And now.

I’ve decided that I don’t give a damn what the voices say, or what other people think, or how crazy our game design is. I’m very proud of what we’re trying to do, the design we’ve worked on for years, and the story we have written (well, Oliver mainly) for AotSS is amazing, and it deserves to come out. And I can’t let my doubts and fears override that need. It’s hard sometimes, especially when it’s not your main source of income, but I have made a vow to myself and the team that I WILL finish this game. I WILL see it through to the end, and I’ve written this very long post because I need to share this vow with the public and put out there my feelings and emotions to how I got to this point.

It’s been hard to type this blog, and it’s pretty personal for a game diary, but that’s the most honest explanation for why there hasn’t been a lot of progress over the last several weeks. I promise there will be a new video up in the next day or two. I keep putting it off because honestly, I never feel like what we have so far is good enough to show – the old self-doubt creeps in and I think ‘just one more feature and I can show it’ or ‘let’s stomp one more bug and then people won’t laugh’.

Enough. Enough. It is what it is, a work in progress by a small indie studio, not EA’s latest AAA title. I know I’m not as talented as some other developers, but I was once the 17th best programmer in the United States in high school, and by God I can finish this game.

And that’s just what I intend to do. I love all of your support and those who read these blogs and follow along and have done so for the last 3 years. Your patience will pay off. I swear it.

Now back to work on 4.7.0a!

-Steve